is the heir apparent to Raymond Chandler
. His dark, convoluted, steroid-infused crime novels have made him the reigning king of LA Noir. Ellroy's stylized prose is "so hard-boiled it burns the pot" and his outlook is as cynical as a frog in a frying pan. In his own words, Ellroy's LA novels "run antithetical to your standard crime fiction sensibility, which is usually a noble loner working against authority. I think my books are about bad men doing bad things in the name of authority." But this cynicism is countered by an infectious passion, a palpable energy that makes each Ellroy novel riveting and compelling. In My Dark Places
, his gave readers a glimpse into the genesis of both his bleak outlook and the obsessive force that propels each novel.
In 1958, when James Ellroy was ten years old, his mother was brutally murdered. The crime was never solved. During his teenage years, young James became obsessed with the infamous Black Dahlia case, which was similar in many respects to his mother's murder. He then moved on to murdered women in general. His mother's memory haunted him for years. He first tried to escape her memory through drugs, and then he to exercise it through writing (for example, in his novel about the Black Dahlia case, he "solves" the crime). Neither worked. So he set out instead to write a nonfiction account of his mother. He teamed up with retired homicide detective Bill Stoner and set out to solve the case, now several decades old. Where their investigation failed, Ellroy's painfully honest account of the ordeal did not. Whether hailed a classic of its kind (though, for what it's worth, this quirky book is in a genre of its own), or reviled as the worst kind of exploitation, My Dark Places is a stunning achievement. Haunting, disgusting, fascinating, and brutally, Oedipally honest, this is one book no reader will forget.