“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: My Dark Places by James Ellroy

This autobiographical account of Ellroy’s mother’s murder in LA in 1958, and his subsequent re-opening of the case 36 years later, was published 11 years ago. Has the intervening decade allowed it to become classic crime non-fiction? Absolutely, for the simple reason that, while crime non-fiction is plentiful enough (there are seemingly plenty of Irish writers and journalists around at the moment who are willing to write factual tomes about recent gruesome crimes), crime memoir, especially that written by popular crime novelists, is practically non-existent as a genre. That provides Ellroy fans with unparalleled insight into what motivates one crime writer: his obsession with his mother and the Black Dahlia respectively. In his hunt for clues that might lead him to Geneva Hilliker Ellroy’s killer’s identity, Ellroy explores his relationship with his parents, his mother’s secret weekend life at LA nightspots, and his subsequent obsession with her after her death, as well as his drug and booze hell. However, this colourful fiction writer somehow manages to write unspeakably dreary non-fiction. The first half of the book reads like a colourless crime report, with endless catalogues of evidence, suspects and police officers. The second part comprises the usual problem I have with autobiographies: lots of self-pity and self-indulgent rambling. While the therapeutic value of an autobiography like this is understandable, is the murdered woman not entitled to keep her secrets without having them raked up for public gratification? They are, after all, her dark secrets, not his.- Claire Coughlan

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