|The real life murder of Elizabeth Short AKA the Black Dahila, is the basis for the 1987 James Ellroy novel of the same name.|
The Black Dahlia (1987)
by James Ellroy
The Black Dahlia was a real murder case- of Elizabeth Short, in Los Angeles, in 1947. The notoriety of the case extended to the realm of fiction, where it became a kind of short-hand for neo-noir. James Ellroy was not the first or last author to write a fictionalized version of the case, which has remained formally unsolved (although informally the physician George Hodel is considered to be the murderer.) but his version is considered the best, even withstanding a disastrous Brian De Palma movie version to remain not just a certified platinum neo noir classic, but also one of those rare titles which elevated an author from "genre" to "serious" literature after publication.
That elevation is almost always a combination of popular and critical acclaim, as was the case with The Black Dahila. In his book, Ellroy successfully uses the Dahila murder as a metaphor for the decay, decadence and spiritual rot that has always existed at the heart of Anglo Los Angeles: an unholy combination of entertainment industry executives, real estate developers, racketeers and police that colluded to run the city for decades.
That combination of nefarious forces is synonymous both with our historical understanding of Los Angeles and it's heavy representation in the field of neo-noir literature. In 2017, largely as a result of the success of The Black Dahlia and the other three books in his L.A. Quartet really serve as the state of the art in this field, even decades after publication.