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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Dotseth

A Book to Read Over and Over Again


Without a doubt, any book I would choose to read more than once has to be by James Ellroy. And it better be one of his best since I don't typically read anything twice. In this case, it is his very best: My Dark Places. I have recommended this book to many people and don't hesitate to recommend it to strangers. It's dark but very powerful. James Ellroy is a great, brilliant but slightly unusual contemporary crime writer who sets his stories in yesteryear: typically the 1950s and 1960s Los Angeles. Every underbelly dark character your mind could fabricate is present and accounted for. And no good crime goes unpunished. James has a language all his own. His fans know what "hush hush" means because he uses that and other phrases in every book. To know his personal history which he openly discusses is to understand a bit more the path that led to My Dark Places. As a child, his mother was murdered after a night out on the town. She was a single divorcee raising James alone in El Monte, California. Her companion on the evening she was killed was unknown to James. Described as a swarthy man by waitresses and club owners, that was the singular clue James had to go on decades later when he and a retired Los Angeles police detective tried to solve her murder. And that’s the book. You won’t put it down. Prior to reading this riveting and in-your-face true story, I knew James had been a peeping Tom and a perp of other lowly crimes. By his own admission for decades now. He was arrested numerous times and served a bit of jail time. James Ellroy is always very clear about who he is and why he writes the way he does. If you hear him lecture you’ll hope someday to have dinner with him. His own fascination with crime stems, I am sure, from his own experience with petty crime. But how much of his writing originates from the violent death of his mother, whose body was found in a high school field? And was that singular, horrible incident the basis for the book that made him famous, The Black Dahlia (who was also found in a field)? Easy answers don't always exist to questions having to do with writers as odd and riveting as James Ellroy. That's why this summer I may have to re-read My Dark Places. Maybe right after I re-read his L.A. Confidential and The Cold Six Thousand.

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