The Black Dahlia

  • Handwritten manuscript, 1985
  • Uncorrected page proofs, 1987
  • Published first edition, 1987

This crime fiction novel is based on a true crime case, the 1947 Los Angeles murder of a woman named Elizabeth Short. This shockingly brutal murder of a mysterious and glamorous woman received wide media attention and the criminal investigation ultimately led to a broad police corruption scandal. While rooted in the facts of the Short case and featuring many real-life people, places, and events, Ellroy’s novel blends fact with fiction. The most notable deviation from the historical case is the identification of the murderer; in reality, this case remains unsolved. Many critics consider The Black Dahlia to be the book that gained Ellroy critical attention as a writer of serious literature.

The author’s holograph manuscript is seen here, along with a proof copy for the book and the first printing of the first edition of the published novel. The term holograph simply means that the manuscript was entirely handwritten by a single person, in this case, the author, James Ellroy. It allows us to see his  process at a final stage with corrections and instructions written in red ink before it was sent to the typist or typesetter. While many writers in the mid-1980s were using the various early word processing programs that were becoming more widely available at the time, Ellroy appears to have preferred to stick with handwriting for this novel.

Author/Photographer Ellroy, James, 1948-
Publisher New York: Mysterious Press
Date 1987
Extent [8], 325, [3] pages ; 24 cm
Institution Kent State University
Repository Special Collections and Archives
Provenance/Collection From the library of Albert and Helen Borowitz
LC Classification Number PS3555.L626 B53x 1987a
Portion Digitized Photograph of: Cover of published book; cover of uncorrected proof copy; and title page and page 261 of original manuscript
Access Rights This digital object is owned by Kent State University and may be protected by U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, USC). Please include proper citation and credit for use of this item. Use in publications or productions is prohibited without written permission from Kent State University. Please contact the Department of Special Collections and Archives for more information.
Duplication Policy
Date Copyrighted 1987
DPLA Rights Statement
Format of Original book


Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors