Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story [NOOK Book]


More than fifty years after what has been called "the most notorious unsolved murder of the 20th century," the case has finally been solved. On January 15, 1947, the body of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia because of her black clothing and the dahlia she wore in her hair, was discovered on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles, her body surgically bisected, horribly mutilated, and posed as if for display. Even the most hardened homicide detectives were shocked and sickened by the ...
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Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story

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More than fifty years after what has been called "the most notorious unsolved murder of the 20th century," the case has finally been solved. On January 15, 1947, the body of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia because of her black clothing and the dahlia she wore in her hair, was discovered on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles, her body surgically bisected, horribly mutilated, and posed as if for display. Even the most hardened homicide detectives were shocked and sickened by the sadistic murder. Thus began the largest manhunt in LA history. For weeks the killer taunted the police, and public, much as his infamous English counterpart Jack the Ripper had done in London 60 years before, sending tantalizing notes, urging them to "catch me if you can." And for weeks and months the LAPD came up empty. Charges of police ineptitude soon gave way to rumors of corruption and cover-up at the highest levels. Meanwhile, a rash of lone women in LA were brutally murdered, and their cases also remained mysteriously unsolved. Could the Black Dahlia Avenger be, in fact, a serial killer stalking the city streets?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
With its overtones of sex and scandal, the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short has been called Hollywood's most notorious unsolved crime. Now the killer's identity is revealed in this groundbreaking exposé.
The New York Times
Steve Hodel speaks of himself as a good solid cop, and that's the way he writes. Don't pick up this book for the jazzy rage of James Ellroy or the melancholy atmospherics of Raymond Chandler. At the same time, you'll be too busy clinging to the narrative to complain about the prose. It's only at the end of the book, as you realize how thoroughly Steve Hodel has identified his father as the killer of the Black Dahlia -- and the inspiration for an alphabet of other murders, including the mother Ellroy lost at the age of 10 -- that you realize how detached he is from the creepy blood ties of tracking down his own father. Is that a lack of skill -- or a protective numbness? Does he guess that the photograph album may have been meant to infect a steadfast son? — David Thomson
Gerald Petievich
"The best nonfiction book about L.A. crime I have ever read."
James Ellroy
"We can only glimpse who Betty Short was—but now we know who killed her, and why."
David Thomson
"George Hodel, I think is fit company for some of noir’s most civilized villains."
Jon L. Breen
"[Hodel] has written an intensely readable account…Has [he] solved the case? I think so."
Stephen R. Kay
"The most haunting murder mystery in Los Angeles county...has finally been solved."
Toronto Globe and Mail
"This unsparing, chilling account of the actions of a perfect psychopath grips to the end."
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Hodel tells the story well and with incredible objectivity."
Seattle Weekly
"Former Los Angeles police detective Steve Hodel has written one of the most compelling true-crime books of all time."
"A fascinating family psychodrama; we watch [Hodel’s] image of his father morph from flawed but lovable ladies’ man to monster."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611454666
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/20/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 143,614
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

Steve Hodel

Steve Hodel spent nearly twenty-five years with the LAPD, where, as a homicide detective, he worked on more than three hundred murder cases and achieved one of the highest "solve rates" in the force. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

Black Dahlia Avenger Rev Ed

A Genius for Murder
By Steve Hodel

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Steve Hodel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061139610

Chapter One

The Biltmore

January 9, 1947

It was mid-week, Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. There were only a handful of people milling around the Biltmore Hotel lobby, scanning for the bellhops to take them up in the elevators. Few noticed when the strikingly beautiful young woman with swirling jet-black hair was escorted into the lobby by a nervous young red-haired man, who stayed for a while, then said goodbye and left her there. Maybe one or two guests observed the woman as she went up to the front desk, where she begged for attention from an officious young man who avoided her stare until she spoke up. She stood there, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, watching the clerk riffle through a stack of messages below the counter. He shook his head, and the young woman made her way silently across the deep red carpet to the phone booth, as if she'd been through the place a hundred times before. A couple of people turned to look at her when she hung up the receiver with a loud click.

Now, as she stood outside the phone booth, she seemed crestfallen, almost desperate. Or maybe it was fear.

Again she walked over to the desk, then back to the phone booth, endlessly fidgeting withher handbag and looking around as if she were waiting for someone. A date? More people began to notice her. Perhaps she was a newly discovered actress or just another wannabe scratching at the door of fame to get herself in. She didn't look L.A. Maybe she was from San Francisco. She looked more like Northern California -- well dressed, buttoned up, edgy, her fingers twitching nervously inside her snow-white gloves.

Increasingly, people in the lobby couldn't keep their eyes off her, this woman in the black collarless suit accented by a white fluffy blouse that seemed to caress her long, pale white neck. A striking presence, she looked a lot taller than most of the people in the lobby that night, probably because of the black suede high-heeled shoes she was wearing. She was carrying a warm full-length beige coat, a portent of the approaching January chill that creeps along Wilshire Boulevard from the ocean every night at the leading edge of the raw, swirling fog.

As the lobby began to fill, each man who passed her, seeing her standing alone with a look of expectation on her face, was sure she was waiting for someone special. Her eyes seemed to widen a bit every time a new guy in a suit came through the door. And each man probably wished in his heart of hearts that he was the Prince Charming she was waiting for that night, probably for a late dinner or dancing at one of the Hollywood clubs.

As time passed, the young woman became increasingly anxious. Where was he? She sat down. She stood up. She paced the lobby. The woman with no name walked over to the check-in clerk at the front desk and had him change her dollar bill to nickels. Again she went into the phone booth and dialed a number, this time more frantically than before as she snapped the rotor with a loud click between each digit. She slammed down the receiver. Still no answer. Where was he? She slumped into one of the lobby easy chairs and nervously thumbed through a magazine without reading. Every ten minutes or so she once again went over and made a phone call. What kind of man could keep such a beauty waiting?

One hour turned into two. If you were watching her face from across the lobby, you would have seen her jaw tighten, her anxiety turn to anger. He was always like that, late when you wanted him to be on time, early when you wanted him to be late. It was all his way. She thought about that afternoon in early December, just a month ago, when he'd told her -- ordered her was more like it -- to meet him at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles's grand dame, west of downtown on Wilshire Boulevard. "Meet me for a drink at five," he had said.

That time he had forced her to suffer through a three-hour wait at the bar. She had sat there spinning on her red barstool, playing with swizzle sticks, nursing her ginger ales and Cokes, and batting away the advances of seven men, from the twenty-three-year-old bartender to the wealthy real estate broker in his seventies with a Palm Springs tan that made his face look like leather. The remaining five guys had thought she was a high-class hooker or possibly a bored housewife, all dressed up and looking for a little fun. She had suffered a sugar high that night, she complained, after all those sodas she had drunk at the bar just waiting for him. When he finally showed, it was without apology. "I was delayed." Arrogant and simple, just like that. And she took it, too.

That was then. She said to herself she wouldn't take it again. It was late now, pitch-black outside. The bright lights inside the Biltmore lobby sparkled as if they were still greeting the New Year. The beautiful young woman thought about the past eight months. She had expected them to be great when she came back to L.A. from Massachusetts. She'd marry Lieutenant Right and raise a family. But it didn't happen that way.

Then things got worse and she was becoming afraid. Maybe the New Year would bring her better luck.

She dropped another nickel into the payphone and redialed the office number just a few short blocks from where she stood. Finally he picked up. "Yes, I'm here," she said with a show of irritation. "At the Biltmore. I've been waiting well over two hours. Yes, all right, I'm on my way." She hung up, and her demeanor immediately changed. She was radiant.

She walked east through the lobby, stopping first at the concierge desk to look at the large calendar, next at the front desk where she'd checked for messages when she came in, and then down the interior steps toward the Olive Street entrance. The doorman held open the large, ornately designed glass doors for her, and she stepped out into the chill darkness of a California midwinter's night. She turned back one last time toward the hotel, noticed her reflection in the glass door, and straightened the large flower that shone like a white diamond pinned atop her thick black swept-back hair. She paused briefly to straighten it, smiled at the onlookers who stared at her from inside the glass divide, and then turned south, walking toward 6th Street into the deepening fog that curled around her like smoke, making it seem as if she were disappearing into the night. The darkness had a life of its own, folding her into itself.


Excerpted from Black Dahlia Avenger Rev Ed by Steve Hodel Copyright © 2006 by Steve Hodel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Biltmore 7
2 Jane Doe Number 1 10
3 A Death in the Family 22
4 A Voice from Beyond the Grave 44
5 Dr. George Hill Hodel Jr., 1907-1999 56
6 George and Dorero 69
7 The Hollywood Scandal 90
8 Gypsies 103
9 Subic Bay 110
10 Kiyo 115
11 The Dahlia Witnesses 128
12 The LAPD and the Press: The Joint Investigation 151
13 The LAPD and the Press: The Avenger Mailings 166
14 The "Red Lipstick" Murder 189
15 Tamar, Joe Barrett, and Duncan Hodel 209
16 Fred Sexton: "Suspect Number 2" 216
17 LAPD Secrets and the Marquis de Sade 226
18 Elizabeth Short's "Missing Week" 232
19 The Final Connections: Man Ray Thoughtprints 239
20 The Franklin House Revisited 257
21 The Watch, the Proof-Sheet Papers, the FBI Files, and the Voice 265
22 Handwriting Analysis 273
23 More 1940s L.A. Murdered Women Cases 293
24 The Boomhower Spangler Kidnap-Murders 319
25 Sergeant Stoker, LAPD's Gangster Squad, and the Abortion Ring 333
26 George Hodel Underworld Roots - The "Hinkies" 348
27 Dahliagate: The Double Cover-up 359
28 The Grand Jury 374
29 The Dahlia Myths 381
30 The Dahlia Investigation, 2001-2002 390
31 Forgotten Victims, 1940s: The Probables 400
32 Forgotten Victims, 1950s: The Probables 416
33 George Hodel-Elizabeth Short: Reconstructed Timeline 427
34 Filing My Case with the District Attorney's Office 437
The Final Thoughtprint 449
Epilogue 455
Author's Postscript 463
Acknowledgments 465
Bibliography 469
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2007

    An Interactive Mystery

    I would strongly recommend the book The Black Dahlia Avenger to any person interested in reading a good mystery. The book is a very interactive read, and throughout keeps the reader guessing for the killer themselves. Although an enjoyable, well written book, I occasionally found myself doubting the authors abrupt conclusion based on similarities more than facts. A great picture is portrayed through the author's words that show true concern for solving the mystery, without the help of the police. Every time that there comes a break in the case, I put myself in the characters shoes, snooping around to solve the mystery of a beautiful actress, whose small dream, was the only desire she ever reached for after leaving her families. The author convinces the reader that the killer was a serial killer, and links Elizabeth Smart¿s murder to multiple other murders in the area of beautiful young ladies, who strived to greet Hollywood with a big debut, and trusted any person who said they could advance their careers closer to their goals. The author's extensive three year research on such a captivating story made for a shocking conclusion, keeping this book a ¿page turning¿ murder mystery through the last sentence.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Great read

    Nothing but admoration for the author

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013


    Takes off her power suit and puts on her regular clothes

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Long and drawn-out book.

    The book was interesting--for the first few chapters. After that, it just become a mumble/jumble of speculation and conjecture.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2012

    Well this book was very interesting reading about a dysfunctiona

    Well this book was very interesting reading about a dysfunctional family with a philandering father and a somewhat weak, alcoholic and drug addled mother. However as far as proving that Steve Hodel's father, George Hodel, was the murderer of Elizabeth Short, AKA: "The Black Dahlia", the evidence [?] that Steve Hodel presents is non-existent. As soon as I got to the photos [2] side by side on Page 45 [hardcover edition] that Steve Hodel insists is Elizabeth Short, I was immediately convinced that this book needs to be shelved under the "fiction" section of any library. Any person who has had any type of training in anthropology and / or training in the human anatomy, especially training in facial recognition, can detect right away that those 2 photographs are not only not photos of Elizabeth Short [look at her photo on the front cover for comparison] but these 2 photos themselves are not even of the same person!! The photo on the left appears to be of a woman of some type of Asian descent [remember George Hodel later married a Japanese woman late in life so he might have had a preference for that type of woman thus the photo] and the photo of the woman on the right while not really appearing to be Asian, does appear to have "Asian Like" features [almond shaped eyes, short oval type face]. Though the woman in the photo on the left is wearing flowers in her hair, that type of hairstyle was much more common in the 1940's [especially amongst Asian women] than it is today. Flowers in your hair does not make you the "Black Dahlia". Both women have a hairline that is much lower on their forehead[s] than Elizabeth Short ever had [Elizabeth Short had a very high forehead made more prominent when she pulled her hair back as she frequently did]. Elizabeth Short had "sunken cheeks" below her cheek bones and these 2 women have a fuller facial structure beneath the cheek bones. Comparing the 2 photos on page 45 to the photo on page 160 of Elizabeth Short, we can also see that Miss Short had an eyebrow ridge that was very low to her eyes, whereas these 2 women's eyebrow ridge[s] were high off of their eyes. I am hoping that Detective Steve Hodel used better investigative skills when he was investigating homicides for the LAPD than he used when he wrote this book. I am curious as to how Steve Hodel was able to dupe Arcade Publishing into thinking that this was a true story???? I am wondering what revenge motive was satiated when Steve Hodel embarked on a campaign to dishonor and discredit his father by falsely accusing him of a homicide that George Hodel [his father] probably would not have even pondered committing??????

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2010

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    Posted January 18, 2013

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    Posted March 8, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2010

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    Posted May 10, 2009

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