Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story

Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story

3.6 21
by Steve Hodel
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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?

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
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
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.”
Newsweek
“A fascinating family psychodrama; we watch [Hodel’s] image of his father morph from flawed but lovable ladies’ man to monster.”
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."
— 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.”
-- 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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781559706643
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
04/10/2003
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
504
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

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.

Continues...


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.

What People are saying about this

Gerald Petievich
“The best nonfiction book about L.A. crime I have ever read.”
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.”
David Thomson
“George Hodel, I think is fit company for some of noir’s most civilized villains.”
James Ellroy
“We can only glimpse who Betty Short was—but now we know who killed her, and why.”

Meet the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hope the evidence Steve Hodel used to help convict suspects when he was an LAPD detective was a lot stronger than what he presents against his father in this book. I stared and stared at the two photos found in his dad's album that he contends are of Elizabeth Short, comparing them to the photo of her on the cover of the book. I cannot convince myself that these are photos of the same woman. The handwriting analysis goes on and on about the letter 'O' being slanted to the left, while most of the 'O's are actually not slanted or slant to the right. Witnesses saw a tall man with a mustache, and his father was tall and had a mustache, therefore he was the killer. A Man Ray painting shows a mouth, Hodel's father admired Man Ray's art, and Elizabeth Short's mouth was slashed, therefore Hodel's father was the killer. It goes on and on with dozens of similarly preposterous conclusions, not only on the Dahlia murder, but on just about all the murders of women in L.A. during the 1940s. Hodel's prose is smooth enough and easy to read, but the book is disorganized and rambling. All I can say for it is that although it presents absolutely no real evidence that Dr. George Hodel killed Elizabeth Short or anyone else, the book is an interesting account of the author's seriously weird and disfunctional family in the 1940s.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and well researched! I could not put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
My mothers cousin was one of those murdered in 1948. Her family will finally know who killed her after all these years. I am old enough to remember how the LAPD worked during that period of time. A lot of pay offs and the mob. Steve took his time and followed the leads. I sure he would have preferred that it would lead to some other person. His father had some bad friends
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a very critical reader, I found BLACK DAHLIA AVENGER to be well-written and fascinating. Steve Hodel spent three years investigating in-depth all the available evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that his father, Dr. George Hodel, was the murderer of Beth Short, as well as a number of lone women who were murdered in the Los Angeles region in the '40's and '50's. The author's background as an outstanding special homicide investigator for the LAPD makes his presentation of the facts very credible. His ability to overcome the emotional trauma of discovering that his own father, Dr. George Hodel, was the pyscotic murderer of the Black Dahlia, as well as many other female victims, and yet, write this outstanding book, made me admire him for his courage and perseverance. The facts all add up to the truth--Dr. Hodel was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is a book worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Those who refuse to accept the truth of the 'Black Dahlia Avenger' would be ones who continue to say Lizzie Bordan killed her father and step-mother, and the Prince of Wales was Jack the Ripper. Having read half a dozen books each on all three cases it would seem to me that the facts allude the contractors. The authors personal experiance with the LAPD homicide department makes him more than qualified to idenitify the killers profile with an open objective mind. It would have been just as easy for him to blame John Houston as the killer as his own father, or another of the father's many warped and sick-minded friends. To research such a crime is a challange for any homicide investigator, but to find your own father was such a monster and to divulge the truth without expecting any fanfare or praise from his fellow officers holds a great deal of worth. The truth will sit heavy upon him and his family forever but at least he had the courage to open it for public scrutiny, and accept the critics caustic responses.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading this book after hearing such big claims about it, but when I got it, I was disappointed almost immediately. Hodel begins his case to prove his father is the Black Dahlia killer based on two photographs in an old photo album. Hodel says the photos are of the Black Dahlia, but he does nothing to prove it. He just says it. To me, the photos just look like two random, dark-haired young women. They don¿t even look like each other, let alone the Black Dahlia. This made me skeptical of everything in the book. Hodel¿s many other suspect assertions and logic-defying leaps gave me plenty more reasons to doubt him. This is Hodel¿s method of ¿proof¿ throughout the book: no real facts, just ¿because I said so.¿ The pictures are the victim because he says so. Long-dead witnesses saw his father because he says so. Unknown events happened because he says so. His father killed the Black Dahlia because he says so. And if nobody buys it, it¿s because there¿s a huge conspiracy to cover up all the facts, except the ones he was some how able to get. Sorry, I¿m not buying that load. On top of that, the book was boring and poorly written. I was very disappointed in this book and would not recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I knew nothing about this case before I happened across this book in an airport bookstore while changing planes recently. Once I started reading, however, I couldn't put it down. Mr. Hodel has created such an extremely readable recounting of true crime, family drama, and LAPD history that it is difficult to believe he is a first time author. One remaining mystery, however, is why there is such antipathy towards the author and his theory as evidenced by the previous review. Read the book, enjoy it, and form your own opinion. Whether you buy his conclusion or not, the journey is highly enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since it¿s publication this remarkable true-crime, has been honored as a New York Times bestseller, and is currently (June 27, 2004) No. 2 on the L.A. Times bestseller list. It was nominated for the prestigious ¿Edgar Award¿ in the true-crime category, by the Mystery Writers of America. The noted L.A. crime-writer, James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential and Black Dahlia) has written a foreword to the book where he states he believes the author has solved the crime. L.A.¿s other great mystery writer; Michael Connelly (The Narrows) also tells us that ¿as far as he is concerned the case is solved.¿ The author, a 24-year veteran homicide detective of the L.A.P.D, has written the most compelling solution to the infamous 1947 Black Dahlia murder, a crime that horrified post-war Los Angeles and the nation. I found it fascinating to follow Hodel¿s flawless logic, as fact after fact was introduced, much as a prosecutor would in a criminal trial. He presents eighty-five photographic exhibits, along with the actual handwriting documents sent in by the killer, which an expert compared and linked to the actual killer. We are permitted to examine all the evidence and then make our own judgment, as if we were a seated member of the jury. A head district-attorney in Los Angeles tells us, based on the evidence presented in Black Dahlia Avenger, he would have charged the suspect with the Dahlia murder along with a second murder that occurred just a few miles away a few weeks later. (The killer died before being arrested.) In his closing chapters we discover that LAPD secretly wire-tapped the suspect¿s home and have him confessing on tape to having committed several of the murders. He then fled the country for Japan and remained outside-the-law for forty years. A truly amazing story. Highest recommendation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the definitive, encyclopedic book on the Black Dahlia murder is written, no doubt an entertaining but brief chapter will be devoted to Dr. George H. Hodel. The colorful and perhaps shady Hollywood physician briefly became a suspect in the notorious unsolved murder three years after the crime, in the wake of never-proven incest allegations made by his troubled teenage daughter. The doctor was investigated, his house was bugged, and dozens of people he knew where questioned. Ultimately, he was cleared of any connection to the murder. This book, written by the doctor¿s son, may be a footnote to that chapter. Author Steve Hodel, who was apparently a respected retired LAPD officer prior to the publication of this book, wants the world to know that his father wasn¿t merely a suspect, he did the deed -- and dozens of other murders as well. Steve knows this because he found two snapshots belonging to his recently deceased (and thus unable to sue or otherwise defend himself) father which he recognized as the Black Dahlia, and so began his quest to prove that Daddy did it. The only trouble is, the pictures look nothing like the Black Dahlia. Even the woman¿s family has come forward to say they are not her. Upon inspection, the rest of Steve's incriminating evidence turned out to be just as phony: key witnesses Steve claims identified a man fitting his father¿s description were actually shown pictures of a man looking nothing like him; handwriting evidence doesn¿t stand up to independent analysis; scandalous charges against his father¿s famous (and also conveniently dead) acquaintances fizzle when checked against reputable biographical sources. When Steve isn¿t citing fabricated evidence, he is constructing byzantine chains of speculation that defy all common sense, and then declaring his imaginings to be fact. Steve even claims to have known nothing about his dad being investigated for the murder, even though his own book shows this was never any secret, but this minor detail is almost lost amid the giant pile of absurdities the reader is asked to swallow. In one of the book¿s saddest yet funniest moments, Steve declares that the reason the present-day LAPD doesn¿t take his findings seriously is not because his claims are ridiculous but because there is an ongoing conspiracy (you knew there had to be a conspiracy, right?) to cover up the truth. This book is not for true crime fans or for anyone wanting to learn about the Black Dahlia murder, but it is marginally interesting as a portrait of a unhappy son¿s willingness to sacrifice everything, not least his own reputation as a police office, in order to convince the world and perhaps himself that his father was not just a flawed man or even on balance a bad man, but a serial killer, ¿pure evil¿, and a monster of epic proportions. Many have suggested this book be classified as fiction, but perhaps it fits better under Abnormal Psychology.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The devil does not always parade around in full claw,horns,cloven-hoof,and pointed tail.Sometimes,he may appear as a tall,dark,and handsome;well dressed,curley haired Hollywood doctor.Sometimes this carismatic doctor has lead a secret life,outside of the public life he is known for where he is your daddy!What causes this Jekyll/Hyde personality? Steve Hodel explores the evidence left behind after daddy dearest departs.It is my opinion that much of the information that links daddy to the murders is cleaverly buried within the confines of the segmented family left in the dust.Now,the son of this Hollywood genius must uncover the truth, understand and come to terms with what remains....should daddy have been revered or reviled?Steve Hodel looks evil in the face and calls him 'daddy'.Many clues are found by this sage detective,many clues that were conveniently 'lost' in the cover-up of this doctor with too much personal information on Hollywood's finest and brightest.CYA insurance was not enough post-mortum to take these family secrets to the grave!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like any true-crime book, the value ¿The Black Dahlia Avenger¿ rests mainly on the veracity of its contents. Unfortunately for this book, the publicity that has helped sell it has not been so kind in this regard. Author Steve Hodel is apparently giving up on his claim that the photos he says he found in his late father¿s photo album are Elizabeth Short (a.k.a. the Black Dahlia), now that even Short¿s family has said the photos are not her. But he is still claiming that his father was identified by witnesses as the man they saw at a hotel with Short just before her death. This is not true, either. Larry Harnisch, an LA Times editor who has studied the Black Dahlia case extensively, has posted on his website the photo these witnesses use to identify the man they saw with Short. The man in the photo is clearly not George Hodel. And while great publicity has been generated by the fact that LA Times reporter Steve Lopez found that George Hodel was indeed investigated for the Black Dahlia murder in 1950, this undermines Steve Hodel¿s claims more than it supports them. Lopez reported that the LAPD said the investigation tended to prove George Hodel¿s innocence, and no one except Steve Hodel has referred to him a ¿prime suspect¿ or ¿main suspect¿. Indeed, it seems that George Hodel was only added to the list of 22 suspects nearly three years after the murder because his 14-year-old daughter, while being questioned about her claims that her father had molested her, told police he had committed this already notorious crime. (Whatever the truth of the molestation charges, numerous witnesses at the resultant trial testified that the girl was a pathological liar.) Furthermore, published reports make it clear that George Hodel and other members of the Hodel family were perfectly well aware that he was a suspect in the case, making it very hard to believe Steve Hodel¿s claim that he knew nothing about this until he started the investigation he describes in this book. It seems much more likely that ¿ for reasons is it perhaps best not to speculate on ¿ Steve Hodel has dusted off an old skeleton from the family closet, dressed it up with a book¿s-worth of false or unprovable claims, and presented it as the ¿solution¿ of one of the 20th century¿s most lurid and notorious crimes. That in itself may make the book interesting in some strange way, but it sure doesn¿t make it true crime.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have very mixed feelings about this book but would nonetheless recommend it. Steve Hodel, a former LAPD detective and veteran of 300 homicide investigations, began his examination of the Black Dahlia case after discovering 2 photos of a woman who reminded him of Elizabeth Short in a little album kept by his father. Based on the belief that the photos were of Short, he then 're-opened' the case by going back to newspaper accts about her murder and whatever primary sources he could find. Aware that the medical examiner had concluded that only a skilled surgeon could have bisected Short's body the way it was, Hodel began to suspect his father, a trained surgeon, was involved in the crime. What Hodel does best in the book is weave his own personal story with the story of post-war LA and the sensational Black Dahlia case. Hodel's chaotic early life is the stuff of memoirs, even without the Black Dahlia, and he paints a vivid picture of the city and its politics. He also does much to restore Short's reputation, to present her as a weak, somewhat deluded but decent young woman. Like most crime investigations, a lot of Hodel's case against his father is circumstantial. He has no real smoking gun to present, no hard evidence, and this obviously frustrates many readers. I saw Hodel recently in LA and feel that some people have unfairly characterized him as a money-grubbing 'Mommy Dearest' opportunist. His book may be flawed with too much far-flung speculation, but I think his intentions were sincere and not blinded by hate. His biggest mistakes, I think, were in publishing the book too soon and over-reaching in his theorizing. Since the book's release (but also because of its release), some hard evidence supporting Hodel's theory has surfaced. After reading the book, LA Times reporter Steve Lopez got hold of transcriptions from the DA's office of bugging and wiretapping done in Hodel's Hollywood home around 1950. Not only do the transcriptions confirm that Hodel's father was the main suspect in the case but they contain incriminating statements made by him and note that he was identified from a photo as having been at a hotel with Short just before her death (thus providing the asked-for connection between Hodel, Sr. and the victim). Many people have complained that the album photos don't look like Short, or have stated flat out that they're not her, and have understandably asked why he didn't include more pictures of Short in the book. Hodel has responded to this criticism by saying that a) out of deference to Short, he didn't want to include the horrific crime scene photos that make the resemblance more obvious and b) in the end, it doesn't matter whether they are Short, because other evidence connects the two and they were merely the catalyst for his own investigation. I think this second part is a bit disingenuous because the photos are presented in the book as evidence. Hodel indicated that he's planning to present some kind of follow-up, with added evidence, to answer his critics. I hope he does, because the book's contents don't quite stand on their own, and ultimately, that's what's being judged here.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Best non-fiction I've read in a long time. Compelling evidence!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Black Dahlia case is not solved. This book contains almost no real evidence, just the author's speculations, which he often confuses with fact. Author Steve Hodel was effectively abandoned by his father, the brilliant physician Dr. George Hill Hodel, at the age of 8, when Dr. Hill left the USA after his acquittal on an incest charge by another of his children. This book may be the author's long delayed revenge on his absent father. Steve Hodel has almost no evidence connecting his father to any murder, but pretends to certainty about his guilt of those crimes, as well as the incest case of which he was quickly acquitted by a jury. In my mind Dr. George Hill Hodel stands convicted of being a poor father, who clearly placed his own happiness above the welfare of his children. As someone who was myself abandoned by my father at the age of 3, I say Steve, it's time to forgive your father! He wasn't an entirely admirable man, but he was almost certainly no killer, Black Dahlia or otherwise. The only real attraction of this book is making an acquaintance with the life of Dr. George Hill Hodel. A concert pianist at the age of 9, he entered Cal Tech at 14 and was soon expelled, apparently for making one of the faculty wives pregnant with the first of his eventual 9 children. After two more children with two additional women, he eventually returned to school to earn his MD, and became a successful and wealthy physician, along the way having two more children in a 4 year marriage to the author's alcoholic mother. After leaving the USA he married a wealthy Filipina ( 4 more kids! ), and founded a very successful market research company. After his wife left him, he then recruited and married a 23 year old Japanese woman to whom he was happily married until his death at 91. Dr. Hill was a true modern day Casanova, who deserves a real biography, not this lurid accusation from a disgruntled son.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a good true-crime read, look elsewhere; this is a disorganized work of fiction and fantasy. I was sucked in by the author's apparent creditability as a former LAPD detective, and the book starts out well -- even if the photos present as being of Elizabeth Short do not appear to be her -- because the author's father was a dynamic and gifted man, laid low by allegations of serious sexual misconduct that may or my not have been true. But it soon turns into an endless cycle of wild speculation and demonstrably untrue statements magically converted to 'facts' to fuel the next round of wild speculation, which is then convert to 'fact' to fuel... etc. Over and over, until the author has his father killing not only Elizabeth Short, whom he never shows his father even knew, but seeming every other female victim of an unsolved homicide in LA over a 20-year period. (The handwriting evidence was potentially intriguing, but by that time the author had shoveled out so much horse manure, I found myself thinking, 'If I¿d knew anything about handwriting analysis, I¿d see why this was baloney, too.') In the process, the reputations of many people, both obscure and famous (Man Ray comes in for a particularly counterfactual drubbing), get dragged through the mud. Of course, they're all dead, so nothing said about them meets the legal definition of libel. What an embarrassing book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would definitely recommend this book. Steve Hodel does a great job with writing the book, considering that he is a detective primarily, not a writer. He makes an interesting case with regard to linking his father to Ms. Short's murder. BUT, as previous reviewers stated, I still am not totally convinced of the guilt of Dr. Hodel. There are compelling points such as the timeline of when he was in LA and San Diego, and the handwriting sample analysis. One of the major 'clues' that got me were the 'thoughtprints' and the very eerie comparisons with the works of artist Man Ray. Wow. VERY weird, even if they are not a 'slam dunk' with regard to Dr. Hodel's guilt. Most of all though I agree with reviewer #1 when he says: 'The pictures in Dr. Hodel's photo album ...these photos do NOT look like Elizabeth Short. There is simply not enough resemblance for me to swallow that assumption...Why were no known photographs of Betty included to make comparisions and further prove his case to the reader...Even the two photos he claims are of Short don't look like the same woman. So with the first, integral bit of evidence in question it was a bit hard to swallow the rest of it.' I cannot put it better. I'm looking right now at p. 45, exhibit 7, and I also am NOT convinced. If they are of Ms. Short, perhaps they were doctored somehow. I also have the book 'Severed' by John Gilmore, which contains many photos of Short at varying times (even after death, very disturbing). Those are all clearly Ms. Short, and none of them bear a resemblance to the photos in Hodel's book. I can only assume he must have SOME sort of proof that they are indeed Betty Short---or why bother to pursue the entire story? Also interesting what another reviewer said---that Dr. Hodel was one of 22 suspects. I also appreciated the respect Steve Hodel gave to Ms. Short in the book---too much trash has been written about her, essentially a naive girl murdered brutally for no reason.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steve Hodel's book offers some interesting information regarding the mystery of the 'Black Dahlia,' but very little hard fact. Somewhere along the way, I found myself asking when he made the connection between his father and Elizabeth Short and why he did not offer more in the way of solid evidence. The two photos he claims to be Short could, in fact, be almost any brunette in Hollywood from the 1930s or 1940s. The oversized flowers in her hair force him to make a connection between the photos and the Black Dahlia of 1947. He makes assumptions that his father was identified by a number of witnesses, and goes on to make his case that his father not only committed this single notorious murder, but several others as well. While there's some compelling reading both in the analysis of the handwriting and his father's familiarity with the rather odd works of artist/photographer Man Ray, he overlooks the fact that his father was never identified as a public suspect. There may well be proof out there that could link Dr. George Hodel to the Black Dahlia murder, but Steve Hodel's timeline of events is thin and lacks credibility in the way of hard evidence. Hodel is right about the fact that corruption was rife within the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1940s. But, to say that a dozen or more murders were covered up to save the department the embarassment of having their venereal disease diagnoses and treatments revealed is a leap. A good book, but not yet the full story and resolution of the Black Dahlia mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this book quickly and wanted to write a review while I still had it in fresh in my mind.

First of all, people who follow the case of Betty Short are desperate for anything written on it and I'm sure will buy and devour the book regardless of what I or any reviewer will say. So with that out of the way...

There is no denying that Hodel has many more credentials and much more life and work experience going for him than other authors of BD books. For that very reason, I was excited about reading this book. But ultimately, this a circumstantial evidence case and I was left with some questions unanswered and some connections questioned.

The pictures in Dr. Hodel's photo album which started the entire journey. To me and many others who were familiar with the Dahlia case before this book, these photos do NOT look like Elizabeth Short. There is simply not enough resemblance for me to swallow that assumption. There are still people alive who knew her. Why didn't he show any of them the picture? Why were no known photographs of Betty included to make comparisions and further prove his case to the reader? The only living picture of Betty other than Hodel's that is in this book is on the dustjacket cover. I don't think that's an accident. Even the two photos he claims are of Short don't look like the same woman. So with the first, integral bit of evidence in question it was a bit hard to swallow the rest of it.

What I find particularly annoying is Hodel stacks evidence on top of questionable evidence. Example, the banana is blue so therefore lemons are blue. In actuality, a banana isn't blue and neither is a lemon, but he runs with it anyway. Also, this man doesn't seem to take MO into consideration at all.

Hodel names his father as the murderer. He is convinced that Dr. Hodel is the 'wealthy Hollywood man' suspect that the LAPD was hiding. How he makes this connection was lost to me. It seemed to be more along the lines of an assumption. While his father was wealthy, had deviant sexual tastes and lots of connections, there are many men in Los Angeles in the 40s who fit this criteria. Hell, even today there are many men in Hollywood who fit this criteria. And yes, he probably was a suspect in the case, but so was Mark Hanson - I don't think he did it either.

Hodel uses handwriting analysis in an attempt to bolster his case. However, the letters he uses in the comparisions are ones that are considered to be written by imposters. In fact, some think that the Avenger letters were the work of desperate journalists in hopes of keeping the Dahlia story hot.

Also, the bulk of his case comes from researching the newspapers of the time. I'm apprehensive about this technique of putting together a case simply because newspaper journalists are not 100% accurate or reliable. So I was left questioning and doubting a lot of turns because they had come from old newspaper articles. I don't feel this is entirely credible, but I suppose as a case gets colder and colder, there isn't much left. But it is interesting to see the older, forgotten turns in the case through media.

The final straw for me was the piling on of some 15-odd additional unsolved murders of the 40s and 50s including James Ellroy's mother, Geneva. So Dr. Hodel not only killed Short, he and his accomplice were responsible for a series of unsolved 'lone woman' murders. It's a completely over the top accusation and reminds me of Janice Knowlton and her claims. Not admirable company to stand in.

While I find it hard to believe his named suspect, there are some interesting observations. I'm glad that he has reiterated the fact that the LAPD really dropped the ball on this one whether through cover-up or ineptitude. His interview with a former partner shows us that the Black Dahlia casefile has been sanitized. His argument that there is no 'lost week' was interesting too.

I truly do appreciate his defense

Guest More than 1 year ago
Like Jack The Ripper, the Black Dahlia murder is 'solved' every time a new book comes out with each new author offering up a 'shocking' new suspect overlooked by the police. In 1995's DADDY WAS THE BLACK DAHLIA KILLER, Janice Knowlton unmasked her abusive father as the killer. Now we have BLACK DAHLIA AVENGER by Steve Hodel who claims that, you guessed it, HIS father killed the Black Dahlia. Hodel's book is very well researched and he does give us some intriguing new details about the Dahlia's final days, but the case Hodel makes against his father is shockingly thin and mars an otherwise compelling look at the crime. The author's entire case -- and the only thing that links his father to Elizabeth Short a.k.a. the Black Dahlia -- is based on two photographs of a unidentified woman Hodel found in his dead father's photo album. Hodel identifies the woman in the photos as Elizabeth Short, and reproduces them in the book as 'Exhibit 7.' The problem is the woman in the photos is clearly NOT Elizabeth Short! Incredibly, Hodel provides no outside verification from Dahlia experts, the LAPD, or surviving family that the woman in the pictures is, indeed, the infamous Black Dahlia. (Aside from the cover, the book contains no pictures of the real Elizabeth Short -- perhaps to avoid direct comparison?). Hodel goes on to claim that his father's handwriting matches the handwriting on notes sent to the newspapers by a man who claimed to be the killer; the 'Black Dahlia Avenger' of the title. Here Hodel does provide detailed outside confirmation and makes a strong case. But writing a crank letter does not mean you're the real killer. Over 30 people 'confessed' to the crime during this same time. Besides, most experts now believe the 'Avenger' letters were the work of journalists trying to keep the sensational story alive. Hodel goes on to claim his father killed dozens of other women (none were mutilated like the Dahlia) and a massive police cover-up -- a 'Dahliagate' -- prevented him from being caught. That explains why his father's name does not appear in the voluminous Dahlia crime files. Okay? Now, I have no doubt Hodel's father was an abusive and sadistic character (he was eventually arrested for incest), but the Dahlia killer? Heck, Mary Pacios makes a more compelling case for Orson Wells as the killer in her book CHILDHOOD SHADOWS: THE HIDDEN STORY OF THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER. In the end, I have to put this book alongside the Knowlton book as yet another example of that strange delusion that one's parent killed the Black Dahlia. It's too bad; Hodel is a good researcher and a good writer, but his father issue (the true nature of which is most revealing in his epilogue) spoils what could have been an excellent, objective look at the Dahlia crime and the available evidence. And I found it disappointing that in 467 pages we learn precious little about the woman herself. John Gilmore's SEVERED: THE TRUE STORY OF THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER remains the outstanding book about the case. Not that Gilmore's pet suspect (a drifter named Jack Anderson Wilson) is any more convincing, but at least Gilmore seeks to discover the girl behind the famous moniker, Black Dahlia, and that to me is the more intriguing mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Five stars, read it, an absolutely believable story. Hard to imagine they never charged him. Buy it, don't wait!