Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles

Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles

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by Don Wolfe

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In 1946, movie star wannabe Elizabeth Short traveled to Hollywood to become famous and see her name up in lights. Instead, the dark-haired beauty became immortalized in the headlines as the "Black Dahlia" when her nude and bisected body was discovered in the weeds of a vacant lot. Despite the efforts of more than 400 police officers, homicide investigators, and the


In 1946, movie star wannabe Elizabeth Short traveled to Hollywood to become famous and see her name up in lights. Instead, the dark-haired beauty became immortalized in the headlines as the "Black Dahlia" when her nude and bisected body was discovered in the weeds of a vacant lot. Despite the efforts of more than 400 police officers, homicide investigators, and the arrest of numerous suspects, the heinous crime was never solved.

Now, after endless speculation, theories, and false claims, bestselling author Donald H. Wolfe discovers startling new evidence and reveals the shocking secrets of the sealed autopsy — buried in the files of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for more than half a century. Furthermore, Wolfe discloses that the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short was the work of one of the most notorious mob leaders of the era, a brazen playboy known for his explosive temper and pathological bouts of violence — Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.

How did this ordinary young woman from Medford, Massachusetts, end up the victim of Los Angeles's most powerful political and criminal elements? Wolfe evokes the time, place, and converging circumstances that led her down a tangled trail to her death. Desperate for cash and showbiz connections, Short entered a labyrinthine world of Syndicate-run clubs, brothels, casinos, and other shady velvet rope operations that catered to Hollywood's elite and preyed on naive, ambitious beauties such as herself. Soon after she took a job with Madam Brenda Allen's call-girl ring, which fell within Bugsy Siegel's vice-map, Short found herself involved with the most powerful political figure in the city, the mogul who ran Los Angeles — Norman Chandler. Wolfe discovers that the real trouble began when Short became pregnant with his child.

In recounting the whole noir tale in The Black Dahlia Files, Wolfe not only reveals the motive behind the murder and identifies the killer and his accomplices, but also shrewdly unravels the large-scale cover-up behind the case. With the aid of more than 150 archival photos, news clippings, and investigative reports, Wolfe documents the riveting untold story that stands apart from all other works on the Black Dahlia case and casts a far wider net — implicating practically an entire city and Hollywood way of life in the murder of an aspiring starlet.

Wolfe's extensive research, based on the evidence he discovered in the recently opened LADA files on the murder, make The Black Dahlia Files the authoritative work on the mystery that has drawn endless scrutiny but remained unsolved — until now.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.29(d)

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The Black Dahlia Files

The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles
By Don Wolfe

Regan Books

Copyright © 2006 Don Wolfe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-058250-2

Chapter One

Extra! Extra!

I was raised on the wrong side of the tracks in Beverly Hills. The Pacific-Electric Railway bisected the city, and people like Gary Cooper, Betty Grable, Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford, and Marlene Dietrich lived north of the tracks. We lived on the south side on Camden Drive, where some of our neighbors were strictly name-below-the-title "B" movie folks. Joe E. Brown and Billy Gilbert lived down the street, Ann Revere across the way, and J. Carol Naish around the corner.

The south side had its compensations, however. I used to roller skate with Elizabeth Taylor before she became a child star. She and her brother, Howard, lived nearby on Charleville, and she was a member of what some of the neighborhood kids called "The Beverly Hills Skating Club." With the onset of adolescence, we changed the name to "The Beverly Hills Kissing Club;" but before Elizabeth Taylor could be initiated she was taken away from us by MGM.

Although I was from the lower depths of the south side, I attended El Rodeo Grammar School, which was to the north in the land of the majors. Some of my friends and schoolmates were children of the rich and famous. I first saw Gone with the Wind in DavidO. Selznick's living room on the occasion of Jeffery Selznick's twelfth birthday. Jeffery and I were friends at school and Tenderfoot Scouts in Troop 33. Our Boy Scout house was donated by Will Rogers and stood near the wilds of the L.A. Country Club. While learning to light campfires by rubbing sticks together on the manicured greens of the fourteenth tee, the Selznick's chauffeured limousine would be waiting outside the rustic scout house to drive Jeffery home to his Summit Drive mansion.

Whenever my older brother, Robert, and I drove with my mother and father through the north side streets of Beverly Hills, with all the imposing mansions, my father would inevitably say, "Behind those mansion doors, there's often a great deal of unhappiness." And my mother would inevitably respond, "Behind the doors of most dumps, there's also a lot of unhappiness, but a lot less room."

After my parents divorced in 1943, my mother married Jeffrey Bernerd, a movie producer, and we moved north, across the tracks to the land of the majors, where we lived behind one of those mansion doors where "there's often a great deal of unhappiness." But I had it good compared to many of my friends who suffered grievously from material riches and emotional want, and I soon learned that my dad was right; in some of those big homes, I observed a lot of unhappiness-broken hearts, drunks, neurotics, psychotics, suicides, and an occasional murder. Many of my pals at El Rodeo and Beverly Hills High School were driven directly from school to their analyst's office on Bedford Drive, and early on, I learned there was a dark side to money, power, and influence and that the truth and what was printed in the newspapers were not necessarily the same.

Beneath appearances and the public image, there was the whispered story, and beneath the whispered story, there was the cover story; and somewhere beneath the cover story lay the genuine rumor-while the body of truth often lay entombed within the corridors of intrigue. I was a sophomore at Beverly Hills High School when the Black Dahlia murder occurred, and all the cover stories and genuine rumors began, but I had reason to suspect that the truth lay sealed in the catacombs of money, power, and influence-in a carefully guarded crypt that has not been violated until this day.

A jovial, smiling figure of Charlie McCarthy wearing his monocle, boutonniere, and funny top hat sat on the rim above the speaker of my bedside radio. In the 1940s you could listen to Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Gang Busters, Fibber McGee and Molly, Edgar Bergin and Charlie McCarthy, and a host of highly entertaining radio shows, but by 10:00 P.M., the entertainment came to an end, and you knew it was time to go to sleep when the fruit frost warnings came on. If the temperature dropped below 35�F in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, the ranchers had to go out and light their smudge pots to ward off the frost that could damage the citrus crops.

On the night of Tuesday, January 14, 1947, the fruit frost warning had been posted and broadcasted on the ten o'clock news. At that hour few people were out on the streets. There were only those who worked late, those who were coming home from the movies or the wrestling matches at Legion Stadium, and the inveterate night people: the sleepless, the homeless, the inebriated. Downtown at the Hearst Examiner Building on Eleventh Street and Broadway, they were preparing the presses for the midnight run of the Examiner-casting the lead plate matrixes, mounting the giant paper rolls, filling the ink vats, and oiling the rollers.

In the small hours after midnight, Bobby Jones, a young man in his early teens, wheeled his bicycle through a vacant lot near Thirtyninth Street and Norton Avenue in Leimert Park. He had gotten up long before dawn to fold and prepare the newspapers for delivery on his route along Crenshaw Boulevard. In those days Leimert Park was a nice, middle class neighborhood on the fringe of the more fashionable Adams District west of downtown Los Angeles. But the construction of homes had been stopped by the war, and the area north of Thirty-ninth Street was still an extension of vacant lots with driveways leading to nothing but weeds and wild bushes.

Although it was quite dark when Bobby pushed his bicycle through the weeds, he noticed a black sedan with its lights off as it parked next to the sidewalk. The street lighting was dim, and he could not see the occupants of the car. Assuming they might be neckers, Bobby thought little of what he had observed as he continued on to his Crenshaw newspaper route.


Excerpted from The Black Dahlia Files by Don Wolfe Copyright © 2006 by Don Wolfe. 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.

Meet the Author

Donald H. Wolfe is the author of The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, which became an international bestseller and Literary Guild Selection. In Hollywood, California, where he was born and raised, Wolfe became a film editor at Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros., where he worked on All the President's Men and became a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg. A contributor to the New York Times and Paris-Match, Wolfe now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

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Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wolfe relates how he grew up in LA during the time of the Black Dahlia murder and lived behind Bugsy Siegel. Very interesting new twist on a story that has been written about so many times. Really enjoyed the personal recollections of the case. Lots of photos, too, including two pretty gruesome ones of the victim. Well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book very enlightening. I have read five other books on the "Black Dahlia Murder" and found the author's solution both plausible and intriguing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
luv_true_crime More than 1 year ago
This book was riveting, i hard time putting it down. I have been fascinated by the Black Dahlia murder for as long as I can remember, and by far this bookk has come up with the most believable facts ever. It really opened my eyes to the fortys. Ive always tought of the 40's as golden years of Hollywood, magical. I really had my eyes opened. Fantastic reading!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Other then nothing more than pure speculation as to who killed her, this was a riveting book! I really couldn't put it down until I finished it. The crime scene photos are VERY graphic and not for those weak in the knees. Actually, the pics alone make this book worth purchasing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the black dahlia files is a chilling story you cannot put it down. the pictures are grusome but tells a tale of what happened to the black dalhia
Guest More than 1 year ago
'She'd come into our drugstore frequently. She'd usually wear one of those two-piece beaching costumes, which left her midriff bare. Or she'd wear black lacy things. Her hair was jet black and she liked to wear it high. She was popular with the men who came in and they usually called her `The Black Dahlia'' 'Each time she would be gone for the day or two saying that she was going to hitch a ride downtown to Sixth Street. Upon her return, she was always loaded with money and would pay all her bills.' I felt for Elizabeth Short. I felt for her poverty and what she thought she had to do to get money, with hopes of seeing her names in lights and eventually becoming a move star. I sense that most of these young girls when starting out never imagined what they were in for until it was too late and they stared danger in the face. But these girls wanted the same as all others, love, acceptance family and marriage no doubt. It is just that they chose a different way which might have seen easier and more lucrative at first then they saw the dead end literally. What I would like to know though is why did these rich guys that courted her never had the presence of mind to help Elizabeth Short with her dental work. She must have gone through so much stress having to put Paraffin candles on the parts of her teeth that has gone bad. (I know someone who put White correction fluid on theirs as a temporary measure until they got to the dentist.) This true story was well told but I cannot help the heavy feeling of sadness for her, and especially her mother who seemed a strong woman holding everything in. If these greedy men in higher echelons wanted to get rid of her so badly, so that shame would not be reflected on them, they should have paid her a good sum to get lost in Australia or some part of Europe, and that would have done her well, I'm sure. Why did they have to cut her up like that? I sincerely hope that young women will read this book and be cautious in their journeys to other states looking for stardom. Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar 09/02/07
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an overall good book. Not only did it explaine the Dahlia murder, but the people involoved and their contributing story towards Elizabeth Short. Although the middle of the book did steer away from Short, in the end it all tied in and i was glad to have stuck with it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On Wednesday, January 15, 1947, in Los Angeles, California the body of Elizabeth Short was found. Her head and face had been badly beaten, her mouth slashed from ear to ear and her body had been cut completely in half at the torso. Although hundreds of police officers and homicide investigators worked on the case, the murder to this day remains unsolved. The Black Dahlia Files gives a detailed description of the investigation and attempts to unmask the individuals involved in the murder by taking a closer look at organized crime in California during the 1940¿s. The novel was able to catch my attention with the detail used to describe its important themes of organized crime and corruption and their presence in the justice system during the time period. I found it to be quite frightening how because of this corruption no one has been punished for such a heinous crime. I also liked how real evidence and dialogues were used to better illustrate the truth in this story. The use of photographs and real news clippings were a great way to portray the time period. On the other hand the novel tends to add a few details about the investigation that seem to be irrelevant. I did not like how the novel added information about other murders that took place around the same time because they seemed to be irrelevant to Elizabeth Short¿s murder. I would definitely recommend this novel because it is in no way a boring read and takes a very detailed look at true organized crime and its shocking realities.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whether you have read every book on the Black Dahlia case or are just a little curious about it, this is the book to read. Wolfe's book is by far the most factual and best substantiated full-length account of the case to date. Wolfe's tenacious digging through official documents and other sources give us what is by far the most detailed factual account of the victim, her life, and her murder. It does not detract much from the book that Wolfe's postulated solution to the crime is merely plausible. Wolfe relies too much and heresy and dubious sources for this part of the book to be convincing. But Wolfe is to be commended for giving detailed source notes for all the information he presents, which allows the reader to evaluate its credibility. Very refreshing compared to the chest-beating 'Take my word for it! I should know!' posturing of other Dahlia authors. The extensive appendices of this book are a trove of firsthand information, reproducing many of the official case documents. Wolfe devotes a 12-page appendix to a point-by-point debunking of Dahlia author Steve Hodel's heavily publicized 2003 claim of having proved his father was the killer. Wolfe shows that Hodel's claim that this father had photographs of the Black Dahlia have been refuted by the woman's family and by facial recognitions experts that his claim to have matched his father's handwriting to notes supposedly written by the killer did not follow standard handwriting analysis procedures and have been refuted by handwriting experts that Hodel deliberately misrepresents press and official references to other suspects and persons of interest as referring to his father and that Hodel's father was not a suspect in the crime until 1949, at which point he was thoroughly investigated by LADA's office and dismissed as a suspect. All and all, Wolfe presents a thoroughgoing look at the crime that is well worth reading.