Buy One, Get One 50% Off Our Monthly Picks!
Shop Now
Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia

Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia

by John Gilmore

Paperback(New Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Wednesday, May 25


The grisly 1947 murder of aspiring starlet and nightclub habitue Elizabeth Short, known even before her death as the “Black Dahlia,” has over the decades transmogrified from L.A.'s “crime of the century” into an almost mythical symbol of unfathomable Hollywood Babylon/film noir glamour-cum-sordidness. It is somehow fitting that author John Gilmore should be the one to unravel the multilayered mystery of this archetypal Los Angeles slaying as it begins to take its place in the collective memory, somewhere next to Bluebeard and Jack the Ripper, a cautionary tale about the pretty girl who came to Hollywood to be a movie star and wound up in a dirt lot, hacked in two. The Black Dahlia murder—unlike such earlier headline-grabbing cases as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the Lindbergh kidnapping—was the first case to command the attention of post-war America with its stark carnality.
In hard-boiled yet haunting prose, Gilmore tells several previously unrevealed stories at once, each filled with its own bizarre elements through which the book transcends the true-crime genre and becomes literature. One is the tale of victim Elizabeth Short, small-town beauty queen with big hopes who seemed to float through her tragically futile life as an alluring yet doom-laden enigma. Severed also unfolds the tangled inside story of the police investigation and the remorseless Hearst-stoked press hoopla that paralleled it. Gilmore reveals the twisted psychology and down-and-out life story of the murder suspect—as well as the startling circumstances of the suspect's “indirect confession” wherein he fingers his female-impersonator pal as the purported killer. Severed is the first non-fiction book to offer a documented solution to the Black Dahlia case as endorsed by law enforcement and forensic science experts. In the just over 50 years since the murder, the terms serial killer and behavioral profiling have moved from FBI jargon to essential archetypes of the American cultural landscape, crossing the nebulous bounds of streaming series, book, and blockbuster movie.
Now that the reader can put a face to Elizabeth Short's killer through Gilmore's relentless spade work, the spectral luster of this most spectacular “unsolved” murder in American crime history seems not diminished but enhanced. Ultimately, John Gilmore boils down its undying allure to this haiku-like equation: “The pale white body severed in two and left for the world to view, and her name: Black Dahlia.”

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781878923318
Publisher: Amok Books
Publication date: 01/15/2022
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 252,632
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as "the quintessential L.A. noir writer," John Gilmore was internationally acclaimed for his hard-boiled true crime books, Hollywood memoirs and biting, literary fiction. He was the author of Severed, Laid Bare, Cold-Blooded, Live Fast, Die Young, Fetish Blonde, Inside Marilyn Monroe, L.A. Despair and other works. He lived in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

The photographer's flashbulbs popped in quick succession until Lieutenant Jess Haskins arrived and asked the uniformed officers to keep everyone temporarily off the sidewalk. He told Fitzgerald and Perkins the lab crew was on the way and that he'd called in two other detectives. “Nobody in town is going to print any pictures of this one,” Underwood said to Haskins. “This is the worst one I've ever seen, Jess. They didn't leave much to anyone's imagination this time.”
The detective said, “I don't know if it's a they or a he or a she, but I'll let you know as soon as I do.” Haskins looked at her as she leaned against the right door of the coupe with the squad car blocking her view of the lot. She then stood very stiffly with her back against the car, clutching her purse and notebook pad against her stomach, and gave Haskins a sad kind of smile as if to say, “What the hell kind of business are we in anyway?”
Haskins had been unable to trace the original complaint made to the station. He only knew that an unidentified female had placed the call. He observed the dead body and the immediate surroundings and told Fitzgerald and Perkins to begin a search without disturbing the area around the corpse. He asked the Inglewood sergeant where the nearest land line was and warned the officers to stay off the radio. “Any personnel going back and forth on the radio are going to have us jammed up with bystanders,” he said, adding, “and more cops than we need.”
The only possible evidence that was quickly apparent to Haskins was a cement sack bearing spots of watery blood; another blood spot on the sidewalk, found by Fitzgerald; and a heel print in the driveway. The print was apparently made by a heel having stepped in a small spot of blood, but the print was partly obscured by the track of the automobile tire.
The body was cold, and from the marks on her neck the immediate cause of death seemed to be strangulation—not manually, but by rope. It seemed to him that the body may have been soaked in water and washed off so that latent prints or other evidence would have been removed. The body had probably been drained of blood.
Apart from the blood spots, the heel print and cement sack, nothing else was found. It was the kind of homicide that could get the department and the press in a wrangle, Haskins believed. The naked body told him that a sex crime had been committed, not just a dismemberment or ax murder—those were rough enough—but there was something here that went beyond.

Customer Reviews