Image of Shadow Lawn, the actual house, circa 1060.

Cover of Black Dahlia.

Black Dahlia Avenger
by Steve Hodel

The True Story

❦ Johnny Depp
The Black Dahlia case has fascinated crime buffs from the moment Ms. Short's dismembered and gruesomely "arranged" body was found in a vacant lot. The revelation here is a blockbuster. More we cannot say. Dateline on NBC will do a special on it this coming Sunday.
❦ Liz Smith, New York Post

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?

Los Angeles is the construct of its mythologies good and bad, fact and fiction. The legend of Elizabeth Short is one of the most enduring. But now Steve Hodel has come to put the Black Dahlia painfully to rest. With the tenacity and patience of the veteran homicide detective he once was, Hodel goes from odd coincidence to rock solid conclusion. Taking us on the intriguing and unsettling journey every step of the way, Hodel's investigation is thoroughly and completely convincing. So too is this book. As far as I am concerned, this case is closed. Elizabeth Short's legend is now shared with a killer who has been pulled from the shadows of time and into the light. Everybody counts or nobody counts, and that includes the people shrouded in our myths. Steve Hodel knows this. And now we do, too.
❦ Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch series Review

Shawn Carkonen

For 56 years, the Black Dahlia murder case remained one of the most notorious and high-profile unsolved crimes of the 20th century. Now, Steve Hodel, a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, believes he has finally solved the case. On January 15, 1947, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short—”The Black Dahlia”—was found dead in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, her body horribly mutilated, bisected at the waist, and posed in a bizarre manner. The horrific crime shocked the country and commanded headlines for months as the killer taunted the police with notes and phone calls. Despite the massive manhunt, the murderer was never found.

Hodel began working on the case after he retired from the LAPD when he chanced upon an intriguing piece of evidence that led him on trail that he had no choice but to follow since it pertained directly to him. As he dug deeper, he came to believe that the killer was also responsible for over a dozen other unsolved murders in the Los Angeles area around the same time. He also found copious evidence of corruption at the LAPD, leading him to accuse the department top brass of covering up the Black Dahlia murder in order to conceal a deeper conspiracy involving crooked politicians and gangsters.

Despite a lack of physical evidence (which had been destroyed), Hodel is able to connect numerous dots and make a plausible case, complete with lurid tales of wild orgies that were attended by celebrities such as the artist Man Ray, the director John Huston, and a host of other Hollywood elites. He also discloses his killer’s obsession with the Marquis de Sade and Jack the Ripper and how he modeled his own crimes on their behavior. In particular, there is a disturbing connection between the work of Man Ray and the horrific circumstances of Short’s murder. It is doubtful that this will be the final word on the Black Dahlia murder—too much myth surrounds it and much of his evidence is circumstantial—but Hodel’s labyrinthine tale adds much to this intriguing case.

George Hodel, I think, is fit company for some of noir's most civilized villains—like Waldo Lydecker in Laura, Harry Lime in The Third Man or even Noah Cross in Chinatown, the man who (thanks to the screenwriter, Robert Towne) warned us, "Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and right place, they're capable of anything." And what had Cross done? Raped his daughter, and his city, and lived into old age.
❦ David Thomson, New York Times Book Review
☞ Product details and how to purchase:
  • Hardcover: 481 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st edition (April 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559706643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559706643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds