Thursday, 12 January 2012

Steve Hodel - Black Dahlia Avenger

There are many books on the murder of  The Black Dahlia.
More than fifty years after what has been called "the most notorious unsolved murder of the 20th century," the case has finally been solved.
(Or has it?)
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?

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. --Shawn Carkonen
The conclusions reached in the book are the result of several years of grunt work by a veteran of over 300 homicide investigations for the LAPD, over 80% of which he solved. He's a detective with a spotless reputation, and having checked him out at a local book signing, I can tell you he's bright, articulate and extremely believable. If George Hodel was the embodiment of evil (as the daughter he molested at 14 insists), his son is his polar opposite. Hodel junior is someone, who, with a similar amount of brain power as his twisted father, used his power for good.

One review mentions that Steve Lopez, the LA Times reporter assigned to the book, was extremely skeptical when he began his story. In fact, he remained so even after interviewing Hodel. So he called in some favors, and was able to look where Hodel couldn't - the files of the LA DA. In them, Lopez found evidence that corroborated Hodel's - the doctor's house had been bugged and there are damning transcripts.
“We can only glimpse who Betty Short was--but now we know who killed her, and why.” (-- James Ellroy, from his foreword )

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