The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles
Donald H. Wolfe
Regan, 2005 (2005)
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
lizabeth Short moved from her home town in Massachusetts to Los Angeles, hoping to become an actress. Short acquired the moniker of
because of her
dark hair, dark eyes, and a tendency to dress in slinky black. In January of 1947, Elizabeth's abused and dismembered body was found on an empty lot by a passerby. Authorities determined that Short was tortured and murdered in another location, then transferred to where her body was found. Many suspects came to light. However, no one was ever prosecuted for the twenty-two year old's murder. '
Yet, she dreamed
' of love, marriage, children, and stardom.
onald H. Wolfe, a sophomore at Beverly Hills High School at the time it happened, meticulously researched the more than fifty-year old, heinous murder. He writes of the mob, the murder, and the competition amongst newspaper media headlines, weaving in his own family history. Wolfe lays a solid platform of facts, while discounting two authors of recent books claiming to know who committed the murder -
Black Dahlia Avenger
(2003) by Steve Hodel, and
My Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer
(1995) by Janice Knowlton. Wolfe's account of the crime covers the four hundred investigating officers, newspaper reporters who were given carte blanche (at times wearing a badge on their shirts) to interrogate witnesses, neighborhood residents, and the many men Short dated or was acquainted with, including such individuals as Bugsy Seigel, Lucky Luciano, Jack Dragna, Mickey Cohen, and Brenda Allen.
uring her years in California, Elizabeth Short traveled back and forth between her hometown and varied locations in the western State. Witnesses stated that Short was afraid of '
someone or something
' in the days before she died. Theories on the killer include a '
wealthy Hollywood man
' who drove a vintage automobile, and suggest that the perpetrator was familiar with surgical procedures (due to the precision of cuts of and to the body, including the expert removal of a tattoo from one of the victim's legs). Wolfe also writes of other actresses who were murdered during the same time frame - including Thelma Todd and Georgette Bauerdorf - and of the sudden disappearance of Jean Spangler in 1949.
The Black Dahlia Files
does not provide the answer to who committed the crime, but brings out misconceptions in reporting events in the past and recent years. His book is an excellent source for those who are interested in revisiting the mystery, and also for readers unfamiliar with the Elizabeth Short murder, the circumstances surrounding the investigation, and LA/Hollywood life in the 1940s. The case to date remains
Open and Unsolved
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