41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2009
I just finished this book, and while it is interesting and at times fascinating, you are left thinking, Ok, that was an intriguing theory, but we are no more certain that George Hodel was the Zodiac killer than when we started the book. Not only that, but two glaring issues stand out that the author did not address: From what we know of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, she was oftentimes nearly destitute. How, then, was she able to travel to Chicago to investigate the Degnan murder? Second, and even more glaring, the author never addresses the extremely disimilar modus operandi between the Black Dahlia murder and the Zodiac killings. This, to me, is almost laughable if you stop to think about it. George Hodel goes from a killer who likes to pose his victims to match the perverse art of Man Ray to someone who just stands outside a car and shoots victims through a window, not even coming into physical contact with at least four of his victims. These types of killings bear absolutely no resemblance to one another. Yet the author never addresses this in his book. As a senior homicide detective with 20 years on the force, did the thought not occur to him that the killing of Elizabeth Short and David Arthur Faraday/Betty Lou Jensen bear absolutely no commonalities? While I am almost convinced (without the lack of irrefutable physical evidence) that George Hodel killed Elizabeth Short, that he was also the Zodiac killer is a theory based on a series of interesting coincidences and nothing more. It's too bad that the author grabbed onto this theory, as it really reduces his credibility. A much stronger case could be made that any of the original Zodiac suspects, including Arthur Leigh Allen, was the real thing. That Allen wore a Zodiac watch is more than anything the author was able to find on his father to tie him to the murders, and there was a lot more Allen evidence. Yes, the fact that George Hodel liked The Mikado and the Zodiac quotes from it is very intriguing, but there is a lot of intriguing evidence to tie other suspects to the crimes--more intriguing by far.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Steven Hodel wasn't just an ordinary homicide detective in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of a prominent doctor, Dr. George Hill Hodel. It wasn't until after his death that Steven began to research his father's secret life and the possible secrets he held until his death. Steven was an experienced homicide detective in Los Angeles, California and retired by the time of his father's death.
Dr. George Hill Hodel's life was of contradiction. He was a family man who fathered about ten children but also performed abortions before it was finally legalized in 1973. He was tested as a genius but he was diabolical and totally lacking empathy for those around him including his own children and wives.
This book offers some compelling facts about crimes that went unsolved such as the Black Dahlia killing which he was considered a viable suspect but left the country before he could be arrested. If he had been arrested, Dr. Hodel could have revealed some damaging secrets about the famous and powerful in Hollywood. He was friends with director, John Huston, and photographer, Man Ray, and author Henry Miller among them.
If he had been arrested for Elizabeth Short's murder in 1950, there could have possibly been so many people's lives affected forever including his children. Dr. Hodel was in fact brought up on charges of molesting his own daughter, Tamar Hodel, and even his own granddaughter years later.
Dr. Hodel's evil knew no bounds. He lacked a conscience and empathy towards his own children, wives, and loved ones. He was somebody who was lacking a moral compass if he ever had one. He was sadistic, misogynistic, and a male chauvinist that his own son would reveal. According to this book, his son, Steven, has taken the time to examine handwriting samples in cases like the Lipstick Killer in Chicago and the Zodiac among them. While Dr. Hodel may have killed dozens of women, he was possibly responsible for the life imprisonment of an innocent man, William Heirens, who was brutally forced to confess to a crime of killing Suzanne Degnan, a child and dismembering her. He spent 60 years in prison after taking a plea bargain to spare his life but maintains his innocence. I truly believe now Heirens is innocent of the crime because of this book.
Steven writes about his father's crimes in depth with analysis and evidence in the book. The photographs are not separated but intermingled with each section which makes it easier to understand how he came to his conclusions. I know that Steven must have had a difficult time in learning about his father's crimes. George tested on the highest level of criminals. He led a double life and seemed to enjoy his evil mixed in with his family figure.
I believe Dr. Hodel was guilty of the crimes mentioned. It would make absolute sense because there are so many questions finally answered. His crime spree evolved over decades. He began killing women possibly from the shear pleasure of it in his own sadistic nature to terrorizing the community in Northern California where he was raised and grew up and later died. Dr. Hodel's writing samples were analyzed and yes it is possible that he was the Zodiac killer as well as the Lipstick killer.
In the Suzanne Degnan's murder and dismemberment, the authorities believed that somebody with medical experience committed the crimes. Heirens didn't have the knowledge or the experience to dismember and mutilate the young victim but Dr. Hodel did and her body parts were placed in strategic places around Chicago. But Heirens was a criminal in only burglary and not murder. He willingly pleaded guilty to her murder after being terrorized by the Chicago police.
Steven takes and places pieces of a mass puzzle together regarding his father's crimes. His father lacked originality but I disagree that it couldn't be further from the truth. His father who was a genius lacked a humanity in order to commit horrendous crimes and get away with it. Who should be angry with? Dr. George Hill Hodel, the criminal serial murderer and terrorist, or the authorities who allowed his crimes to go unnoticed in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Manila.
Anyway, the book raises fascinating questions and a look at these crimes through his own son's eyes. I can only imagine how Steven must have felt realizing his father's criminal activities, brutal and evil. I am amazed at how Steven connected the dots and provides a convincing look at his father's crimes.
What makes Dr. George Hodel fascinating to amateur criminologists like myself is how he evolved from just killing women and children to terrorizing and frightening the press and the police departments in San Francisco. My theory is that he was possibly bored with just killing women and dismembering them with poses and locations to symbolize something greater in his own sick mind but he needed something different. He became a terrorist much like the BTK killer who taunted and haunted the police department and the press and the communities around Northern California. If he was the Zodiac killer, he seemed to take pleasure not from the actual murders but from terrorizing the population with fear and terror.
Dr. George Hodel's criminal life might be the key in understanding how a psychopathic killer evolved from just killing women and children to becoming a terrorist. He was sadistic as we learn in this book. It didn't matter if they were his children, wives, or loved ones to him. He knew no bounds of love at least genuinely or the ability to others.
My heart goes out to Steven Hodel who ironically was a homicide detective because he's haunted by his father's crimes and the victims as well. We'll never the truth about Dr. George Hill Hodel but this book provides a fascinating insight into the mind of an evil serial killer who went free his entire life.
I still feel that George is still taunting us from the grave like this and that was his final criminal act. He couldn't confess and tell the world somehow. He had to allow his own son to piece together a puzzle of his life and crimes. Will we ever know the absolute truth? Probably not and that's the worst of all. It's better to know the truth after all even if it's painful, disturbing, evil, and criminal.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2010
This is a quick and interesting read about several unsolved (or incorrectly "solved") murders that the author strings together and lays at the feet of his father. While I did not read his first book, this book's retelling of the Black Dahlia murder convinces me that his father very likely was the murderer of Elizabeth Short. On the other hand I found very little in this book to convince me his father committed any of the other murders the author fingers him for. I would have expected a thorough time line showing where George Hodel was when each crime was committed and how the author(s) know that. Absent any real proof that his Dad was in Chicago during the crimes the author attributes to his Dad or in San Francisco during the Zodiac killings, the rest of the crimes remain unsolved in my mind. There are some interesting coincidences, (i.e. letters to various newspapers that bear some resemblance to each other) that may point to the same person as killer...and that person may be his father....but then again it could all just be coincidences tied together with "facts" that the author wants to use to prove his point, while discarding any other "facts" that would point in a different direction. The most obvious "fact" that S. Hodel seems to constantly skim over is that the murder victims and the method of killing vary so widely, and that is not usually the case with serial killers.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2009
I didn't buy this from Amazon but happened to see it today at the local library and picked it up. I took it home and started reading and couldn't put it down. As a matter of fact, I read it straight through. This is a very readable, very entertaining book.
Does the author conclusively prove that his father was not only the Black Dahlia Avenger but also the elusive Zodiac? I'm not sure conclusive proof could even be had without the benefit of DNA testing, but he does build a fairly credible case for his assertions. The handwriting certainly looks very similar even to my untrained eye, and some of the other findings seem to rise above mere coincidence. Mr. Hodel is a former LAPD homicide detective, and I liked his proclivity for adhering to the facts and expressing doubts when he had them.
I don't ordinarily read true crime books, but I've been interested in the Zodiac for many years and this book didn't fail to deliver. I'm looking forward now to reading the author's previous work. Again, I'm not sure the author makes his case or if the case can even be made at this late date, but he's certainly given researchers some new directions to work in. At the very least, George Hodel was a seriously screwed up individual who did some horrific things. At the same time he's utterly fascinating, depraved though he may have been, a true evil genius. Read the book, you won't regret it. Highly recommended.
21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2010
Get ready for Hodel's next book, "The Most Evilist Ever!," in which he uncovers new "evidence" that his father, Dr. George Hodel---beyond just being the Black Dahlia, Chicago Lipstick, and Zodiac killer---was also the second shooter on the grassy knoll, performed the alien autopsies after The Roswell Incident (he did, after all, have medical knowledge!), and was the possible offspring of Jack the Ripper!
Perhaps the most ridiculous assertion in the whole book is on pg. 251, about a photograph showing the author and Dr. Hodel in the basket of a hot air balloon. Apparently Dad invited his boy to go on a wine-country balloon tour... not for any possibly good motive. NO WAY! Steve Hodel sees the balloon trip "for what it was... Not an unusual way for a father to share time with his son but rather a cat-and-mouse game... the satisfaction I saw on his face that day was actually the gloating smile of a serial killer. My father was giving his son, the big city homicide detective, a tour of his Zodiac killing fields!"
Whatever you say, Dirty Harry. Wait, that's unfair: Harry Callahan would never make such dumb accusations.
He then goes on to critique his father's expression in the photograph: "My father LOOMS (caps mine, to emphasize author's use of leading words)to my right in an elegant tweed jacket with a handkerchief in the pocket, a fancy turtleneck sweater, and an EXPENSIVE WATCH (because the Zodiac, like, was into watches, you know?)... he goes on: "How would YOU describe his expression? The cat that ate the canary? Or, even better, the man who knows he's GOTTEN AWAY WITH MURDER?"
Actually, I'd describe his expression as entirely normal. But that's just me.
The best writing in the entire book is, doubtless, the writing of Dr. George Hodel himself. On page 275, Steve reprints a letter that his Dad wrote to him. It is absolutely brilliant, touching, and extremely well written. It almost made me feel bad for the guy. Sure, he might have been a first class a--hole, and not a very good Dad---but that doesn't mean he deserves to have his kid trying to pin murders on him to make a quick buck. Now his name is forever tarnished.
The lesson here is this: make sure your kids don't end up hating you this much. I have some issues with my Dad too, but I'm not about to turn him into the boogeyman.
Sidenote: in an effort to lend credibility to his case, the author references the television show "Most Evil" with Dr. Michael Stone, in which Stone ranked Dr. George Hodel at the highest level, a 22, on his scale of evil. What Steve Hodel fails to mention is that Dr. Stone was only rating George Hodel IF he was the Black Dahlia killer. Thanks to Steve Hodel's 2003 book, that was the buzz in the true-crime world, and the show "Most Evil" went along with it as a hypothetical. But I remember watching that show, and I remember Dr. Stone saying "IF" George Hodel really was the killer, then he would receive a rating of 22. That's a mighty big "IF."
21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2009
Some time ago, I wrote a review for [...] (Jan's Angle) on Steve Hodel's 2006 edition of The Black Dahlia Avenger - A Genius for Murder. Three years prior, I had read the 2003 edition of the book bearing the same title in preparation for review in the now sadly defunct Cult Movies Magazine. In 2003 and 2006 I had the top of my head blown off by Mr. Hodel's investigation of his father's dark deeds. Now three years later, Steve Hodel with Ralph Pezzullo have presented more mind blowing evidence rearding his father's and other sensationalized serial murders. "The Chicago Lipstick Murders," The Jigsaw Murder," and the famed "Zodiac" killings are all re-examined in this articulately written book, and woven together with the crimes of Dr. George Hodel, "The Black Dahlia Avenger."
If this book had been penned by anyone else other than Mr. Hodel (a two decades-plus homicide detective), I would have been skeptical of the claims on the cover of this attractively packaged volume. But Hodel's credentials are so far above reproach, and his deductive reasoning is so spot-on, that within the first two hours of ownership I consumed sixty pages.
In this writer's opinion, Mr. Hodel is a true life Sherlock Holmes or Charlie Chan - but at the cost of losing his father to murder and madness.
Most Evil connects all these hideous crimes together, and reveals the motivation for the slaying of Elizabeth Short. I'm sure I'm going to be reading this book a second time, because not only is this work a compelling read, but the twists and turns and intricacies of Dr. George Hill Hodel's mind are not absorbed in a single reading.
While this book contains a mountain of circumstantial evidence against Dr. Hodel, his son realizes as a former homicide detective, that after Most Evil presents the case, law enforcement officials must follow through for a 'Case Closed' verdict.
Steve Hodel, at the end of this investigation, writes that he accepts his fate in all this. But one can only wonder what might have happened if Steve Hodel had discovered any of this information while his father was alive. We'll never know.
A 'Must Read' for true crime buffs.
Jan Alan Henderon, author of Speeding Bullet and co-author of Behind the Crimson Cape: The Cinema of George Reeves
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2013
"Black Dahlia Avenger" was a well-written, well-researched book that convinced me George Hodel may very well have killed Elizabeth Short. (Though I felt the author had become obsessive and tacked on a lot of other 'possible' murders at the end.)
"Most Evil" not only convinced me that he was NOT the Zodiac killer (the author acknowledges that George did not even live in the country at the time and can not link his visits to the states with a single important date), but that he probably had nothing to do with the Black Dahlia.
Steve Hodel has a way of writing in this book that is amateurish and insulting. He asks a question (could he have done it?), gives a vague reason for why with his police instincts he believes he could have (because cops are NEVER wrong about murder [the book itself points out many instances where Steve thinks cops got it wrong, despite their instincts and experience]), and then he simply takes it for granted that it must have happened that way. And he states it over and over and over again that it did happen that way hoping that the reader will fall into a trance and lose their critical thought process in the process. This whole book takes for granted that the first book was 100% true, for example.
All the while, there are glaring inaccuracies that are apparent without even having to do more than read this book. Steve mentions BTK, for example, a killer that wrote taunting letters to the police. That means he must have been at least aware of the man. He also talks about Jack the Ripper, who did the same thing. However, when constructing a connection between the crimes, Steve states that the only two killers he could think of that wrote taunting letters to the cops were Black Dahlia Avenger and Zodiac (having already hypnotized us into taking for granted George was also the Lipstick Killer in Chicago, I suspect). There are MANY more serial killers that have done this. Albert Fish and Keith Hunter Jesperson are other examples of people who wrote tauntingly. "The Weepy Voiced Killer" got his nickname from calling the police. Come on, Steve!
I'm thinking Steve could make it a trilogy. Sure, George wasn't even alive when Jack the Ripper wrote his taunting notes, but there's no reason to believe he couldn't "visit" that period.
Talk about a sequel that ruins the original!!
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2009
If you are looking for closure for all the questions you have from Avenger, this book isn't for you. It feels like there should have been a book in between because to are going to learn a grocery list of circumstantial evidence to tie him to the Degnan and Lipstick killings in Chicago and the Zodiac murders in Northern California. The basis of much of his claims hinge on the fact that his father was the Black Dahlia Avenger and we have no clue if he is or isn't. Mr.Hodel writes with a lot of supposition and many simple things haven't even been researched at all. The composite on the back of the book is NOT an official SFPD composite. A reader did some amateur sleuthing and discovered that the drawing on the back was done for another book by a comic book illustrator. For people studying the Black Dahlia case, there's nothing for you in this book. If you follow the Zodiac case, you may be interested but you need to fact check the info. Save your money.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2011
I interviewed Steve Hodel on my radio program after reading his first book Black Dahlia Avenger. As I stated in the Amazon review I wrote for that book, I began a skeptic and was convinced by the evidence presented by Hodel. His father is indeed the Black Dahlia murderer. Even after reading the first book and a two hour personal conversation with Hodel, I was felt anxious about receiving the second book - Most Evil. There seemed to be two alternatives - Steve Hodel had followed his inquiries off a cliff or his father was a prolific serial killer who was never caught.
You walk away from Black Dahlia Avenger knowing that George Hodel committed several murders in the 1940s; and, you realize his type of killer is only going to be stopped by death or prison. Most Evil is essentially set up by Black Dahlia Avenger to ask the question - what else did George Hodel do? That is a big enough question - but, Steve goes further and asks if his father is the Zodiac Killer. Honestly, accepting that George Hodel committed one of the most infamous homicides of the 20th Century is a big deal but tackling him as also one of the most infamous serial killers of the 20th Century seems impossible. That's the attitude I started reading with - I like Steve, I liked the book and I am convinced George murdered Elizabeth Short, but the Zodiac Killer?
Moreover, I knew more about the Zodiac than the Dahlia. After all, I am of the age that I grew up with the Zodiac. His last acknowledge communication took place only two years before I would find myself attending bootcamp in Alameda (near San Francisco) and later living in Northern California. Heck, as a newspaper boy I delivered papers headlining the Zodiac. I read the original news accounts, read books exploring the killings, visited two of the murder spots and have seen the documentaries produced about the killings.
While I am not any kind of expert on the Zodiac, many years ago I had reached a conclusion about him. I always believed that geography determined the Bay Area killings. In other words, the people were selected to be murdered because of where they were at the time of the homicide. Now, I am not the first one to posit this. There are quite a few people who have explored this angle and come up with interesting explanations. Steve Hodel provides THE answer.
His information concerning the location of the murders as the clue to the identity of the killer is stunning. If it is a coincidence, it is the mother (and father) of all coincidences. Moreover, Steve further lays out Hodel's propensity to cleverly use geography as a means to communicate his identity. When I read the Chicago murder victims name I thought, "hey isn't that a street......" I am not going to give it to you, you have to read Steve Hodel's Most Evil to appreciate the macabre, clever and Most Evil George Hodel.
Is George Hodel the Zodiac? I don't know. Could George Hodel be the Zodiac? Yes.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Author Steve Hodel implicated his father in the Black Dahlia murder in other books he wrote, including Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story. Many consider the evidence he presented in these books to definitively convict his father, George Hodel, of that famous 1940's LA murder.
Here the author carries implications and suspicions of his father's depravity farther afield to include such atrocities as the Zodiac killings around San Francisco, the Degnan murder in Chicago, and the Jigsaw murder in Manila.
The author's globe-trotting father was or could have been in most of these places at the time these murders were committed. But you might feel that implicating him in all these grisly homicides is a stretch - a big stretch.
Since taunting notes were left by the killer in connection with many of these murders, Steve Hodel bases much of his conviction on handwriting comparisons. However he also cites a host of other characteristics seemingly common to his father and the killers in these other cases. These "coincidences" include his father's interest in watches and his interest in literary works centered on cryptograms. Steve Hodel also cites his father's manner of introducing himself ("This is God Speaking" - similar to the Zodiac's way of introducing himself) and his involvement with an avante garde group of artists (such as Man Ray) known for portraying splayed, bisected human figures in their works, etc., etc.
The focus isn't on the Black Dahlia murder in this volume since the author already covered that killing. But this book has a good summary of the Zodiac killings, and also a good account of the circumstances surrounding the murder of 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan in 1946. This book is worth reading for those summaries alone. But as far as convincing me that George Hodel was responsible for all these far-flung crimes - no, it didn't.
As I was reading Steve's presumed evidence against his father, I couldn't help but recall statisticians' teachings regarding probabilities. Statisticians often step in to refute all the amazing similarities found in the lives of identical twins who have been raised apart. Some studies have found such twins have spouses with the same names, pets with the same names, and that the twins use the same brand of hair shampoo. Some researchers have cited such similarities between distant twins as proof that nature has more influence than nurture.
However statisticians attempt to bring common sense to bear on these findings. They point out that all of us have thousands upon thousands of features that characterize our daily lives. Considering all these details of our lives, it's statistically likely that we would be able to find at least a hundred salient commonalities even with a random stranger. And it's true. You can make a parlor game out of it. Pick any new acquaintance at a party and you're likely to find that you both have nieces named "Madison," that you both had ancestors born near the same small town in Germany, that your fathers both smoked Grabow pipes, and so on...
You might recall that the most amazing of all these statistics involves birthdays. At a gathering of only 23 people, there's a 50% chance that two of the people will share the same birthday. In a group of 57 people, the chance of a shared birthday rises astonishingly to 99%!
Steve Hodel might have considered these statistical insights a little more carefully before putting too much weight on some of the apparent commonalities of style between his father and whoever committed the other serial killings he discusses.
I would also have liked to have read more personal reminiscences of George Hodel's parenting style. Specifically, what was it like to have been around George Hodel? Steve does get into this a little more in his final chapters, although since his father started his absentee globe-trotting when Steve was around eight, it's understandable that Steve's material on this score is limited.
Nevertheless, this book does intriguingly open a door of suspicion. It is copiously illustrated, with many photos from the forensic files. I can virtually guarantee that this book will impel you to get out a magnifying glass and make your own comparison analysis between George Hodel's handwriting and the scrawled messages left on walls and sent to police and reporters. Let's see - is that the same telltale way of making the letter "G"...?