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Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder Paperback – September 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1878923172 ISBN-10: 187892317X Edition: Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Amok Books; Revised edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 187892317X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878923172
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gilmore, whose father was an LAPD cop at the time of Elizabeth Short's murder, delves deeply into one of Hollywood's most celebrated murder cases. His true-crime procedural unfurls like a hard-boiled film noir and plays the victim's femme fatale persona to the hilt. Nicknamed "the Black Dahlia" by fellow barflies taken with her jet-black hair, black dresses and exotic looks, small-town Massachusetts beauty queen Short went to Hollywood seeking stardom. In 1947, she was brutally murdered at age 22, her naked, mutilated body found hacked in two in a vacant lot. Gilmore presents evidence that strengthens the LAPD's case against chief suspect Jack Wilson, a reclusive, alcoholic burglar and possible serial killer. In an afterword, Gilmore describes his early 1980s interview with Wilson, who divulged details of the crime that only the killer could have known. Wilson, who died in a hotel fire just days before his pending arrest, also made what could be an indirect admission of his involvement in the murder of promiscuous Hollywood socialite Georgette Bauerdorf months before the Short slaying. That case, charges Gilmore, was hushed up by the LAPD and the media under pressure from William Randolph Hearst, who was a friend of Bauerdorf's father. Gilmore's book has all the elements of a gritty movie: a sexual psychopath; a dedicated police detective pursuing the killer for decades; Short's reported anatomic anomaly, underdeveloped sex organs, which may have prevented her from having intercourse. It's no wonder that Severed has been optioned for film by David Lynch. 32 pages of photos.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'Only with author John Gilmore's Severed do we get previously undisclosed information from police files, never-before-published photos and a look at the probable murderer--and why he escaped prosecution.' Larry Flynt" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Very well done, disturbing book.
Eric Miller
I was familiar with the Black Dahlia case and had heard of Gilmore's book.
Robert Nelson, Jr.
It was hard for me to put the book down once I started reading it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Ned K. Wynn on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I grew up in Los Angeles and was a child when the Black Dahlia murder exploded across the front pages of the LA daily papers, the Times, the Examiner, and the Herald. Sensational then, this murder remains so to this day.

The murder of the young, pretty, would-be starlet Elizabeth Short was particularly gruesome. The body was found in a vacant lot literally cut in half. Both halves were lying near a sidewalk easily visible from the street. The body remained in the lot for sometime and drew onlookers. I remember the atmosphere of life in the late forties, and compared with today, we were all unabashed gawkers. There was little of the finicky nature of turning away from the horrible then. Today it seems almost as if this era is as remote from us today as is the Civil War when people turned out to watch hangings.

Gilmore takes us on his own long journey of personal discovery as well as retracing the journey of the sad and confused Miss Short from eager young hopeful in Hollywood to unidentified body on a slab in the county morgue. The Dahlia seems to have been drawn almost inexorably towards a tragic death. She is the ultimate victim, helpless and lost, wandering the streets of downtown LA until she more or less disappears only to reappear and become a legend that illustrates the fallacies of Tinseltown and the realities of life on the unromantic streets.

The strange and affecting style of this book is what sets it apart from most books in the true crime genre. For one thing, there appears to be something of an attachment by Mr. Gilmore to his subject that is vaguely perverted in itself. And his interest in the Dahlia seems, at least in part, sexual, as was the interest of many men in Los Angeles toward this displaced child/woman.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Schuyler V. Johnson VINE VOICE on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, I take exception to 'another' reviewer's off base remarks with regard to the veracity and facts in this book. The actor, Franchot Tone, did try to pick up Ms. Short, unsuccessfully, and the Tone family has its own reasons to keep this factoid under wraps, second, the LAPD has had a Metro Division since 1933, in what is now Parker Center, and was in Room 114. Third, the detective, Herman Willis, was an actual detective at the time of the murder. These accounts can be easily verified on the Internet, and pointing them out as errors is more reflective of the critic/LA Times reporter's personal agenda rather than actual fact. The book is actually an extremely well-written, thoughtful and evocative account of this girl's descent into the quagmire of 1940's Hollywood, the absolute worst of the worst in terms of decadence and predatory types. She sought out the kind of people who were involved in petty schemes and nefarious doings and eventually encountered her killer in this melange of monsters. Her sole focus was on fame, and she did whatever she could to attain what she hoped would be a career in front of the cameras. There were plenty of criminal types who preyed on these girls, and would tell them anything they wanted to hear in order to take advantage of them and their dreams; unfortunately for Ms. Short, she went with the demon who tortured her for, what the coroner later speculated was a 72 hour torture session, and never saw her name up in lights, but achieved a grislier fame, as that of a victim who died such a terrible death that it is talked about and argued to this day, some 54 years later. Gilmore is a master of setting the mood of L.A. in the 1940's, replete with all the peripheral characters Hollywood was overflowing with and taking the reaader to the streets of same...Read more ›
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By R. Schultz VINE VOICE on September 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book starts out well. The interviews and statements Gilmore has marshaled from people who knew Elizabeth Short, from detectives who were on the scene in the late 1940's - are all evocative of the period. They remind me of the movie The Best Years of Our Lives. I get a sense of how people were casting about back then, trying to come down off the high of the War effort, trying to find a place for themselves in what was becoming America's humdrum consumer landscape. That designation of those years as "The Best Years," at least as far as Elizabeth Short's life was concerned, carries a horrible irony.

Women who were in their twenties just after WW II have often waxed nostalgic about those days. They've told me how innocent things were then, how they could go out on dates with ex-servicemen - and the boys were all gentleman who never demanded anything more than a chaste kiss at the end of the evening. But reading this book, I began to doubt the goldenness of those times for women. Certainly the men who knew Elizabeth Short were rarely satisfied with a kiss. She had to endure the crudest of advances. She had to provide the most tawdry of services in exchange for a meal. She was beautiful, adrift, ambitious - a combination that marked her as prey to the randy, predatory men orbiting her.

Gilmore etches us into that black-and-white scene. I was projected back into that excellent TV movie made about the case a few decades ago, starring Lucy Arnez as the Dahlia. That movie deserves to come back into circulation. Lucy Arnez did her best acting turn in that movie. She was the Dahlia, as Gilmore paints her for us - with that long, last look going off into an unimaginable fate.

But Gilmore's book starts to disintegrate past the midway point.
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More About the Author

Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as "the quintessential L.A. noir writer," John Gilmore has been acclaimed internationally for his hard-boiled true crime books, his Hollywood memoirs and his biting, literary fiction. He is considered one of today's most controversial American authors, with a following that spans the globe from Tokyo, Paris and London, to his native Hollywood where he was friends with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. He traveled the road to fame in many guises before turning to writing: kid magician, painter, poet, actor in films, TV, and the New York stage, then screen-writer, B-movie director into a "bang 'em out alive," nine-day novelist. "Few like to look back at how they kept the pot boiling," Gilmore says. "For me it was an education--a turning point from frantic to be a movie star, to just letting the dog out of the cage."
After heading the writing program at Antioch's west coast university, Gilmore traveled and lectured extensively while creating an indelible mark in crime literature with Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia, described by Colin Wilson as "The best book on the Black Dahlia--in fact, the only readable book." After years of "being on the road," as he puts it, three times married, three times divorced and now single, he resides in the Hollywood Hills, expanding his body of work with a "lengthy, peculiar" novel, plus another unusual exploration into true-crime.

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Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder
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