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The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles Hardcover – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This unsettling exposé presents a comprehensive look at the case the captivated Los Angeles in the 1940s. Wolfe, who investigated the controversial death of another Hollywood beauty in 1998's The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, turns his attention to aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short, whose severed body was found in a vacant lot on January 15, 1947. A student at Beverly Hills High at the time, the author felt the city's temperament in those days, which adds texture to his account of a murder police never intended to solve. Using files from the District Attorney's Office that were recently made public, Wolfe connects Bugsy Siegel and Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler to Short's death, detailing an extensive police cover-up and exhaustive efforts to mislead the press. Although his theory is largely circumstantial-he puts a lot of faith in a second-hand account from two cops he acknowledges were corrupt-his is the most credible explanation to date. Wolfe is also a first-rate writer who depicts a city where police and mobsters routinely committed atrocities and those with connections were dealt get-out-of-jail-free cards while women were murdered or went quietly missing. Photos.
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About the Author

Donald H. Wolfe is the author of The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, which became an international bestseller and Literary Guild Selection. In Hollywood, California, where he was born and raised, Wolfe became a film editor at Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros., where he worked on All the President's Men and became a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg. A contributor to the New York Times and Paris-Match, Wolfe now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060582499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060582494
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,592,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donald H. Wolfe worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter and film editor for twenty-five years. His fascination with Marilyn Monroe began when he met her in 1958 during the filming of Some Like It Hot at Samuel Goldwyn Studios. Wolfe was working there as a film editor on The Loretta Young Show. He also studied cinema at the University of Southern California, and made an award-winning short subject film in France with director Jean Renoir. In 1975, he was a post-production supervisor on All the President's Men and work as a screen writer with Steven Spielberg. He is the best-selling author of The Black Dahlia Files (2006) and has contributed to the New York Times and Paris-Match. Wolfe now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By John Cox on January 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being a serious Black Dahlia buff, I devour each and every new book that comes out about the crime. While my favorite book remains SEVERED by John Gilmore (my introduction to Elizabeth Short), I have to concede that THE BLACK DAHLIA FILES by Donald Wolfe is clearly the best, most authoritative, and most carefully researched book yet written on the crime, and the one that appears to come closest to actually solving this nearly 60-year-old murder mystery...almost.

The hook here is that FILES was written from newly opened Black Dahlia case files. Yes, this is certainly a hook, but I would say the real hook is that it's a book written by a skilled nonfiction crime writer who presents his case with verifiable evidence, historical context, and source notes, a first for a Dahlia book. Author Wolfe also acknowledges past books and pet theories. He notes that John Gilmore came very close to catching the killer in SEVERED (in fact, Gilmore's suspect plays a role in Wolfe's theory), he pays respect to Mary Pacios' well-researched CHILDHOOD SHADOWS (but, come on, we all knew Orson Welles didn't do it), and he thoroughly discredits the much hyped hokum of Steve Hodel's BLACK DAHLIA AVENGER and its equally delusional predecessor, DADDY WAS THE BLACK DAHLIA KILLER.

The "files" alluded to in the title are two boxes of DA case files which, unfortunately, do not include the police files nor the official autopsy with its "dark secret" (Wolfe reveals what he believes the secret to be, but I remain skeptical).
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By The Raven on January 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Between the evidence presented in John Gilmore's excellent "Severed" and now Donald Wolfe's "The Black Dahlia Files", it appears that some sort of justice has finally been served for the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short. This book, by far, delivers the most plausible solution to one of the the 20th century's most intriguing mysteries. It's unfortunate, however, that many more important pieces of the puzzle are still being kept hidden from the public eye. Well, the cat's out of the bag, as they say. Hey, LA, its time to reopen the case and serve justice officially.

***It's easy for some to sit back and lob potshots at Donald Wolfe's investigation of the Dahlia case. It doesn't require any work on their part. However, it would be far more useful, and considerably more difficult, for them to present a MORE plausible solution. If an alternate TRUTH exists, please enlighten us.***
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
'The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles' (2006) by Donald H. Wolfe is the most recent exploration of the infamous torture-murder of actress hopeful Elizabeth Short in the Los Angeles of 1947. It has long been believed that the victim was either genitally underdeveloped or 'intergendered,' and thus incapable of engaging in a physically fulfilling relationship with a male partner.

The biggest question in the Dahlia case, of course, has been the identity of the party or parties responsible for Short's horrific death and dismemberment, and to that end, numerous persons, both famous and obscure, including American folk hero Woody Guthrie and filmmaker Orson Welles, have been put forward as possible candidates.

'The Black Dahlia Files' will certainly interest all followers of the case for two important reasons, the first of which is that Wolfe states categorically that not only was Short neither genitally immature nor intergendered, she was pregnant with child at the time of her murder at the age of twenty-two. Wolfe teases his audience along with this 'fact,' which he refers to as 'the secret of the autopsy,' a secret, he says, which allowed detectives at the time to instantly dismiss the admissions of the dozens of psychologically disturbed 'confessing Sams' who turned themselves in to police in the wake of the crime. However, it's difficult to believe that none of the 'confessing Sams' guessed that Short might have been pregnant at the time of her death, since pregnancy is very far from a rare phenomenon, and an unwanted pregnancy a perfectly good motive for killing someone, as indeed Wolfe believes it to have been.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Patrick King on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I think Donald H. Wolfe has come closer than anybody before him to determining what actually happened to Beth Short on January 14-15, 1947. If he's correct, he also explains the mystery of the murder of Bugsy Seigel. Bugsy Seigel's murder as explained in Dean Jennings' book We Only Kill Each Other, has never made much sense to me. The Flamingo Resort Casino, which was in a bad way in January of 1947 at the time of Beth Short's death, by June, when Seigel was killed, was already beginning to pay for itself. In Robert Lacy's book Little Man, the authorized biography of Meyer Lansky, written with the cooperation of the Lansky family, Meyer Lansky swore he never harmed his friend and partner, Ben Seigel. Outside of his being a gangster, why would he lie about it at the end of his life? The coinciding of Seigel's return to Los Angeles from Vegas expressly to raise money, with the MacCadden jewelry robberies and burgalries that took place in LA over those days, and the return of Beth Short from San Deigo on January 9th, an explaination starts to take shape. The coroner's report tells us that Beth Short was NOT tortured to death. She was killed by blunt force trauma to the side of her head by a metal instrument, and having her mouth slashed open. So the wounds inflicted to the body were made postmortum. This was a practical crime made to look like a crime of passion. Who would do something like this? Who would have the audacity to mutilate a body like that and then drop it off in a residential neighborhood a short walk from the home of LA crime boss Jack Dragna? Wolfe's theory makes a lot of circumstantial sense.Read more ›
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