8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Not the Last Word
, June 27, 2006
This review is from: The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles (Hardcover)
Often those who believe in reincarnation find themselves related to Alexander the Great, Shakespeare, Dolly Madison, etc.; rarely do they imagine their ancestors as undistinguished bakers or a nameless Chinese warrior lost to history--such is the need for myth. This same naive need to attach ordinary or sordid events to renown dogs Donald H. Wolfe's book on the unsolved murder of the Black Dahlia, i. e., poor runaway Elizabeth Short, 22, hopelessly chasing love and fame in Hollywood, only to be murdered in horrific fashion in January 1947.
Thus Wolf gerry rigs a scenario in which gangster Bugsy Siegel, newspaper heir Norman Chandler, a corrupt LA police force, an abortion ring, and a lowlife type mentioned in the only other plausible book on the Dahlia killing, John Anderson Wilson, act together in a dubious concert to murder Short after an aborted abortion and some not very precisely imagined goings and comings with cronies of Siegel's. Symptomatic of Wolf's need to hype his story is the inclusion of other names famous in the 1930's and 1940's, such as Thelma Todd, Mickey Cohen, and (the son of) actor Edward G. Robinson, as well as Wolf's bringing his own family into the tenuous web of these events.
It makes for a fairly good story. Cultural historians, such as the exacting Larry Harnish, who know more about the case than I, may find a skein of factual errors apart from the overall implausibility I mentioned above. In a true crime book, this is a serious flaw, but anyone who wants to discover the solution to who murdered Elizabeth Short shouldn't be reading books but should relocate to Los Angeles and dig in police and other archives. What books such as this one, and Steve Hodel's _Black Dahlia Avenger_ and John Gilmore's _Severed,_ do is unconsciously to reflect the allure and distrust of the American dream. Yes, all this can be found more compactly, suggestively, complexly, and gorgeously in the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it is one of our central stories, so we keep telling it and reading it.
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