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Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story Paperback – July 25, 2006

3.4 out of 5 stars 320 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For 56 years, the Black Dahlia murder case remained one of the most notorious and high-profile unsolved crimes of the 20th century. Now, Steve Hodel, a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, believes he has finally solved the case. On January 15, 1947, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short—"The Black Dahlia"—was found dead in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, her body horribly mutilated, bisected at the waist, and posed in a bizarre manner. The horrific crime shocked the country and commanded headlines for months as the killer taunted the police with notes and phone calls. Despite the massive manhunt, the murderer was never found.

Hodel began working on the case after he retired from the LAPD when he chanced upon an intriguing piece of evidence that led him on trail that he had no choice but to follow since it pertained directly to him. As he dug deeper, he came to believe that the killer was also responsible for over a dozen other unsolved murders in the Los Angeles area around the same time. He also found copious evidence of corruption at the LAPD, leading him to accuse the department top brass of covering up the Black Dahlia murder in order to conceal a deeper conspiracy involving crooked politicians and gangsters.

Despite a lack of physical evidence (which had been destroyed), Hodel is able to connect numerous dots and make a plausible case, complete with lurid tales of wild orgies that were attended by celebrities such as the artist Man Ray, the director John Huston, and a host of other Hollywood elites. He also discloses his killer’s obsession with the Marquis de Sade and Jack the Ripper and how he modeled his own crimes on their behavior. In particular, there is a disturbing connection between the work of Man Ray and the horrific circumstances of Short’s murder. It is doubtful that this will be the final word on the Black Dahlia murder—too much myth surrounds it and much of his evidence is circumstantial--but Hodel’s labyrinthine tale adds much to this intriguing case. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


...Steve Hodel has come to put the Black Dahlia painfully to rest. Hodel's investigation is thoroughly and completely convincing. So too is this book. As far as I am concerned, this case is closed."(--Michael Connelly, Bestseling author of Harry Bosch series Frontmatter blurb, Black Dahlia Avenger, HarperCollins 5th ed.)

“The best nonfiction book about L.A. crime I have ever read.” (Gerald Petievich, author of The Sentinel and To Live and Die in L.A.)

“This unsparing, chilling account of the actions of a perfect psychopath grips to the end.” (Toronto Globe and Mail)

“Hodel tells the story well and with incredible objectivity.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“We can only glimpse who Betty Short was--but now we know who killed her, and why.” (-- James Ellroy, from his foreword)

“A fascinating family psychodrama; we watch [Hodel’s] image of his father morph from flawed but lovable ladies’ man to monster.” (Newsweek)

“George Hodel, I think is fit company for some of noir’s most civilized villains.” (--David Thomson, New York Times Book Review)

“Former Los Angeles police detective Steve Hodel has written one of the most compelling true-crime books of all time.” (Seattle Weekly)

“[Hodel] has written an intensely readable account…Has [he] solved the case? I think so.” (--Jon L. Breen, Weekly Standard)

“The most haunting murder mystery in Los Angeles county...has finally been solved.” (-- Stephen R. Kay, L.A. County Head Deputy District Attorney)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Revised edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061139610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061139611
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. Chloupek on July 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
There's a ton of reviews here, so I'll cut the plot synopsis to the quick.

The author finds two photographs of Elizabeth Short -- the victim in the Black Dahlia murders -- in his father's possessions. Now, the author is an ex-LAPD detective and launches his own investigation into the crime and comes to the conclusion that his father was the killer.

In order of proof there are a number of conclusions that come to light.

1. There was a cover-up of the crime in terms of distruction of evidence and basically nobody gives a hoot about this case inside the LAPD anymore (This one seems awfully clear to me)

2. His father was a suspect in the case (documents did come to light that showed this)

3. His father was a nasty piece of work -- and had even nnastier friends (again, clear)

4. His father was being "protected" through freinds in the corrupt LA/LAPD at the time (again, fairly clear, if not for this murder for something)

Now his also concludes....

5. His father was the prime suspect in the murder (harder to say since much evidence is missing)

6. His father and an accomplish actually committed the murders (now a LOT of the other reviews take issue with this. I'll say its at least a case where the circumstantial evidence the remained and was also uncovered fits the theory -- along with the outside expertise, such as handwriting analysis, that Hodel was able to bring in)

7. His father was a serial killer of possibly dozens of victims. (on this last one Hodel even admits that some assignments are tenuous. I felt that he threw every murder at his dad and tried to make them stick here).
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Format: Hardcover
Okay, I've read this fascinating/horrifying book and I'm convinced that Steve Hodel is right - his father, Hollywood insider Dr. George Hodel, was the killer of the Black Dahlia and, most likely a dozen or more other unfortunate women. Respected LA DA Steven Kaye, co-prosecutor of the Manson family, agrees.
Now, here's what's bothering me... I've googled the book, and there are a number of folks out there who are unwilling to look the truth in the eye and accept it. One writer, who's been trashing the book, has an obvious agenda - he has a decade-long investment as a "Black Dahlia Avenger" himself. If Hodel's right, he's wrong. Bye bye book deal. I guess that if Hodel's theories are right, there won't be any more books to debate, like the one by the certifiable woman who claims "her" father did it, or any of the other "theorists." Sorry, the Black Dahlia franchise ends here, folks.
The conclusions reached in the book are the result of several years of grunt work by a veteran of over 300 homicide investigations for the LAPD, over 80% of which he solved. He's a detective with a spotless reputation, and having checked him out at a local book signing, I can tell you he's bright, articulate and extremely believable. If George Hodel was the embodiment of evil (as the daughter he molested at 14 insists), his son is his polar opposite. Hodel junior is someone, who, with a similar amount of brain power as his twisted father, used his power for good.
I don't know if it was nationally publicized, but Steve Lopez, the LA Times reporter assigned to the book, was extremely skeptical when he began his story. In fact, he remained so even after interviewing Hodel. So he called in some favors, and was able to look where Hodel couldn't - the files of the LA DA.
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Format: Hardcover
Quoting from AP reporter Linda Deutsch's review of this book as published in Denver's Rocky Mountain News on April 15, 2003:
"When District Attorney Steven Cooley decided recently to release the long-secret files on the [Black Dahlia] case, Steve Hodel's theory gained substance. His father's photograph was in the file, along with transcripts of electronic surveillance on his home for three weeks in 1950.
The reports on onionskin paper that is yellowed make clear that Dr. Hodel was a prime suspect in the investigation of Short's murder. . . . The transcripts of overheard conversations include a statement in Hodel's voice saying, 'Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead.'"
This may not be conclusive (and may well be to obscure for anyone who has not read the book) but it does prove that Dr. Hodel was the wealthy and influential Hollywood resident referred to by the grand jury and it proves that the LAPD or the DA's investigators zeroed in on Dr. Hodel without benefit of the two pictures that may or may not be Short that began the author's investigation.
I, of course, do not know whether the author's theory is wrong or right. I found this book to be highly entertaining and I think that it may have lit a fuse that may solve the case once and for all. At the very least, it has caused previously secret files to be released. I see a film all right, but not an Oliver Stone film, this should be a film by somebody who cares whether a story is true or false. This theory deserves to be taken seriously.
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