Black Dahlia redux

Retired LAPD homicide detective Steve Hodel is still trying to convince people that his father was a 1940s serial killer who mutilated Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia. His book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder, has met with considerable skepticism, despite an endorsement from James Ellroy. But a story by Paul Teetor in Sunday's LAT Magazine said that Hodel is winning new converts, among them longtime Los Angeles prosecutor Steven Kay, who explains why he believes Hodel. I wasn't fully convinced by the book, but it does make an interesting case.

Hodel, by all accounts a no-nonsense homicide cop who didn't go looking for a cause to write about, says he found a picture of Short in his late father's belongings. He recognized his father's odd scrawl on the cards sent to taunt police in the '40s and on the body of a woman killed after Short. It's apparently true that his father held wild sex parties with photographer Man Ray and others at the Mayan-style house that still stands at 5121 [oops, extra digit removed] Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, and that the senior Hodel, a doctor, had incriminating knowledge of powerful people who had been treated for venereal disease. His father had been considered a suspect, but the weaker part of author Hodel's case is that the top cops in town conspired to let the killer get away. He doesn't prove it, and the leap required to buy into that, and his various speculations such as that the killer posed the severed Black Dahlia body like a Man Ray photo, asked too much of me as a reader.

The story says, by the way, that Hodel was personally devastated by a condemning review in the L.A. Times Book Review by Gary Indiana in May 2003. Here's my post on that, from way back in the first month of L.A. Observed's existence.

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