Blogging the Wolfe Book, The Two-Minute Executive Summary

From Feb. 3, 2006, to April 28, 2006, I devoted a daily blog to Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.” In dealing with the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, Wolfe uses the “Laura” format, as in the Vera Caspary novel and Gene Tierney movie, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.

In checking Wolfe’s book against its sources and against the historic record, we have found lies, errors, fraud and plagiarism. We have found a heavy reliance on other books, notably Will Fowler’s “Reporters” and John Gilmore’s “Severed”—both of them extremely problematic—and the Los Angeles Examiner. In a survey of the book up to Page 73, these three sources constituted half of Wolfe’s source material. The district attorney’s files accounted for a mere 8% of the book.

Wolfe also relies heavily on two self-published books by disgruntled former police officers, Vincent A. Carter’s “Rogue Cops” and Charles Stoker’s “Thicker ‘n’ Thieves.” Note that despite Carter’s warning that he never worked the Dahlia case, Wolfe presents Carter’s statements as unimpeachable facts.

Did I mention the faked document?


We have seen Wolfe misrepresent what he uses from the district attorney’s files by suppressing the material that doesn’t fit his scenario and by altering other documents to bolster his case. In fact, Wolfe’s entire book is rendered impossible by the key district attorney’s document “Movements of Elizabeth Short Prior to June 1946,” which shows that she was never in Los Angeles in 1944 or 1945, a report that also demolishes the arguments of “Severed,” which is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.

In other instances, Wolfe manipulates documents that refer to one suspect, Michael Anthony Otero, stating that they refer to Maurice Clement, who is described as “Brenda Allen’s procurer” without the slightest proof. Wolfe goes so far in misrepresenting the district attorney’s documents that he presents a photo, allegedly of Clement, that actually shows a different individual, Salvadore Torres Vara.

Wolfe also ignores and suppresses other documents that would destroy his case, notably an FBI memo on the actions of Bugsy Siegel on Jan. 14, 1947, the day before Elizabeth Short was killed, showing that Siegel was under FBI surveillance while in Los Angeles.

And then there’s the faked document, which Wolfe calls “The D Memorandum,” which was pasted together from two unrelated reports.

Without acknowledgement, Wolfe also lifts material word for word from my 1997 Los Angeles Times story on the Black Dahlia case and my website presenting the “director’s cut” of the 1997 story.

In short, Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files” is a conniving, cynical, cold-blooded literary fraud that exploits access to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files to provide a veneer of authenticity to a vicious and entirely fictitious smear alleging corruption by hard-working, dedicated police investigators and prominent Los Angeles figures—who are conveniently dead and unable to defend themselves.

My dear Holmes! The haz-mat pile of Black Dahlia books is gone!

Exactly, Watson. They are all back in their lead-lined containers a mile under the desert outside Las Vegas, Nev. Until the next time I need them.


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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Another Good Story Ruined, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Donald Wolfe, History, Hollywood, Homicide, LAPD and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Blogging the Wolfe Book, The Two-Minute Executive Summary

  1. Mark says:

    This detailed blog on the Wolfe book is extremely useful for someone like me, who is a newbie to the case and trying to gain an understanding of what really happened. My intention is to go back to the Wolfe book, get the page numbers on the key portions of the case, and then refer to your blog for the true story. I’m not going to bother when it comes to Wolfe’s fairy tale about Bugsy Siegel, Brenda Allen and the mob because it is self-evident to any reasonably intelligent reader that this is a bunch of nonsense.

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