Black Dahlia: Not for Young Readers

True Crime - The Black Dahlia Shattered Dreams by Brenda Haugen

Imagine my surprise to find this little gem floating around on the Internet, and I see that I’m a couple of years late.

According to Amazon, it’s a 2011 account of the Black Dahlia case for middle school students, although there is conflicting information saying that the target audience is grades 4-8. It lists for around $30, which makes it one of the most expensive Dahlia books on the market.

Who is the author, Brenda Haugen? Her online biography isn’t terribly useful, saying that she’s a former reporter and likes dogs. She appears to be a prolific author of children’s books on such core academic subjects as the Founding Fathers (Franklin, Hamilton), presidents (Lincoln, Roosevelt), dictators (Hitler, Stalin), women (Amelia Earhart,  Annie Oakley) and other familiar core academic figures (Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes and Cesar Chavez).

And then we find a couple of crime books on the Great Train Robbery, Zodiac and the Black Dahlia.

If you do a little digging, you can find portions of the Black Dahlia book online.

And if you rummage around in what’s posted online you will see that Haugen has relied on “Severed,” which is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction; the notoriously bad  “Black Dahlia Files” by Donald Wolfe;  Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger”;  the heavily censored FBI files and possibly Will Fowler’s “Reporters.” Apparently she didn’t use Janice Knowlton’s “Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer.” And no, there’s no reference to me, which is fine.

There are many mistakes in “Severed,” but one particular error is search engine DNA. All I have to do is search for this particular error and I know the author has either taken it from “Severed” or from another author who got it there. Sure enough, it’s in “Shattered Dreams.”

As I have said repeatedly, the Black Dahlia case is absolutely inappropriate for young readers and I’m horrified to discover that this book is actually featured on the library’s page at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Omaha, Neb. I won’t even discuss the case with high school students who ask me for help on their term papers because they aren’t mature enough for some of the details, no matter how worldly they think they are.

“Shattered Dreams” is ranked 617,322 on Amazon sales, behind other books dealing with the case such as “The Badge” (77,569), James Ellroy’s “The Black Dahlia” (104,326), “Severed” (149,863),  “Black Dahlia Files” (360,058), “Black Dahlia Avenger” (431,766), and ahead of “Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer” (1,363,542).

And no, it won’t be coming to stay at the Daily Mirror H.Q.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, LAPD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Black Dahlia: Not for Young Readers

  1. Sam Flowers says:

    I for one do not think it is an appropriate subject for that young of kids.

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