Blogging the Wolfe Book, Request Line XXI

I have ceased blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.” Wolfe uses the “Laura” format, in which the anonymous, butchered body is found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks.

Now, I am taking a few requests before wrapping up the project. Today, we’ll look at Pages 345-357 at the request of Regular Anonymous Correspondent. Say your prayers, because I hope to conclude the Wolfe project this week.

Let’s recap a couple of things. Yesterday’s post dealt with the issue of plagiarism in Wolfe’s book. Someone suggested that Wolfe and I used a common source, John Douglas. When I pointed out the chronology, the person said, well, maybe Douglas used my story and Wolfe picked up the material.

Sadly, no.

Here’s the chronology: I interview John Douglas in 1996 for a Los Angeles Times story on the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s murder. In fact, I spent about six months in 1996 researching the story, which was published Jan. 6, 1997. (Trivia time: It was only the second time in 50 years that the Black Dahlia case appeared on Page 1 of the Los Angeles Times).

Douglas and Mark Olshaker write “The Cases That Haunt Us,” published in 2000. (My proof copy is dated November 2000, to be precise). Although’s “search inside” feature isn’t offered for the hardback, it is for the paperback.

Donald H. Wolfe writes “The Black Dahlia Files,” published in 2005. He quotes my material, citing Douglas’ “Cases That Haunt Us.”

Let’s search for the key phrase “comfortable wallowing in blood,” which occurs in my 1997 story and was subsequently posted on my website. Notice that this key phrase does not appear in “Cases That Haunt Us.But we do find it in “Mogul.” Notice that Amazon’s search engine has a problem because “wallowing” is hyphenated as “wal-lowing.” So let’s check “Cases That Haunt Us for that. Oops. Not there.

How about “adept with a knife”? Nope, not in Douglas’ book either. But it’s in my 1997 L.A. Times story and “Mogul.”

Here’s another little goody I keep bringing up: Wolfe’s alleged photograph of poor old Maurice Clement. Here’s the page from the book up top. Since most people haven’t had my access to the district attorney’s files, I’ll tell you that in fact the photograph in question isn’t identified in the Elizabeth Short material.

But it is in the Jeanne French material. Behold: Salvadore Torres Vara. Note that he is identified as a doctor. Whether he was actually a doctor is a little vague. Vara was apparently some kind of scam artist who was working at Brittingham’s restaurant in Columbia Square. He was arrested for reasons I forget and was found to have an address book loaded with information on celebrities. As I recall, and my memory is a bit vague here, Mimi Boomhower (yet another of Dr. George “Evil Genius” Hodel’s purported victims according to Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger”) might have been in his book, along with folks like Jose Iturbi. It’s unclear whether Vara actually knew any of these people or if he was just a star-struck fan.

Oh! Here’s some more fun stuff.

Wolfe quotes the transcript of “Severed” author John Gilmore interviewing Jack Anderson Wilson on Page 316.

Now I happen to have a copy of this transcript (you knew I would, right?)

So Wolfe’s quote on Page 316 is actually on the last page of Gilmore’s transcript. Well sort of:

Wolfe version:

Gilmore: So it was willed

Wilson: In a matter of speaking. Everyone is entitled to go nuts. You said that yourself.

[Gilmore notes that Smith seems to go off into a trance-like state.]

Gilmore transcript:

Gilmore: So it was willed.

Anderson: In a matter of speaking

[page turn]

You know if you look at a map of the city, you see where she was put, where the body was placed, it is the only section in the city that is shaped like a woman’s pussy.

End of transcript.

Uhhhh. So where is “Everyone is entitled to go nuts. You said that yourself”?

Oh, that’s at the beginning of Page 13. The full quote is:

Anderson: He put rags in her mouth. He used her underpants and he knocked her out a few times. He had to do that when the spirit overtook him. But I told you this, and some of the rest of it I don’t know. It was so long ago. It’s only be [cq] chance that we’re talking now. You understand the trouble I could get into because of what he did, if he could somehow make it seem that he didn’t do it. You know what I mean. It’s like we’re talking about litigation and that sort of thing. Everyone is entitled to go nuts. You said that yourself. When was it?

Gilmore: I said that? Sounds like something I should’ve said.

And who on earth is “Smith” going into a trace-like state? Does Wolfe mean Anderson/Wilson?

Either way the trance-like state is all the way back on Page 1.

I can’t quote this entire thing. It’s too long. But I just have to share some of this:

Conversation with Arnold Smith first week in December 1981
Location: Harold’s 555 Main Street

A: You’ve been talking to me long enough to know what I’m talking about.

J: I don’t know. I mean I don’t exactly know what it is you’re saying.

A: The wood that was down in the back—boards this yea length like about this size here (showing width) and putting them goddamnit across the tub at this angle.

J: That’s what I told St. John. Arranged in such a way as to have the leverage or the space—supported in such a manner like you’re saying.

A: That was what I said.

J: There was the mention of the saw that was used—

A: There wasn’t a saw.

J: You said there was a meat saw that was used in the last part of the separation.

A: When did I say that?

J: You said that—when was it? Wasn’t it after Thanksgiving?

A: I said there was a saw?

J: Yeah, I wrote it down in the book.

A: I don’t remember…I don’t remember what he said about that. Maybe he said that. Is that right?

J: I don’t know. You’re the one telling me what he said about that. I know it was a long time ago.

(There is another round of drinks and we drink. He gets hazy like he’s in a trance).

Hm. And then Wolfe cuts to “Severed,” Pages 186-187 and then he goes back to Page 12 of the Gilmore transcript. Of course, Wolfe’s end notes don’t tell you he’s done that.

And how many rounds of drinks do they order? Hmmmm.

“Another round” is noted on Page 1, so I’m going to assume that’s at least the second. Another round on Page 3. Another round on Page 8. Another round on Page 9. That’s five rounds of drinks, folks.

I just love this part on Page 8.

J: I don’t know who you mean.

A: Let’s do it again, Johnny boy. (Another round of drinks.) So you’re going to give me the grand?

J: I said I would. We got the money back from the Santa Fe deal.

A: Don’t give me any fifties. Give it to me in tens.

J: Ten dollar bills?

A: Old money. I like old money.

J: I dig you. I said I would.

A: What’s that nigger looking at? You know that nigger?

J: No, I don’t. He’s just looking, I guess.

A: He said he was going to take her eyes out. You remember my telling you that?

J: Who, Morrison?

A: Who would’ve killed her? Who had a motive?

J: You meaning Al?

A: You’re not following the conversation.

J: Well that’s the part I’m trying to figure out, Al’s motive—But you said he didn’t have any motive. You told me that.

A: Except to know he couldn’t get his dick in her. And he lied. The fucker told me he did, and then I knew he was lying. What was it? A red bottle? Had a glass stopper you use for putting fancy perfume in. And he could’ve taken her eyes out with that. But you understand, that’s what he said. Because his mind was gone. You know, half those hoods had their mind eaten away because of syphilis. I swear to God, I know his mind was gone to have done what he did to her, and knowing he did it all along, but knowing it was just that he had to do it, you see what I am saying, so there was an excuse in part of this.

Got that?

Oh this is fun too: (Page 9)

A: What are we talking about? You’re the one doing the so called research into this? What do you think we’re sitting here talking about?

J: I just wish I had some idea as to why he cut the body in half.

A: That was the joke. You know how they said the surgical table and the hokus pokus rigmarole about cutting her in half? You think anyone can do that?

J: What do you mean?

A: What?

J: What do you mean do I think anyone can do that?

A: Actually do that?

J: Cut someone in half?

A: Isn’t that what our relationship is all about?

J: What’re you saying?

A: I’m empty here and we are in the Sahara Desert.

J: (Orders more drinks). Arnie, I’m not really clear right now. I just wish Al was here, was with us.

A: I haven’t seen him in years. I hope he’s dead.

Real smoking gun there, isn’t it?

And another of my favorite parts:

Transcript, Page 11

J: Listen, let’s go to that booth. I don’t want to sit here any more. I want to eat one of those. You want to go to the booth?

(at booth and drinking)

J: Here is two-hundred fifty dollars. I’m sorry one is a fifty but can you live with that? What I want to do is give you seventy-five Friday and it’ll be in ten dollar bills. Old ten dollar bills. I just got to clear up a couple of things.

A: What things?

J: What you said before. Down at the house.

A: What things in particular are you talking about, John?

J: Just the kind of view on it. It isn’t sitting right somehow, but just a few of the details, mind you, that’s what I’m talking about, so make the rest of it catawampus, if you know what I mean.

Gad. My head is spinning from all that.

And Detective John St. John wanted Gilmore to get MORE of this on tape?

I guess we’ll have to wait a day to get to Pages 345-357.

Ah well.

Hurry back!

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from 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.

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