Black Dahlia: Piu Eatwell’s ‘Black Dahlia, Red Rose’ – A Bad Beginning


Given the brevity of human life, I don’t plan to do a line-by-line debunking of Piu Eatwell’s upcoming book “Black Dahlia, Red Rose.” Longtime readers may recall my labors over Donald Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files,” which lasted for months.

If not, you can read them here: Blogging the Wolfe Book – Seven Years Later

The Black Dahlia: Leslie Dillon, Paul De River and the LAPD: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Eatwell’s “Black Dahlia, Red Rose” doesn’t go on sale until Oct. 10, but a preview has been posted at Google Books, so I will make a few observations:

Black Dahlia, Red Rose, Preface
The first page of the preface of Piu Eatwell’s “Black Dahlia, Red Rose.” When an author makes two elementary blunders in the same sentence of the opening paragraph, you can be sure that poor work is ahead.

For those who are new to the Black Dahlia case, or have had their minds polluted by a number of bad books and what’s on the Internet, here are two obvious mistakes:

Black Dahlia, Red Rose, Preface

Mistake No. 1: The newspapers did not name the Black Dahlia case. Elizabeth Short was nicknamed the Black Dahlia by patrons of a drugstore in Long Beach in a play on the 1946 movie “The Blue Dahlia.”

'Werewolf' Victim
Jan. 17, 1947: The Los Angeles Herald-Express tries to nickname the killing of Elizabeth Short as the “Werewolf Murder.” It didn’t stick.

It is true that Los Angeles newspapers, typically the Los Angeles Herald-Express, nicknamed killings, and the Herald tried to nickname the killing of Elizabeth Short. But the Herald’s nickname — “the Werewolf Killing” or “the Werewolf Murder” — fell into disuse after a few days. A report in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files says that the newspapers nicknamed the case, but that statement is wrong – a vivid if unintentional illustration of how careful one must be with those documents.

Mistake No. 2: Neither the Black Dahlia files nor any other cold cases of similar age are stored “in the basement of the Los Angeles Police Department.” The Black Dahlia files are famously kept in a locked filing cabinet in the Robbery-Homicide Division at the Police Administration Building. Before that, the file cabinet was in the Robbery-Homicide Division at Parker Center. The LAPD’s less celebrated old cases are typically stored at the Los Angeles City Archives at Piper Tech (a.k.a. C. Erwin Piper Technical Center, 555 Ramirez St.),

Updated at 3:20 p.m. The paragraph above has been slightly revised for clarity.

Do I really need to explain why work of this caliber is suspect?

To be continued as time allows.


About lmharnisch

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

11 Responses to Black Dahlia: Piu Eatwell’s ‘Black Dahlia, Red Rose’ – A Bad Beginning

  1. Undine says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but I have two questions I’ve never seen answered here. First of all, you’re obviously a lot more knowledgeable about Elizabeth Short’s murder than pretty much anybody who’s written about it. (Not to mention, more sane.) Do you have any plans to eventually write a book? Secondly: Do you have any theories about the murderer? Or is this a case where you feel ALL the “named” suspects are unconvincing, and the real killer managed to get away anonymous and utterly lost to history?


    • lmharnisch says:

      Thanks for asking.

      I’m fortunate that I did my research so long ago that the subject wasn’t cluttered with all the ridiculous claims of Steve Hodel, Donald Wolfe and, most recently, Piu Eatwell. The current mania to connect the Black Dahlia to the Cecil Hotel is relatively new and, of course, completely bogus. I did the bulk of my research 20 years ago, beginning with a story for the Los Angeles Times on the 50th anniversary of the case. Rather than rehash the clips, I decided to treat the killing as if it had just happened and set out to find the major players in the case who were still alive.

      In the early 2000s, I was granted access to the district attorney’s files on the case and I copied everything except the body shots (no one was allowed to copy them) and some of the crackpot mail. As I always warn people: The Los Angeles County district attorney’s files on the Black Dahlia case are a disorganized mess, full of dead ends and red herrings. If you don’t already know the case intimately, you can get terribly lost. Donald Wolfe fabricated a document to support his ridiculous theory. Piu Eatwell has apparently gone through the documents selectively to support a conspiracy theory that doesn’t hold up. (Multiple witnesses established that the purported killer, Leslie Dillon, was in San Francisco at the time).

      I had been at the Los Angeles Times since 1988 and had no plans to retire, but The Times made a generous buyout offer in 2015 and I took it, primarily so that I could devote my full attention to a book on the Black Dahlia case. I had to abandon some earlier drafts and start again, but I have to say I like this draft much better. So yes, a book is in progress.

      As for suspects, I have identified a “person of interest,” but let me preface this by saying that the Black Dahlia case has too many moving parts to be a simple whodunit. Through original research, I have found an individual who

      1) was a surgeon (the medical examiner said that whoever cut Elizabeth Short in half had advanced medical training)
      2) lived a block from the crime scene on South Norton Avenue
      3) had a family connection to Elizabeth Short’s family. His daughter was friends with Elizabeth Short’s oldest sister, Virginia. (It’s not hocus-pocus; I have pictures of Elizabeth Short’s sister with Walter Bayley’s daughter).

      His name was Dr. Walter Bayley. He died a year after the murder and was never a suspect. People are free to disagree with me — which they do — but his well-documented practice as a surgeon, his connection to the crime scene and the connection between the Bayley and Short families are beyond challenge, even by the loudest and most adamant of internet trolls.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey, Larry, this is Matthew, who used to maintain a page on Bette Short on LiveJournal. I relocated some years back to Facebook but I remember how you completely and utterly destroyed Donald Wolfe’s book.

    Anyway, as I look forward to your analysis of Piu Eatwell’s book, if you went to my Facebook page you’ll see Barnes & Noble is apparently already selling it in their brick and mortar stores.

    You are always welcome.


  3. rhowe360 says:


    I still like and subscribe to your theory regarding Dr. Bailey.


  4. Carol Gwenn says:

    Thank you for once again sparing us from such bad material!

    I DID find a copy of the Wolfe book at a yard sale for $0.50. I think I overpaid…


  5. …and so begins the countdown to a tidal wave of publicity that this case has been solved again!


  6. Kris Weaver says:

    Hey Larry, I have to ask. Will you be doing a critique of black dahlia avenger 3 from Steve hodel?


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