Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
I’m 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 has begun with the butchered, anonymous body and is telling the story in flashbacks—at this point, we’re at Elizabeth Short’s mid- to late teens and she’s about to be reunited with her father, Cleo, who abandoned the family years earlier.
So far, the vote on continuing the blog is entirely favorable, with one request for information about my theory (sorry, I don’t want to mix that with the Wolfe material) and one suggestion for an ad revenue stream. Thanks crime buddy!
I’ve made a podcast of this session just to give the idea of what it’s like doing this in real time. The audio quality is lousy and there’s an annoying hum. And mostly it’s the sound of me typing. Feel free to ignore it. I would. The music playing in the background is Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony under Mark Wigglesworth.
The image, by the way, is the young Dorothy L. Sayers, mystery novelist and Christian dramatist, who could write circles around Agatha Christie on the best day Christie ever had. I would gladly trade every Hercule Poirot story ever written for one Peter Whimsey.
“A dozen years after Cleo had vanished and was presumed dead, Phoebe received a letter from him. She was shocked to learn that Cleo was alive and working in the shipyards in Northern California.”
Very well, Watson, to the end notes.
Why my dear Holmes, it’s from John Gilmore’s “Severed,” Page 26.
Now according to Los Angeles County district attorney’s files (“Movements of Elizabeth Short”) Phoebe Short and Elizabeth were walking in Medford and ran into Cleo. Remember that this book is titled “The Black Dahlia Files.”
Oh, but we’re not going to actually use the Black Dahlia files. Why not?
This is actually pretty funny. Wolfe can’t reveal this document because it completely contradicts his nonsense theory about where Elizabeth Short was in the 1940s (remember “Very little is known about Elizabeth’s time in Miami”?) so he’s stuck with “Severed.” It’s much easier to be honest, isn’t it?
Oh dear, oh dear. Wolfe says:
“Mary Hernon, a girl who lived next door to the Shorts, remembered that all Elizabeth could talk about during the week before she left for California was Hollywood. “I asked her if she was going to be a movie star,” Mary recalled. “she laughed and told me that’s what she hoped to do, and if you wanted to be a movie star, it wasn’t going to happen to you in Medford. She’d have to go to Hollywood.” An so, on an icy day in December 1942, Elizabeth Short boarded a train in Boston and departed for the land of sunshine—and shadow.”
Now for our source material in “Severed”:
Mary, the little girl next door to the Shorts, remembers the week Betty left. “She was all dressed up in something light blue, and she took my hand as we crossed Salem Street and headed toward the gas station. I remember the station manager stopping his work to come over and talk to her. I guess I stood there shifting from one foot to the other as they chit-chatted and he made a date to see her before she left for California. She said something about Hollywood and as we walked to United Farmers, I asked her if she was going to be a movie star. She laughed and told me that’s what she hoped to do and if you wanted to be a movie star, it wasn’t going to happen to you in Medford. She’d have to go to Hollywood.”
(Oops, I owe Donald H. Wolfe an apology. He got the item about Elizabeth Short replacing a Tremont theater usher who had been drafted from “Severed,” Page 24. Of course it’s not true but then that’s the case for most of “Severed.” And also note that “Severed” doesn’t identify the theater as the Tremont.)
Here we go. I found our mystery girl: “Severed,” Page 25
“Betty would often take long walks by herself, or she would walk and talk with Muriel or the neighbor’s little girl, Mary.”
Now for fun, let’s look at “Childhood Shadows.”
Uh-oh. Mary Hernon is really Mary Pacios!
Don’t tell me you’re surprised.
“Childhood Shadows,” Page 20
On one of our walks, we stopped at the gas station that had replaced the vacant field across Salem Street. The manager stopped what he was doing and came right over to Bette [Pacios’ version of Elizabeth Short’s name]. I can remember standing there and shifting from one foot to the other as the two grownups exchanged a few words, laughing and planning to meet later that night.
Afterward, Bette told me she wasn’t going to Florida. “This year I’m going to California.”
I figured that Bette was going there to be a movie star.
“Well, that’s what I am hoping,” she said. “Not right away. It takes time. But if you want to break into the movies it can’t happen in Florida… or in Medford.”
Now making up names for people is veering dangerously close to “Severed,” which is full of people who don’t exist and things that never happened. I can’t imagine where Wolfe got the name Hernon or why he didn’t identify the woman as Mary Pacios, since he is clearly basing this on “Severed” and “Childhood Shadows.” This is foul work, folks. Did Wolfe honestly think nobody would check this?
I guess he did. Oops.
Time for my walk.
Shout out to:
Sydney, Australia [ISP Redacted]
Los Angeles Public Library [ISP Redacted] Librarians rule! Windows 2000? Upgrade!
Leavenworth, Kans. [ISP Redacted] Windows 98? Upgrade!
Brea, Calif. [ISP Redacted] One of my most loyal visitors.
Reston, Va. [ISP Redacted] Windows ME and IE 5.5 Upgrade!
Note: I am experimenting with Amazon ads. The first one is supposed to be for Dorothy Sayers items. However it appears to be defaulting to other items.