Black Dahlia: Blogging ‘Black Dahlia Files’ Part 52 — The Numbers Game

Large ImageNote: 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 is using the “Laura” format in which the anonymous, butchered body is discovered and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks. We are at the point in the story when Elizabeth Short has left the French family in San Diego and is with Robert M. “Red” Manley, a traveling salesman who picked her up and is giving her a ride back to Los Angeles. Police have detained Red and are questioning him about the Black Dahlia.

Do you like statistics? No? Good. Let’s have some.

Just for fun (OK, my idea of fun may not be yours), I added up the different citations in Wolfe’s end notes to determine his primary source. Recall that the book is titled: “The Black Dahlia Files.” So they are going to be the main source, right?

Uh. No.

Up to Page 73, Wolfe’s leading source is:

William Randolph Fowler—interviews and “Reporters.” (22.5%)

Followed by John Gilmore’s Severed” (16%) and the Los Angeles Examiner (10.5%). Statistically, those three sources account for nearly half of Wolfe’s source material.

To be sure, the district attorney’s files are there, accounting for a whopping, mind-boggling, eye-popping….


Large ImageOr as noted critic Lorenzo Matawaran (OK, well the contributor of exactly one review to raved:

At last, a Black Dahlia book with plenty of photos, illustrations, and source notes. It even had an index! Wolfe’s book is well researched, fascinating, and it has a great deal of new information. For those who are interested in the true story behind the Black Dahlia murder this is a must read. Lorenzo Matawaran

Hard to imagine that a rewrite of “Severed” and “Reporters” is new information but apparently it is to some people.

Wolfe’s total end notes as of Page 73 = 124

Citations of Will Fowler = 28

Citations of John Gilmore/“Severed” = 20

The Los Angeles Examiner=13

District attorney’s files = 10

Large ImagePage 73

Recall from last time that Wolfe has ruthlessly reduced the legions of forces in the Black Dahlia investigation to a paltry three police officers: Homicide Capt. Jack Donahoe and a mere two detectives, Harry Hansen and Finis Brown. This, of course, requires Hansen and Brown to be up in Santa Barbara and Lompoc investigating Elizabeth Short’s months at Camp Cooke at the same time they were in San Diego interviewing the French family AND giving Red Manley the third degree as well as two polygraph exams.

Donahoe, meanwhile, was doing nothing but lounging around the homicide office, sitting next to the phone in case Los Angeles Examiner City Editor Jim Richardson called with another tip, at least in Wolfe’s account of the case.

But it’s time to introduce another police officer into the mix. Our old pal Vincent Carter, author of “L.A.P.D.’s Rogue Cops Cover Ups and the Cookie Jar” from the noted publishing house Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 130 S. 19th St., Birmingham, Ala. 35233.

Large ImageHere are some other books in this publisher’s catalogue:
James R. Bennett, Old Tannehill: A History of the Pioneer Ironworks in Roupes Valley, (1829-1865), (Birmingham, AL: Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1986) ISBN 0-9617257-0-2
Eve Ida Barak Briles, Moods, Seasons, and Love. Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1982.

Richard H. Gamble, A Competitive Spirit The Story of Central Bank of the South Birmingham, AL, Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1987, Hardcover, Fine in Fine dust jacket 0961809108 Inscribed by author. Dust in brodart mylar protective cover! Fully Indexed. 8vo; 191 pages; Signed by Author (Banking, History, South, Author Signed)

Helen Irvine, June 2002, “The Legitimizing Power of Financial Statements in the Salvation Army in England, 1865-1892”, Accounting Historians Journal, Edition.1, Issue.1, Volume.29, Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co, Birmingham, pp.1-36.

Large ImageMary H. and Dallas M. Lancaster, The Civil War Diary of Anne S. Frobel of Wilton Hill in Virginia. 1986

William Lindsay McDonald, History of the First United Methodist Church, Florence, Alabama, 1822-1984. Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1983.

Now here’s their website

Now I don’t find any books on their site, but they do have a long list of equipment. In other words, this looks like a job shop. You bring in your precious tome and voila, out comes the printed word. It would be rather a challenge to assume these fine Alabamans exercised any editorial control over this opus. And I doubt they had anything to do with the “update” on the Black Dahlia case that has been photocopied, stapled and just stuck into the front of the book. Not something you see in ReganBooks’ finest efforts.

Large ImageSo let’s keep checking:

Desert View Books
PO 1604
Lucerne Valley, CA 92356

Well let’s check their catalogue. Hm. I can’t seem to find anything from this publishing house aside from Carter’s book.

In other words, this is a self-published book. I write whatever I want, take it to the printer (in this case, the folks in Birmingham) and out comes “Rogue Cops.”

Just so you know who we’re talking about.

The good news is that Vince Carter is a real human being, unlike, Detective Herman Willis, one of the main sources in “Severed.” And in case there was any doubt, Wolfe includes a picture of himself with Carter.

Large ImageSo what does Wolfe say about Carter?

“Aggie recalled that she primed Manley with a few casual queries before he began to open up and tell the whole story, which was printed in the Herald Express that evening. But according to Administrative Vice officer Sgt. Vincent Carter
[note to ReganBooks: proper style would be “administrative vice Sgt. Vincent A. Carter,” although Cal Morgan or Anna Bliss are apparently not the kind of editors who lose sleep over such trifles] who was at Hollenbeck when Manley was interrogated, the story Manley told Underwood for public consumption wasn’t exactly the same story he had told detectives and Brown during the interrogation. Desperately trying to save his marriage, Manley publicly denied having an affair with the murder victim, while privately admitting that he had indeed been intimate with Elizabeth Short.”

Now this is going to be bad business, folks, because Wolfe is not only smearing Red Manley, but the police and Aggie Underwood are being tarred with the same brush. On the basis of what is supposedly found in this self-published autobiography. Already my spider sense is tingling.

Large ImageThe end notes, Mr. Gallagher?

Absolutely, Mr. Shean.

Oh, this is much worse than I thought. After all my buildup, Wolfe doesn’t even attribute the above paragraph to Carter’s book. In fact he doesn’t attribute it at all—not even to an interview with Carter.

The fact-checker in me just licks my chops over this one.

Any bets on whether this is in “Rogue Cops” before I start looking? Because if it’s not here, Wolfe has really hit a new low in fabrication.

First, let’s check Carter’s index.

OK, Robert Manley, Pages 10, 175-177, 179, 181.

Page 10. Hm. Carter calls her Elizabeth Ann Short, even though she had no middle name. Obviously a real student of the case since it’s well known that she had no middle name.

Carter quickly establishes himself as a master of understated insight:

“It was obvious that the murder and mutilation of the body had not taken place at the site where the body had been found.”

Large ImageAha. This makes a bit more sense:

“I was on duty when Manley was brought in for booking. I had been on the force for five years and had later taken a job with the Reserve Unit in the Hollenbeck Division in order to have more time to study for an upcoming sergeant’s exam. I also wanted to get into the detective bureau. I was more than casually interested in the Black Dahlia case which I quickly recognized as the kind of crime of passion that is normally solved comparatively quickly.”

But what’s thissssssss? “Rogue Cops,” Page 11.

“…although I never worked directly on the Black Dahlia murder, I never lost interest in it.”

Large ImageUh-oh.

Now let’s press ahead here.

Donald H. Wolfe, you are busted again!

You knew this was going to happen, right?

“Rogue Cops,” Page 176.

“When Manley picked Elizabeth up at the French home in San Diego on January 8, he took her to dinner and then to a motel where he rented a room. When she would not consent to have sex with him, they left and drove to Los Angeles.”

This is where Perry Mason smiles and says: “No further questions.”

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

United Way of Greater Los Angeles [ISP Redacted]

Timber Ridge Group [ISP Redacted]

Radboud University Nijmegen [ISP Redacted]

Burns Flat, Okla. [ISP Redacted]

Batelco Jeraisy Autonomous System
[ISP Redacted]

University of Wisconsin at Madison [ISP Redacted] Here’s to all my Norske homies! Let the Rosemaling begin.

Hurry back!

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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