I have stopped 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.
The two-minute executive summary:
As promised, I went through the Wolfe book page by page until I finished with Elizabeth Short’s funeral. As throughout the book, we have found any number of errors, fabrications and instances in which Wolfe cites a source and then contradicts it. For example, he states that Harriette Manley divorced Robert M. “Red” Manley (the last person known to have been seen with Elizabeth Short) a year after the murder.
In fact, as shown in the district attorney’s files (remember that this is called “The Black Dahlia Files”) they were not only still married in 1950, she was present when he was interviewed by Frank Jemison of the district attorney’s office.
Further, Wolfe ignores what’s in the district attorney’s files about Elizabeth Short’s mother, Phoebe, identifying the body, in favor of a maudlin scene from John Gilmore’s “Severed,” embellishing it so that instead of stoically containing her grief (as portrayed in the Examiner) Phoebe collapses, sobbing “She was a good girl! She was a good girl!,” prompting a pledge from Detective Harry Hansen that he would find the killer—alas, the district attorney’s files show that Harry Hansen wasn’t even there.
My daily blog concludes with a quotation from Deuteronomy that was read at Elizabeth Short’s funeral.
Now the request line is open and I’m going to take them in order.
So far I have:
Pages 101-103 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
Pages 108-111 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
Page 119 Mary Pacios
Pages 121-122 Mary Pacios
Page 131 Mary Pacios
Page 167 Mary Pacios
Page 197-198 Mary Pacios
Pages 213-215 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
Page 218 Mary Pacios
Pages 226-227 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
Pages 239-258 (ColScott)
Page 277-281 Mary Pacios
Page 284 Mary Pacios
Pages 293-296 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
Page 296 Mary Pacios
Page 311 Mary Pacios
Pages 345-357 (Regular Anonymous Correspondent)
So let’s start with Page 101
The title of this chapter is “By a Person or…”
Wolfe is dealing with the “lost week” between the time Elizabeth Short was left at the Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles and when her body was found Jan. 15, 1947.
“Detectives [Harry] Hansen and [Finis] Brown concluded there was no viable identification of her whereabouts during that missing week, and they deduced that she had been abducted and held captive at a secluded location until the murder and subsequent transportation of the body.”
That’s probably somewhat true. At least none of the many purported sightings were ever conclusively verified. I’m not sure Hansen and Brown (and recall that Wolfe has grossly reduced the number of detectives working the case to the two lead investigators) ever decided that she had been abducted but that is one possible scenario. Not the only one, but it certainly is an option.
“No matter how questionable each lead appeared on the surface,” Finis Brown stated, “we had to track it down, and in this case, each lead seemed to open into something else, and it went on and on, and none of them were giving a clue to the missing week, or to the murder itself.”
OK, now this could have come from Brown’s lengthy statement in the district attorney’s files (and recall this is titled “The Black Dahlia Files”) or it could be from “Severed.” Brown was occasionally quoted in the newspapers, but not frequently.
I’ll guess “Severed.”
Holmes! Why are you never wrong?
Because I’m an author’s creation, Watson. As are you.
But let’s check Wolfe’s homework, shall we? “Severed,” Page 150.
(Isn’t it amazing that this book draws so much from “Severed” and so little from the original sources? I wonder if Wolfe ever considered calling this book “Severed 2006” or something).
Chapter 7, Page 101. “No matter how questionable each lead…” Gilmore, Severed, P. 150
Actually, Page 150 of “Severed” has nothing to do with any of this. But it is one of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE pages. Why?
Because it’s about one of the invented characters, cleverly named “Martin Lewis.” Gilmore’s claim is that police found Lewis’ business card in the Elizabeth Short items mailed to the Examiner. Of course, nobody knew then exactly what was in the envelope, so it was a safe claim. The district attorney’s files, however, give an exhaustively detailed inventory. And guess what. No business card from Martin Lewis or anybody else running a shoe store in Hollywood.
But this is my favorite part:
“… if it had not been for a good friend with the Hollywood Citizen-News who was very close with the Hollywood chief of police, they may have continued to badger me.”
“very close with the Hollywood chief of police”
Now think. Where is Hollywood?
Is it part of the city of Los Angeles?
Then isn’t it under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department?
And then Hollywood wouldn’t have its own police chief—would it?
Wouldn’t you expect a crime author whose father was a Los Angeles police officer to know an elementary fact like that?
Objection! That calls for a conclusion on the part of the witness!
OK. That’s a totally blind lead. I don’t know where Wolfe got the quote and I’m not going to dig through “Severed” looking for it.
“Investigators learned that prior to Elizabeth Short’s return to Los Angeles on January 9, 1947, with Red Manley, she had been a resident of Los Angeles on three separate occasions. Her brief initial visit with Cleo and Mrs. Yanke in January 1943 ended when she traveled to Camp Cooke. She was later arrested in Santa Barbara and sent back to her mother’s home in Medford.”
Now this is sort of true. Except Mrs. Yanke wasn’t there.
Ahhh. Then it’s a straight lift from the “Movements of Elizabeth Short” in the district attorney’s files. I don’t know about Finis Brown’s role in it, but this is more or less her location. Don’t know about the “Victory Canteen” either. That sounds suspicious.
But let’s press on.
“In letters to her family, Elizabeth said she was also ‘modeling’ for a Miami man named ‘Duffy’ Sawyer.”
Hm. Not attributed anywhere or to anyone.
Really nice work by ReganBooks, the publishing house without proofreaders or fact-checkers.
Here we have something really juicy for a true researcher.
“Elizabeth traveled to Los Angeles for the second time in August of 1944. She stayed briefly at the Clinton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles at Eighth and Broadway, where she shared a room with a slim, dark-haired girl named Lucille Varela.”
Now this is completely false and Wolfe knows it. How does he know? Because he had access to “Movements of Elizabeth Short Prior to June 1, 1946.”
And what does it say? She stayed at the Clinton Hotel? She knew Lucille Varela?
“In December, 1943, she was employed at the Rosedale Delicatessen, 1437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, Fla., by Mr. Meyer Yedlin (22) as a waitress, and was living at the El Mar Hotel 220—21st St., Miami Beach. She was employed there a few months and went to work for Mammy’s Restaurant located at that time at 2038 Collins Ave., and was employed there during 1943 and up into 1944, working there until the latter part of 1944. She left there and visited her mother (1) in 1944. She returned later and lived at the El Mar Hotel with Mrs. Devaul (23) during the last part of 1944 and until the first part of 1945 but did not work. She was employed from Mar. 30, 1945 to Sept.1, 1945 at the St. Clairs, Inc., Boston Mass., Mr. Burk (25), Personnel Mgr.”
From “Severed” Pages 34-35!
How wonderfully funny. Gilmore makes up the Clinton Hotel “on Broadway” (“Severed” Page 34) while Wolfe locates it more precisely at Broadway and 8th.
Um. Now not everybody has a 1944 Los Angeles Yellow Pages lying around the house. But I do. (Thank you, ebay).
How much do you want to bet there’s no Clinton Hotel listed?
Looks like Elizabeth Short would have had no place to stay even if she were in Los Angeles in 1944, which she wasn’t.
So all this stuff up to Page 103 about Elizabeth Short being a B-girl with Lucille Varela in 1944 (lifted from “Severed”) is made up.
I know this goes down hard for all the fans of “Severed,” but the book is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.
That’s it for today.
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