Black Dahlia: Are There Any Good Books on the Black Dahlia Case? Oh Dear!

“Severed”  by pathological liar John Gilmore (d. 2016) was once the go-to book on the Black Dahlia case, but it’s 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.

Are there any good books on the Black Dahlia case? No. But there are a lot of really, really bad ones and you should avoid them all or you will just have to unlearn everything. And your head may explode from all the nonsense.

Hollywood Babylon 2 “Hollywood Babylon II” (1984). Pathological liar Kenneth Anger. Enough said.

“Severed”  (1994) by pathological liar John Gilmore. This was once the go-to book, now discredited. It’s 25% mistakes and 50% fiction. “Severed” is full of people who don’t exist and events that never occurred.

“Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer” (1995) by Janice Knowlton, with Michael Newton. Knowlton pioneered the “Daddy Did It” genre, making her claims based on “recovered memories.” The LAPD dismissed Knowlton as a crackpot. She used to leave voicemail messages for me claiming that she had been molested by many famous and conveniently dead movie stars.  She was the first to publicly link George Hodel to the Black Dahlia case, posting on an Internet bulletin board in 1998. She committed suicide in 2004, a year after publication of “Black Dahlia Avenger.”

“Childhood Shadows” (1999) by Mary Pacios. Orson Welles killed Elizabeth Short and left clues in his movies. Oh dear.

black_dahlia_avenger_cover “Black Dahlia Avenger” (2003) by Steve Hodel. An elevator pitch (retired detective finds dead dad is serial killer) that falls flat. Reverse-engineered through a tortuous path, based on photographs that Steve Hodel claims show Elizabeth Short, but do not. Thought prints and blinking red lights purportedly connect George Hodel with a string of unrelated killings, but many details are distorted, misrepresented and suppressed. Steve Hodel later claimed his father was also Zodiac.

“Black Dahlia Files” (2005) by Donald Wolfe. Accuses Los Angeles Times execuctive Norman Chandler and soon-to-be dead gangster Bugsy Siegel of the killing, based on a faked document pasted together from material in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files. So awful I spent several months fact-checking it.

“Hard-Boiled Hollywood” (2017) by Jon Lewis. Nonsense in an impenetrable academic style.

“Black Dahlia, Red Rose” (2017) by Piu Eatwell. Down the rabbit hole with a conspiracy theory of police corruption that claims Leslie Dillon killed Elizabeth Short. Dillon was in San Francisco at the time.

About lmharnisch

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

7 Responses to Black Dahlia: Are There Any Good Books on the Black Dahlia Case? Oh Dear!

  1. Benito says:

    On a related topic, I saw The White Orchid recently. This whodunnit clumsily merges Laura and The Black Dahlia, with narcissm, undies and lesbian sex stirred in. Worst of all, our cute investigator SMILES as the serial killer gets away. Your thoughts?


    • James says:

      Didn’t see “White Orchid” but it sounds like it stinks. I hate when the murderer gets away with it. Hated “No Country for Old Men” for that reason.


  2. Mary Mallory says:

    The LAPL downtown Library Store is selling the Eatwell book, along with other dubious LA history books.


  3. JAMES says:

    Mary Pacios book is excellent! The only book that contains insites from people that knew Miss Short. Many details that can’t be found anywhere else. Of course her theory about Orson Welles is laughable but if you forgive her for that it’s the best book so far.


  4. Pingback: Black Dahlia: Here’s Some More Bad Books on the Black Dahlia Case |

  5. Jules B says:

    Hi Larry…
    I find it unbelievable that a new edition of Severed is coming out shortly here in the UK. Says in the blurb that it’s sold 50,000 copies, that’s a hell of a lot of peoples minds that need changing back to believe in the actual facts of this tragic case.
    It’s beyond me why people believe the overblown BS rather than the hard facts of Elizabeth Short’s murder. I know people love the dramatisation of everything, but if they need that then they should just go and watch a soap opera or a movie. It doesn’t show a genuine interest in Elizabeth’s murder (or any other murder case for that matter) if they just believe the first thing they read on the subject. I have read Steve Hodel’s book and will say, I too was sold on the fact that there was a possibility his father was the murderer. Then I discovered you through James Ellroy’s Feast of Death program and have now discovered that, after further research, BDA is a work of fiction, along with the other books on the Black Dahlia case.
    Needless to say that I won’t be purchasing Severed (or any other book), I’ll just use this website as a source for factual reference. Thank you for your dedication on investigating and finding the true facts of this murder case.


    • lmharnisch says:

      There are two reasons to reissue John Gilmore’s Severed, which is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction.
      The first reason: Greed.
      The second reason: Even more greed.
      Gilmore is dead and so there’s no need to pay pesky royalties — if there are any.


Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s