Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Evil Genius



Large ImageI’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 found and the narrative proceeds in flashbacks. We are at the point in the story when police have detained Robert M. “Red” Manley, the last person known to have been with Elizabeth Short.

Regular Anonymous Correspondent submitted a comment yesterday about an appearance at the Pompidou Centre by Steve Hodel, author of “Black Dahlia Avenger.” Now really, can’t we all just try to be happy for Steve Hodel? Obviously, his book is junk, but if the French want to spend money to bring him over and listen to his mumbo-jumbo about “flashing red lights” and “thought prints,” more power to him. What do you expect from a nation that considers Jerry Lewis a comic genius?

In truth, I would be far more indulgent of the ridiculous claims of “Black Dahlia Avenger,” “Mogul” and “Severed” to name but a few, if they didn’t inflict uncountable grief on the loved ones of Elizabeth Short—as well as the rest of the Hodel family (“Avenger” was written in total secrecy, remember. Even relatives didn’t know), along with the survivors of George Hodel’s alleged co-conspirators.



Large ImageIn reality, George Hodel’s worst crime was to bring children into the world and abandon them to his ex-wife, a hopeless alcoholic who went to jail for neglecting her kids, instead of gaining custody and ensuring that they had a safe and nurturing home. And that, in my book, is not a trivial offense.

Page 76

Wolfe is in the middle of fabricating a little romantic interlude between Elizabeth Short and Red Manley at the Mecca Motel. Attributed to nobody. This is more or less a lift from Aggie Underwood’s well-published jailhouse interview with Red, so I’m going to press on.

Page 78

A couple of major and minor errors. Wolfe says that Elizabeth Short wrote her mother that she was driving back to Los Angeles with Red. Recall that Phoebe Short told Wain Sutton of the Examiner that as far as she knew Elizabeth Short was still in San Diego. Source: None.



Large Image“As observed by Forrest Faith, the Frenches’ neighbor across the street, Manley parked his tan Studebaker coupe in front of the Frenches’ residence in the late afternoon of January 8.”

  1. Faith lived next door. 2) The Studebaker was black, as shown in the Los Angeles Times photographs.

OK, more of a lift from the Underwood interview and Red’s interrogation by Frank Jemison of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office—which Wolfe continues to call the Los Angeles district attorney. I wish he could sort out the difference between city and county agencies, it isn’t brain surgery.

Ah-ha. Finally, Wolfe is going to quote something from the district attorney’s files. You think you’re going to get it straight without lots of snipping and deletions?



Large ImageNope.

Wolfe ruthlessly trims Red’s statement. It’s too long to quote here, but this is a sample:

Page 80

Jemison:
During the course of your conversation with her, during that five or six hours when you were driving to Los Angeles … what did you talk about?

Manley:
Things we talked about were so unimportant, I don’t even remember them. In fact, she talked very little on the way to Los Angeles. I don’t know what was the matter with her. I don’t know if she was worried about something or what.

Note the telltale ellipses. That’s your warning sign.





Large ImageHere’s the actual interchange, from Page 3 of the interrogation:

Jemison:
During the course of your conversations with her, during that five or six hours when you were coming to Los Angeles, did she speak about how she liked to go dancing or that she liked to go dancing?

Manley:
Oh yes, she liked to dance, alright. Things we talked about were so unimportant I don’t even remember them. She didn’t talk much on the way in. I don’t know if she was worried about something or what.

And what does Wolfe do without warning? He jumps to Page 6 of the interview for the next paragraph without telling the reader.

And that’s it for the Manley’s entire interrogation, which last 12 pages.

Oops.




Large ImagePage 81

“In his Herald Express interview with Aggie Underwood, Manley said it was in Laguna that Elizabeth told him that she had to make a phone call to somebody in Los Angeles. He waited in the car until she returned. Manley stated he didn’t know who [note to ReganBooks, the publishing house without proofreaders or fact-checkers, that should be “whom”] the call was to, but thought it may have been to her sister, Mrs. Adrian West (Ginnie), who [ReganBooks: whom] Elizabeth said she was supposed to meet in L.A.”

Holmes, shall we check some end notes?

Yes, Watson, lets.

District attorney’s files and Underwood’s interview.

Let’s pull Underwood’s interview, shall we?



Large Image“Then we drove to Laguna Beach. There we stopped and got gas. En route she asked whether she could write to me. She said she was going to meet her sister from Berkeley, Mrs. Adrian West.”

My dear Holmes! There’s nothing about a telephone call from Laguna Beach!

Precisely, Watson. This is bad business all around. Very bad business indeed.

Want to see some more fabrication in action? Here we go:

Page 81

“I asked where she
[Elizabeth] was going to meet her [Virginia West] and she said, ‘The Biltmore Hotel.’ …. When we got into Los Angeles, she wanted me to take her to the Greyhound bus station so she could check her bags before she met her sister. I drove her to the bus station and carried her bags in. I had to go out to move my car, but told her I would drive around and pick her up and take her to the Biltmore.”



Large ImageNote the telltale ellipses. That should be your warning. Here’s the actual interview:

“I asked where she was going to meet her, and without waiting for her to answer I said ‘the Biltmore’? and she answered yes.

“She wrote my name and business address in her notebook so she could write to me.

“When we got in to Los Angeles she wanted me to take her to the Greyhound Bus Station so she could check her bags before she met her sister. I drove her to the Greyhound Bus Station and carried her bags in. I had to go out to move my car, but told her I would drive around and pick her up and take her to the Biltmore. I didn’t want to leave her in that neighborhood.”



Large ImageI swear, the man is absolutely incapable of reading what’s in front of him.

Shout out to:

Istanbul, Turkey (85.97.33.46)

TV Guide (144.198.2.240)

Regular reader in Kerkira, Greece (213.80.115.71)

My pals at Dark Horse Comics (70.96.128.8)

Regular reader at Cambrex Corp. (216.83.185.164)

OS breakdown:

Some flavor of Windows 87%

Mac OS X 11%

Unknown 2%

66% are using some flavor of Firefox.

Hurry back!

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