Sunday, March 19, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Snooze Alarm



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 discovered and the narrative is told in flashbacks. We’re at the point in the story when Elizabeth Short has been befriended by the French family and we have seen a fair amount of embellishment of what was already a fabrication in John Gilmore’s “Severed.”

Page 63

Wolfe is in the middle of an enthusiastic smear in the “Elizabeth Short goes bad” section of the tale, assuming, apparently, that we won’t feel as much sympathy when she gets killed off if he makes her into a lazy tramp.

“Because Elizabeth slept until noon, Elvera found herself tiptoeing around the house as she prepared herself breakfast and got ready for work. Soon she began wondering why she had to tiptoe around her own house when Elizabeth should have been out seeking employment instead of sleeping in late. It wasn’t long before Elvera began slamming the door on her way out, and as the days went on, Elvera and Dorothy French would have arguments over the merits of sheltering Elizabeth. She had overstayed her welcome as far as Elvera was concerned, but Dorothy felt sorry for her and kept persuading her mother to ‘be patient for a little longer.’ Dorothy and Elvera both felt as if she were hiding out. She was in the habit of chewing her fingernails down to the quick and at times she seemed despondent and fearful, as though she had been in some kind of trouble before she left Hollywood.”

Now without looking, this sounds like it’s right out of “Severed,” (odd, isn’t it, that Gilmore says Wolfe’s book is “crap” when it relies so heavily on his own work?) But I don’t recall anything about Elvera French slamming doors and tiptoeing around the house(or arguing with Dorothy over the woman who came to dinner. Of course, I can’t claim to have memorized “Severed” either.



Large ImageCome along, Watson.

Look here, Holmes! There’s no attribution! None whatsoever!

Hum. Let’s go to the Dahlia pile, Watson.

Gad! I picked up Steve Hodel’s “Dahlia Avenger” by mistake. I’m surprised the haz-mat team hasn’t shown up and confiscated all these Dahlia books.

Ha! Just as I thought, “Severed,” Page 100. Just a little unattributed lifting by Mr. Wolfe. Note that these details only occur in “Severed” and any books that might rely on “Severed.”

Holmes, why are you never wrong?

Now the interesting thing here, Watson, is that “Severed” has Dorothy French’s teenage brother wanting to take the couch and let Elizabeth Short have his bedroom. I wonder if Wolfe is going to use that.

“Severed,” Page 100:

“When Dorothy told her mother what Cory [note: everybody gives a different name for the brother. Sometimes it’s Cory. Or Cary. Or Carey. Or Gary. Wolfe, Lord help us, calls him Corey] had suggested, Elvera said, ‘That’s his room, and for the love of God, we’ll never get things back to normal around here if she moves in there.

“Elvera found herself tiptoeing through the living room while getting ready for work. She’d ask herself why she was tiptoeing through her own house(the girl should have been up, dressed, and looking for work instead of sleeping or fancying herself up for dates.”

Now here’s the point all this scrutiny: Let’s recall the story of Robert “Red” Manley, the traveling salesman who picked up Elizabeth Short in December 1946 and then gave her the ride from San Diego to Los Angeles in January 1947.



Large ImageRemember what he said to the newspapers? Elizabeth Short told the Frenches that Manley helped her get a job at Western Air Lines. In other words, as far as the Frenches knew, Elizabeth Short was gone all day because she claimed she was working. It was a lie, of course, but she was getting up and leaving the house every day as if she had a job.

This is, as I believe I have said before, very bad work.

Shout out to:

Santa Fee Lofts (transedge.com 171.85.219.209.)

Bexar County Information Services (206.254.152.1) one of my regulars.

Galveston, Texas (70.120.168.198)

Chadbourn, N.C. (4.88.1.11)

Operating system breakdown:

Some flavor of Windows 88%

Mac OS X 8%

Linux 2%

Unknown 2%

Hurry back!

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