Monday, March 20, 2006

Blogging the Wolfe Book, Wax On, Wax Off

Large ImageI’m blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files (which have been mostly ignored so far): The Mob (a bit of that), the Mogul (no sign yet and we’re 63 pages into the book) and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.”

Wolfe is using the “Laura” format, in which the butchered, anonymous body is discovered and the narrative is told in flashbacks. We’re at the point in the story in which Elizabeth Short has been befriended by the French family in San Diego about a month before her murder in 1947.

The two-minute executive summary:

In the last week, we have seen a continuing disinterest in facts, heavy reliance on John Gilmore’s “Severed” (to the extent that it’s rather amazing that Gilmore can dismiss “Mogul” as “crap” since it relies so heavily on his book) and bold fabrication. We have also found that Wolfe is not the least bashful about making statements that are easily disproved. Glynn Wolfe is casually described as procurer of girls for Syndicate brothels in a complete fabrication of what allegedly exists in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s files. Nor is Wolfe shy about making up quotes and attributing them to fairly inaccessible sources, down to making up what movies were playing in San Diego theaters.

Let’s press on.

Large ImagePage 63

Wolfe is in the middle of an enthusiastic smear in the “Elizabeth Short turns bad girl” section of the story, apparently assuming that we won’t feel sorry when she’s killed if he makes her into a lazy tramp.

We’re told that the Frenches noticed that Elizabeth Short used melted candle wax to fix the cavities in her teeth (in reality, the source of the story is her roommates at the Chancellor), but it gives Wolfe a nice opportunity to refer to a “job interview,” which seems to be turning into some sort of hint at prostitution(although we’re not there yet.

Man. California geography is so confusing to some people. Not only does Wolfe talk about Elvera French supposedly coming home for lunch from her job at the Navy hospital (10 miles each way to Pacific Beach(before freeways), now we’re told Elizabeth Short was talking about getting a job at the Naval Air Station, which is on Coronado Island. A mere 14 miles.

Attribution? You must be kidding.

Large Image
Page 64

Now this is interesting. Wolfe has taken an incident that supposedly occurred with a man whose name is given variously as Sam Nevarra or Sam Navara, a jealous boyfriend who supposedly scratched her arms in a quarrel.

Instead of Nevarra/Navara, Wolfe attributes this to the unidentified manager of the Aztec Theater.

To the end notes, Watson!

“Severed,” Page 98, Holmes.

The haz-mat pile of Dahlia books, Watson.

Hum! Here we are. It’s part of the story about late-night shish kabobs being the food of romance. Too bad “Severed” isn’t indexed because it would be fun to look for good old Sam Nevarra/Navara. But I don’t see him in “Severed’s” pages about San Diego. I wonder why Gilmore left him out. Ah well.

This is looking mostly like a lift from “Severed.” I know I mentioned it before, but I wonder how Gilmore can call this book “crap” when so much of it is taken from “Severed.” Maybe that’s the part of the book he was talking about in the jacket blurb that called it “destined to become a true-crime classic. A must read!”

Oh this is funny, Wolfe is calling Examiner photographer George O’Day a reporter. Oops. Supposedly attributed to Jim Richardson’s “For the Life of Me,” Page 300.

Let’s see.

Oh guess who isn’t mentioned on Page 300 of “For the Life of Me.”

Go ahead.

Large Image
Now here’s Wolfe:

“When Examiner reporters
[Tommy] Devlin and O’Day questioned Elvera and Dorothy French about the identity of Red [Manley], they recalled that one day in mid-December, Elizabeth had brought to their home and ‘old acquaintance’ she had bumped into near the Western Airlines [note to ReganBooks proofreaders: Western Air Lines] office in downtown San Diego. Elizabeth said he was an ex-Marine Corps flyer and referred to him as Red. She had told them that Red was now flying for Western Airlines and was helping her get a job there as a stenographer. According to Elvera. Elizabeth dated Red every night from December 16 to 21 and then he suddenly left town. Elvera remembered that Elizabeth went out with other men almost every night until Red returned in the first week of January to drive Elizabeth back to Los Angeles. Elvera and Dorothy both described him as a tall-red-haired, freckle-faced man in his mid-twenties. They recalled that his first name may have been Bob, but they didn’t know his full name.”

And Richardson? Now I just double-checked the end notes and Wolfe says he got all of that from Page 300 of “For the Life of Me.”

Large ImageReady?

“I called Tommy Devlin to the desk. He’d been standing by for just such a break [as when the Examiner talked to Elizabeth Short’s mother, Phoebe]. Tommy is my top reporter on crime. He’s better than any detective I know. It wasn’t two minutes before he was on his way to San Diego. He actually ran out of the local room.”

And that, folks, is it. Nothing about freckle-faced Red Manley.

Uh…. How about “Severed?”

Good grief: Gilmore refers to “Gordan Fickling” (Page 100). Did I mention that “Severed” is 25% mistakes and 50% fiction? Nope, I don’t see freckle-faced Red Manley there. How very odd it all is.

Back to Wolfe. Oh man.

“Dorothy revealed that when Elizabeth suddenly decided to leave San Diego, she seemed disturbed and agitated, and Dorothy attributed it to an incident that had occurred on January 6.”

Now look, it’s been well-established in the original newspaper accounts that the Frenches asked Elizabeth Short to leave after a month. It wasn’t an impulsive act by Elizabeth Short. She was asked to leave.

What do you want to bet there’s no source for this before I look?

Holmes! Why are you never wrong?

Page 65

Let’s see here…. Some people come by the Frenches’ house looking for Elizabeth Short, check. Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 20, 1947.

Large ImageAny bets? Now at least some of this is bogus.

OK. Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 20, 1947. Arrest of Red Manley in Eagle Rock. Well at least we know Wolfe had access to the story about who allegedly scratched Elizabeth Short’s arms. Nothing about the Aztec Theater manager. I swear the man can’t read what’s in front of him. “An Italian with black hair.” Bet you didn’t know late-night shish kabobs were an Italian dish.

The story mentions Elvera French, all right. But there’s nothing like this:

“Some people came to our door and knocked. There was a man and a woman, and another man was waiting in a car parked on the street in front of the house. Beth became very frightened(she seemed to get panicky and didn’t want to see the people or answer the door.” They finally went back to the car and drove away. Even our neighbors thought all of this was very suspicious….”

Did you notice the use of “Beth?” Now whom do we know who refers to Elizabeth Short as Beth?

Did someone say “Severed?”

Oh let’s just check the haz-mat pile.

Holmes! It’s here!

Large Image“Severed,” Page 110

“Dorothy recalls, ‘a couple of days later some people came to our door and knocked. There was a man and a woman, and another man was waiting in a car parked on the street in front of the house. Beth became very frightened(she seemed to get panicky, and didn’t want to see the people or answer the door. They finally went back to the car and drove away. Even our neighbors thought all of this was very suspicious.”

Book him Dano.

Time for my walk.

Shout out to:

Galveston, Texas (

Seattle, Wash. (

Australia (

Hm. Linux 8%

Mac OS X 5%

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home