The Black Dahlia Avenger Rides Again


Black Dahlia Avenger II by Steve Hodel
Steve Hodel's third book


The Black Bird’s True Crime Book Review:
Steve Hodel’s Black Dahlia Avenger II

It goes without saying that I’m obsessed with the murder of beautiful, young Elizabeth Short ““ Los Angeles’ Black Dahlia Murder case of 1947. Just take a peek at my WoW bio. I admit that, even though I don’t agree with every theory presented, I simply have to read  each book published on the subject. A coupla good examples: I repeatedly refer back to John Gilmore’s Severed or the chapter in Craig Rice’s 45 Murderers. I especially love prowling through my vast collection of original newspaper clippings. You see, I never stick all my eggs in one basket as far as suspects go.

So it was, friends and fiends, that my eyes bulged when I read the news: former LAPD detective Steve Hodel, author of Black Dahlia Avenger and Most Evil, was publishing a third book on the alleged criminal exploits of his father, Dr. George Hill Hodel. I confess that I rather liked the first BDA. It was a professional affair, save for Hodel’s propensity to phrase things in a manner like “Then dad did [blank]…” As if every last drop was established fact. Dr. George Hodel, for the uninitiated, was a wealthy SoCal doctor who specialized in venereal disease control, and lover of bohemian and surrealist art.  Another confession: I was increasingly sceptical of Steve Hodel’s allegations in his second exposé, Most Evil. That he whole-heartedly believed his dad was also the Zodiac killer of 1960s to Seventies NoCal infamy. I still devoured the book, and found it well-presented compared to other Dahlia tomes like Jacque Daniels’ Curse of the Black Dahlia (with its shoddy design, layout and proofreading). There’s much to be said for a pro layout and making certain there are no grievous typos and grammar blunders, especially in a print-on-demand book (BDA II is POD). On the whole, BDA doesn’t suffer from the usual textual and layout foibles of many POD titles.

Elizabeth Short at Marshall High School, Oct. 1946
Elizabeth Short at Marshall High School, Oct. 1946


Dr. George Hill Hodel
Is he the Avenger?

Another humongous “true crime” outing, BDA focuses slightly less on the Zodiac than Most Evil. The focal point of BDA II remains George Hodel. Elizabeth Short is dealt with almost peripherally, mainly as mentioned mostly as a victim and in the investigation of her murder. Details of her life are few and far between. I was hoping”“if the title itself was any indication”“to read more background on Beth Short herself. Nope! Hodel has been gracious enough with his past readers in sharing many new updates free of charge through blogs and FAQs on his website. I was likewise hoping that he wouldn’t repeat himself in BDA II, heaping much material available online on our plates. I suppose this may work fine for the casual crime enthusiast who is reading BDA II with little retention of Hodel’s previous two books or the case itself. Hodel belabors himself and us w What about the compulsive tendencies of the “Dahliaphile” type folks out there? The ones who pore over every nook and cranny of minutiae? It will most likely be a drawback for the obsessed (like me!).   Maybe it was necessary to repeat for those with short attention spans. Also, when you’re bibliomaniac (like your humble Black Bird), you prefer to refer back to a book than constantly hooked up to electronic gadgetry. In that respect, having the blog and FAQ items in BDA II can be looked upon as a benefit. I consider both sides of the coin.

There are a few intriguing and not-so repetitive sections of BDA II. One contains letters from Steve Hodel’s mother, Dorothy (Harvey Huston) Hodel, to her ex-husband iconic director John Huston, many mentioning danger she perceived from her most recent ex, George. Another interesting bit  fleshes out the life of Madi (or Mattie) Comfort, George Hodel’s black mistress.  Comfort revealed her secret before she passed away in the mid 2000s ““ that she believed George Hodel did indeed kill Elizabeth Short. Another section introduced a bit of new info from a well-known surrealist photographer (now deceased), which furthers the possibility that foul things were afoot at the gaudy, exotic  Lloyd Wright-built Sowden house ““ occupied by the suave Dr. Hodel in the mid 1940s ““ at 5121 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, CA.

Lloyd Wright Sowden House
Murder Mansion?

My verdict? Well, I could do without all of the statements Steve Hodel makes beginning with the phrases “we now know that” or “we know that.” Do we really know for sure? How much is hearsay, especially in the case of unrecorded conversations with deceased people? I wish the public could finally know the full truth about Beth Short’s murder, the many other women slain in L.A. throughout the 1940s, the Zodiac, etc. But I’m not so certain yet that I can point my finger at any one suspect, much less George Hodel. I consider Hodel, along with others. I’m a completist, and I recommend others like me pick this puppy up. If you enjoy reading about seedy, seamy L.A. corruption, there are plenty of juicy details. I’ve come away from BDA II feeling, more than ever, that George Hodel was definitely involved in some very shady affairs. I’m convinced he molested his own daughter (probably paid off the authorities  to be proven not-guilty), performed abortions when they were illegal in L.A. (although I feel women should always have the choice!) and committed insurance fraud. Murder? I don’t know about that just yet. Perhaps time will tell. Perhaps not!

P.S. I invite WoW readers to share their opinion on Steve Hodel’s books, the Black Dahlia case, the so-called L.A. Lone Women Murders of the 1940s, the Zodiac, etc.

Author: The Black Bird

As guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, The Black Bird pioneered the early U.S. heavy rock movement in 1968, spearheading the unsung power trio The Hounds of Tindalos. He was a regular contributor to The Magazine of Horror from 1963-71. His novels include the sexy new-wave science fiction outing Spawning Season (Chariot Books for Men, 1966), Smut City (the first in a series of hardboiled mysteries featuring half-Japanese hippie-era private dick Donald Dong - Essex House, 1969), the anti-hero fantasy The Axe of Aleric (Powell Books, 1971) and Cauldron of Abhorrence (a pseudonymous gothic—marketed to blue-haired septugenarians—published under his then-girlfriend’s name, Raven Chimesleep Flagstone—Beagle Books, 1972). As a non-fiction writer, he compiled a 600+ page bio-bibliography of pulpster Ray Cummings (Atoms and Areolae, Ronald N. Fund Publishers, 1979) and the true crime magnum opus Daemon in Drag about post-op transsexual serial killer Roberta Morris (Ganja Publications, 1994). Wait a minute!? We’re gettin’ carried away here! This just ain’t right!? The Black Bird’s alter-ego is chronically underpaid writer, editor, musician and all around wacky creative creature Perry Grayson. A lifelong devotee of all things weird, fantastic and mysterious! By day, Perry pretends to “slave for ‘the man.’” By night he creeps! Perry’s articles, interviews, reviews, stories and poems have bled onto the pages of zines, mags and sites such as Metal Maniacs, Crypt of Cthulhu, Fungi, The Scream Factory, Slow Ride, Snap Pop, Snakepit, Al-Azif, Necrofile, Other Dimensions, and As editor, he oversaw three collections of his fave author, Frank Belknap Long's work: Escape from Tomorrow, The Darkling Tide and The Eye Above the Mantel (more are planned). He runs the small press publishing operation Tsathoggua Press (currently on hiatus), and prides himself on being an incorrigible heavy rock and metal/book geek and beer snob (no panther piss, please!). For a decade he was a staff writer for the major newsstand mag Metal Maniacs (1999-2009), and now often contributes liner notes to hard rock and metal albums. From 1997-2000, along with his pal Dr. Monstrosity (a/k/a Dan DeLucie), he played guitar in the metal band Destiny's End on two albums and both U.S. and European tours. Tackling both vocal and axe-slinging duties, he formed vintage heavy rock power trio Falcon in 2002. Falcon has released two full-length and has a third in the pipeline. He also took part in multinational metal project Isen Torr on the EP Mighty and Superior (2004) and played bass for Pale Divine on a European tour. Once upon a time, he was a jack of all trades copywriter, production coordinator and light graphic designer in the advertising/graphics biz in “El Lay.” Now he resides Down Unda with his music biz veteran wife and three fur-babies (kitties). When he isn’t playing guitar or bass, singing or writing, he is probably reading a book, listening to tunes or watching a sleazy exploitation or noir flick. He is addicted to vintage books, mags, vinyl, guitars and amps. And… among other things, one of his fave pastimes is investigating old unsolved cases such as the Black Dahlia murder, a pursuit some might find comparable to chasing his own tail.

3 thoughts on “The Black Dahlia Avenger Rides Again”

    1. P.S. Ironically, I’ve had the Hodel Investigations logo with the Black Bird on the desk since I began Hodel Investigations in 1986. Back then I never had a clue that
      it would figure into anything other than a great noir film.

    2. Cheers for the kind words, Steve!

      I’ve noticed, all too often RE: the Black Dahlia and other similar cases, that people get their proverbial knickers in a twist if they don’t agree with a theory or opinion. The gut reaction? To attack! Plenty of curmudgeons out there. I entertain many theories, and I’m also willing to consider the possibility that the true perp still hasn’t been mentioned in a single book yet. The fact that your father’s name appears on the DA suspect list and in the files numerous times keeps him on my radar screen.

      How appropo that Fred Sexton was the man who sculpted the Maltese Falcon statue for John Huston’s flick! And that John Huston portrayed incestuous Noah Cross in Chinatown!? Always six degrees of Black Dahlia separation in seedy, seamy L.A. I believe my ex-boss’ running buddy was D.A. William E. Simpson’s son, but I can’t really think of many other personal ties to El Lay corruption and crime of the 1940s. Said boss (at my previous smut industry advertising job) knew John Holmes fairly well, so there’s a tenuous tie to the Wonderland case.

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