Thursday, November 19, 2009

James Ellroy, the Black Dahlia, and My Uncle's Son

Was in the car running errands and listening to Michael Savage as he interviewed James Ellroy who has just published Blood is a Rover. The interview interested me. Savage read a paragraph from the book and I was taken by the simplicity of the scene described and the language used to describe it. Back at the office I looked Ellroy up in Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the first place to go if you want it quick, do not want much, and there are no ethical or moral issues involved.

I googled Ellroy and looked for an excerpt from the book. I found one. Part I, a section titled “Wayne Tedrow Jr. (Las Vegas, 6/14/68)” The language was simple and direct and loaded with information. It was in too much of a hurry. Not for me. What’s the hurry?

I watched a video of Ellroy giving a talk about the connections in his childhood that tied together for him the 1947 murder of the Elizabeth Short, who became known as the Black Dahlia, in South Central Los Angeles, and that of his mother Jean Ellroy, a tart I suppose, who was found strangled with her own nylon stocking in El Monte, California in 1958. James was ten years old when his mother was strangled. His talk (I can’t find it now or I would link to it) was professional, idiosyncratic, and good. Nothing messy there.

I myself recall very well the murder of the Black Dahlia. I was seventeen years old then, living in South Central where she was killed. I can’t remember a bigger story that year. Of course I didn’t read the papers, didn’t listen to the news on radio, and didn’t talk to anyone who did so there was no reason for me to remember the other stories.

One evening Mother, Father and me were having dinner with Aunt Grace and Uncle George in a one-room house with a kitchen on Hawthorne Boulevard at 110th street. The Black Dahlia story came up. It took me a moment but pretty soon I understood that Uncle George was saying that his son had gone to the police and confessed to having murdered the Black Dahlia himself. Mother and Father were astounded. Aunt Grace didn’t say anything. Uncle George didn’t want to go on about it. He was slumped down in his chair at the dinner table shaking his head slowly from side to side. I understood by a word or two that the claim of Uncle George’s son to having murdered the Black Dahlia was unbelievable. I had never met Uncle George’s son. Now I kind of understood why. He had gone his own way. I remember thinking it a funny story, but knowing not to laugh.

The time came when James Ellroy decided to try to solve the Black Dahlia murder himself. He failed. It was never solved.


Anonymous said...

The Elizabeth Short murder is interesting in that it got so much attention, yet was not solved. The horrible manner her body was mutilated - particularly the smile from ear to ear cut in her face - along with the positioning of the body at the location her remains were found, made it a crime with wide prurient appeal.
The best theory I have seen published recently was a surgeon named Walter Bayley who had a possible connection with Short - his daughter was friends with the Black Dahlia's sister - killed her and arranged the body in a vacant lot in the neighborhood of the doctor's ex-wife.
The theory is the doctor picked up a down on her luck Short and took her in. The doc had recently been divorced and was having mental health and professional problems. When Short rejected his sexual advances, he killed her and put the body within a block or so of his ex-wife's house as a threat.
The doctor died within a few years of the murder which was never solved. The Wikipedia entry on the murder says about five dozen people confessed to killing her.

Anonymous said...

The Black Dahlia murder was solved by Steve Hodel, a 23 year veteran homicide detective with the LAPD.
He had the highest homicide solve rate in the LAPD.
The murderer was his father Dr. George Hodel, a Jewish psychiatrist
who consulted with the LAPD and who
with a confederate committed a series of mutilation killings in the 40s and 50s in the LA area, possibly including Ellroy's Mom.
Ellroy has endorsed Hodel's book Black Dahlia Avenger:The True Story. The head Deputy DA in LA county George Kay has said that Hodel's book has solved the crime.
All the other books and movies on this subject are worthless trash. I've read it twice, originally when it came out in 2003 and the updated edition this year. Also
another book which relies on the Hodel thesis is Exquisite Corpse
by Mark Nelson and sarah Hudson Bayliss. This book shows the connection between the perverse
surrealism of Man Ray and George Hodel. Hodel had the world's known IQ, 187, a child prodigy as well as
a vicious sociopath. He died up here in SF 10 years ago and his son discovered private photos of Miss Short while going through an album of his father. The LAPD under Chiefs Parker and Brown covered up Hodel's involvement
and helped him leave the country. The LA DA considered him the main suspect. Hodel supplied whores and drugs to rich Hollywood film folks and LAPD brass. Get the book.