Thursday, May 30, 2013

Comments on The Black Dahlia Avenger by Steven Hodel

Black Dahlia avenger: a genius for murder By Steve Hodel ISBN: 1559706643, Recorded from: New York, NY: Arcade Publishing; distributed by AOL I’ve read my fair share of true crime books, and I’m used to a certain pattern. The crime and investigation are described in detail, and very little background or biographical information concerning the participants of the event is included. The specific event takes precedence, and the emphasis is strongly on the resolution of the crime. Black Dahlia Avenger does not fit that mold, and was so different that it took me a while to appreciate exactly what the author was doing. I found myself becoming impatient with the biographical information, until I understood its importance. Once I did, though, I found the entire book fascinating and very much enjoyed reading it. This is the story of a darkly dysfunctional family, written by the son of a serial killer father. It revolves around one of the most famous unsolved murders of the 20th century, the Black Dahlia murder. This crime has been so absorbed into popular culture that even its name evokes a specific time period and place. Books have been written about it, and movies have been made about it, but the Black Dahlia murder has always remained unsolved …until now. True, it has not been officially solved, there has been neither trial, nor conviction, nor punishment, but the presented evidence is so overwhelming that it has received endorsements from leading people in the criminal justice field, so as far as I’m concerned, that counts. But, this book is far more than the story of a crime. It’s a set of portraits and a family history that nearly gave me nightmares. The father of this family was one of the most horrific people I’ve ever encountered in any book, not for his brutality, (though he most certainly was brutal) but because of his brilliance and the ways in which he constructed his own rules of behavior, which gave full license to, among other things, child abuse, incest and murder. The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) wasn’t his only or first victim. She became a part of the licentious, sadistic, perverted world constructed by George Hodel and his friends, and paid the ultimate price for her association with it, and with him. In this book, we see that world through the eyes of the author, his son Steven. He tells the entire story quietly and pragmatically, with little comment, and, in that quiet telling, the absolute horror and inhumanity of the world in which he grew up reveals itself. It is also a depiction of corruption and cover up in very high places, and reveals an almost complete disregard for law by the very institutions established to protect and enforce it. We learn of how criminals were protected and of how officials in law enforcement profited from criminal activity. In short, if the criminal was of value to certain police officials, his crimes were “buried”, and he was never required to account for them in any way. Again, the killer in this book made himself very valuable to these corrupt officials, and was given carte blanche to do whatever he chose, and he chose to commit incest, rape, murder and other serious crimes. This book is long, intricate, and the kind of reading best done in the full light of day. The horror story here isn’t graphic, and yet it has a profound effect, mostly, I think, because it is so carefully, and unemotionally, told.

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