January 15, 1947. 10:30 am on the corner of 39th and Norton, in a vacant lot, a body was discovered. It was bisected and posed, with a vicious grin slashing her mouth. The newspapers dubbed her the Black Dahlia. Her name was Elizabeth Short and the hunt for her killer has spawned thousands of speculations and spanned six decades.
James Ellroy took the fascination with the Black Dahlia and turned it into a best-selling novel. The author follows Beth Short's final days with his own characters and intertwines their lives more and more around finding the elusive 'Black Dahlia Avenger'. Those who enjoy a twisting plot and drama will get sucked into Detectives Blanchard and Bleichert's growing obsession with the Dahlia. The chase for the Avenger trails from all over Hollywoodland down to Central America and back. In the end, Det. Bleichert finds his killer in the most unlikely of places.
In 2006, the book was made into a movie with the same name, starring Aaron Eckhart, Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, and Hillary Swank. The movie does well to bring Beth Short to life as more than a horrifically disfigured corpse to stare at; it gives her hopes and dreams. It gives her life. And, as is always the case with books turned into film, there were slight differences between the two. The chase doesn't go as far-reaching as South America, but stays in Los Angeles. There were also a few minor characters cut out, but over all the film carried the plot and feel of the hard boiled novel extremely well.
For those who are interested in the real sordid story, the book and movie are pleasant diversions. The real deal lies in a more unusal book called The Black Dahlia Avenger, by Steve Hodel. Mr. Hodel has an odd take on the mystery. He was a homocide detective with LAPD for 24 years, but was retired when his curiosity was piqued in the case. After his father had died, Mr. Hodel was going through his father's personal affects and found two pictures of Elizabeth Short alive, taken a short while before her dessecrated body was found. Now, that might be explainable on why his father had them, but then there were other factors involved, as well. Beth Short's body was bisected cleanly and in a very particular place. Anybody without medical training or research wouldn't have been able to dissect a body as cleanly and 'professionally' without it.
The pictures placed in Mr. Hodel's mind a nagging little idea. His father, after all, had been a surgeon...I immensely enjoyed the ride that all of these gave, and maybe, just maybe, justice has been found in the end.