John Simkin Posted June 13, 2004 Share Posted June 13, 2004 I thought it might be a good idea to create a new thread on recommended books for reading during the summer holidays. Last week Granta sent me several books to review for Education on the Internet. One of these was John Gilmore’s Severed: The Black Dahlia Murder. I have to admit I placed it with the maybe will read books. As I placed it on the pile I noticed that a side view revealed that the book included a great number of photographs. I am a sucker for old photographs and could not resist taking a look. I soon wished I hadn’t. The autopsy photographs were truly upsetting (the victim, Elizabeth Short had been cut up after she was murdered). However, the other photographs were fascinating. They were mainly photographs of Elizabeth and her numerous boyfriends. In each photograph she looked completely different. In fact, if the photographs were not accompanied by captions, I would have refused to believe they were of the same woman. Yet, in each of the photographs, you could tell why she had no difficulty finding male company. I then began reading the quotes from the critics. They spoke highly of Gilmore as a writer and explained why Granta had decided to reprint what it called this “cult-classic” (it was originally published in the United States in 1998). That night I ignored my pile of history books I am currently reading and picked up Gilmore's book. I am glad I did. The book is a masterpiece. The first chapter deals with the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s mutilated body in January, 1947. It is written like a novel. You are unaware of a narrator. Instead you seem to be observing events like they appear on a television screen (Gilmore is also a screenwriter). I assume the conversations that we read are based on witness statements and interviews with the author. Each one speaks with a different voice. One automatically assumes that these words have not been invented by the author. The next nine chapters explore the early life of Elizabeth Short. You also find out a lot about the people she meets and befriends on her route to what she believes will end up with her being a Hollywood actress. In chapter 10 she is murdered. In chapter 11, a chilling account of the autopsy reveals why she was murdered. One of those rare moments when you feel the hair on the back of your neck standing up. The reason why she was murdered was kept secret until the publication of Gilmore’s book. Why? One of the problems for the police investigating the case was the large number of people who confessed to the crime. To test if they were telling the truth, it was vitally important that only the murderer and the detectives knew why she was murdered. Chapters 12 to 20 follow the investigation and the impact that the murder was to have on Los Angeles (the Black Dahlia case is America’s Jack the Ripper). In the final chapter the author emerges from the shadows to reveal he was one of the characters in the book. He then explains who killed Elizabeth Short and why the man was never arrested for the crime. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Please sign in to comment
You will be able to leave a comment after signing in
Sign In Now