An Open Letter to French Journalist Stephane Boulan re. James Ellroy and Black Dahlia Avenger

“Take it from me. We are never going to know!”

“No. I was stupid. I made a mistake. Even God makes mistakes.” 

                                                     James Ellroy, Paris 2010


(Above Ellroy comments are in response to questions from Stephane Boulan, a Paris book-signing attendee who asked him if he thought surrealist Man Ray was indirectly involved in the murder? Ellroy responds, “We are never going to know.”  Boulan then ask Ellroy if he still believes that George Hodel was the Black Dahlia killer, and if not, why he wrote the Foreword to Black Dahlia Avenger? Ellroy replies,”No. I was stupid. I made a mistake. Even God makes mistakes.” For the full back-story on this see my open letter to Stephane Boulan written below.)


James Ellroy, Paris, January 2010 on  book-signing tour/promotion for his new novel, Underground USA

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Sent: Sunday, January 24, 2010 4:36 AM
Subject: Ellroy about Black Dahlia Avenger from Paris

For your information, I met James Ellroy in Paris and this is what he answered to my questions about your book : you can listen  the audio.doc  into the article, It’s in English.


Stéphane BOULAN

(SKH Note- For Boulan’s French article and sound clip on tape (in English) click to below link:


An open letter to Stephane Boulan re. James Ellroy and my book, Black Dahlia Avenger




To:               Stephane Boulan

From:           Steve Hodel

Subj:            James Ellroy quote


Dear Stephane:




Thank you for the email regarding your brief Q&A with James Ellroy at a Paris talk/book-signing in January, 2010. I also received your tape-recorded clip containing his response to your questions regarding my book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder.


As to James observations that “even God makes mistakes” and that his ex-wives were pounding chocolate with mysterious cartels, I’ll pass on making any response. Both of those subjects are way beyond my experience/knowledge level.


I can however, provide you with the back-story along with my response to Ellroy’s recent personal comment to you as relates to my father, George Hodel and my book.


  Steve Hodel’s 2004 Fr. Ed.


dahlia noir skh.jpg

          “Now I know”

            James Ellroy (From the Foreword to Black Dahlia Avenger 2004



First, let me clarify the record. 


My book, Black Dahlia Avenger was published in the U.S. in April, 2003 and became a NYT bestseller. A year later, in 2004, James Ellroy then read my newly written “AFTERMATH” chapter. The new chapter included the secret documents and transcripts locked away in the prosecutor’s files for fifty-three years which confirmed that George Hodel was the “prime suspect” back in 1949-1950,


After reading George Hodel’s admissions and confession statements, James Ellroy approached me and made an unsolicited offer to write the Foreword to my soon to publish, 2004 HarperCollins-paperback edition.


I gave James offer thoughtful consideration and was initially reluctant to agree. Mainly, because Ellroy while being a popular novelist, was one of the primary contributors to the myth-making process that had recreated the real victim, Elizabeth Short into something that she was NOT. In his original novel, Black Dahlia (written in 1987, some sixteen years earlier) he had mixed real names with fictional events which helped create the myth which further obscured the facts and the truth. (Unlike others though, to his credit, Ellroy never claimed his novel was anything other than “pure fiction.”)


In the end, I agreed and told him, “Go ahead and write it.” He did and the result was a beautiful and poetic tribute first to the real victim, Elizabeth Short, “a post war Mona Lisa” and secondly to my then five-year investigation. I quote from his Foreword to my 2004 edition:


                      …Steve Hodel convinced me. His knowledge is conclusively  catalogued in this book. I began the book unimpressed and came away converted. …It’s a rich story of late-40’s L.A. and an indictment of official negligence and obfuscation. “


That was 2004. In October of that same year, thanks to the excellent translation by my French editor, Robert Pepin, L’Affaire Du Dahlia Noir was published in your country and quickly became a national bestseller.


In that same year I was honored with an invitation to come to Paris which I happily accepted. I was interviewed by Paris print-journalists as well as your television and radio media. I found it to be a truly wonderful experience especially since it was my very first visit to France. I loved that week in Paris.( I was invited back in 2006 to give a PowerPoint slide show and talk at the Pompidou Centre related to my Black Dahlia investigation which focused on the surrealist connections.)


Meanwhile, back in the U.S. my book and new investigative discoveries continued to spark both excitement and controversy. (Three separate investigative documentaries were produced in 2003-4 by the major television networks.  (NBC Dateline, “Black Dahlia”, CBS 48-Hours, “Black Dahlia Confidential” and Court TV’s, “Who Killed the Black Dahlia?”)


The bright klieg lights of publicity were not a welcome sight at LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division.  With the press pushing for more answers, in 2004, then Black Dahlia gatekeeper LAPD detective Brian Carr (now retired) was forced to issue a statement to the press announcing that “all the original Black Dahlia evidence had disappeared from the locked files.” This included all of the original 1950 reports connecting George Hodel as the prime suspect along with the original tape-recordings containing his admissions to being involved in police payoffs, abortions, and committing the Black Dahlia murder as well as the murder of his personal secretary.(In 1945, some eighteen months prior to the Dahlia murder, LAPD suspected and investigated George Hodel in the “apparent suicide” by pills, of his then girlfriend/secretary, Ruth Spaulding, but were unable to prove he killed her.) Detective Carr also informed the press that “George Hodel’s fingerprints were also missing from the files and since all the evidence is missing we are unable to proceed with any DNA analysis, and the case is not solvable.”


As far as James Ellroy was concerned these events were “good news-bad news.” The Good- because of all the renewed interest in my Black Dahlia investigation, the studios had decided to “green-light” his original Black Dahlia novel, which had been under option, but had remained in “Production-Hell” for sixteen-years. The Bad- All of his good friends at LAPD’s Robbery Homicide were very unhappy with his personal and very public televised endorsement of my Black Dahlia investigation as- “CASE SOLVED.”


Ellroy’s CBS 2004 on-air sound byte click below


ellroy SKH SOLVED BD Nov272004.wav 


“I think Steve Hodel is a good and noble guy. I think he solved the Black Dahlia murder case.”


James Ellroy, to CBS investigative journalist Erin Moriarty on the hour-documentary, Black Dahlia Confidential, November 2004


Fast forward to 2006.  LAPD detective Brian Carr received increasing pressure from the media to comment on what LAPD was doing and what action they were taking related to my investigation?  In an  A&E Bill Kurtis Black Dahlia Cold Case Files documentary detective Carr was forced to respond:


“I don’t have time to prove or disprove Hodel’s investigation. I’m too busy with other cases that are solvable.” 


Detective Brian Carr retired from LAPD in 2009


Likewise, James found himself in a quandary.  How did he reconcile his bold assertion that I had solved the Black Dahlia murder, with the fact that a major motion picture (Black Dahlia) was about to be released presenting his fictional version? The public was asking him, “Why not present the truth which was far far stranger than even he had original conceived it to be?”


That was the public face of it. Next, James started getting blasted from the rear by the film studio. They had just invested big bucks (75 million+) and wanted him to shut up about claiming that Hodel had “solved the case” fearing it would hurt box-office sales.


So, under pressure from without and within, James made a public statement to the effect:


“As of October, 2006, I will no longer respond to any questions about the Black Dahlia Murder. I no longer wish to discuss it. I’m tired of talking about it. Time to move on to other things.”




As to James statement to you that he “led with his heart” and no longer believes George Hodel was the killer and that it “can never be proved if Man Ray was or was not indirectly involved.” 


My response?


Whatever his current motives or reasons may be for saying that, I say, “Cut the dude some slack-Jack.”  I know for a fact that James truly regrets writing the Foreword to my book. However, I suspect that his real regret is coming not so much from the heart, but rather from Ellroy, the businessman. And, believe me James is first and foremost – a businessman. His business is the promoting and marketing of James Ellroy, and he is very good at it.  Nothing wrong with that!


From that standpoint, what looked good to him as a 2004 business opportunity (writing a Foreword to my bestseller, Black Dahlia Avenger) by 2006 had turned around to bite the Demon Dog in the butt.


That original 2004 endorsement of my investigation by 2006 was a huge thorn in his side. By then it had come back to haunt him by upsetting his powerful friends both within the LAPD and in the film industry. Friends that he needed and wanted to keep close. Friends that were (and still are) his bread and butter.


 It was a lot of pressure on him for a long time, so again I say- Let’s all cut the dude some slack!  James has a perfect right to change his mind for whatever his reasons and motive might be. More than that, he doesn’t need a reason. Who really cares whether it is his head or his heart that is talking now? (Besides, I thought you French had the exclusive on “leading with the heart.”)


In conclusion, James is not the final arbitrar of Truth-YOU ARE. YOU and the rest of my readers have always been the sole judge and jury. After careful review, you alone and individually have held the responsibility to weigh the evidence and decide the case. (Not an easy task, since the latest updated French edition now runs 761 pages. Add to that my new sequel, Most Evil: Avenger, Zodiac and the Further Serial Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel (Dutton 2009) which runs 320 pages, and the combined investigations now surpass the page count of- Tolstoy’s, War and Peace.)


Feel free to translate my letter to you into French so your fellow countrymen and women can have a fuller understanding of the back-story to all this. (There is actually more to the Ellroy story, with some very interesting LAPD connections, but will leave it at this for now.)  


Most Respectfully Yours,


Steve Hodel

Los Angeles, California

January 25, 2010




Stay tuned and keep the faith. I predict we will eventually get an answer not from Ellroy’s God who “makes mistakes”, but from Science, which generally does not. My investigation continues and a massive amount of new evidence linking George Hodel to the Dahlia and other crimes has been added to what we now know. Most of this “new evidence” has come to us since my last updated chapter in the HarperCollins July 2006 edition and can only be found here on my website in both FAQs and blogs. One of the most dramatic links came as recently as 2008 connecting some 50 lb. cement sacks to our Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. “Franklin House” as likely being the same cement sacks left by the killer at the Black Dahlia crime scene.


 I still maintain the hope and expectation that we will eventually get law enforcement to compare a DNA source to known evidence in one of the many connecting cases. Who knows, with Chief Bratton and detective Brian Carr now gone we may see a new LAPD administration, with Chief Beck at the helm, open up their minds and science lab to a new day?


Original 1947 Black Dahlia investigators and “top brass” privately confirmed among themselves and their families that the “BLACK DAHLIA CASE WAS SOLVED.”



  1. Andrew Juan Cano on June 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Once again Steve, your insights are spot on. I know you will be validated in your continued search for Justice of Elizabeth Short.

  2. Steve Hodel on June 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks for your support. Always appreciated.

  3. Olivier Grignard on August 31, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Hello Steve,
    I am French and I read your book a few years ago. I watched Brian de Palma’s Black Dahlia tonight on TV, so I felt like surfing on the Web about ES.
    That’s how I got here.
    Let me tell you that your answer to this journalist is brilliant and intelligent. I was absolutely convinced by your enquiry on the case, and felt an incredible pleasure to read it.
    Best regards,

  4. Steve Hodel on August 31, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Olivier G: MERCI. Your kind words are much appreciated. Lot of new information out now with Black Dahlia Avenger II, published in 2012 and new evidence keeps coming. Unfortunately, BDA II has not been published/translated into French, but perhaps one day? Loved both visits to Paris re. the book in 2005 and again to speak at the Pompidou Centre in 2006. All Best, Steve

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