Steve Hodel’s New True-Crime Book, “IN THE MESQUITE: The Solving of the 1938 West Texas Kidnap Torture Murders of Hazel and Nancy Frome” Launches Today

August 14, 2019
Los Angeles, California


Print Edition Available HERE.

Retired LAPD Homicide Detective III, Steve Hodel, brings over fifty-years of law enforcement, homicide, and private investigative experience to bear on what the Texas Rangers said, “Remains the biggest unsolved mystery in the American Southwest.” 
March 1938- The breaking story started out slow, announcing that a mother and daughter, traveling in their touring car, cross country from California to the East Coast, “were missing on a West Texas highway.”
Within days came a second announcement cautioning that “foul play was suspected.” Next, their abandoned car was found, and on the fifth day of the search, the nation’s worst fears were realized.
August 2019- Eighty-one years later, in what can be considered one of the nation’s coldest of cold cases, IN THE MESQUITE carefully reconstructs the chronology of the double-homicide based on original law enforcement documents, newspaper reportage, and eye-witness accounts.
As silent passengers in the back seat of Hazel and Nancy Fromes’ brand new 1937 Silver Packard, Series-Eight 7-seater touring car we ride along on their journey from California to visit their daughter and sister and family in the East Coast.
The identification and naming of the mother and daughter’s sadistic killer(s) and the evidence presented offering the solution will satisfy both sense and reason.
The author, a highly-skilled former LAPD homicide detective, provides his readers with the answer to the three basic requirements needed to solve this crime:- the MOM- the killer’s Motive, his Opportunity, and his Means.
Steve Hodel is a New York Times bestselling author. He spent twenty-four years with the LAPD, where, as a homicide detective, he worked on more than three hundred murder cases and achieved one of the highest “solve rates” on the force. He is a licensed PI and author and his first book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder was a New York Times bestseller and was nominated for an MWA Edgar Award in the Best Fact category. Steve has written and published four additional true crime books His investigations, now in their twentieth year, have been featured on NBC Dateline, CBS 48 Hours, Court TV, A&E Bill Kurtis, Cold Case Files, Bill Kurtis Through the Decades, CNN Anderson Cooper, The Today Show, and the Discovery Channel. Steve most recently appeared in March 2019 on the Today Show
and Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, where he with other family members discussed the making of the No. 1 national hit podcast, Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia Murder. Steve resides in his hometown of Los Angeles.

Book print orders can now be placed through AMAZON 

FOR THOSE DESIRING A SIGNED/PERSONALIZED COPY  a purchase can be made through PayPal (Include person’s name, mailing address for personalization) and email payment of $24.00 to:


Send a personal check in the amount of $24.00 to (include person’s name, and return mailing address) to:
Steve  Hodel
12400 Ventura Blvd Box 378
Studio City CA 91604
(Above purchase price includes U.S. mailings only)
Personalized Orders Available only after SEPT 1 2019

Other books by author Steve Hodel:


  1. Bud White on August 15, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Just ordered my copy. Looking forward to another fascinating investigation.

    • Steve Hodel on August 15, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      Bud W: Thanks. Hope you enjoy it. Came out of nowhere really thanks to an alert reader, who said, “Hey, might want to check this out.” And a few years later, here we are. steve

  2. Luigi Warren on August 16, 2019 at 1:43 am

    Steve: Can’t wait to read the new book. Been checking out a few summaries of the case — very curious to see how you manage to make sense of this bizarre crime. Sounds like the killer had a female accomplice, which raises a lot of questions… -LW

    • Steve Hodel on August 16, 2019 at 2:14 am

      LW: Yes. You will see how it all comes together. A pretty quick read with over 100 photos/graphics. Steve

      • Luigi Warren on August 16, 2019 at 1:36 pm

        Steve: Strange that GHH bought himself a ’37 Packard sedan and christened it the “Tar Baby.” Or maybe that was just George being George. -LW

        • Steve Hodel on August 16, 2019 at 2:34 pm

          LW: Yes, not strange at all. It’s absolute GHH. Tarbaby is a roadside trap for passing victims. Perfect name for a Black sedan to kidnap/trap victims off the highways and city streets. NAMES were an important part of his psychopathy. skh

  3. Dan Lackey on August 16, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Didn’t either you or one of your brothers mention the “tar baby” cartoon to GHH & he thought it would be a good idea to name the car such?

    • Steve Hodel on August 16, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      Dan L: No, we saw the full-length Disney movie Song of the South (1946) back then, and dad named his car “Tar Baby” and as kids, we thought that was cool, but not at our suggestion. His own “creation.” Of course, it would be another sixty-years before I would make the connection to it being his “kidnap vehicle.”
      See 2016 blog/link below:

      • Joanne blanke on March 27, 2021 at 5:09 pm

        Dear Steve I was fascinated by the realisation that your father was the Most unbelievable serial killer Thank god that you have turned out such a nice man and a wonderful realist It must have been a terrible awakening and putting together the facts and history Many Thanks for being the complete opposite of your father Joanne

        • Steve Hodel on March 27, 2021 at 6:06 pm

          Joanne B:
          Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.

  4. Luigi Warren on August 22, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Steve: Curious about the dual Texas and New Mexico license plates on the suspect vehicle with the unidentified, potentially official insignia/markings. You speculate that this was a NM Department of Health vehicle. The 4/12/38 Gallup Independent article implies that GHH should have been “loaned” to the “Indian Service” (same as the Bureau of Indian Affairs?) by the time of the murders — a federal agency. Seems this 6-month assignment was abruptly cut short by GHH’s relocation to Los Angeles, if it ever began. There are Pueblo Indians (GHH’s cited area of responsibility) in Texas and they are located near El Paso. A 10/18/37 article in the Gallup Independent heralds an initiative from Washington to coordinate the Indian Service across the Southwest. I wonder if the scenario of an Indian Service vehicle wouldn’t make more sense of the dual plates? -LW

    • Luigi Warren on August 22, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      P. S. The “Navajo Service car” shown at gives one idea what an Indian Service vehicle of that period might look like. The insignia is pretty simplistic. The Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs insignia would be more like a CHP shield. -LW

    • Luigi Warren on August 24, 2019 at 2:39 pm


      More notes:

      1. It appears that the 1937 and 1938 editions of the “THE ZIA BOOK” listing all New Mexico auto registrations (distributed to LE) are extant and held by the New Mexico Transportation Historical Society.

      2. The ubiquitous Zia symbol, which appears on New Mexico’s state flag and license plates, resembles the Zodiac Killer symbol. Maybe a play on “ZIA DOC” was in the mix when GHH picked his “nom de guerre?”

      3. GHH’s last big task as District Health Officer in February 1938 involved addressing a rabies outbreak on Navajo lands. This would have involved driving around considerable swathes of territory, ordering and conducting the Pasteur prophylaxis regimen for potentially-exposed individuals, shooting dogs or seizing them for quarantine, and surgically removing the heads from dogs for lab testing. It all sounds quite *dynamic*.


  5. Luigi Warren on August 24, 2019 at 10:20 pm


    Having just read Clint Richmond’s FETCH THE DEVIL, I’m surprised you didn’t raise the idea of a link between GHH and “Dr. Romano Trotsky.” Apart from the impressive circumstantial evidence that Trotsky was somehow involved, Trotsky seems like just the sort of dodgy character GHH might associate with — abortionist, con-man, gigolo and self-proclaimed exiled White Russian aristocrat.

    More importantly, the details Richmond gives on Trotsky’s car seem to line up with the 1932 (check the original ad) “Cadillac V-12 Convertible Coupe” that GHH was trying to sell in February 1938: a recently-acquired 1932 “Cadillac roadster” with New Mexico plates and a “Regulation Physician” plate (whatever that might be) that got a completely new paint job right after the murders. That seems like quite a coincidence.


    • Luigi Warren on August 29, 2019 at 12:43 pm


      Per FETCH THE DEVIL, “Dr. Lukian” was driving a Ford when he and his opera singer wife Helga left Benavides, TX after locals discovered Lukian wasn’t a licensed physician — which would have been sometime around September 1937. They were then in California before relocating to New Mexico in January 1938. Helga noted he had the Cadillac sports coupe when he deserted her on March 27, and that “he frequently showed up, inexplicably, with a different car.” GHH offered his 1932 Cadillac convertible coupe in Albuquerque in early February. Looking at production numbers, I doubt if there were more than three or four roadster-style 1932 Cadillacs registered in New Mexico — more likely, one or two.

      If Lukian bought GHH’s car, GHH would likely have him figured out in a jiffy. He might well have connected the mustachioed mountebank with his Bay Area “Count Trotsky” identity, given his photograph featured prominently in the Oakland Tribune profile of 1/18/34 and he was known about town as a doctor and “White Russian” socialite. The claimed Odessa and Leon Trotsky connections would be up GHH’s alley, given George Sr. was from Odessa and Alexander Zelenko claimed to be a pal of Maxim Gorky.

      Things a potential Lukian/Trotsky connection reminds me of: Barron Harringa, Charles W. Smith, Lewis Gardner and the “White Gardenia” murder, the fortune-hunting Troubetzkoy princes (Youcca and Igor), Count Zaroff and Count Marco. Also GHH’s late night convos at the Sowden House in 1950, with talk of driving girls down to Mexico to perform light opera, staying at the best hotels and raking in the dough. Seems like an interesting angle, at the very least.


      • Steve Hodel on August 29, 2019 at 12:54 pm

        Yes, there are a whole bunch of connections we will likely never be able to link/prove, but I’m sure GHH was at the very least aware of both fellow scoundrels. The car is certainly very unique/distinctive. (More on that to come in “The Early Years.”) Good digging and research. I’d love to be able to document Ron Lawson’s reference/mention of the “Doctors Convention” during that same week at the Hotel Cortez. Seems much more probable now that we know the “two other ‘doctors’ were there during that time and became suspects.”

        • Luigi Warren on August 30, 2019 at 3:10 pm


          Some more detailed speculation:

          The Indian Service, to which GHH was to be loaned (Gallup Independent, 3/12/38) was under the Dept of the Interior / Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Indian health service wasn’t transferred to the Public Health Service until the 50s, although planning for that began in the 30s. Both the BIA and PHS are Federal agencies. If the Indian health service back in ’38 had the same structure as today — which seems likely — one office in Albuquerque had responsibility for virtually all of New Mexico plus one small pueblo in Texas (which does not have enough Indian lands to merit its own administrative hub), located at Ysleta in El Paso.

          A plausible”strawman” hypothesis is that GHH sold his personal car in Albuquerque while on business related to the upcoming “loaner” assignment, anticipating that he would be assigned an Indian health service vehicle. That federal service vehicle had official markings and dual registration in NM and TX. Dr. Lukian/Trotsky, who had just moved to NM from CA in January and was working near El Paso, bought the Cadillac and he and GHH struck up a connection based on their mutual interests. GHH learned his LA job offer was coming through, and decided to enjoy some R&R with Lukian in El Paso/Juarez, before handing in his resignation to the BIA and leaving his new, highly-compromised “friend,” to hold the bag. Lukian, being a smooth talker and perhaps only peripherally involved in the events leading to the Frome murders, walked free, and that was the end of that.


        • Luigi Warren on October 25, 2019 at 12:05 pm


          Just looking up something in ME and ran across “Dad regaled me with stories about his drinking bouts with the Native Americans and how he used to race his twelve-cylinder touring car up and down Arizona highways.” No doubt, then, that the Dr. Hodel selling the 1932 Cadillac V-12 convertible coupe out of a hotel in Albuquerque was GHH.

          Richmond describes Trotsky’s car as a newly-repainted 1932 Cadillac roadster, New Mexico license plate number 4371 with a second plate reading, “Regulation Physician.” The 1938 “Zia Book” with registration details for autos with license plates numbered numbered 0 to 89710 is in the possession of the New Mexico Transportation History Project, per their website.

          Incidentally, in the same section of ME you mention your mother viewing Native American dance rituals with GHH. Indeed, The Gallup Independent of 12/7/37 reports GHH and “Mrs. Hodel” attending Shalako rites at Zuni. But wouldn’t the “Mrs. Hodel” in New Mexico have been Dorothy Anthony? Did GHH revisit New Mexico in the forties with Dorero?


          • Steve Hodel on October 25, 2019 at 12:35 pm

            LW: Not sure, but I am guessing the “Mrs. Hodel” would have been my mom, Dorero, who was hanging out with him at the various Indian reservations and would become pregnant in 1938 with my older brother, Michael, who was born July ’39. Possible that Emilia Hodel (Duncan’s mom) visited him in AZ and maybe Dorothy Anthony (Tamar’s mom) did also, but it would have just been for a short time. Not aware of any revisits by dad or mom to the SW area in the Forties?

        • Luigi Warren on October 25, 2019 at 11:15 pm


          I am guessing that the “Regulation Physician” plate on Trotsky’s Cadillac could have been inherited from the previous owner and that Trotsky “forgot” to remove it, perhaps with a nod and a wink from the seller. Trotsky would presumably not even have been a state-licensed physician. As far as I can determine, “regulation physician” is an old-fashioned term for a doctor who travels around seeing patients “in the field.” That seems more consistent with GHH’s role as a public health official covering tribal lands than with Trotsky’s practice as a jobbing surgical assistant/back-alley abortionist.


        • Luigi Warren on November 30, 2019 at 11:34 am


          From the story about road-racing his V-12 Cadillac in the southwest back in the thirties, it seems like GHH was a “car guy” in his youth, at least. Wondering if you have any sense of whether he would have been interested in auto racing in later life?

          The observation (first advanced by Mike Rodelli) that there is a correlation between events at the Riverside raceway and the movements of the Zodiac in relation to the Cheri Jo Bates murder looks very telling to me. From 1965 to 1967 there were races on just five weekends per year — an average of once every ten weekends. The murder itself (10/30/66), the confession letter (11/29/66) and the “Bates had to die” letters (4/30/67) all line up with raceway events. (The confession letter was postmarked the Tuesday after an event, and after a Thanksgiving holiday.) It has also recently been brought out that the desktop poem at RCC could well have been inspired by a local news report which appeared in the Riverside press on 4/17/65 (h/t to Ricardo Gomez via Richard Grenell). I think the accidental double-meaning in the headline, “Clean-cut youth sought in stabbing,” would have appealed to GHH. In any case, that publication also lines up with a raceway weekend.

          The Riverside races were big social events, attracting many celebrities. The one on the day of the Bates murder drew 80,000 visitors to Riverside — among them Lance Reventlow, the race driver-playboy stepson of race driver-playboy Igor Troubetzkoy.

          It seems very curious that the various times Cheri Jo Bates’ killer must have been in Riverside all line up with these events.

          Best regards,


  6. Anna O'Campo on September 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Is this coming to Audible? I have a long commute to and from work every day.

    • Steve Hodel on September 19, 2019 at 12:37 am

      Anna O: Hopefully, yes, but it will be sometime yet as the person I want to narrate is not available for a number of months and he’s worth waiting for. Will do it as soon as possible. Best, Steve

  7. Luigi Warren on February 15, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Steve: There’s a purported Zodiac letter sent the Vallejo Times Herald in 1987 that says “cars make nice weapons” and also adds the 1977 shocker “The Car” to the list of Zodiac movie references. The relatively obscure horror movie (sometimes dismissed as “Jaws on Wheels”) concerns a demonically-possessed car that menaces a Southwestern desert town. It opens with a sequence of the car killing a young couple by forcing them off a bridge, set to the Dies Irae theme from “Symphonie Fantastique.” Berlioz’s symphony portrays the opium-induced dreams of suicide and murder of an artist in the throws of unrequited love, which seems on point. I think this seldom-discussed 1987 letter could well be a real Zodiac communication based on (among other things) the way that the movie reference seems to mesh with the emerging GHH story. -LW

    • Steve Hodel on February 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm

      LW: Yes, I believe that is definitely a Zodiac letter. And the term “death machine” is also a clue as it was used by journalists in 20s and 30s so that “jargon” would be familiar to GHH, the young newspaper crime reporter. I will eventually be presenting some crimes in “The Early Years” in which GHH actually uses a car as his weapon, so stay tuned, but that will be a “bit down the road.” (pun intended)

Leave a Comment