IN THE MESQUITE: The Solving of the 1938 West Texas Kidnap Torture Murders of Hazel and Nancy Frome Now Available in Print and Ebook- Cops and Writers Weigh In On 6th Book in Series

September 11, 2011
Los Angeles, California


In The Mesquite Announcement



  1. Luigi Warren on September 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Steve: While I think this case could use some more direct linkage evidence to get it over the hump, it rings true to me that GHH was responsible for these murders. It seems to represent a logical step in an evolution — from cocky, rebellious, crime-fixated, high-IQ delinquent in the Jazz Age Hickman-Leopold-Loeb mode — to sadistic, misogynistic middle-aged high society “art killer” — to older, decadent thrill killer roving around his old haunts by car on flying visits to the U.S., reliving his past glories with rather less actual torture and a lot more publicity-seeking power games. Also makes the Zodiac’s expressed interest in BADLANDS (Terrence Malick’s movie based on the Starkweather-Fugate murders) a lot easier to understand. It’s demystifying, in a way. -LW

    • Steve Hodel on September 11, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      LW: Agreed. It IS demystifying in that it does clarify and underscore so many of his unique crime scene signatures. (I counted 19 of them.) To my eyes, along with all the linkage I present in ITM, is the absolute terror/horror of the overkill. First, he creates the terror in his victims by written note, which causes them to panic and flee then like a bird of prey he swoops in for the torture/overkills. I expect more will come as has been the case in so many of his crimes, but at least the publication gets the ball rolling so to speak. Strong probability that a DNA link would exist with the evidence booked in Austin Crime Lab, but dollars to donuts its all been disposed of? steve

      • Luigi Warren on September 14, 2019 at 6:38 pm

        Steve: One recalls the line “CAN’T ESCAPE ZODIAC” from CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND. The story of the 1938 Frome murders, featuring as it does a mysterious, threatening note, a doom-laden reading from a local psychic, an implacable cross-country pursuit and a crazy, exiled White Russian count, has obvious resonances with both CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939) and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932). What did the former “Zia Doc” GHH think about that? All “grist for the mill,” I suspect. -LW

        • Steve Hodel on September 14, 2019 at 7:51 pm

          Yep, seems like GHH was just one short step ahead of “production” on this one. Usually, he took from them, this was a rare reversal. Though I’m sure we can find his “plot” buried in many of the earlier 1930s films. I think this looks more like plagiarizing from the newspapers. (Shhhhh.)

          • Luigi Warren on September 15, 2019 at 4:02 pm

            Steve: Everything Zodiac-related needs to be revisited in light of the Frome story. LADY DOOM AND THE DEATH WHEEL is another case in point. The Western setting, Lady Doom being detained in Hangman’s Noose when a wheel breaks on her wagon, the saloon, the deadly prophecies, Tim Holt (“REDMASK OF THE RIO GRANDE”) pursuing Lady Doom cross-country to her death (“REDMASK IS FOLLOWING ME! I’VE GOT TO SHAKE HIM!”) — it all starts to look strangely familiar. -LW

          • Steve Hodel on September 15, 2019 at 4:20 pm

            Well, why the thematic parallels are certainly there as you describe them, I see this all coming much later with Spellbound (1945) and Tim Holt and Carol “Black Widow” Forman Foreman coming into his life and house in the late Forties. Interestingly, in the 1946 film-noir, NOCTURNE (story by then Dorothy Hodel’s sometime lover, Rowland Brown) we see Carol has a small part as a secretary.
            I think she moved into the Sowden/Hodel Franklin House as a “roomer” in 1948. Then the comic book, Redmask, “Lady Doom and the Death Wheel” coming in June/July 1952, with GHH’s clear plagiarism and linkage to it and Holt with his “By Knife, By Gun, By Rope, By Fire” etc. One of the main problems in attempting to live inside GHH’s mind is the fact that it was so movieola-like. Editing, cutting, clipping from the long-ago past and the immediate present. Cut here, clip there. One can find puzzle pieces scattered throughout his fifty-year crime spree. He left thoughtprints everywhere and they fit in place in the NOW as well as back in the 1920s. Total clusterf—.

  2. mark gardner on September 12, 2019 at 5:46 pm


    I shall be ordering the book this week. I originally thought it had nothing to do with GHH. Where did he get the energy, the urge and the mobility from? Rhetorical question.

    But Christ, what a thing your father was.

    And yes, I have all the other books, from BDA1 to Most Evil2.

    Keep going, please. I’m hooked

    • Steve Hodel on September 12, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Mark G: Exactly my question. With all his surreal/serial killings where did he find time for his day job? You’re hooked and I’m gaffed, but promise I will “keep going.” Best, Steve

      • mark gardner on September 15, 2019 at 11:54 am


        Didn’t mean to sound insensitive. It’s just that I was completely taken aback to find that ‘In The Mesquite’ was indeed about GHH.

        In the heat of the moment, I forgot this truth: one man’s fascination is another man’s Cross ….

        And, of course, LA noir, in novels and films, had to come from somewhere.

        Eternally grateful for all your work, which appears to have silenced the scoffers for good.


        • Steve Hodel on September 15, 2019 at 1:36 pm

          Mark G: Thanks again.

  3. A reader on December 21, 2019 at 3:57 am

    I just read the book and have been reading through comments on the blog but I haven’t seen this anywhere: am I the only one who sees the letters “G” and “H” in the positioning of the victims’ arms?

    • Steve Hodel on December 21, 2019 at 10:00 am

      A Reader:

      Not sure which crime scene you are referring to? If it is the drawing showing the position of Nancy and Mabel Frome in the newspaper clipping I don’t see it and neither does that drawing correctly show the exact positions and no crime scene photo available. If rather, you are referring to the Dahlia crime scene and positioning of the arms I can see how one could see both letters “G and H”. That said, I think it is much more likely that he is referencing the long-held and traditional mimicking of the Surrealists symbol for The Minotaur. (Arms over the head in a surrender position.)

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