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Black Dahlia, Red Rose

The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder

Piu Eatwell (Author)

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With startling new evidence, this gripping reexamination of the Black Dahlia murder offers a definitive theory of a quintessential American crime.

Los Angeles, 1947. A housewife out for a walk with her baby notices a cloud of black flies buzzing ominously in Leimert Park. An "unsightly object" is identified as the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, an aspiring starlet from Massachusetts who had been lured west by the siren call of Hollywood. Her killer would never be found, but Short’s death would bring her the fame she had always sought. Her murder investigation transformed into a real-life film noir, featuring corrupt cops, femmes fatales, gun-slinging gangsters, and hungry reporters, replete with an irresistible, legendary moniker adapted from a recent film—The Black Dahlia.

For over half a century this crime has maintained an almost mythic place in American lore as one of our most inscrutable cold cases. With the recently unredacted FBI file, newly released sections of the LAPD file, and exclusive interviews with the suspect’s family, relentless legal sleuth Piu Eatwell has gained unprecedented access to evidence and persuasively identified the culprit. Black Dahlia, Red Rose layers these findings into a gritty, cinematic retelling of the haunting tale.

As Eatwell chronicles, among the first to arrive at the grisly crime scene was Aggie Underwood, the "tough-as-nails" city editor for the Los Angeles Evening Herald & Express; meanwhile, the chain-smoking city editor for the Los Angeles Examiner, Jimmy Richardson, sent out his own reporters. Eatwell reveals how, through a cutthroat race to break news and sell papers, the public image of Elizabeth Short was distorted from a violated beauty to a "man crazy delinquent." As rumors of various boyfriends circulated, the true story of the complex young woman ricocheting between jobs, lovers, and homes was lost. Instead, kitschy headlines tapped into a wider social anxiety about the city’s "girl problem," and Short’s black chiffon and smoldering gaze become a warning for "loose" women coming of age in postwar America.

Applying her own background as a lawyer to the surprising new evidence, Eatwell ultimately exposes many startling clues to the case that have never surfaced in public. From the discovery of Elizabeth’s notebook, inscribed with the name of the city’s most notorious and corrupt businessman, to a valid suspect plucked from the hundreds of "confessing Sams" by a brilliant, well-meaning doctor, Eatwell compellingly captures every "big break" in the police investigation to reveal a truly viable resolution to the case. In rich, atmospheric prose, Eatwell separates fact from fantasy to expose the truth behind the sinewy networks of a noir-tinged Hollywood. Black Dahlia, Red Rose at long last accords the Elizabeth Short case its due resolution, providing a reliable and enduring account of one of the most notorious unsolved murders in American history.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • October 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-63149-226-6
  • 6.6 × 9.6 in / 368 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverBlack Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder

    Paperback

Endorsements & Reviews

Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell provides fresh evidence that we can never get enough of our favorite pin-up corpse. . . . [A] juicy page turner…capturing both the allure and the perils of the dream factory that promised riches and fame to star-struck young women from tired little towns all over war-weary America and who, even today, find themselves at the mercy of predatory men.” — New York Times Book Review

“There will be other books. There will be other theories. They’ll have to meet the Eatwell standard.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

Black Dahlia, Red Rose . . . put[s] Elizabeth Short at the center of her own story, while still managing to read like a classic noir tale. Eatwell's extensive research pays off in the narrative, which is impressively detailed. . . . Fascinating.” — Bustle

“Eatwell writes brilliantly . . . After decades of cultural appropriation by journalists, novelists and film-makers, Eatwell has finally offered [Elizabeth] Short a type of belated justice. Her book reads like a thriller, but it never loses sight of the real woman whose life was so savagely extinguished.” — Sunday Times

“A meticulously researched work that is delivered with all the punch, pace and suspense of the finest noir thrillers . . . Eatwell never forgets the tragic figure at the heart of her story, while emphasising the callousness of the post-second World War era in which she was so brutally murdered.” — The Irish Times

“Eatwell makes a convincing case for the Black Dahlia killer’s identity.” — Publishers Weekly

“A thoroughly researched look at the crime . . . Eatwell successfully paints a portrait of the city and its police department, signifying that the cover-up and corruption involved in this case (as well as throughout the department) was a product of the time and not reflective of today's practices. . . . .The investigative materials provide a solid foundation for Eatwell's film noir-style narrative; a first purchase where true crime titles circulate widely.” — Library Journal

“Piu Eatwell is hot on the trail of one of the twentieth century’s most famous cold cases—the Black Dahlia murder—and she takes us along for the ride…back to Los Angeles in the winter of 1947, back to the wealth of evidence assembled by the cops, by the tabloids and news dailies, by a 1949 grand jury. The ride is well worth taking, especially when she hones in on a plausible and previously neglected suspect in the case.” — Jon Lewis, author of Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles

“Compulsively readable, impeccably researched and heart-rending at times, Black Dahlia, Red Rose deserves a place at the top of any true crime aficionado’s bookshelf. With forensic precision and an admirable eye for detail, Piu Eatwell not only uncovers plausible new insights into the notorious and brutal murder of Elizabeth Short, she unpicks the mores of the time, delves into the motivations of the main players and blasts through the smoky noir clichés surrounding 1940s Los Angeles.” — Sarah Lotz, author of Day Four and The Three

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