After Saturday's author saturation, what else could I do on Sunday, except attend a meeting of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime? I joined this organization last year, at Jeff Sherratt's urging, but I am usually unable to get to their meetings. Karma always intrudes; it seems like every time I look at the agenda and decide to go, Ginny from the Placentia Library calls and asks me to volunteer at the Sunday book sale.
I made the extra effort to get to the SinC meeting this week because D.P. Lyle was going to be there as a speaker. When I was writing Freezer Burn, I spent a lot of time on his website, and bought his book, Forensics for Dummies, to figure out a few logistics about a frozen human hand. Naturally, I wanted to hear from the man who told me I was right, that frozen human skin would look a lot like frozen chicken skin.
In addition to Dr. Lyle, an author named Steve Hodel was going to be there to discuss "New Discoveries of the Black Dahlia Investigation." Some of you may already know who Steve is and the significance of his investigation – if you do, keep it to yourselves. As you can tell, I was clueless.
Steve Hodel began by reminding us of the Black Dahlia case, which was a murder committed in January, 1947, in Los Angeles. Elizabeth Short was discovered in a vacant lot in Leimert Park. She was brutally murdered, and her body mutilated beyond your wildest nightmares. The crime was sensational and never solved.
Steve then began to tell us about his own family history, beginning with his father, George Hodel, a precocious child who grew into a brilliant but troubled man. Steve grew up in a lavish, Hollywood lifestyle, and surprisingly, turned to law enforcement as a career. He's now a retired LAPD detective and private investigator.
I know what you're thinking: what do these two stories have to do with one another?
In 1999, Steve's father passed away and he was sent some of his father's old pictures, letters, etc. Imagine Steve' surprise when he saw pictures of a woman who looked just like Elizabeth Short. This began a decade-long search into both his father's past and the unsolved murder. Being in law enforcement, Steve got access to many people and records that the normal person wouldn't be able to see. I won't go into the details, but there's a high probability (over 90%) that his father was not only the Black Dahlia murderer, he was a psychopath and a serial killer.
Steve has written one book about the subject, and is now writing a book about his father.
During Steve's talk, Doug Lyle would intersperse medical opinion. For example, they went through the list of Elizabeth's wounds and Doug explained the difference between a killer's M.O. and their signature. The methods they use to plan, prepare and execute their crime may change to fit the circumstance, or as they learn from their previous attacks. Their signature, however, is the thing or set of things they must do to their victim, no matter how long it takes them.
Two things really struck me as I listened to these two men:
1. Doug Lyle has a typical style of doctor-speak that I would love to study. They have a confidence in their voice, as well as a timbre that, while not loud, cuts through the room so they're always heard.
2. Steve Hodel, for all of his knowledge of his father's evil, still loves him. He spent years upholding the law, he is not doing anything to shield his father's guilt, yet he still remembers his childhood fondly, especially having a brilliant father who could do anything.
A forensics expert who digs through physical and mental barriers to find the truth. A moral man who is mortified by his heritage and conflicted about his past. Wouldn't these all be great characters for a book?