Creating an Index of Evil

Steve Hodel believes his father was not just one, but three of the most notorious serial killers in history, and thus ranked among the most evil murderers of all time.

In "Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story," Hodel makes the case that his father, George Hodel, murdered Elizabeth Short – known after her death as "The Black Dahlia" -  and mutilated her body back in 1947.

In his most recent book, Steve Hodel, a former Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective, attempts to show that his father may also have been the Lipstick Killer (known for begging the police to catch him in a message written in lipstick in 1945) and the Zodiac Killer, who murdered people in California in the late 1960s.

Hodel makes a strong case for the Dahlia killing and a somewhat flimsier case for the others, though the resemblance of his father to the police sketch of the Zodiac is striking.

Hodel named his second book "Most Evil," after a television show of the same name which purports to categorize killers on a scale of evil. The TV show uses a scale from 1 to 22 to "rate" evilness, with 1 being someone who kills in self-defense, and 22 being someone who inflicts extreme torture on their victims and then kill them.

For example, the "Most Evil" show rated Charles Manson as a 15 (psychopathic spree or multiple murderer) and Jeffrey Dahmer as a full 22. Jim Jones rated a 22, and Ed Gein, who "Psycho" Norman Bates was based on, only rated a 13– he was a psychopathic murderer who killed out of rage.

The Black Dahlia killer rated a full 22 on the evil scale, making him the most evil type of murderer possible, if you buy into the show’s categorization scheme: hence the name of Hodel’s second book, "Most Evil," which accuses his deceased father of being one of the most evil killers in history.

Hodel doesn’t talk much about the "Most Evil" categorization, but instead methodically lays out the case for his father being a globe-hopping, continent-crossing debonair, homicidal sophisticate of the like which is almost always seen in films and very rarely shows up in real life.

The interesting part "Most Evil" and "The Black Dahlia Avenger," however, is Hodel himself, as he writes about his findings and his slow, horrified realization that his father may have been a killer (and was certainly depraved). Hodel, who dedicated his professional life to catching killers, struggles to come to terms with his father’s evil legacy throughout both books, and even chronicles the reactions of some of his relatives to his theories.

It’s Steve Hodel’s fight to discover the truth about his father and what it means that makes "Most Evil" interesting, not George Hodel’s alleged murder and torment of other human beings, and not the case Steve assembles for his readers.