The City of Devils: 6 Books about Los Angeles Killers

Cover of "Blood Cold". Photo: Courtesy of Open Road Media.

Cover of “Blood Cold”. Photo: Courtesy of Open Road Media.

DeAnna Janes (THE LINEUP) – Sure, Los Angeles seems like it’s all sunshine and palm trees and superstardom. But behind all that glitz and glamour, there are a group of dark souls, who give new meaning to the saying “paint the town red.”

1. “The Hillside Stranglers,” by Darcy O’Brien

For most of us, “hanging with the guys” translates to golfing on weekends or drinking too much beer. But for cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, it means kidnapping, raping, and butchering females, then disposing of their bodies in the hills above Los Angeles. In a true crime read that blends narrative with fact, the late Darcy O’Brien offers a fascinating peek into the notorious murders that made a couple of menials famous for more than 30 years ago.

2. “Black Dahlia Avenger,” by Steve Hodel

At 22, Elizabeth Short was murdered, her body bisected, mutilated, and left on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles. For weeks, the cops came up empty, the killer remained at large, and a seemingly unrelated slew of murders went unsolved. Now, more than 50 years later, New York Times and international bestselling author and retired LAPD detective Steve Hodel puts a name to the faceless killer.

3. “A Death in California,” by Joan Barthel

One of the most bizarre tales to go down in the annals of American crime, the story of socialite Hope Masters, her fiancé, and the debonair killer who posed as a journalist to get close to her is one for the books. In A Death in California, award-winning writer Joan Barthel chronicles the days leading up to that bloody night in the Sierra Nevada foothills and leaves nothing to the imagination—including how the gun tasted in Masters’ mouth the night her was fiancé killed.

4. “Manson,” by Jeff Guinn

When it comes to old Charlie and his killing commune, there are more books, articles, and journals than grisly crime scenes. So take it from us: New York Times bestselling author Jeff Guinn’s authoritative read is the only one you need. With previously unpublished photographs and interviews with Manson’s actual family, Guinn sheds new light on Manson’s helter-skelter career as one of America’s most wanted.

5. “Blood Cold,” by Dennis McDougal

Though actor Robert Blake spent his childhood and many of his adult years on screen, it’s behind the camera where he played the role of a lifetime: the husband who allegedly shot his wife in cold blood. Acclaimed writer Dennis McDougal leaves no sordid detail suppressed: From the now-acquitted Blake’s seething hatred for the grifter he married after fathering her child, to the pornography scam Bonny Lee Bakley used to prey on old men, it’s all there.

6. “The Night Stalker,” by Philip Carlo

A product of the mean streets of Brooklyn and the bestselling author of “The Iceman”, Philip Carlo is no stranger to evil. But it’s with “The Night Stalker” that he actually came face to face with the devil. For three years, Carlo sat with serial killer, Satan worshiper, and California death row squatter Richard Ramirez, sorting through every detail of Ramirez’s 13-victim killing spree. The result: this definitive true crime masterpiece. (And years of therapy.)