Exquisite Corpse Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder

The notorious Black Dahlia murder case remains one of the most intriguing crime stories of the last century. Now Exquisite Corpse gives us compelling and unexpected arguments that bring the reader tantalizingly close to a solution. Kudos to Nelson and Bayliss for their artful detection.

—Linda Fairstein, former head of the Manhattan DA’s Sex Crimes Unit and New York Times bestselling novelist

Laying down a single, art-historical thread, Nelson and Bayliss emerge as this labyrinth's most brilliant Ariadnes.

—Ed Park, Modern Painters

Crossing art history with forensic psychiatry, Bayliss and Nelson take us on a Chandleresque ramble through ’40s L.A.… Equal parts Artforum and True Detective, Exquisite Corpse is as thought provoking as it is tastefully depraved—a pillow book for Hannibal Lecter.

—Mark Dery, author of The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink

Did someone in L.A. pass [the crime scene photographs] on—as FYI, or as tribute? Now there’s a frisson. Of course, Duchamp could have seen the pictures and felt moved to imitate them in some way without having a toehold in a murder plot. That is the most intriguing point, the complicity that hangs over our repressed murderousness, and lends an air of dread to our separated kinship.

—David Thomson, The New Republic

There’s a reason the unsolved 1947 murder of an unknown Hollywood wannabe continues to command our violence-glutted, sensation-seeking, ever-shorter attention span—the artistry of the hand that skillfully bisected, exsanguinated, and arranged the two halves of her body, transforming a crime scene into a surrealist tableau. As attractive as she had been in life, Elizabeth Short was indeed an exquisite corpse. Nelson and Bayliss have produced the ultimate collision between highbrow and lowbrow. You won’t know where in your library to shelve their book, but no matter—you’ll find it hard to put away.

—Kathryn Harrison, author of The Kiss and The Binding Chair


by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss
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