The Wonderland Murders & The Secret History of Hollywood sheds new light on an old case. Though it happened in 1981, the aftermath of the Wonderland Murders spans decades with characters, details, subplots, and investigative twists that prove the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction adage, including Hollywood underworld’s most violent drug kingpin; three murder trials with zero convictions; a bribed juror and accusations of a corrupt federal agent; the birth of the crack cocaine epidemic; the investigators being investigated themselves, the Black Guerilla Family; the biggest porn actor of his generation, John Holmes, not to mention wild claims about the drug use of many major celebrities; a Boston mafia Don; and finally, the story of a quick-buck televangelist who was supposed to be in witness protection when he ended up on the floor of a Florida motel shot in the face and left for dead…
And who better to present and tell the story than Michael Connelly? Connelly is the bestselling author of 36 novels and one work of non-fiction. With over 80 million copies of his books sold worldwide in 40 foreign languages and over 1 million audiobooks sold in 2020 alone, he is one of the most successful writers working today—he’s also the executive producer of Bosch, the excellent Amazon Prime series which is based on his most popular series of novels.
It was an honor to interview Connelly, as I have been an avid reader of his novels since the early 90s. I’m also an L.A. native who remembers seeing highlights from the John Holmes trial on television as a kid (what can I say—it was the ’80s, and helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet!). While there has been a lot of coverage and speculation on the Wonderland murders, not to mention numerous books, films, and documentaries, Connelly brings fresh and unusual angles to the case through this 8-part podcast, which debuts on July 1 (the 40th anniversary of the crime) on Audible.
Here’s a clip from the show.
One of the most intriguing characters brought to light in Connelly’s podcast is Scott Thorson (aka Jess Marlow). He’s the “missing” Wonderland witness, better known as Liberace’s longtime lover and author of Behind the Candelabra, made into the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning HBO movie directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.
Connelly also brings in law enforcement who worked on the case at the time. Det. Tom Lange and Det. Bob Souza served as the lead detectives on the Wonderland case out of LAPD’s elite investigation unit, the Robbery-Homicide Division (RHD). They are the authors of their personal account of the case, Malice in Wonderland. In the course of their investigation, the detectives dealt with snitches, thieves, drug addicts, and porn stars, as well as a powerful and connected prime suspect who was able to turn the investigation against them.
The podcast features audio clips from the walk-through of the gruesome murder scene and clips from witnesses in the 80s. All in all, it is a fascinating listen—worth the subscription to Audible (if you’re not already)—and even if you’re a true crime buff who thinks you’ve heard everything about the case, The Wonderland Murders & The Secret History of Hollywood is bound to surprise you.
Check out our 1:1 video interview with Michael Connelly here: