About the Author

Hi.  My name is Joan Renner and I’m the person behind the scenes at Deranged L.A. Crimes.  I am a writer, lecturer, and a social historian with an expertise in historic Los Angeles crime.

I have been fascinated by crime since I was a kid growing up in Chicago. My earliest recollection of following a crime story is when I was about 8 years old. I read in the Chicago Tribute about a boy, close to my age, who had disappeared. He was later discovered murdered. I don’t think the crime was ever solved. The last report I remember reading was that the boy’s father had died of a broken heart. My child brain didn’t grasp the concept. All I knew was that I wanted to find out what made people tick. It’s been a long tie since I was 8, and I have yet to figure people out. It’s a life-long study.

Over the past several years I have  appeared in about 20 episodes of various ID Discovery Channel programs such as: Deadly Women, Evil Twins, Deadly Affairs, Evil Kin, Nightmare Next Door –you get the idea.  If the show has Dead or Evil in the title I’ve probably been interviewed for it at least once.  And, if anyone out there has a connection, I’ve always wanted to appear on Wives with Knives (also on ID Discovery). Who can resist a show with that title?  A few years ago I appeared in a segment on film noir for the Turner Classic Movie series Film Fanatics and I been interviewed by the History Channel for a show on famous mobsters from the early days of crime.

I worked for 6 1/2 years as an archivist at the Los Angeles Police Museum and was an assistant curator for a limited run exhibit based upon the LAPD’s continuing investigation of the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia.  I was fortunate to have been part of a small book team that edited a book of crime scene photos for the Police Museum. The book is LAPD ’53 and was published in May 2015.  James Ellroy, the Demon Dog of American crime fiction, wrote the narrative to accompany the photographs. It was an incredible project and I loved every minute of it.

I am no longer affiliated with the Los Angeles Police Museum, however, I am currently a volunteer archivist/historian for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum, slated to open early in 2017.  Actually there will be two museums. A small museum which will open in the Hall of Justice downtown and feature artifacts reflecting the original inhabitants of the Hall: the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney, and the Coroner.

A museum which will focus exclusively on the history of the Sheriff’s Department will open at what was formerly the Los Angeles County Women’s Jail, Sybil Brand Institute, likely some time in 2017. It is going to be nothing short of spectacular.

I have lectured at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Central Library, and private organizations on such diverse topics as: “Gold Diggers & Snake Handlers: Deranged L.A. Crimes from the Notebook of Aggie Underwood”, “Felonious Flappers: Bad Girls of the Art Deco Era”, and “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: How the ‘Bob’ Changed Hiistory”. The “Gold Diggers…” lecture provided the inspiration for the Deranged L.A. Crimes blog.

In addition to Deranged L.A. Crimes, I write a blog called Vintage Powder Room (http://vintagepowderroom.com) that explores history, women, art, and provides me with a blatantly transparent excuse to add to my extensive collection of vintage cosmetics ephemera. I am honored to have a photograph I took of one of my items included in an exhibit on radio advertising at the Smithsonian.

I am a board member for the non-profit Photo Friends (affiliated with the Los Angeles Public Library). I have served on the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum and on the Los Angeles County Peace Officer Memorial Committee.

Several times a year I am a tour guide for Esotouric, a company that gives, among their many offerings, crime-themed tours of Los Angeles. Look for me on the Black Dahlia; Blood and Dumplings; Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice, and East Side Babylon tours.

After threatening for the past few years to complete a book on some of the cases that reporter Aggie Underwood covered during her time as a reporter, I can finally say that I am nearing  publication!  The book is undergoing its final round of editing, then it will be formatted, designed and ready to go.  The book is entitled: Deranged L.A. Crimes from the Notebook of Aggie Underwood.  Follow the blog for news and information about the book and other Deranged events.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you– the readers of Deranged L.A. Crimes–and I’ve corresponded with many more. I am consistently impressed by the depth and breadth of your knowledge about crime, human nature and a variety of other related topics. I am in stellar company.

Thank you all for your readership. I truly appreciate it.

Best,

Joan

Feel free to contact me at:  jrenner@derangedlacrimes.com

43 thoughts on “About the Author

  1. Great stuff thanks for your work!!! I have am writing a 1950’s piece on Los Angeles crime and the Cold War in the movie industry

    • Alan, I appreciate your kind words. I’ve been planning this blog for quite a while now and I’m pleased that, so far at
      least, it has been well received. The 1950s in L.A. — what a terrific time!

  2. Your work is magnificent and much appreciated! Thank you so very much for sharing your findings and knowledge with all of us.
    With great appreciation,
    Elizabeth.

    • Elizabeth, I thank you very much for your kind words and I’m delighted to know that you are enjoying the blog. I value your readership. Best — Joan

  3. Me too, Joan. I have been enjoying your stories since you started this blog. Great writing, especially for a time in history when not much detail is available in one place. Kudo’s!

    • Dolores, I’m always searching for stories that may not be familiar to most people — they fascinate me, and I’m glad
      to know that others enjoy them too. Thanks again. Best — Joan

  4. Hello Joan,

    So glad we discovered your contact information. I am the half-sister of Diane Sparks (aka Edjana Ingram). I never knew her personally, or even knew of her existence. My Father (Diane’s Father, as well) never revealed having another child from a previous marriage. Since family rumors proved to be true about her existence and murder, I have been consumed with knowing more about her and the circumstances of her death. Through sparse clues and research, I found a nephew of Diane’s living in the next county to mine in Northern California and we, together, have done more research and shared photos, letters and memorabilia regarding Diane’s family and life. The nephew is the son of Diane’s other half-sister, Marie and he, too, has a strong curiousity about her, as he only heard of her through stories his Mother would share with him.

    Do you know if police reports and court records from the trial are available ? I’d love to talk to you sometime.

    Thank you,

    Irene Ingram Smith

    • Hi, Irene:

      First of all let me say that I am sorry for your loss — it’s sad that you never had an opportunity to know Diane. The
      ripples of a murder are felt long after the crime has been committed.

      The research that I did on the case consisted primarily of news reports (surprisingly, often the best source of information on
      old criminal cases). It’s possible that information on the case is available at the Hall of Records but that’s not a certainty and you
      have to visit in person (and even then it’s hit & miss — some of the staff are wonderfully helpful and others, not so much).

      I’ll check with a couple of people I know who may have deeper insights into where to search for info. I’m glad that you and Diane’s
      nephew are giving her some time and attention.

      I would be happy to speak with you too.

      Best,

      Joan

  5. I recently watched a Kenneth Anger documentary, and from that this lust of old hollywood scandals awoke within me! Id always found the golden era exciting and wish i had been apart of it, but never looked into it further than just watching a couple of movies. Im happy i watched that documentary that night since it lead me to find and ‘like’ your facebook page! I love your blog and the photos you share with us!! Its made me truly fall in love with old time LA and the crime and scandals that surrounded it.

    • Joanna – I’m so glad that you found the FB page and the blog. Like you, I have a love of old crimes and scandals. L.A. has an incredible history of bad behavior. Hollywood’s proximity to downtown, the constant influx of beautiful people and buckets of cash make for stories that couldn’t happen anywhere but here. Again, thank you for your readership and welcome to Deranged L.A. Crimes. Best — Joan

    • Adrienne — I’m glad you found the page too, and pleased that you are enjoying it. I appreciate your comment and your readership. Best — Joan

  6. Greetings Joan
    I stumbled upon your blog today while searching on Ray Pinker. The name is used for a character in LA Noire, a vid game about an LAPD detective in 1947. Been splitting time between the game and looking at your blog.
    Thanks to Raymond Chandler and Warner Bros, I’ve been interested in historical LA for a long time. Great info here, thank you! There’s a thread, LA Noirish, on SkyscraperPage Forum which has thousands of images of old LA. You may find it of interest.
    Regards
    Earl
    PS – If LA is at the end of the world, does that make Sydney a new beginning?

    • Hi, Earl — Welcome to Deranged! Ray Pinker is one of my favorites, a ground-breaking criminalist to be sure. I played LA Noire when it
      first came out. The history is okay, but my favorite part of the game was “badging” civilians and forcing them out of their cars so I could
      drive off in them. I wrecked hundreds of vehicles that way and chased many an innocent person off the sidewalks and bus benches of L.A. You’ve mentioned a couple of my other favorites, Raymond Chandler and Warner Bros. (for their marvelous gangster pictures). I try to visit LA Noirish on the Skyscraper Forum regularly.

      Thank you for your comments and thanks for your interest in Deranged, I appreciate it.

      Best,

      Joan

      P.S. If I’m not mistaken didn’t Australia offer many miscreants a new beginning? And yes, I’m convinced that L.A. is the end of the world.

  7. I have been haunted by the brutality of the murder of my friend Florence Nancy Brown for decades. I could have easily been the victim as I left a meeting just a few minutes before Flo and took the same route home. I have never been so frightened in my life as the day I sat in the witness chair and faced Steven Hurd. He had the eyes of pure evil. I lived just miles away from Mule Creek Prison and did not know that Hurd was there. I would have attended every parole hearing. He destroyed so many lives and took the opportunity away from children to have the influence of a very special teacher.
    Thank you,
    Genie

    • Genie – I offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your friend and the trauma that you have endured over the years as a result. She sounds like she was a remarkable woman with a loving family and a bright future ahead of her. The way she died was appalling and I abhor the fact that Craig Hulse, someone my brother and I knew growing up, participated in that crime and was himself responsible for the murder of a young gas station attendant. At least Hurd is gone now and my understanding is that Hulse remains such a poor candidate for parole that it is unlikely that he will ever be released. Some people commit crimes of out of avarice, anger or lust but there are a few people who are truly evil. It is my belief that Steven Hurd fell into the latter category. Thank you for sharing your memory of Florence Nancy Brown with me. I feel certain that she lives through the people whose lives she touched. Best, Joan

      • I am the youngest sister of Florence Nancy Kracher Brown. Since I read your blog by accident, my family and I have all written to Gov. Brown to protest the release of Craig Hulse. We were grateful that his parole was overturned. I had no current knowledge of the killers, thinking they were all dead. I was grateful for your blog, which allowed us the ability to state our feelings and have input. He will be up for another parole hearing before 3/26/16.

        • Ann – First let me say how sorry I am for your loss. Talking to the families of murder victims has helped me to understand how profoundly their
          lives are changed no matter how many years pass. I’ve been in touch with Jerry Carlin’s widow and I know that she is keeping an eye on any
          further parole dates for Craig too. California is one of the few states in which the Governor can override a parole board decision so your letters
          are important. If you need anything from me please do not hesitate to ask. –Joan

        • Ann,

          I am one of Nancy’s former students in Costa Mesa, and we remained friends while she lived in Irvine before her move to El Toro.

          She was one of my all-time favorite teachers, a lovely friend to her students and the kind of person the world can ill afford to lose. Her death was devastating to me and many others.

          I have been following Hulse’s parole hearings over the years, and previously wrote to the Orange County District Attorney to encourage his efforts. Even before I found this blog I was composing my latest letter to the parole board for the March 2016 hearing. The last parole attempt was a close call — it only failed because Gov. Brown blocked it — and so I’m determined to do my best to see that Moose Hulse says in Vacaville.

          Please drop me a note if I can help in any way. I’ll be happy to share my letter with you.

          — walt

          • Walt — Over the past few years I’ve been in contact with some of the family members of the victims in this case and I believe a few of them plan to attend the March 17th hearing. I don’t know that there is much the rest of us can do unless parole is granted. In that case we can, as we have previously, write to the governor to petition for a reversal. From everything I’ve heard Mrs. Brown was a wonderful woman and a terrific teacher. Her loss was felt acutely by many people. I’ll post updates on the hearing whenever I get them. Thank you so much for writing and for caring about the victims. Best, Joan

    • Genie,

      I was one of Mrs. Brown’s students in Costa Mesa. We moved to Irvine in 1966, and there she was just two blocks away! Before they outgrew the condo and moved to El Toro, I’d occasionally drop by to say hello and sometimes a few other former Costa Mesa students came along. I must have been in the 7th grade by then.

      I’ve always taken solace in that she knew what her former students thought of her. A terrific teacher.

      (Funny you call her Flo — she was always Mrs. Brown to us 10-year-olds, and I think in Irvine she went by Nancy. But it’s been nearly 50 years, and my memory is foggy.)

      — walt

  8. Joan: I just discovered your website. It’s very fascinating. Many thanks for sharing. Greetings from Minneapolis.

    Todd

  9. Hi Joan,
    I just wanted to add my name to those who thank you for creating such a great site. It is my favorite site having to do with Los Angeles Noir! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
    Michael

    • Camilla — Actually Dr. Hodel was only a suspect briefly in the original investigation. I know because I was fortunate to be an assistant curator for the L.A. Police Museum’s limited run exhibit a couple of years ago. We were given unprecedented access to the original files. While Steve Hodel may believe his father to be guilty of Elizabeth Short’s murder (and several others from what I understand including the murder of James Ellroy’s mother; murders in Chicago to which William Heirens confessed and was convicted; and the infamous unsolved Zodiac slayings in Northern California). I respectfully disagree with Hodel’s thesis which was predicated on a photo which he mistakenly identified as being Short. I believe Dr. Hodel was a scumbag who molested his own daughter, but not a killer. Without a doubt the Black Dahlia case is one of the most intriguing unsolved homicides in L.A. crime history. Thank you so much for you comment, and for reading Deranged L.A. Crimes. Best, Joan

  10. Many thanks for all the work you put into this page, is by far one of the few if not the only one of it’s kind. Is beyond informative, I wouldn’t call it entertaining since we are talking about crimes that took place decades ago, but nonetheless is a great read into LA’s crime history. By the way, I am literally glued to my screen!

    • Thanks, Ena! I have a passion for L.A. and I’m particularly fascinated by crime. I am glad that you are enjoying the blog and I hope you’ll keep coming back. Best — Joan

  11. I recently “stumbled” across this blog and I am just lovin’ it! Thank you for bringing lost history back to us! Brilliant writing and excellent topics. I can’t get enough of this.. now I’m not going to get any work today because I’m going to reading this all day.. thanks a lot =)

    • Thank you so very much for your kind words! You made my day! I appreciate your readership and I’ll try to keep you entertained. Best — Joan

  12. Joan. Thank you for all the work, research and excellent writing. As a former LAPD officer and history buff I am hooked on your site. I just visited the LAPD museum located at the old Highland Park station on York Ave. Your site is icing on that cake. Cheers, tom

    • Tom, thank you so much for your kind words. It is especially gratifying to me when I get positive feedback from people currently in, or retired from, law enforcement. Don’t you love the L.A. Police Museum? It has been my home away from home for the past five years, and I’ve only recently become more active with LASD’s museum as well. As you can tell, I’m a history buff too and I thrive on this stuff. Thank you again! Best, Joan

  13. Hello,
    I stumbled upon your website while researching my great grandfather Clarence Serrano.He was a Sergeant and eventually a Captain in the LASD. I didn’t know him much as he had Alzheimer’s when I was growing up. I was wondering if you had any other info on him or knew of anywhere off hand I could continue researching as google isn’t much help.

    Thanks,
    Cody Brown

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