Publication Date: December 6, 2016
On November 8, 1965, 52-year-old investigative reporter and television personality, Dorothy Kilgallen, is found dead of an apparent overdose in her New York City home. Her files are missing and the air conditioning is running. She has been investigating the Kennedy assassination and has told people she is poised to crack it wide open. Was she the reporter who knew too much?
Before he started investigating the Jack Ruby trial, Mark Shaw remembered Dorothy Kilgallen as a panelist on the syndicated CBS game show, “What’s my Line.” Digging into the records, Kilgallen’s name kept coming up and her interest and dedication to cracking the case sparked Shaw’s interest in the enigmatic and talented reporter and her mysterious death. Research for The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen took Shaw 12 years and justice for Kilgallen has become his calling.
Shaw lays out the facts of the scene for readers so that it takes little persuasion to convince readers that something was off. Kilgallen was found by her hairdresser in a room she didn’t typically sleep in with the air conditioner running on a cold November night in New York. The drink next to the bed was outside of the victim’s reach and the book next to her was laid in a way one wouldn’t naturally rest a book they were reading. Kilgallen was dressed in a peignoir with full makeup and wig, which was not her habit. Most peculiarly, all of her files related to the Kennedy case were missing and they were known to be copious. The glass next to the bed contained a drug that was also found in the victim’s system, as Shaw discovered when he finally was able to locate the coroner report. Things clearly don’t line up and the reader can see that from the off which makes the mystery a compelling deep dive for the reader.
Shaw doesn’t limit the possibility to Kilgallen knowing too much, he offers a number of suspects for the reader to explore. Kilgallen was a daring and dedicated investigative reporter who Ernest Hemingway called one of the best female writers in the world. She was also a woman with nuance, and Shaw doesn’t shy away from her flaws. Kilgallen was a woman who loved men and prior to her passing the married reporter had an ongoing affair with a reporter from the Midwest who was many years her junior. She had enemies and Frank Sinatra notably loathed her allegedly because she was not shy when it came to talking and writing about his mob connections. Perhaps the most interesting alternative suspect is the reporter’s husband, actor and Broadway producer, Richard Kollmar. Shaw reached out to the couple’s children when researching his work and they were understandably reluctant to speak with him.
Shaw has lived Dorothy Kilgallen and the passion for the case shows clearly in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen. One of the chief criticisms in reviews on the Amazon site is the author’s need to edit. Admittedly, Shaw does go on. For him, this work is clearly more than a book and a publication, his quest has turned to education of the public for the goal of achieving some sort of closure to the case. Shaw turned over the evidence he turned up to the N.Y.P.D., hoping that they would reopen the case. An officer was assigned and Shaw was hopeful until they abruptly closed the case. Shaw has also been on a quest to bring to light things he feels has been covered up about the Kennedy assassination and that Kilgallen, had she lived long enough, would likely have exposed.
I found The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen absolutely fascinating. I read Kilgallen by Lee Israel many years ago and have always been interested in the reporter’s life and mysterious death. Shaw’s research is thorough and his points well presented. He doesn’t claim to know exactly what happens but leaves reasonable doubt for the reader based on facts rather than gossip, and there’s a lot of gossip out there. The case of Kilgallen’s research and death is a case of truth being stranger than fiction. Shaw went to great lengths to interview people who were afraid to talk for many years as well as digging up documents that had long been buried. He tells us what he knows for sure and then leaves it to the reader to decide what they want to believe.
As a partner to reading The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, be sure to check out Mark Shaw’s talk about the work at the Allen, Texas Library (click here to view the Youtube video). It’s a lengthy video but well worth watching. Was Dorothy Kilgallen the reporter who knew too much or did one of her many other adversaries decide it was time to be done?
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