The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw

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 investing 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 victims 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 was found to contain a drug that was also found in the victims 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 a most interesting alternative suspect is the reporter’s husband, actor and Broadway Producer, Richard Kollmar. Shaw reached out to the couples 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 Amazon cite the author’s need to edit. Admittedly, Shaw does go on. For him, this work is clearly more than a book and with 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’d turned up to the NYPD 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 reporters life and mysterious death. Shaw’s research is through and his points well presented. He doesn’t claim to know exactly what happens but leaves reasonable doubt for the reader based in fact 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 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 the watch. 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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Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i by David E. Stannard

Publication Date: May 2, 2006

In 1931, Thalia Massie stumbled from the brush into a car when she accused six Hawaiian men of gang raping her. When the accused went to trial and walked away due to a hung jury; Thalia’s mother and husband kidnapped and killed one of the subjects launching a highly contested trial. If aristocratic white folk exacting a revenge killing in a racially charged environment wasn’t enough to attract the attention of the world, Clarence Darrow for the defense in what would be in last case, was certainly a draw.

 

This retelling of the Massie case paints the picture of a flighty and somewhat spoiled woman whose marriage to a Navy officer stationed in Hawaii was on the rocks. The author broaches slightly the idea that Mrs. Maisse wasn’t raped but rightly doesn’t dwell on the matter because that’s not the point. The point is that there was serious grounds for doubt that the five accused were guilty of the crime. In fact, witnesses saw the accused Hawaiian men far away from where Mrs. Maisse was found on the night of the alleged rape. It certainly seemed to be a case of suggestion when they were identified. Suddenly the woman who claimed not to have been able to see her attackers clearly, identified them without a shadow of the doubt. It bears mentioning that men who have been locked up for years for crimes for which they were convicted by eyewitness testimony have been found to be innocent because people simply cannot be relied upon to remember things in detail.

The plan that Grace Fortescue, Thalia Massie’s mother and Thomas Massie, developed was that they would kidnap the newly freed accused men and torture them until they admitted their crime. The kidnapped Horace Ida and beat him badly but that didn’t satisfy Mrs. Fortescue’s thirst for vengeance. They next kidnapped Joseph Kahahawai, a prizefighter; and in the course of questioning, someone shot him. They were caught pretty much immediately and that’s when the oddest thing happened – people rallied behind them. They were sent flowers and gifts and had it not been for one brave Judge; they would not have been tried for the crime at all. Stories started to travel to mainland of the lawless of Hawaii and the “Hawaiian problem.” There were tales of Native Hawiians roaming the streets and  terrorizing innocent women. Filmmakers who had worked in Hawaii rose to the defense of her people. Grace Fortescue had suffered some financial bad luck but was able to use her newfound fame and sympathy to raise money to hire the best lawyer she could find – Clarence Darrow – champion of the underdog. So why would he take this case, you wonder? The author goes into the motivations and also the damage Darrow’s reputation took in certain circles for what could be seen as selling out.

Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i is an engrossing work on non-fiction. It starts slowly going over Thalia Massie’s life and some what damaged relationship with her husband. He behavior when she stumbling out of the brush was confounding. She said to the driver of a car she flagged down; “Are you white people” before climbing into the car on to the lap of the couple’ teen son and demanding to be driven to her home. When the revenge killing happens, the story picks up pace and the jaw dropping nature of it’s place in time engrosses the reader. I think many of us have probably said; “If anyone hurts my daughter, I’ll be the one to wind up in jail” but would we carry through? Would we be as proud of our actions as Fortescue certainly was. I don’t think there’s any question that she believed she had the right man but certainly the benefit of looking back at a full picture leads the modern reader to know that this poor Hawaiian man very likely died without purpose.

Stannard presents the readers of Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i  with a painstaking researched work that is one of the stories that is stranger than fiction. That a crime that impacted Hawaii in the way it did is not more widely known is confunding to this reader. If you enjoy true crime or legal history, pick this one up today.

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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham, it’s 1954 and Juliet Hulme and her friend, Pauline Parker, killed Pauline’s mother. The crime, committed by two teenage girls who lived rich fantasy lives and simply did not want to be separated when Juliet would be sent to South Africa, rocked Auckland, New Zealand. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century chronicles the crime, trial and Peter Jackson film that led to the hunting down of the two long released convicts.

It seems a widely known fact that English author, Anne Perry, was born as Juliet Hulme and spent five years in prison after she and Pauline Parker were convicted of killing Pauline’s mother. Given the first name when released from prison and returning to England, she took her stepfather’s last name. A secret for many years, the release of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures brought the crime back to the public eye and interest in tracking down the now elderly teen killers. Continue reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter

Publication Date: March 1, 2018

In Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter, Belle Gunness was a serial killer who operated between 1884 and 1908. She killed at least 14 people (including her own adopted daughter) but possibly as many as 40. Detected in 1908, she apparently died in a house fire with her remaining three adopted children, and though a man went to trial for the arson and murder, not everyone was convinced.

Let me say right from the start, Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Not a generally well-known serial killer today, Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American who operated out of La Porte, Indiana. Her victims appear to have been exclusively her fellow Norwegian immigrants. She’d advertised in the Norwegian papers located in Chicago for a handyman and then would operate a love scam quite a lot like we see today online. Continue reading Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter

Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori

Publication Date: July 8, 2008

 

Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen TintoriIn Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori, the author writes about hints of matters that no one in the family would talk about. When the sister became the “one they got rid of” as a result of her aunt’s slip of the tongue, Tintori felt compelled to pursue the secret that her family had kept for many years. The author takes the reader on the process from innocent genealogy research to a deep secret uncovered.

Continue reading Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori

The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh

Publication Date: November 26, 2008

 

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On March 9, 1963, two men on a burglary spree were stopped as a result of a routine traffic offense by two plainclothes LAPD officers in an unmarked car. The men took the officers, both former Marines, to a field and executed one of them. The Onion Field is an in-depth analysis of the case by Joseph Wambaugh, an LAPD officer himself at the time.

 

 

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Death in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trial, 1895 by Patrick Brode

Publication Date: June 24, 2005

 

Death in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trial, 1895 by Patrick BrodeDeath in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trail, 1895 by Patrick Brode is the story of Frank Westwood who was gunned down in front of his home that he shares with his parents in Parkdale, Ontario, on October 6, 1894. The 18-year-old lingers three days before dying and the police have few leads. A single tip leads the police to Clara Ford, a 33-year-old seamstress of mixed race. Clara claims that she killed Frank, but did so because he had attempted to sexually assault her. In a highly sensational case that stands as a intimate look into Victorian Toronto, would Clara be convicted or would an admitted killer go free?

 

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A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter’s Story of Love and Murder by Rachel Corbett

Publication Date: November 14, 2011

 

A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter’s Story of Love and Murder by Rachel CorbettIn A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter’s Story of Love and Murder by Rachel Corbett, the author tells the story of growing up and knowing that her mother’s ex-boyfriend had killed himself, but not knowing the full details of his death. When she finds out that his death was the suicide part of a murder/suicide, she launches a quest to find out more about the crime and why this man she considered a father would have done such a thing.

 

Continue reading A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter’s Story of Love and Murder by Rachel Corbett