The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen Hardcover – December 6, 2016
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"The compelling story of Dorothy Kilgallen, the celebrated journalist once called 'the most powerful female voice in America.'" -- - Nick Pileggi, author of Wise Guy and Casino
"Mark Shaw has written a gripping biography of Dorothy Kilgallen wrapped in the greatest cold case of all time, the JFK assassination. This is a real page-turner and I defy anyone to put it down once they have started it." -- Greg Desilet, author and Language and Communications Scholar
“Mark Shaw is the real deal when it comes to investigative journalism – as was Dorothy Kilgallen – one of the most important multi-media icons of the 20th century." -- Michael Harrison, Publisher, Talkers Magazine and Host, Up Close and Far Out Podcast
"Expertly written, Mark Shaw's "The Reporter Who Knew Too Much," is a riveting true-life murder mystery, thoroughly accessible to readers if all backgrounds. Reference notes and an index round out this "must-read" for true crime connoisseurs. Highly recommended!" -- Midwest Book Review
About the Author
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Kilgallen was born on July 3, 1913, in Chicago, Illinois. Her dad, James, was a highly-respected reporter for the Hearst newspaper chain. From her earliest days, “she yearned to be a reporter like her father.”
In his book, “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” author Mark Shaw tells her compelling story. He focuses on her work as a first class investigative reporter and more particularly on her highly suspicious death, on November 8, 1965, at her townhouse in Manhattan.
Kilgallen was very fond of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). She boosted him whenever she could in her “Journal-American” column. In 1962, thanks to “JFK’s aide Pierre Salinger,” she and her youngest son, Kerry, then eight years old, visited the White House and met the president. The meeting left a deep impression on Kilgallen.
When JFK was murdered in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Kilgallen refused to accept the party line put out by the FBI’s Director, J. Edgar Hoover. He insisted that the supposed assassin Harvey Lee Oswald “acted alone.” His agency then took over all the files of the Dallas Police Department. When Oswald was shot and killed, on November 24, 1963, by Jack Ruby, Kilgallen made it her business to attend his trial. Like some Americans of my generation, I watched Ruby shoot and kill Oswald on live television. It was beyond shocking.
Author Shaw details Kilgallen’s extensive journalism background. Her “Voice of Broadway” column, where she also covered Hollywood and politics, was syndicated in close to 200 papers. She attended and wrote about some of the biggest trials of her era: Bruno Hauptmann, Dr. Sam Sheppard, Dr. Bernard Finch, Wayne Lonergan, Anna Antonio and John Profumo.
In addition, Kilgallen was a regular panelist on the popular CBS TV game show, “What’s My Line?” from 1950 until her death. She was known for having a “terrific sense of humor.” The magazine, “Variety,” praised Kilgallen as “The First Lady of Broadway.”
Ernest Hemingway, himself, had labeled Kilgallen as one of the “greatest women writers in the world.” She had become “a media icon” in her own time. Shaw wrote that Kilgallen was a feminist “before the word was coined.”
For a while, Kilgallen also did a popular early morning program, called: “Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick,” with her husband, Richard Kollmar, on WOR Radio, in NYC. He was an actor and producer. They had three children together. An Irish-Catholic, Kilgallen attended weekly Mass.
Investigating JFK’s death became a passion for Kilgallen. She asked a lot of questions. Given that Ruby was the owner of a “strip tease honky tonk,” she asked: How was he allowed to “stroll in and out of police headquarters in Dallas as if it were a health club?” She let Hoover and his cronies know that she was on the job. On November 29, 1963, she filed a column entitled, “Oswald File Must Not Close.”
Not only did Kilgallen cover Ruby’s trial, she got to interview him twice. She started to believe that he, like Oswald, might have been a “patsy.” Kilgallen also made a trip to New Orleans to talk with sources. She was zeroing in on what Mob boss Ruby may have been working for at the time of the hit on the president. She began building an investigatory file on the case that she intended to turn into a book that would be the “scoop of the century.”
The book, sorry to say, never happened. Kilgallen was found dead in her townhouse on the morning of November 8th. The police went along with the Medical Examiner’s report that she most likely died from an “accidental” drug overdose of a prescription sleeping pills mixed with alcohol. There was no investigation of foul play.
Author Shaw rips that scenario apart. He states the death scene was “staged.” The body was found in “the wrong bed” and in “the wrong bedroom.” In addition, Kilgallen’s “makeup, false eyelashes and hairpiece” were still on her. She was found in a blue bathrobe with nothing underneath. According to her hairdresser, she always wore “her favorite pajamas and old socks to bed.”
Kilgallen had a prescription for the sleeping pills, “Seconal.” A second drug, “Tuinal,” however, was also found in her system. She had no prescription for that one. Was she slipped a “mickey?”
On top of all that, Kilgallen’s file on the Ruby case was missing and it has never been found. Author Shaw, I must add, goes off the rails when he tries to show who may have done Kilgallen in. It’s all speculation in my opinion and lacks any probative value. Also, in the book, I found it irritating that he was repetitive in places. Plus, he got Kilgallen’s birthdate wrong.
Shaw also doesn’t show much expertise with respect to the JFK assassination. My Bible on that crime of the century is “Deep Politics and the Death of JFK,” by Peter Dale Scott.
Kilgallen was one of the finest journalists of her generation. Justice demands that the truth finally comes out about how this fearless reporter really died. Mark Shaw’s book is a tribute to her distinguished career and legacy. It is long past the time for the stain on Kilgallen’s memory to be removed.
Dorothy Kilgallen always sought justice as an investigative reporter. It's a shame that the same justice was denied her in her efforts to find the truth. Even though it's slightly over fifty years later perhaps the truth regarding her death and that of President Kennedy will someday be revealed and Dorothy will get the justice she deserves. Author Mark Shaw deserves praise for his attempt to exonerate Ms Kilgallen and show that her death was not due to suicide or an overdose of drugs and alcohol but murder to prevent her from exposing the truth behind the the mob hit of President Kennedy.
Top international reviews
A major weakness is that the author simply takes it for granted that Lee Harvey Oswald was JFK's assassin, albeit on orders from Marcello. No serious Kennedy researcher believes this. In fact, the vast majority do not believe that Oswald shot anybody.
In the Acknowledgements section, the author thanks no fewer than three people for their excellent editing skills. I think that it would have been a kindness to leave them unknown as I would have hated to be thought in any way responsible for the torrent of misspellings, faulty logic and ungrammatical sentences that plague this book.
I find it hard to accept that this can be the work of a serious investigator; issues are raised that are not addressed, and it is too frequently awash
in maudlin sentimentality that is cringe-inducing and has no place in a serious effort to understand what happened to one of America's greatest journalists. This book notwithstanding, that story has still not been told.
Once nominated for a Pulitzer-Prize, Kilgallen was described by Ernest Hemingway as "the greatest female writer in the world." Her newspaper column was syndicated to 200 papers across the US and she had covered such high-profile trials as Dr. Sam Sheppard ("The Fugitive"), the Lindberg baby and, just before her death, the trial of Jack Ruby (she became the only reporter to whom he granted an interview).
Kilgallen mysteriously died on Nov. 8, 1965 on the verge of completing an expose on the assassination of John F. Kennedy for Random House. Shaw’s exhaustively researched book suggests she was likely murdered to silence her. She had been quoted to the effect that she was “going to blow the lid off the Kennedy assassination” – a risky stance to take at the time as numerous other key witnesses discovered.
Contributing to the suspicious circumstances of her death, she had told friends that she was in fear for her life and her JFK assassination investigation file, which she always carried with her, conveniently disappeared the day she died preventing publication of her Kennedy book.
The columns and articles Kilgallen wrote about the assassination, including "Oswald File Must Not Close," and "DA to Link Ruby and Oswald," died with her, and are only now resurfacing thanks to Shaw’s book.
A quote from her Oswald file column of Nov. 29, 1963 reveals her suspicions:
"The case is closed, is it? Well, I'd like to know how, in a big, smart town like Dallas, a man like Jack Ruby — owner of a strip tease honky tonk — can stroll in and out of police headquarters as if it was at a health club at a time when a small army of law enforcers is keeping a "tight security guard" on Oswald. Justice is a big rug. When you pull it out from under one man, a lot of others fall, too."
Kilgallen’s death was officially described as “an overdose of barbiturates, combined with alcohol.” Perhaps an early example of Fake News. Despite the suspicious circumstances - including an apparently staged death scene - no investigation of Kilgallen’s death was ever carried out.
Unfortunately, Kilgallen’s life was snuffed out before she could go public with her theory on the assassination and, with her investigative files lost to history, we can only suspect, what she had uncovered.
Thank you Mark Shaw, Dorothy deserves to have her story told. I wonder if the JFK file will ever show up.
I would recommend.