We like to watch the reruns of What’s My Line? every night. The shows are older than either one of us, but that doesn’t matter. We especially like the interplay between John Charles Daly, the moderator, and the panelists, which usually include actress Arlene Francis, Random House co-founder and author Bennett Cerf, and reporter and columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. Mary is impressed that, more often than not, the panel is able to determine the occupation of the contestants with little difficulty (often despite the “help” proffered by Mr. Daly that occasionally leads the panel in the wrong direction).
The panelist that impresses us the most is Miss Kilgallen, who used her superior investigative skills to her advantage and showed her dogged determination in her questions to the contestants. Usually, it was she who either figured out the occupation of the contestant or whose questions put the other panelists on the right track. We looked up the panelists on Wikipedia and IMDb, and learned Miss Kilgallen was born in Chicago not far from where Mary grew up, her father was a newspaperman, and that she died under suspicious circumstances from an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates in 1965.
At the time of her death, Miss Kilgallen, dissatisfied with the statements made by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and the conclusion drawn by the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy two years earlier, had been investigating who might have been behind the assassination and the subsequent murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby. Mark Shaw, former legal analyst for USA Today, ESPN, and CNN, has written The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, in which he takes up the cause for Miss Kilgallen, asserting that she was murdered because she got too close to the truth about JFK’s assassination, and presents arguments for who actually murdered her.
The book is well-organized, with chapters dedicated to the crime scene, the autopsy report, and people who might have had a reason to want Miss Kilgallen dead, as well as his assessment of how the crime occurred and who was responsible. Since most of the people who might have been responsible are deceased themselves, he managed to interview the people closest to her, primarily her hairdresser and confidante Mark Sinclaire. Toward the end of the book, he presents the possibility that the person who killed her was Columbus, Ohio reporter Ron Pataky, who is still alive, and details conversations he had with Pataky and messages Pataky sent him.
To me, Shaw’s interactions with Pataky seemed a little obsessive. I understand that he’s the last person to see her alive, and that on the night of her death she was seen having drinks with him in a club, but it doesn’t appear that he had any motive to murder her, nor is it likely he was pressed into service to kill her on behalf of someone else. Is it possible? Sure. Likely? I can’t say.
I was also disappointed that the book wasn’t edited very well. There were numerous typos and grammatical errors that, given the price of the book (I paid $9.99 for the Kindle version, and the print version, available on January 6, will sell for almost $24 at Amazon), should have been cleaned up.
Nevertheless, this is a good if imperfect book, and anyone interested in the Kennedy assassination or in a case that was closed before all the facts were known will enjoy it, as will fans of a woman about whom Ernest Hemingway said was “one of the greatest woman writers in the world.” I’ll give it three and a half stars.