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Part of me is a little nervous about writing this review, but considering how author Mark Shaw is still alive, I think I’m okay with this post.
I want to preface this by saying that I’m not a conspiracy theorist—I don’t wear or own a tin foil hat, and I don’t plan on purchasing one anytime soon. But I’ve always been fascinated with the life—and mysterious death—of Dorothy Kilgallen.
About three years ago, I fell in love with What’s My Line?, a panel game show that ran from 1950-67. It was fun, respectful, classy, and surprisingly progressive for the age. It was also a ratings star and hugely popular—I mean, it ran for 17 years.
Through the show, I came to know and appreciate Dorothy Kilgallen’s work. She was a prominent reporter and Broadway columnist whose work was syndicated in newspapers across the country. Apart from her work as a columnist, reporter, and television personality, she hosted a popular radio show with her husband called Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. In fact, fans would send mail to “Dick and Dorothy, New York City, NY” and they would get the letters.
With her strong media presence, she was like the Oprah of her time—which makes it all the more shocking that she’s been forgotten in history.
I don’t want to make this post too terribly long, so I won’t go into all the details surrounding her death. But in a nutshell, she was found dead in a bedroom she never slept in and wearing her makeup, hairpiece, and false eyelashes—which she never wore to bed. She was also on the verge of completing her investigation into the JFK assassination, something she’d been working on for nearly 18 months.
Now, Dorothy is not a crazy person—she had a sharp mind and strong investigative reporting skills. She was praised and recognized for her work as a journalist, and she was widely respected. Dorothy specialized in crime reporting, and she was one of the only reporters who criticized the original Sam Sheppard verdict. He was eventually acquitted in a second trial.
My point is this: if she said there were suspicious things about the JFK assassination and the events following, there had to be something there.
I’d done some low-key investigating on my own when I was in my third year of journalism school—I even managed to track down her FBI file through the Internet Archive. I didn’t go too much further with it—life and school got pretty crazy for me. But I never stopped thinking about Dorothy and the case.
I saw Mark Shaw make a post about the book in a Facebook group dedicated to What’s My Line? I was excited—virtually nobody had cared about Dorothy outside of a biography written about her in the 70’s.
I got the book pretty much immediately after it came out, but I just finished it in December 2018.
It’s a well-researched, thoroughly investigated book, but the writing is very rough and hard to read. It’s not necessarily bad, but it would have benefitted from a ghost writer polishing it up. I ended up finishing it by listening to the audiobook, narrated by Gabra Zackman. The narrator does an amazing job reading the book, and Zackman moves between the different characters’ “voices” easily throughout the chapters.
In the book, Shaw presents a very plausible explanation for Dorothy’s death: Dorothy had discovered the assassination was a mob operation, and the mob essentially murdered her and used the NYC medical examiner’s office to cover it up.
Reading that last paragraph over, it does sound crazy. However, there is a lot of credible evidence that leads to that conclusion. You could say there were just a lot of coincidences, but at a certain point, when the coincidences keep adding up, you have to admit there has to be more there.
One of the reasons I wanted to spend a lot of time with the book is because I wanted to take my time reviewing the evidence, some of which Shaw has put up on his website. In my opinion, as someone who’s also looked into Dorothy’s life and death, the evidence and research are credible and worthy of more investigation.
That being said, it’s likely that this book (and possibly the sequel, which I plan to read soon) is as far as it’ll go. Dorothy died in 1965—well over five decades ago. While I think it’s important to bring this evidence to light, I don’t think the DA’s office or the Department of Justice will be willing to open new investigations. Both of these departments are overworked as it is, and they have bigger fish to fry.
There’s so much more I could say about this book and the evidence (mainly about Ron Pataky’s creepy-ass poetry), but here’s what I’ll say in conclusion. I think this book is a well-researched love letter to Dorothy Kilgallen. While it could have used some better writing, it was a very satisfying read purely for the affection for Dorothy and the new research and evidence surrounding her death.
All in all, I think Dorothy would be proud of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much.