Today, I’m honored to be joined by the multifaceted Mark Shaw.
Mark is the author, most recently, of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen (Post Hill Press)—out tomorrow. He has written twenty-four previous books, including The Poison Patriarch, Miscarriage of Justice, and Beneath the Mask of Holiness. Also an investigative reporter, Mark is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and has written for USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Aspen Daily News. A former defense attorney and legal analyst for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today, Mark has commented on the Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson, and Kobe Bryant cases. He makes his home in the San Francisco area.
Praise for The Reporter Who Knew Too Much:
“The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is a very interesting, informative, and provocative book. Shaw has obviously conducted a tremendous amount of research and investigation into every aspect of Kilgallen’s life. Her relationships with so many famous, controversial individuals and legal cases are fascinating to read.”—Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, bestselling author of From Crime Scene to Courtroom
“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
From the publisher:
Was What’s My Line TV Star, media icon, and crack investigative reporter and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen murdered for writing a tell-all book about the JFK assassination? If so, is the main suspect in her death still at large?
These questions and more are answered in former CNN, ESPN, and USA Today legal analyst Mark Shaw’s 25th book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. Through discovery of never-before-seen videotaped eyewitness interviews with those closest to Kilgallen and secret government documents, Shaw unfolds a “whodunit” murder mystery featuring suspects including Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Mafia Don Carlos Marcello and a “Mystery Man” who may have silenced Kilgallen. All while by presenting through Kilgallen’s eyes the most compelling evidence about the JFK assassinations since the House Select Committee on Assassination’s investigation in the 1970s.
Called by the New York Post, “the most powerful female voice in America,” and by acclaimed author Mark Lane the “the only serious journalist in America who was concerned with who killed John Kennedy and getting all of the facts about the assassination,” Kilgallen’s official cause of death reported as an overdose of barbiturates combined with alcohol, has always been suspect since no investigation occurred despite the death scene having been staged. Shaw proves Kilgallen, a remarkable woman who broke the “glass ceiling” before the term became fashionable, was denied the justice she deserved, that is until now.
Now, Mark Shaw takes readers inside his investigation of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much …
John Valeri: What inspired you to write The Reporter Who Knew Too Much – and how do you see this book as being unique in the canon of Kennedy assassination literature?
Mark Shaw: During the research for a book called “Melvin Belli: King of the Courtroom,” a biography of Jack Ruby’s attorney, a friend of Belli told me of his friendship with Dorothy at the Ruby trial. And then he said, “You know what Mel said to me after she died, he said, “They’ve killed Dorothy; now they will go after Ruby.” I could never get that quote out of my mind and that launched my three year research into Dorothy’s death. As far as the book’s impact on the JFK assassination literature, due to Dorothy’s firsthand account of what happened in Dallas, her actually being there as described by her friends and Ruby co-counsel Joe Tonahill during never before released videotaped interviews now available on thedorothykilgallenstory.org, I believe this breakthrough book is the most important contribution to the literature in history. I know what sounds a bit extreme, but if you check the videos and her columns and articles on the site re. the assassinations, it is true.
JV: Investigating Dorothy Kilgallen’s death would be akin to working a cold case. What was the one most surprising thing you learned in researching this topic?
MS: Like many people, I recalled Dorothy as the What’s My Line? TV star and did not know of her remarkable career as a Pulitzer-Prize nominated author and investigative reporter for many of the most famous trials of the 20th century including the Jack Ruby trial where she was the only reporter to interview Ruby, twice. I also did not know she exposed Ruby’s Warren Commission testimony before its release date with all of this putting her in danger from those threatened by being exposed in a book she was writing for Random House.
JV: How would you compare/contrast her style of reporting to contemporary journalism?
MS: Like few reporters today, Dorothy sought the truth in every investigation she ever launched based on primary sources not sensationalism. She was determined to fight for justice for those she covered and unfortunately she was denied justice when she died as noted in a letter I have sent to the NYC DA urging an investigation into her death since none happened when she died. Here is the link to the letter: http:// thereporterwhoknewtoomuch.com/ assets/docs/The-Reporter-Who- Knew-Too-Much-Manhattan-DA- Office%20-letter-Nov-27E.pdf
JV: This work blends biographical information with investigative discovery. How did you maintain narrative intensity throughout – and how do these unique parts enhance the overall story?
MS: The first part of the book is a tribute to Dorothy’s remarkable career, then we hit her death, then the faulty autopsy report, the lack of investigation and then into how she really died and what suspects may have been involved in her death since I believe the fresh evidence proves she was murdered—especially the forensic evidence. I tried to blend the videotaped interview material in with other primary sources I interviewed and by the end of the book readers can make up their own minds as to the murder mystery presented in the book.
JV: You’ve written on the JFK assassination before. To what do you credit your interest in this case – and how has your understanding of the circumstances of his death evolved over time?
MS: I never intended to write about the JFK assassination at all but when I researched and wrote the book about Melvin Belli, I was skeptical as a former criminal defense lawyer and network legal analyst of the validity of his representation of Ruby through the insanity defense. That made no sense to me and research indicated he had been used by those who masterminded the JFK assassination to silence Ruby based on motive and the mob’s involvement then led me to the second book, The Poison Patriarch, where I discovered that Joe Kennedy’s double cross of the Mafia after certain Don’s had helped JFK win the 60 election had caused one Mafia figure in particular, Carlos Marcello, to strike back against AG Bobby Kennedy and kill JFK to render Bobby powerless which is exactly what happened. And then it was the Belli quote about Dorothy’s death that triggered the third book in the trilogy.
JV: It’s been said that past is prologue. What are the lessons to be learned from these deaths – and how might readers consider them in the context of today’s world?
MS: The death of JFK was senseless and should have never happened, just as the death of Dorothy is senseless and never should have happened, and the mysteries of the two deaths are intertwined since Dorothy sought the truth about who killed her friend, the president. The lesson to be learned is that if someone is brave enough to search for the truth then, or now, their life will be put in jeopardy since there are those who do not want the truth to be exposed. As a society, we should embrace the truth and watch carefully when it is blurred since when that happens, chaos results. Hopefully through my efforts Dorothy’s voice will be heard again since it is so important for history’s sake.
With thanks to Mark Shaw for his generosity of time and thought and to Devon Brown of the Publicist Department at Post Hill Press for facilitating this interview.