Those who knew her work, including Ernest Hemingway, said that Dorothy Kilgallen was the best female reporter in the business, perhaps the best of either sex and one of the most powerful people in the country when her life suddenly ended on November 8, 1965.
She was known for her “Voice of Broadway” column that appeared in Hearst’s New York Journal American and was syndicated to newspapers across the country, she was a popular panelist on “What’s My Line” for many years, and she covered major news stories including the Sam Sheppard murder trial (“The Fugitive”) and the Kennedy Assassination. She was the only reporter allowed to interview Jack Ruby.
Many said that she broke the “glass ceiling” that allowed women reporters to take their rightful place in the press corps.
Newspapers reported her death as an accidental drug/alcohol overdose. However, the tox screen showed two drugs in her system (in addition to the prescribed Seconal for sleep) that were not prescribed and not even in the house. The M.E. report was a horrible mess, the death scene (her house) got no forensic workup, and there was no police investigation. Those who know these details and the fact she was receiving death threats believe she was murdered, most like due to her determined investigation of the Kennedy/Oswald deaths that she was apparently close to solving.
The book presents a brief biography of Kilgallen and then focuses on her investigative work, the people she came in contact with as a reporter, a list of those with motives to silence her, and the perplexing details of her final hours and who might have spiked her drink and possibly gotten into her house to arrange the crime scene. There were two glasses on the nightstand. One included the residue of a narcotic she did not take, yet neither glass nor the surrounding area was checked for fingerprints.
While the writing and organization of the book are a bit uneven, it presents useful information for those who followed Kilgallen’s career. Shaw hopes that the information he has uncovered will prompt officials to re-open the case. Sadly, the family is not co-operating.
On a personal note, I was stunned when she died and always thought there was something fishy about it and the fact that–in spite of the tox screen–no police investigation followed. I liked her work as a journalist and saw her every week on “What’s My Line” (still available on YouTube) where she asked questions the way a reporter would. Some said panelist Arlene Francis was the good cop and Kilgallen was the bad cop. Francis was a regular on the show for 25 years, Kilgallen for 15 years.
The FBI (including director Hoover) did not like her. The mob did not like her. Her husband did not like her. That’s not an easy place to be.
Malcolm R. Campbell
Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing