Posted: April 30, 2018 | |
Once in a while, we come across an author who makes us see things differently through their writing. Mark Shaw is one such author, whose writing has a ring of truth to it that makes readers see those he writes about as real people with complex stories, who opens our eyes and makes us see truths that were always there, just below the surface, but we didn’t see before. I had the pleasure of reviewing two of his books. As the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, I reviewed Beneath the Mask of Holiness, the compelling biography of a true life monk torn between his love of God and his love of a woman. And here, on Writing to be Read, I reviewed The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, the true life story of journalist Dorothy Kilgalen, who was investigating the JFK assination, which I recently learned will be made into a movie or a television mini-series, and a follow-up book, which Mark plans to release this fall. I also have the privelage of reviewing his latest book, to be released in June, Courage in the Face of Evil, the story of a German Christian woman, Vera Konig, who spent eight years in the concentration camps and whose courage and spirit brought her and several others through the ordeal. I’m pleased to be interviewing Mark here today. I think you will find him and his writing as interesting as I have.
Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?
Mark: No question that it is the Dorothy Kilgallen story, that Dorothy has “spoken” to me from the hereafter, guiding my research and writing of her story so that the truth may be told about what happened to this true patriot who gave up her life to print the truth about the JFK assassination. What an inspiration she is to young journalists with some many people saying to me, “I wish we had a reporter with integrity like Dorothy today.”
Kaye: So the buzz in the air is that the Dowdle Brothers, who brought us the Waco mini-series, have optioned for your book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. This book is the true story of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen back in the 1960’s, (I know I reviewed this book, but for the life of me I can’t find it to refer back to for refreshing the details). I think every author at some point dreams of having their story portrayed on film. Can you describe what it felt like, as an author, to learn that this deal was in the works?
Mark: No one, my agent, my publisher, me, anyone thought Dorothy’s story could be a bestseller but somehow the book touched the emotions of so many people with at last count, my having received more than 500 emails from people around the world who have gained a respect and love for her. At one point, I told my wife that even after having written 20+ books, this one has made feel like a real author, that someone my writing this book connected with readers like none before it. And when I learned that respected filmmakers like the Brothers Dowdle wanted to adapt the book to the big or small screen, it brought tears to me because every author does dream of this happening. Best of all, these men of integrity have the passion to tell the story of a reporter of integrity, the perfect match.
Kaye: You know Dorothy Kilgallen was a great journalist and sets an example for us as writers, but she also was a forerunner at a time when women were still struggling to be heard. Any thoughts on that?
Mark: In the day and age when Dorothy was attempting to position herself as a top-flight reporter, she faced quite a challenge because women were not supposed to ride in the back seat of a car, but BEHIND the car. But she never let that stop her, she worked harder than any of the men who challenged her driving ambition and she did so with integrity at every turn. This is why I believe she was truly the first female media icon, television star on What’s My Line, ace reporter, respected columnist, acclaimed investigative reporter, radio program host, author, etc. No wonder the New York Post called her “the most powerful female voice in America.” Dorothy certainly was that and a good mother to her children, as well who never saw her being a female as an obstacle, but in fact a true blessing.
Kaye: In The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, you reveal facts that point to Dorothy Kilgallen’s death being a murder, along with an elaborate conspiracy and cover up. What originally led your own research in this direction?
Mark: Amazingly enough, I never intended to write this book but during my writing a biography of Melvin Belli, Jack Ruby’s attorney, a close friend of his said Belli told him, “They’ve killed Dorothy, now they will go after Jack Ruby.” I could not get this quote out of my mind and that led to researching Dorothy’s life and times and her death. Along the way, I believe she guided my efforts to secure the truth about what happened to her, her spirit being felt so many times when I wondered whether I could find that truth. She selected me to tell her story, that’s for sure so she can get the justice she deserves.
Kaye: The investigation was actually reopened due to compelling information which you brought forth through your research. Now, there’s been follow-up research, and the results are found in Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History. Are you at liberty to talk about the findings?
Mark: I continue to fight for Dorothy’s rights as the victim of a homicide to the extent that I fired off a ten page letter to the NY DA’s office demanding they re-open the investigation into her death based on new evidence that will be in the follow-up book to be released this fall after my new book, Courage in the Face of Evil is released in June. In the follow-up book, there is new evidence regarding Ron Pataky, the chief suspect in her death, additional details about what happened in the townhouse where Kilgallen lived on the day she died from her butler’s daughter, shocking new information about the JFK assassination never revealed before and admission by Dorothy’s daughter to the effect, “My mother was murdered.”
Kaye: Dorothy Kilgallen was investigating several possibilities of conspiracy in the JFK assassination, and it seemed she was getting close to uncovering something big regarding this. You also presented a few theories on why Kilgallen might have been murdered, and by whom. Are we any closer to answering any of those questions now?
Mark: Yes, the shocking information about the JFK assassination in the new book will indicate what Dorothy learned that made her even more of a threat to those who were complicit in JFK’s death. This material has never been published before.
Kaye: How does a book get optioned? Can you tell us how it worked for you? Did you send in a copy of your book with a cover letter to pitch it? Or did somebody read your book and call you up out of the blue to say they wanted to make a movie out of it?
Mark: Drew Dowdle told me he heard about the book from a friend and then listened to the audio version before telling his brother John about it. They contacted me about the rights and then I connected them with Frank Weimann, my literary agent in NYC. The deal took sometime to complete because they were finishing up WACO, a terrific if disturbing series, but finally it was completed. I had a glass of champagne with my wife to celebrate.
Kaye: You have extensive research into this project. You have a major investment in the book, and now you will get to see it played out on screen. Who would you like to see cast into the leading role? Who do you envision as Dorothy Kilgallen?
Mark: On the Dorothy Kilgallen Facebook page, followers debated who could play Dorothy and among the selections were Nicole Kidman, Cate Blantchett, and Sally Hawkins. I’ve said all of these would be terrific but wish that Meryl Streep was a bit younger since she’s as feisty as Dorothy was.
Kaye: Your next book, Courage in the Face of Evil will be published in June. What about this story attracted you?
Mark: This is a very disturbing yet inspiration book based on a true story as chronicled in a Holocaust diary kept by a German Christian woman who was a true angel of mercy at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The theme, so relevant these days since there is so much hate in the world, revolves around how love may overcome hate when human survival is at stake. More about the book may be learned at Mark Shaw: Courage In The Face Of Evil .
Kaye: Your books, especially the recent ones, seem to focus on defending people, on justice and injustice. Is this true?
Mark: Yes, certainly, I defend Dorothy’s rights as a victim to get the justice she deserves and in Courage in the Face of Evil, I defend the main character’s decision to trust the enemy, a Nazi prison guard, so as to save the life of a little Russian orphan who will be killed unless the guard saves her. I’ve done this with other books as well, for instance, in the Melvin Belli book, I even defended Jack Ruby because he did not get a fair trial. In fact, Dorothy believed this to be true as well as will be documented in “Denial of Justice.” My defending those denied justice comes from my days as a criminal defense lawyer since everyone deserves a fair shake, even an assassin like Jack Ruby.
Kaye: I know research is a big part of your writing. Due to the fact that you write biographies, it has to be. But I have to ask, how did you find Vera’s story? (You did an amazing job with it, btw.) How much did you have to add or take out from her journals?
Mark: Years ago, I was contacted by the daughter of the woman whose story I tell in “Courage in the Face of Evil.” I was able to read the diary and was captivated with the story, the raw emotion, the bravery, the determination to survive, the willingness to save lives no matter the danger. Capturing “Vera’s” voice was the key and except for the final 5% or so of the book where I added material based on what the daughter told me “Vera’s” intentions were regarding the prison guards after the war, the account is absolutely true.
And now for a fun question:
Kaye: Which author/screenwriter/poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?
Mark: No question here, Ernest Hemingway.
I want to thank Mark for chatting with me about your books. I’m sure it will be quite exciting to see one of your books put on film. Whether they make it a movie or a television mini-series, it is really quite a treat. Be sure to catch my June 1st review of Courage in the Face of Evil, a gripping and compelling book. can learn more about Mark Shaw and his books here: http://www.markshawbooks.com/
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