Picks and Pans Review: A Model Crime
A beautiful young woman is murdered by an unknown assailant. The only witness is her dog, but he's not talking. The tabloids go wild, splashing glam photos of the deceased across their front pages and rehashing every lurid detail. Suspects, witnesses, even members of the victims' families all vie for the best cash deals to tell their side of the story.
Sound familiar? Wrong! Nicole and O.J. weren't even born when this true crime was going down in 1937. In Curtis Gathje's retelling of this celebrated Manhattan murder, the victim is Veronica "Ronnie" Gedeon, part-time model for magazines like Inside Detective and full-time player on the seedier fringes of café society. Suspects, ultimately exonerated, include her father and the author's uncle, Stephen Butter, who years later shared the story with Gathje. Eventually, Robert Irwin, an unemployed sculptor was charged with the murders and sentenced to 139 years in Sing-Sing prison.
Gathje's careful reconstruction of the crime, complete with reproductions of newspaper headlines and photos, paints a vivid picture of '30s American journalism and reminds us that while crime reporting is more sophisticated today, it has long had a grip on our imaginations. (Donald I. Fine, $19.95)