A MODEL CRIME by Curtis Gathje


A True Fiction
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 Using lurid accounts and photos of the day, Gathje's strong debut brings to garish life a crime that captured New York City's attention in 1937. A nudie model, her mother, and their English boarder were found brutally murdered in their midtown Manhattan apartment on Easter Sunday, sending the city's tabloids into a frenzy of sleazy reportage. Stephen Butter--Gathje's uncle--drunkenly escorted the lovely 20-year-old Ronnie Gedeon home after a night on the town and was the last to see her alive. He was soon replaced as chief suspect by Ronnie's estranged father, Joseph, an upholsterer with a passion for bowling and for girlie magazines (the press, which ran dozens of Ronnie's ``art'' photos, hinted that his daughter's was among his bedside pinups). Joseph, who didn't appear overly bereaved at the loss of wife and child, blurted something about being a ``naturalist'' with ``seven lives'' and was beaten up during police questioning. He decided to sell his story to the press. Other suspects and characters included a boyfriend who sold his story to the News for $25; an itinerant sculptor and former boarder at the Gedeons'; a mental patient who went to the press with a diary and ``dangerous knowledge'' about the murders; Ethel Kudner, Ronnie's sister, who, as a secretary at Vanity Fair, provided Ronnie with ``modeling'' contacts. She sold her version of events to the Daily Mirror for $500. Walter Winchell tried to connect Joseph to the Lindbergh kidnapping; Ed Sullivan bought nude photos of Ronnie ``from a peddlar in Times Square''; and rival columnists Dorothy Kilgallen and Adela Rogers St. John weighed in with inanities of their own. As Gathje so marvelously shows, the sensationalist press of the 1930s had a lot in common with the trashy TV ``journalism'' of today. Gathje's unobtrusive writing is consciously set just a notch or two above the tabloid style, making it read like a mystery and a saucy tour guide of preWW II New York. (Illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55611-428-1
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994