Well, almost the true story--names have been altered and Fosburgh, who covered the original murder for the New York Times, has added some not very convincing street-wise dialogue. Her point seems to be the existential absurdity of it all: the chance events that led Joe Willie Simpson, a quiet farm boy turned drifter, to meet the lonely Catholic schoolteacher in the kind of bar that's designed for just such purposes. . . . What Fosburgh does is to reconstruct the lives of the murderer and the victim in such a way that the withdrawn, emotionless Joe Willie becomes as much to be pitied as Katherine Cleary, the girl he stabbed eighteen times. (The throw-away-the-key and execution-is-too-good-for-'em crowd will hate it.) Only too late would Joe Willie be tagged as a schizophrenic-- after, that is, he had knotted some sheets together and hung himself in the Tombs. The prosecutor took the words right out of Fosburgh's mouth: ""He reminded me of L'Etranger and Camus' existential hero. He was like Mersault, the guy who killed his mother. He had no feelings, no remorse. He didn't care about anything."" And back home in Illinois, where Joe Willie's ""American Gothic"" family lived, his mother just couldn't take ""anything more bad said about him in the newspapers""--because she knew in her heart that ""He's a good boy, a real fine boy."" None of these tragic facts were understood by the press or by a public baying for revenge. But for the Mr. Goodbar audience, neither Joe Willie nor Katherine Cleary has enough emotional ballast to score the second time around.