04 January 2008

Joe McGinniss

I just bought Joe McGinniss' latest book, NEVER ENOUGH.

McGinniss is best known as a "true crime" author: more highbrow than Ann Rule, but with lower brows than Truman Capote.

McGinnis' contributions in this area have come with two-word titles: adjective noun.

There's been: Fatal Vision, Blind Faith, Cruel Doubt.

Never Enough is a bit of a departure there. The number of words is right, but its "adverb adjective" this time. The unspoken noun is "wealth," which is modified by "enough" which is modified in turn by "never."

The gist of the book is the "milkshake murder" in Hong Kong in 2003. A very prominent investment banker -- Robert Kissell, one of Merrill Lynch's expat American stars in east Asia -- was bludgeoned to death by his wife, Nancy Kissel, nee Keeshin, after she had first secured against the possibility of resistance, feeding him a milkshake filled with sedatives.

McGinniss' books follow a consistent pattern. An apparently "perfect marriage" is in fact riven with conflict and hatred, unbeknowst to the outside world. Suddenly, one spouse is dead, and the other seeks to blame outsiders/intruders or write it off as a mysterious disappearance. But investigators tear apart that effort, get to the truth, and the murdering spouse is convicted.

That pattern would have made McGinniss a natural chronicler of the OJ Simpson case, but for the acquittal -- which is never the ending he wants.

If I find anything extraordinary in this book, I'll let you know here.

1 comment:

Henry said...

The only book by Joe McGinniss that I've read was his first: The Selling of the President, 1968, which detailed the tactics of the Nixon presidential campaign, which were shocking then, but would seem innocent as a babe after Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

McGinniss's research for Fatal Vision was the subject of a book by Janet Malcolm; the rest of this posting is quotation from Wikipedia:

The thesis of The Journalist and the Murderer is contained in its first sentence: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

Malcolm's example was popular author Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President, who, while researching a book on the case, lived with the defense team of former Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald, on trial for the 1970 murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters. McGinniss's Fatal Vision concluded that MacDonald was a psychopath high on amphetamines when he killed his family. McGinniss's "morally indefensible" act, in Malcolm's view, was to pretend that he believed MacDonald was innocent, even after he became convinced of his guilt.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.