By BERNIE BELLAN With everything else that’s been affected by COVID-19, launching a new book does present a new type of challenge for authors.
However, notwithstanding the probems presented by being unable to hold in-person events, the fact that so many more people are looking for ways to pass the time does present an unexpected opportunity for talented writers, including our own Allan Levine.
On October 7 Levine will be launching his latest book, titled “Details are Unprintable: Wayne Lonergan and the Sensational Café Society Murder”.
Here is material gathered from a press release announcing the publication of the book:
The narrative of “Details Are Unprintable” primarily unfolds over a seven-month period from October 1943 to April 1944—from the moment the body of 22-year old Patricia Burton Lonergan is discovered in the bedroom of her New York City Beekman Hill apartment, to the arrest of her husband of two years, Wayne Lonergan, for her murder, and his subsequent trial and conviction. But this story goes back in time to the 1920s, when Wayne Lonergan grew up in Toronto and then forward to his post-prison life following his deportation to Canada. It is the chronicle of Lonergan in denial as a bisexual or gay man living in an intolerant and morally superior heterosexual world; and of Patricia, rich and entitled, a seeker of attention, who loved a night out on the town—all set against the fast pace of New York’s ostentatious café society.
Part True Crime and part a social history of New York City in the 1940s, this book transports readers to the New York World’s Fair of 1939 when Patricia’s father William Burton first encountered Lonergan; the Stork Club, 21 Club, and El Morocco to experience with Patricia a night of drinking champagne cocktails and dancing; and the muggy New York courtroom where Lonergan’s fate was decided.
What truly happened on that tragic night in October 24, 1943? Should we accept Lonergan’s confession at face value as the jury did? Or was he indeed a victim of physical and mental abuse by the state prosecutors and the police, as he maintained for the rest of his life? This book considers these, and other, key questions.
From Allan Levine: “It is a True Crime about the murder of a young woman and mother in New York City in October 1943, Patricia Burton Lonergan. She came from a wealthy German-Jewish family and stood to inherit the equivalent of about $66 million when her grandmother died (that didn’t happen until 1954). The person charged with the crime was her estranged husband, Wayne Lonergan from Toronto, who at the time was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was in New York on leave the weekend of the murder visiting their 18-month old son.
“At the time, the arrest of Lonergan and the subsequent trial received much coverage in the Canadian press as did Lonergan’s release in 1965 (a Globe and Mail photo of him at the Royal York Hotel the day he was released is one of the photos in the book). Excerpts of the book are appearing in Tablet Magazine in the US and the Toronto Star the last week of Sept/first week of October.
“Beyond the intriguing details of the actual murder, this story revolves around NY’s café society nightclub culture, of which Patricia and Wayne were active member as well as Lonergan’s bisexuality which became sensationalized in the extensive newspaper coverage and likely tainted the jury’s view of him. I explore the issue of homosexuality in 1940s America as well as many other issues. My main source for the book was the Manhattan DA’s voluminous case files which I got access to at the New York Municipal Archives. It is a treasure trove of witness biographies and statements; financial information; medical examiner’s reports and police and DA correspondence. I was the first person to look at this material since 1944 when the trial took place (and then in 1965 when a (failed) appeal was launched about a possible coerced confession.”
The press release also contains praise from someone who has a first-hand acquaintance with the case that forms the centrepiece of Levine’s book:
“Allan Levine’s extraordinary reconstruction of a high-society murder case that drove World War Two from the tabloid front pages in 1940s New York City offers a fascinating exploration of the New York social scene and the place of homosexuality, closeted or not, within it. It’s also a page-turning legal procedural that gracefully gives lay readers a vivid narrative of a hard-fought trial, as well as post-trial developments that unfolded during a revolution in the rights of criminal defendants.”
—Daniel Richman, former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York
As a follow-up to the press release we received an email from Allan Levine, in which he gave details about the October 7 book launch:
“This is not quite the book launch I had anticipated, but such is the reality of the current situation. On the other hand, those of you outside of Winnipeg can tune in as well. CBC broadcaster Terry MacLeod has kindly agreed to participate in the discussion, which I greatly appreciate.
Wednesday October 7@ 7 pm CST
Registration is required to directly participate in the Zoom webinar: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dFiNQe-hSjGUiGJrsrxpdg
If you prefer YouTube: It will be simultaneously streamed and available for viewing thereafter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DGM9_BBevc
Allan adds: “I’m happy to sign any book; just contact McNally Robinson and it will be done asap.”