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A Very Private Woman


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About the Author

Nina Burleigh's articles have appeared in Time, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and New York Magazine. She lives in New York.


This past July, freelance journalist Burleigh confessed, in the pages of Mirabella, to playing footsie with Clinton on Air Force One. Later, in a Washington Post story, she publicly offered to fellate the president "to thank him for keeping abortion legal." Contrast this with the politesse of Burleigh's subject, Mary Meyer, who was able to conduct an affair with President Kennedy and still get invited to dinner by Jackie. If Burleigh didn't learn discretion from her study, she still does an admirable job of conveying both the restrictive milieu of official Washington in the 1950s and early '60s (at least where women were concerned) and the personality of one woman who was, for a time, able to dictate the terms of her own life. She was born Mary Pinchot to a prominent Pennsylvania family in 1920 and, after attending Vassar, married Cord Meyer, a natural politician who resigned himself to a life behind the scenes. Burleigh repeats allegations, first published over 20 years ago, that Mary Meyer turned JFK on to marijuana and quite possibly LSD. Other notables in the book include abstract artist Ken Noland, who was Mary's lover; CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton; acid guru Timothy Leary; and Mary's brother-in-law, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who was instrumental in destroying Mary's diary after her 1964 murder. Though the title bills Mary's murder as "unsolved," Burleigh is forced to conclude that the man brought to trial, Raymond Crump, is the likeliest suspect and was acquitted because a spirited defense caught the prosecution off guard. Despite the absence of new information on the conspiracy front, Burleigh's biography is an excellent study of both its subject and its time. (Oct.)

"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil meets Camelot."--Washington Post Book World

"Power is so utterly fascinating. Sometimes it's used for evil purposes, like the kind of power that has silenced the telling of Mary Pinchot Meyer's mysterious murder for over three decades. In A Very Private Woman, Nina Burleigh has finally told this tragic tale of a privileged beauty with friends in high places."--Dominick Dunne "A superbly crafted, evocative glimpse of an adventurous spirit whose grisly murder remains a mystery."--San Francisco Chronicle Book Review "Proves that every Washington sex scandal is juicy in its own way."--Glamour "Nina Burleigh has dissected Washington's most intriguing murder mystery and produced a captivating biography, a thriller, and an insightful portrait of Georgetown in its golden presidential age."--Christopher Ogden, bestselling author of Life of the Party: The Life of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman "Provocative, erudite...pure Georgetown noir."--New York Observer "A rich array of real-life characters." --New York Times Book Review

How times have changed. The media are full of stories about President Clinton's private life, and reporters now dig into the lives of everyone in the White House. One of President Kennedy's romantic attachments was with Mary Pinchot Meyer, a CIA wife and the sister-in-law of the Washington Post's Ben Bradlee, who lived a glamorous life in Georgetown. For a short period, she was a good friend of both President and Mrs. Kennedy. About a year after Kennedy's assassination, though, she was murdered herself, and a vagrant man was charged but acquitted. Burleigh, who has written for the Washington Post and Time, tries hard to find a conspiracy, but it's all conjecture. We are left with a book about a moderately interesting woman who was romantically involved with President Kennedy and who was murdered after his death. Mary Meyer led a private life, and Burleigh should have left it that way. Not recommended.ÄSandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, MA

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