Joe McGinniss: Never Enough

(SCMP)  Father cast as villain in Kissel book.  By Polly Hui.  October 7, 2007.

The father of the banker murdered by Nancy Kissel said he "takes umbrage" at US author Joe McGinniss for casting him as the "family villain" in the tragedy in a book to be released next month.  Bill Kissel, who received an advance copy of Never Enough from McGinniss last week, described the work as "a calumnious book designed to hurt the living".  He said the author had gone beyond poetic licence to ascribe words and thoughts to him and his late son Robert, and many parts of the book contained hearsay or factual errors.

The book is a tragic tale of two brothers murdered a world apart.

Robert Kissel, a 40-year-old millionaire banker with Merrill Lynch, was drugged and bludgeoned to death by wife Nancy in their Parkview flat in 2003. Three years later, his brother Andrew, 46, was found tied up and stabbed to death at his home in Connecticut, as he was due to plead guilty to having swindled banks, companies and others.

Greed was the root of the double tragedies, the author argues. The book says an expat life in Hong Kong was not enough for Nancy Kissel, who is serving her life sentence in Tai Lam Prison and will have her appeal heard next April.  She wanted to be with her TV repairman lover, Michael Del Priore, in New Hampshire.

It contends only money mattered to the two dead victims, in a constant struggle to measure up to the expectation of a father who - in McGinniss' eyes - was unforgiving, iron-fisted and would only measure the value of a person by the money he earned.  "Festering was what the Kissels did instead of breathing," he wrote.

Mr Kissel, 79, told the Sunday Morning Post : "It seems as if I am the villain of his book. How can the father of Robert and Andrew become the villain in this tale of murder?"  Asked if he would consider legal action, he said: "I am not interested in a libel suit - only the fair truth."

Jane Clayton, younger sister of Robert Kissel and custodian of his three children, said she did not plan to read the book. "I am deeply upset that this book is being published as it is not in the best interest of the children," she said.  "I have requested that this book not be published to protect the children and was not interviewed by the author because it is not constructive in my family's, and especially the children's, healing."

McGinniss became known for his first best-seller, The Selling of the President, in 1968, on the election campaign of Richard Nixon.  Mr Kissel said he initially trusted McGinniss and agreed to speak to him. But he said problems arose when he told him Mrs Clayton did not want to talk to him, to preserve the family's privacy.  The author then sent him an e-mail saying "she must have had something to hide", Mr Kissel said.  "I took this as a sign of a subtle form of blackmail to get Jane to talk."

McGinniss said: "I'm sorry he [Mr Kissel] didn't like it, though not entirely surprised. I'll be able to address his comments in more detail once the book is actually published."

(SCMP)  Kissel accuses book's author of distortion.  By Polly Hui.  October 26, 2007.

Nancy Kissel, who was imprisoned for life for murdering her millionaire banker husband, has accused the author of a new book on her case of presenting an inaccurate, distorted version of events and a "gross mischaracterisation" of herself and the people around her.  Breaking her silence for the first time since she was jailed in Tai Lam women's prison in September 2005, Kissel, who has read an advance copy of Never Enough by American true-crime author Joe McGinniss, also said through her lawyers that the publication of the book was not in the interests of her three children.

Her defence team told the South China Morning Post yesterday that had Kissel not had to focus on her appeal, scheduled for April next year, no doubt lawsuits arising from the alleged inaccuracies in the book would be considered.  But the author argued his was an accurate, objective and fair account based on the information he gathered from interviews of many relatives and friends of the Kissel couple.

Kissel, 43, was found guilty of drugging her husband, Robert Kissel, with a sedatives-laced milkshake and then bludgeoning him to death with a heavy ornament in their luxury flat in Parkview on November 2, 2003.  The prosecution case was that she wanted to run away with her lover, Michael Del Priore, a TV repairman who lives in a trailer park in New Hampshire.

During the three-month trial in 2005, Kissel argued that she was only acting in self-defence against her abusive husband.  She also claimed she had little memory of what the prosecution described as her cover-up activities, including rolling up the victim's body in a red carpet and hiring workmen to move it to her storeroom.

The book, to be released next Thursday, portrays the Michigan-born Kissel as a witty, attractive but short-tempered and unforgiving woman who would shut out her mother or best friend for saying or doing something she disapproved of.  The author identified greed as the root of the tragedy, arguing that the reason Kissel stayed with her husband, whose estate was worth an estimated US$18 million, was money.

The book has also upset the victim's family. Apart from inaccuracies, Bill Kissel, father of Robert, accused the author of portraying him as the iron-fisted "family villain" who cared only about making money, and conjuring thoughts and words attributed to himself and his late son.  As an example, he cited the author writing of a teenaged Robert pressing his face against the window of a candy store. The book says Rob "didn't just want to buy candy. He was Bill's son. He wanted to own the store". The 79-year-old father asked the author: "Did Robert come back from the grave to tell you this? Or is it more poetic licence?"  "McGinniss had to create controversy in the book," he said. "The trial was well reported and there was not much more he could say other than to appeal to the prurient interests of his readers. The children will have to live with this tale the rest of their lives. Perhaps it may lead them into some kind of healing profession."  Andrew Powner, solicitor for the victim's family, said: "I would seriously question the decision to publish the book before an appeal has been heard."

McGinniss, who became known after writing his best-seller debut on the election campaign of Richard Nixon in 1968, The Selling of the President, told the Post in his first interview given on the book it was ironic he was now under attack from both sides.  "I have done the one thing that nobody thought was possible - I have united Bill and Nancy once again," he said. "They have an opinion they can share. And obviously that was not my intention."