TODAY'S PAPER
42° Good Morning
42° Good Morning
Lifestyle

'A TALK WITH Author Jeanne King' / She's On the Case, Again / Jeanne King inks a deal to write her take on the Silverman murder

OFF THE BAT, it is clear that Jeanne King was a

prototypically busy kid, the kind to raise a schoolteacher's hackles and spend

recess at a desk scribbling, "I will not talk. I will not talk. I will not

talk..." 100 times on her tablet.

"I was accused of 'speaking out of turn,'" King said, teeth gleaming and

spectacled eyes squinting with the mischief of her smile.

The home she keeps in Forest Hills suggests a few things about this

churning within. Her front-door greeting began with a handshake, then an

unprompted ruminating on whatever subject came to mind. Lois Lane, her snow-

white short-hair cat, was underfoot. Clark Kent, the more skittish of her two

felines, was out of sight. King began pointing out her collection of ceramic,

plastic and wooden felines of varying sizes, shapes and colors, scattered on

end tables, radiators and wherever.

Photographs showing the worldly and locally prominent with whom she has

worked and rubbed shoulders lead downstairs to a basement-work space for a

journalist-turned-author -where walls are ringed with more pictures.

Bookshelves overflow. File cabinets line up. File crates stack up.

Leading upstairs to her more private quarters, a wall of courtroom sketches

of some of New York City's most famous criminal trials helps tell the story of

how King arrived at this moment. She covered the retrial of Dr. Sam Sheppard,

the trials of Rabbi Meir Kahane's accused killers and yuppie murderer Robert

Chambers, the World Trade Center bombing case and the racially tinged cases

from Howard Beach and Bensonhurst.

Now she has snared a six-figure book and television movie deal to offer her

take on the case of Sante and Kenneth Kimes, the mother- son duo convicted of

murdering Irene Silverman, the East Side millionaire widow whose body was never

found.

From jury selection to the verdict's public reading, King-at 68, a grand

dame of Reuters news wire service-was the only reporter to cover every day of

the proceedings.

The Kimes story she is crafting for the big bucks of Hollywood and the

publishing world -her first book-has nudged her away from the journalistic

tradition in which she is steeped. Where she tried to begin her trial coverage

with a reporter's requisite lack of presumption-and sought to keep it that way

until the end-King now says the courtroom back-and-forth convinced her of the

Kimeses' guilt.

They committed to paper too many plots against Silverman and made too many

telephone queries about her private affairs. There were 129 witnesses. Duct

tape and a box of 42-gallon, industrial-weight trash bags-four of them were

missing-were taken from the Kimes apartment to be cataloged among 430 pieces of

evidence.

The book will include particulars left out of routine press reports. Such

as Kenneth Kimes' furious and frequent mouthing of profanities. "I was

constantly reading his lips," King said. Or his mother's weirdly incessant

facial contortions. Or the detectives' tracing and retracing the Kimeses' trek

across a half-dozen or so states and one foreign country.

"I have every intention of giving both sides of the story," she said. "But

now I can say what I want to say."

King has invited the 129 trial witnesses, the defense attorneys and

prosecutors, and Silverman's household and administrative staff to a catered

affair at her home in August.

Her book is slated to hit stores in 2001, somewhere ahead of the Kimeses'

next trial-on charges they murdered a man in Los Angeles. Precisely how a

six-figure deal translates in terms of dollars King will not say. Friends have

inquired about what she will do with the bounty. She said she has not given it

much consideration.

A long weekend in Maine is on her calendar. And for the months following,

she will devote herself to fulfilling her book contract.

Not a bad place to find yourself, said King, who grew up in Washington

Heights, reading Nancy Drew mysteries and watching TV lawyer Perry Mason.

She dropped out of college. "I am so ashamed of that. It is my biggest

regret."

She took her first job as a clerical worker for the Screen Actors Guild at

a time when few women of even her ordinary social station went anywhere without

a husband leading them. She went on to write copy for radio and do publicity

for the 1950s "Queen for a Day" TV show.

King arrived at newspapers just as the industry was beginning to let women

dabble outside the women's pages. Former New York Daily News court reporter

Theo Wilson taught her the tricks of the trade, she said, and she has sought to

pass on her own tips to court-reporting upstarts.

"Little things: A trial starts at the time of jury selection, not the day

of opening statements. Keep track of what time someone went on the stand and

off. Observe things. Does he pick his nose? When and how long does the jury

deliberate?" she said. "That's how it ought to be done."

More Lifestyle