When the Upper West Side Was Seedy

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Book review: Closing Time, by Lacey Fosburgh

Page turner about the 1973 murder of a schoolteacher on New York City’s Upper West Side by a troubled drifter. I haven’t read the book or seen the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which immortalized the case, and didn’t know much about the case itself. One detail had always stuck with me from whatever little I’d read about it – that the woman begged him to kill her during the attack. I also remembered that she’d seemed depressed and living a double life of some sort and always wondered if that little detail was true or fabricated by the murderer to make himself seem less culpable. It’s mentioned in his retelling of events here, but never concluded.

This book sets out to separate some of the fact from fiction, but as the author admits, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of much of it. What she does have to work with is very interesting, if very bleak. The ending of the book is like a slap in the face. The truth is really sad, for pretty much everyone involved in this story. But it’s fascinating nevertheless, and I loved the way the author painted such a vivid picture of New York City at the time (72nd street today would surely be unrecognizable in appearance and culture to all of the key players in this story!) and the cultural norms and expectations of the time. It was very well done and provides a good explanation of the “double life” factor of Roseann Quinn (Katherine Cleary in the book). I would have liked a little more of the author’s interpretation of some of the events, rather than only her admittedly engaging retelling of the facts.

I wasn’t crazy about the “interpretive biography” aspect. She explains in the intro that where blanks in the story came up, she filled them in with what she imagined to have happened, particularly to have been said. I’m sure this happens often in narrative nonfiction and sometimes is necessary, but it was a little too speculative without serving a purpose, like guessing that someone thought of the smell of flowers. I’m not sure why she felt the need to invent when this was supposed to be the true story of a case made famous in its fictionalized form. But overall a very compelling read, I love when vintage true crime is rereleased like this!

I received an ebook copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Closing Time: The True Story of the “Goodbar” Murder
by Lacey Fosburgh
published July 5, 2016 by Open Road Media, first published 1977

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