I saw the book in Barnes & Noble the other night on the way home from work: CEMETERY JOHN by Robert Zorn. It looked beyond intriguing. The main premise of the book is that Bronx resident Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the rightfully reviled man who was most certainly a part of the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932, did not act alone. Hauptmann’s participation in this sick crime, in which the kidnapped baby was killed, despite the Lindberghs having paid a hefty ransom, may well have been as a mere accomplice and follower in what was known as “The Crime of the Century.”
The leader? One John Knoll, whose neighbor in the Bronx was author Robert Zorn’s father, Gene.
Gene had shared his belief of John Knoll’s involvement with Robert for years. Both father and son had unofficially worked to prove Gene’s theory. Gene has since passed away, and Robert continued with researching the case. The astonishing result of what the Zorn men found is this new book. The title is taken from the fact that “John” was the name the kidnapper identified himself by when meeting with an intermediary at a Bronx cemetery, where he was given the ransom money for the child who was, by then, probably already dead. Hauptmann maintained until his execution that he himself was not “Cemetery John,” though of course nobody believed him; part of the ransom money was definitely found secreted on his property. Besides, if Hauptmann had been “Cemetery John,” while on trial for his life, he’d never have admitted it.
‘Twas the night before payday when I spotted the book in the store, so I decided I’d come back and pick it up the next evening, once I had a bit more cash in my purse. By the time I returned, a mere 24 hours later, the store appeared to be sold out of copies. The staff had to find one for me since the rest of them had already been sold straight off the shelves. Such is the power of a well-written, entertaining and fabulously researched book.
I don’t want to say too much more about the content of this amazing story, since to do so would spoil it for any potential readers. All I will say is that I cannot recommend this book enough! It’s the research coup of the year, and if you want a great true crime read, run right out and buy your copy today – before your bookstore runs out of them, too.
Hats off to both Robert Zorn and his late father, Gene!