NEW YORK, Apr 18 (Reuters) Sebastian Junger's new book begins with a family album snapshot of the best-selling author of ''The Perfect Storm'' sitting on his mother's lap as a baby.
In the background are two workers posing with them after renovating the family home. One of them is a handsome young man who became known as the Boston Strangler.
The image prompted Junger to write ''A Death in Belmont.'' ''I decided to find out more,'' Junger said in an interview about his book, which revisits a time when women in Boston were terrified by the Boston Strangler murders of 1962-1964.
But it was a seemingly unconnected murder on which Junger focused. On March 11, 1963, elderly Bessie Goldberg was raped and strangled in her house in Junger's home town, Belmont, Massachusetts. Roy Smith, a black man from Mississippi who cleaned Goldberg's home that day, was convicted of the brutal crime.
Albert DeSalvo, who later confessed and was convicted of raping and killing 13 women in the Boston Strangler murders, was working alone at the nearby Junger home. DeSalvo, who never admitted to the Goldberg murder, subsequently retracted his confessions and was murdered in prison in 1973.
In the book, Junger pieces together the evidence and leaves the reader with a picture that suggests that DeSalvo was more likely Goldberg's murderer than Smith.
''It was the ultimate journalistic challenge to write about Belmont,'' said Junger, who made his name as a war reporter in such places as Bosnia and Afghanistan. ''Belmont is the most placid, quiet, safe, protected little enclave. I thought, if I can write compellingly about Belmont, then I've earned my stripes as a journalist and as a writer.'' ''MUCH MORE COMPLEX'' At first Junger thought his book would consist of ''digging up a 40-year-old case and showing that the guy didn't do it and someone else did. But pretty quickly I realised the story was much more complex than the tidy form it took in my family.'' Instead, the book examines the terror in Boston during the stranglings and the type of justice facing a Mississippi black man in the early 1960s. It was a time of national upheaval as America mourned assassinated President John F. Kennedy while a jury mulled Smith's fate, Early reviews of the book are positive. Kirkus Reviews called the book ''a meticulously researched evocation of a time of terror, wrapped around a chilling, personal footnote''.
But ahead of the its publication this week by W W Norton, the victim's daughter has taken umbrage.
More Reuters SHB GC1022