Books · True Crime

In Search of Kermit Jaediker

“The tall hawk-faced Holder and the curvy brown-haired Lynnor Gershenson were lovers and what made their lovemaking so fascinating to the police was that Holder’s wife had been murdered.”

You would be excused for assuming that this wonderful sentence is lifted from one of those paperback pulp novels, a bit of classic hardboiled detective fiction. But it’s not. I love good writing wherever I find it and I found this gem of a sentence in a newspaper story from The Reading Eagle, dated August 6, 1972.

In 1970, for reasons that are not germane to this post, I was selected to give a commencement speech at my high school graduation (Valley Stream North High, Class of ’70). Some of my classmates were on their way to Viet Nam. And for those of us who were heading off to college, one month after the National Guard shootings at Kent State, college suddenly seemed more dangerous than ever before. I didn’t see how I could give a commencement speech without making reference to the world that we were graduating into.

Now you’re just going to have to trust me on this, but I didn’t say anything outrageous or unnecessarily confrontational. Actually, you don’t have to trust me. You can trust my father. Before I gave my speech, he made it clear that he wanted to review every word. And he surely would not have allowed me to say anything that would give “aid and comfort to our enemies.”

But when the representative from the Board of Education, a Mr. Howard Holder, got up to speak, that is exactly what he said. That I was giving aid and comfort to the enemies. That I was looking to Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman as my role models. I’ll admit to a certain fondness for Abbie Hoffman, but, in truth, I mentioned neither of them in my speech. Mr. Holder went on to give me a lecture on citizenship (in front of the entire graduating class, our families and guests) suggesting that it would be more appropriate to look to people such as he himself, volunteering his time on the Board of Education, for my role models. (I kid you not.)

Two months later, Mr. Holder was arrested for hiring someone to murder his wife. I am far from perfect, but as I approach my 35th wedding anniversary, I can proudly say that I have never hired a hitman to murder my lovely bride. Anyway, Mr. Holder was arrested, and now, 45 years later, as Paul Harvey would say, I “know the rest of the story.” After 45 years, you’d think I could let it go, that I wouldn’t take such delight in Mr. Holder getting his comeuppance. But he did. And I am.

I learned the rest of the story with the help of the internet, when I came upon two newspaper stories in the Reading (PA) Eagle, The Sweet Smell of Death (July 30, 1972) and A Tryst – Down Payment on Death (August 7, 1972). I learned that Mr. Holder was having an affair. I learned that he and his girlfriend plotted to kill his wife. I learned that they were convicted and imprisoned for their crime.

But that is not what this post is about. This post is about Kermit Jaediker, the reporter who wrote the two stories in the Reading Eagle. What drew me to the stories were the facts about the Holder murder case, but what held my attention was the writing itself.

I needed to know more about Kermit Jaediker. Surely he had written more than a two-part feature in the Reading Eagle. It has become something of an obsession.

Mr. Jaediker was born on April 19, 1911 (perhaps in New Jersey). The first references I can find indicate that from 1941 – 1943, he worked on comic books. He was the writer and colorist for the first issue of Air Fighters Comics (November 1, 1941) as well as the writer of the first issue of Captain Battle Comics (July 1, 1942).

air fighters     captain battle
He was the letterer of issues #2, 3 and 4 of Victory Comics (October, November and December, 1941). He wrote Sub-Mariner Comics issue #8 (December 10, 1942). He also co-wrote a daily (and Sunday) newspaper comic strip, Vic Jordan, under the pseudonym, Tom Paine.

From there, he went on to write two potboilers. In 1947, his first book, Tall Dark and Dead was published in a hardcover edition by Mystery House. Lion released the mass-market paperback in 1951. In 1953, Lion released his second title, Hero’s Lust. He had stories published in the 1950s in magazines with names like Swank and MALE.

tall dark and dead     hero's lust

While working on his comics and his pulp fiction, Kermit Jaediker apparently earned a living as a staff reporter for the New York Daily News. I have found bylines in the Daily News as early as May 9, 1944. His byline pops up intermittently in the Daily News until 1958, according to various online sources. On September 14, 1958, he reported on the Bob Wood murder case, Gramercy Park Gets the Horrors.

grammercy park gets the horrors

Bob Wood, the editor of the well-known crime comic, Crime Does Not Pay, was arrested and later convicted for the murder of his girlfriend, beating her to death after an 11 day drunken hotel tryst. (Mr. Wood served three years in jail for the crime.) Given Kermit Jaediker’s history in the comics, I can only assume that he knew Bob Wood personally.

The trail goes cold after 1958. But 14 years later, on July 30, 1972, Kermit Jaediker has a byline in the Reading (PA) Eagle, The Sweet Smell of Death, the first of a two part feature about the Holder murder case. On August 7, 1972, part two, A Tryst – Down Payment on Death. A year after that, on June 22, 1973,the Reading Eagle published Jaediker’s feature story about Jack the Ripper, and on July 15, 1973, a feature about a serial killer in Santa Cruz, CA. The final byline I can find is a feature story about the zodiac killer in the Sunday News dated July 22, 1973.


Kermit Jaediker died in January 1986.

So I have learned a good deal about Mr. Jaediker, the crime reporter and wordsmith, but I feel like I’m left with more questions. Where in the world was Kermit Jaediker from September 1958 until July 1972? Was he, all that time, a working newsman, whose stories have somehow eluded my detection? Or did he perhaps follow the example of one of his comic book characters, the Black Commander? In Air Fighters Comics, the Black Commander was sentenced to death for treason as a cover story which allowed him to go undercover and infiltrate a Nazi spy ring. As far as I can tell, Kermit Jaediker went missing from 1958 to 1972. I like to imagine him going undercover, living out his fascination with the lurid underbelly of society, in order to infiltrate a Communist spy ring.


3 thoughts on “In Search of Kermit Jaediker

  1. I’m taking it, I’m disallowed the rip van winkle angle? I picked up a james clavell book where he has this research time point of 1975 for Iran. yet that particular war didn’t begin for quite a few more years. he went were the story was… it reminds me of a carly simon line… when you’re where you should be all the time unless you’re not and then your your with a wife of a close friend, wife of a close friend….I quesss that just telegraphs the blood of my point through the veins….since I already have heard hints of your politics long ago and what not, would you suffer the horrors of a movie? “the motorcycle Diaries.” You’re not an Argentine medical student in need of a holiday so you don’t have to worry about going poof, pinko…besides you already holiday in the land of uber patriotism where we get the primary first or something like that. but, my point isn’t that your writer needed to go pinko because of the world he saw on holiday… but the epic adventure! to find himself changed unlike steinbeck – travels with charlie – I would never have touched a drop of apple hooch if it weren’t for him mentioning it, that steinbeck and your state seems to be the last bastion of american production of the stuff…therefore I’m tied to you from a curious web of lines ….and worse, you’re a kind man who does so many similar type real jobs….and even once said you had the misfortune of prescription medication kicking in so you understood me better than usual…but never you mind this connections stuff, that’s james burke television. I am no closer to you than a similarity or two ….and yet the digression wasn’t long enough to forget I mentioned a movie about south american travel changing a person to be kind of like a similar quest yet closer to home…mine or yours….and wonder what would a person find in the way of so many chances to stand out and yet only draw criticism enough to take up hitchhiking across america to meet lobo – to inspire the tune a dog named blue… I thought it was “boo” and had elevated lobo to scholastic leaning because the at least dug to kill a mockingbird….I too like to cheer the supporting cast. pumpkin from memoirs of a geisha arthur goulding is another such example. but this hitchhiking wasn’t beat enough to hooch up keauroac and go ask alice must have hit shelves so copycatting wasn’t selling… or maybe he was a HARD rider just as jack nicholaus was becoming ….in easy rider. forrest jump was about history and a lil joke of how he made it or inspired it :D….which brings on a lawrence of arabia quote… “does the arab bear…spelling issue beauro… ice…. do they want a big thing in arabia? was america ready to hear how gas saving was the reason for the 1965 introduction of an interstate speed limit of 55mph then when israel hadn’t had it’s lightning war with egypt and others yet? and we didn’t feel the weight of the oil embargo really til the early seventies yet your writer knew to chase the truth?? why must we save gas when the law looked more like an attempt to curb traffic related fatalities and boost local level revenues?? gas remains stable from most of your time period in question… but maybe he was a mamie dowd eisenhower fan and was seeing her national highway beautification act for an expose of how it led only to convenient areas to park “” 😀


  2. I am in search of Kermit Jaediker but for an entirely different reason. As a brilliant, yet scathing writier for The Sunday News, Mr. Jaediker wrote a salcious but unfortunatley, accurate piece about my mother, her lover (who was my biological father) and my mother’s estranged husband. The article appeard in the Sunday News on November 6th, 1955. The article covered this incident which took place a year earlier, on November 12th 1954. However, Mr. Jaediker continued with more information by attending court proceedings that took place in October and early November 1955. His article was called “Docile Don’s Daffy Domicle” and included a photograph of my young mother donning gloves and smiling (apparently, inappropriately) at a very serious court proceeding. The other photograph shows her husband, the “docile” Don Shea, looking like a deer in the headlights. He painted Don as a weak, cuccolded victim and my mother, a immoral, cheat, which she may well have been. I discovered this article serendipitously, while searching for another article that I suspected had been published the previous year on or around November 12th, 1954. The fact is, I saw the 1954 piece when I was 5 years old, and since it imvolved my mother and by association, me, I will never forget it.

    I am working on my memoir which has a rather dramatic and hopefully compelling start and you’ll just have to take my word on that, since Mr. Jaediker saw fit to cover a portion of the drama in the Sunday News. I have been trying to locate the article I saw 55 years ago but so far have had no luck. I recall (and since 5 and a half decades have passed) my recollection is spotty, that this particular article was called “She Wants her Man” or “She Done HIm Wrong”, referring to the fact that my mother, Mrs. Joan Shea, and her lover, Ed Friedland (my biological father) had hired a moving van to clean out the house that she shared with her estranged husband, Donald. Donald was not very happy about this turn of events, since his wife, my mother, was pilfering their belongings without his permission and was essentially running off with another man. As my mother told me years later, someone, possibly Donald, called the “newspaper” and the article was written and a photograph was taken of my mother sitting in Ed’s car. The incident took place at 603 Whittier Lane in Westbury, Long Island.

    My research led me to believe that this article from 1954 had appeard in the NY Daily Mirror or the New York Mirror, as it was called. I have gone through many reels of microfilm from this paper from 1954 but have found nothing.

    I am now wondering if perhaps it actually appeared in the Sunday News instead. I am now also wondering if Mr. Jaediker may have covered the story.

    So, my question is this, other than ordering microfilm from public libraries which is expensive and very time-consuming, is there a way I can search for articles Kermit Jaediker may have written. Perhaps you or your readers know someone who is a Jaediker archivist or fanatic and they may have this phantom article. If so, I would be thrilled to get a copy.

    Kim Chamberlain


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