By JOHN GLATT
Published: May 31, 2013
Inside the mind of Thomas Gilbert Jr., the Upper East Side golden boy who killed his own father.
Read: AIR MAIL
July 21, 2020
Which family members were you the most excited about being able to interview? Would you say that they were supportive of the story being told?
I was lucky enough to gain the cooperation of Chris Watts’ family early on. I was in Spring Lake, North Carolina researching the book when I saw Chris’s mother Cindy mowing her lawn. I went over and introduced myself and Cindy said she couldn’t talk at the moment, so I gave her my card. She called me later that day and embarked on an ongoing interview for the next year.
Her insight into the tragedy of Shanann and her two granddaughter’s deaths was invaluable and she also facilitated interviews with Chris’s father Ronnie, sister Jamie and some of the people that knew them the best.
Cindy and Ronnie were as confused and baffled at what had happened as everyone else, as they struggled to make sense of what Chris had done. They also felt railroaded by the Colorado legal system, who refused to allow them any contact with Chris before his guilty pleas.
I think they wanted me to tell the real story of what had happened and how their son never received a single psychiatric evaluation as to why he had killed his family.
Was there anyone that you wish you could’ve spoken to that you were unable to reach?
I would love to have spoken to Shanann’s family, but unfortunately they did not return my calls. I totally understood as they are still recovering from this dreadful ordeal.
During your research, were you able to talk to Chris Watts directly?
No I didn’t, although I contacted him through his family but he did not wish to talk.
Were you able to attend Chris Watts’s trial?
Actually there was no trial as Chris did a plea deal to admit killing his family in return for having the death penalty taken off the table.
What surprised you the most about this case?
I think I was most surprised at how Shanann so successfully created an ongoing image of the perfect family on social media and how far from reality it really was.
How much traveling did you do for your research? Were you able to visit any key locations mentioned in the book?
I spent a month on the road researching the book, travelling to North Carolina and Colorado to get a feel for Shanann and Chris’s lives and talk to as many people as I could.
What do you personally feel was the final trigger that moved Chris Watts to murder his family? Was it his wife’s pregnancy, his affair, etc.?
Personally, I think what drove Chris Watts to killing his family was Shanann’s pregnancy, which ironically he had previously told her he wanted. There was also a financial motive as they were getting deeper into debt and having another child would be very expensive. His affair with Nichol Kessinger also played a big part, but as in so many of the books I have written the big question is: why not get a divorce instead of resorting to murder?
Imagine that the Watts family lived 30 years ago, before social media. Do you think their story could have ended differently if the added stress of looking like a perfect family on social media for Shanann’s business had not existed?
I don’t think this tragic story would have happened before social media. Shanann was an astute businesswoman who used social media for her livelihood. A key part of her job was to hard sell Thrive on social media and create almost a soap opera of the perfect family. I think the pressures on Chris to participate in her videos etc., also contributed to what ultimately happened.
With over 25 books under your belt, you’re quite a prolific writer. Have you ever started researching a crime but then decided to not write a book about it? If yes, what was the crime?
Luckily, I have never had to abandon a true crime book yet.
Has COVID changed how your ability to research and write your next book? If yes, what kinds of adaptation(s) have you made?
So far it hasn’t affected me but I’m hoping that the travel situation will relax, as I love to do on-the-ground research where the crimes took place so I can get a real feel for what happened.
You mentioned in a prior interview for The Family Next Door that compartmentalizing things is key when researching disturbing crimes. Was there any particular aspect of this case that you struggled to compartmentalize?
There were a lot of aspects of Chris Watts’ case that I found highly disturbing. It was hard to compartmentalize when I was on the phone with a sobbing Cindy Watts, who was still trying to understand why her son had done it. She never saw any hint that he would be capable of such a horrendous act.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a book about Thomas Gilbert Jr., who was convicted last year of murdering his father, who ran a hedge fund. The Gilbert Family were highly prominent in New York society and mental illness played a huge part in what happened.
What are you currently reading?
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larsen.
Crime Watch Daily investigates the blockbuster case of Lacey Spears, a Kentucky mother who set off on a desperate journey to find a cure for son’s unexplained illnesses.
Watch John Glatt on “Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen”
“She always wanted to be looking after children and when she left school, she went into child care, and when she started taking care of children, people would notice how much more time she would spend with the children than everyone else,” said author John Glatt, who wrote My Sweet Angel: The True Story of Lacey Spears, the Seemingly Perfect Mother Who Murdered Her Son in Cold Blood.
Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends
Published: December, 2014
Glatt expands his first book, Rage and Roll: Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock, with this grand history of the Fillmore concert halls of San Francisco and New York City. Using to great effect his original interviews and a wide-ranging selection of previously published material, Glatt presents a definitive analysis of the rock music industry from Fillmore founder Bill Graham’s birth in 1931 to the theaters’ closing 40 years later. As a reference tool, music buffs and casual fans alike will find this volume indispensable. Glatt has spent the better part of 20 years assembling a truly staggering amount of information on a period of music that is often oversimplified as a haze of drugs and sex. Influential though those elements may have been, Glatt focuses instead on a triumphantly thorough chronicle of the business decisions and industry trends that affected the music of a generation, like Janis Joplin’s decision to split with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Though Glatt can’t always manage to organize his prose dramatically, he has nevertheless compiled an exhaustive compendium of fascinating data. Photos. (Dec.)
John Glatt’s ‘Prince of Paradise,’
By MARILYN STASIO
Published: May 31, 2013
The murder case John Glatt recounts in lurid detail in THE PRINCE OF PARADISE (St. Martin’s, $26.99) is too bizarre for a work of fiction. In fact, it’s a true crime story, originating at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach and harking back to the fabled era when stars like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra entertained the crowds at the front of the house while mobsters ran the show behind the scenes. Ben Novack Jr., the little prince of the title and one of the murder victims in this sordid story, was the son of the colorful entrepreneur who built the hotel and reigned over his fabulously vulgar empire for almost 25 years.
Pampered but neglected, the child everyone called Benji had famous guests like Jerry Lewis and Ann-Margret for playmates, but no one for a friend. No wonder the kid grew up to be a thoroughly obnoxious man. “Every neighbor hated him,” according to someone who knew him well. “They hated him everywhere.” Novack’s second wife, a former stripper, hated him enough to have him murdered — and his mother for good measure. But while Glatt does a professional job of covering the lonely life and violent death of this unhappy prince, his style is much livelier when he’s writing about Novack’s father, the king of glitz.
John Glatt talks about Ben Novack’s upbringing at the Fontainebleau.
True Story: a Hotel Heir, His Seductive Wife, and a Ruthless Murder at Miami Beach’s Fontaineblueu
04/16/13 – Tuesday’s Topical Currents looks at the saga of the famed Miami Beach Fontainebleau Hotel, and the events which ended the lives of its “matriarch” and her son. Ben Novack, Junior, wasraised in sumptuous Fontainebleau suites. When the family lost the hotel, he took a second wife: Narcy. She was an exotic dancer who performed in Hialeah. Years later, Narcy Novack executed a plot to kill her widowed mother-in-law and husband to gain their estates. We’ll speak with journalist John Glatt, author of PRINCE OF PARADISE. Tuesday 1pm on WLRN-HD1, rebroadcast at 7pm on WLRN-HD2 and audio on-demand after the live program.
CLICK HERE FOR THE INTERVIEW: WLRN Interview: True Story: a Hotel Heir, His Seductive Wife, and a Ruthless Murder at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau
Novack murder case chronicled in new book, ‘The Prince of Paradise’
WESTCHESTER – A book chronicling the Narcy Novack murder case is due out this week.
“The Prince of Paradise”by John Glatt details the murder of hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. and exposes parts of Narcy’s hire-to-murder scheme that, according to Glatt, have never before been revealed.
Also featured in the book is a recap of an exclusive interview by News 12 with Narcy Novack while she was behind bars.
The True Story of a Hotel Heir, His Seductive Wife, and a Ruthless Murder
From the provocative opening sentence (“When retired police chief James Scarberry heard in July 2009 that Ben Novack Jr. had been brutally murdered, with his eyes gouged out, he was not surprised.”), true-crime veteran Glatt (Love Her to Death) grabs the reader’s attention. With a perfect amount of detail, he traces the sad life of Novack—whose father, Ben Sr., founded Miami Beach’s legendary Fountainebleau Hotel—from an unhappy childhood to his death in 2009 at the age of 53. This is no whodunit—the path that ended with Novack’s savage slaying in a Hilton in Rye, N.Y., was a long one, and he wasn’t the only victim; just months before, Novack’s wife, Narcy, a former stripper determined to take control of the family’s assets (including Novack’s warehouse of valuable Batman memorabilia), orchestrated the brutal killing of his mother, Bernice. In fact, it was a medical examiner’s incredible ruling that the severe head trauma sustained by Bernice was an accident that allowed Narcy to go free long enough to plan her husband’s murder. This gripping account is proof that truth can be stranger—and far more disturbing—than fiction. 8-page b&w photo insert. Agents: Jane Dystel and Miriam Goderich, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Apr.)BUY NOW