Richard Hammer was an American author of over twenty fiction and nonfiction books, numerous short stories, articles, and essays for major publications worldwide. He has won two Edgar Awards for Best Fact Crime, for The Vatican Connection (1982) and The CBS Murders (1987), and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Court-Martial of Lt. Calley (1971).
Richard George Hammer was born in Hartford, Connecticut. His father, Morris, was a newspaperman and an advertising executive. His mother, Mildred (Chaimson) Hammer, was a homemaker.
After graduating from what is now the Northfield Mount Hermon boarding school in Massachusetts, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Syracuse University in 1950 and a master’s in English literature from Trinity College in Hartford in 1952.
He did graduate work at Columbia University toward a doctoral degree and was an editor at Barron’s Weekly and Fortune before joining The New York Times in 1963. He wrote for the Times and its Week in Review section, where he covered the Vietnam war, the civil rights struggle, and most other significant stories of the time.
Hammer’s first book, Between Life and Death (1969), explored the case that led to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland and its repercussions.
In 1970 he wrote and narrated the documentary Interviews with My-Lai Veterans, which won an Oscar.
After a decade working in the Week in Review and Sunday magazine sections, Richard Hammer left The Times in 1972 to collaborate with Martin Gosch on a biography of the gangster Charles (Lucky) Luciano, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano (1975).
Richard Hammer won two Edgar Allan Poe Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for “best fact crime” book.
One was for The Vatican Connection: The Astonishing Account of a Billion Dollar Counterfeit Stock Deal Between the Mafia and the Church (1982). The plot centers on a New York City detective who solves a case involving fraud and money laundering.
The other, The CBS Murders: A True Account of Greed and Violence in New York’s Diamond District (1987), reconstructed the investigation into the killing in 1982 of three eyewitnesses to the shooting of a 37-year-old accountant who had agreed to testify against her former boss, a diamond dealer accused of fraud.
Richard Hammer died at the age of 93 from heart failure.
Photo Credit: Norman Nadel