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Islander Nancy Dougherty’s book named one of New Yorker magazine’s best

The New Yorker has named “The Hangman and His Wife: The Life and Death of Reinhard Heydrich” as one of the Best Books of the Year in the magazine’s list for 2022. The book, by Islander Nancy Dougherty, was published by Knopf in May 2022.

The process of completing the book after her death in 2013 represents a determined effort by her husband to see it through.

“Jim Dougherty spent the years since her death arranging for noted New York Times book reviewer and author Christopher Lehmann-Haupt to edit and finish the book,” wrote Islander Jonathan Russo, in advance of a talk by Mr. Dougherty at the Shelter Island Public Library. “All three of them, combined with the book’s original editor, who saw it through to publication 30 years after signing it up, helped create a remarkable work. The portrait of Heydrich and his wife Lina, with whom Nancy did extensive interviews, is at once  riveting, chilling and ultimately tragic.”

Assassinated in 1942 by Czechoslovak resistance fighters, the Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich left few traces of his life, but Nancy Dougherty spent decades researching this account of his rise, most notably through interviews with Heydrich’s widow, Lina.

The son of an opera singer, Heydrich was dismissed from the Navy before becoming Heinrich Himmler’s deputy and then the head of the Gestapo. Dubbed “the man with the iron heart” by Hitler, he comes across as an opportunist rather than a true believer.

Lina, willfully refusing to accept her husband’s role in atrocities, claims that his importance is “always overrated.” In photographs, she says, “He’s shown where he really belongs, always in the second rank.”

Of his own efforts to bring the book to fruition after his wife’s death in February 2013 from Alzheimer’s, Jim Dougherty said, “It was well worth it.

“I’m delighted and honored to see Nancy getting the recognition she deserves,” he said of The New Yorker accolade. “I hope Nancy in some way is aware of this happy and well-deserved event. She worked so hard on it.”

Jonathan Russo concluded his Reporter column on Jim Dougherty’s Friday Night Dialogue discussion of the book by saying, “Jim, it was worth the wait. Thank you for lovingly shepherding your wife’s book through to its successful publication. ‘The Hangman and His Wife’ is an extraordinary legacy.”