Review: JFK books abound - 4 more short reviews
Editor's Note: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, The Post and Courier's book page is featuring short reviews of 16 new books about JFK. Today, we continue with four more.
BY MICHAEL NELSON
Special to The Post and Courier
THE LAST INVESTIGATION: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK. By Gaeton Fonzi. Skyhorse Publishing. 496 pages. $24.95.
"The Last Investigation" is by Gaeton Fonzi, a well-known investigative journalist who worked as a federal investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979. The new release of Fonzi's 1993 work highlights the frustrations that the HSCA investigators had from continual obstruction of the investigation by the CIA. At the same time, Fonzi investigates the CIA's involvement with anti-Castro Cubans and alleged connections to Oswald. While narrower in scope than many books on the assassination, the issues raised are profound. Fonzi does not try to come up with answers as to who killed the president; in a very engrossing read, he merely investigates what he sees as secrets still hidden from the public.
RECLAIMING HISTORY: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. By Vincent Bugliosi. W.W. Norton. 1,648 pages. $79.95.
Another re-release is renowned prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's gargantuan "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy."
Bugliosi uses a prosecutor's wile to build a case for the assertion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of the president, and by sheer volume (the 1,600-page book weighs more than five pounds), it is a compelling case.
The chapter on Oswald's background alone is more than 250 pages. There is also a CD containing an additional 1,128 pages of endnotes and source notes.
Like Philip Shenon, Bugliosi devotes considerable space and energy to attacking attorney Mark Lane who was one of the early and most prominent of dissenters of the Warren Commision's report.
While Bugliosi claims his book will silence critics, in the end, unanswered questions remain. Despite considerable the space devoted to Oswald, the author does not adequately answer what Oswald's relationship was with the CIA, and he glosses over relationships with people who had known connections to the CIA.
Bugliosi also ignores or dismisses eyewitness testimony such as the Dallas police officer who encountered someone behind the grassy knoll showing Secret Service credentials when no Secret Service was present at that location.
The reader who believes Oswald was the assassin will feel reassured; those who believe a conspiracy brought down the president will not be convinced otherwise.
CIA ROGUES AND THE KILLING OF THE KENNEDYS: How and Why U.S. Agents Conspired to Assassinate JFK and RFK. By Patrick Nolan. Skyhorse Publishing. 384 pages. $24.95.
Many of the books that posit a conspiracy have pointed at the CIA. Among those is "CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys" by Patrick Nolan.
The author focuses on two main CIA officers, Richard Helms and James Angleton, while writing about CIA covert operations and practices of the Kennedy era. Discussions of CIA agents David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt are included in less detail. The book is well-documented, but the author often stretches his conclusions and makes questionable assumptions.
Circumstantial "evidence" such as CIA operatives' involvement in covert programs such as MKULTRA does not provide a direct link to the Kennedy assassination.
The author claims that CIA Director Richard Helms was involved in assassination coverup during the Nixon Administration and cites people found dead in mysterious circumstances, implying they were connected somehow to the assassination.
The book is thought-provoking and does raise numerous questions about the CIA in relation to the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert; however, there is not much here in the way of information not covered previously by researchers or writers.
SURVIVOR'S GUILT: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy. By Vincent Michael Palamara. Trine Day. 576 pages. $24.95.
"Survivor's Guilt" by Vincent Palamara is dedicated to exploring the role of the Secret Service during the Kennedy assassination and looks at each agent and their activities on that day.
Based on research that includes interviews with former agents, the author raises plenty of questions and exposes many problems involving the Secret Service's conduct and protection of Kennedy on that fateful day. It provides a counterpoint to the 2010 book "The Kennedy Detail," by former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin.
This is a intriguing book that accuses some Secret Service personnel of, at a minimum, gross negligence. Perhaps they were involved in the plot, Palamara suggests. This is in stark contrast to books by apologists for the Secret Service.
For anyone seeking a wide overview of the Kennedy assassination, this book, with its narrow scope, is not the place to begin.
But "Survivor's Guilt" is certainly a useful addition to the JFK canon.