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A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination [Kindle Edition]

Philip Shenon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $32.00
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

A groundbreaking, explosive account of the Kennedy assassination that will rewrite the history of the 20th century's most controversial murder investigation

The questions have haunted our nation for half a century: Was the President killed by a single gunman? Was Lee Harvey Oswald part of a conspiracy? Did the Warren Commission discover the whole truth of what happened on November 22, 1963?

Philip Shenon, a veteran investigative journalist who spent most of his career at The New York Times, finally provides many of the answers. Though A Cruel and Shocking Act began as Shenon's attempt to write the first insider's history of the Warren Commission, it quickly became something much larger and more important when he discovered startling information that was withheld from the Warren Commission by the CIA, FBI and others in power in Washington. Shenon shows how the commission's ten-month investigation was doomed to fail because the man leading it – Chief Justice Earl Warren – was more committed to protecting the Kennedy family than getting to the full truth about what happened on that tragic day. A taut, page-turning narrative, Shenon's book features some of the most compelling figures of the twentieth century—Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Chief Justice Warren, CIA spymasters Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, as well as the CIA's treacherous “molehunter,” James Jesus Angleton.

Based on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to the surviving commission staffers and many other key players, Philip Shenon's authoritative, scrupulously researched book will forever change the way we think about the Kennedy assassination and about the deeply flawed investigation that followed.

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2013

Editorial Reviews


With meticulous rigour and the sure-handed storytelling of a gifted thriller writer ... Shenon's careful delineation of the limits of the facts is more necessary than ever Metro A masterful piece of modern history Independent Compelling Sunday Times

About the Author

Philip Shenon, the bestselling author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, was a reporter for The New York Times for more than twenty years. As a Washington correspondent for The Times, he covered the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the State Department. He lives and writes in Washington, DC.


Robert Petkoff has won multiple AudioFile Earphones awards for his acclaimed narrations. He was named Best Voice of Fiction & Classics for his reading of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. His other narration credits include Oath of Office by Michael Palmer, Gangster Squad by Paul Lieberman, and books by David Foster Wallace.

Product Details

  • File Size: 9702 KB
  • Print Length: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (October 29, 2013)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DVE484G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,356 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
132 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cruel And Shocking Act by Philip Shenon October 29, 2013
I received an advance copy of this book about a week ago, and due to work constraints was unable to start on it until two days ago. I just finished this book this morning, literally having trouble setting it aside, and in my estimation, it will likely be one of the few significant contributions to the assassination literature published this year.

It should be stated that this is NOT a book promoting any alternative theory, or seeking a dialogue regarding the plausibility of the theories in existence, or even a book written by someone who places much faith in such claims-the book instead is an examination of the Warren Commission and how those proceedings helped to guarantee the flourishing conspiracy culture.

Shenon's judgment is that the Warren Commission was flawed from the start, but not because the commissioners or the staff themselves were part of a conspiracy to bury the truth. Rather, Shenon makes a case for information being buried out of selfish consideration by the top echelons of the FBI and CIA, men like J. Edgar Hoover and James Jesus Angleton, who put pride and reputation of themselves, their colleagues, and the then undiminished reputations of their agencies above full disclosure. And none of the information buried was indicative of the FBI or CIA being any part of the assassination, but rather their knowledge of Oswald beforehand and their dereliction in ensuring the information was properly disseminated to other agencies (i.e. the infamous destruction of a note, delivered to the Dallas FBI by Oswald in November 1963, or information the CIA held in its possession re: Oswald rubbing shoulders in Mexico City with Cuban embassy personnel or Cuban intelligence are notable examples of information suppressed by these agencies when confronted by the Commission).
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
I read the Dutch version because it was the first I could put my hand on. The subtitle was translated into "the final history" (de definitieve geschiedenis) and then in very small print "of the investigation". This translation is more accurate than the original subtitle: the secret history of the "Kennedy Assassination". But on the other hand, the main title in Dutch was "Anatomy of an assault" (Anatomie van een aanslag) which is even more misleasing than the original "A cruel and shocking act". Focus of the book is indeed not -repeat NOT- on the assassination but on the Warren Commission. This is an interesting subject, and the author interviewed the last surviving actors in this drama. Bravo. But most of it is already said and written, by Epstein (Inquest), McKnight (Breach of trust), Walt Brown (Warren Ommission), and many others. When it comes to the facts of the assassination Shenon sounds very bugliosic. A self-satisfied explanation for all the mistakes and mysteries, and great silence about important inconvenient facts. The narrative follows what the protagonists, e.g. junior counsel Arlen Specter, did and knew at that time, early 1964. This makes it easy for the author to avoid problematic matters. I give some examples. Belin ran down the stairs, and concluded it was possible to reach the second floor in time to meet Baker. At that moment Belin was not aware of the supplementary problem with Vicki Adams and Sandra Styles. So Shenon does not have to talk about it. Marina is heard by the Commission and quoted ".." in the book. But then Shenon takes over the narrative and declares what Oswald alledgedly did (e.g. take the gun out of Mrs. Paine's garage). Read more ›
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
By jwt0001
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In some ways Shenon's book builds on some of the previous studies that critiqued the Warren Commission investigation. While Shenon definitely supports their final conclusions, he clearly shows that the commission was hampered in many ways. Starting with Earl Warren's decision not to let any commission lawyer view the autopsy photos and x-rays to the lack of work from many of the commissioners as well as lawyers hired to perform the work, Shenon shows some of the reasons why the Warren Report became so subject to disbelief.
Unfortunately, Shenon's clear agreement with the lack of conspiracy will hurt his credibility with the conspiracy theorists, who believe that anyone who doesn't believe in a conspiracy is an accomplice to the coverup. I have reviewed a number of the books published as we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination and Shenon's is the only one who has presented any new information. While I'm sure that some of the stories have appeared in other sources, he did a great job of bringing together the details. Please read it with an open mind!
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46 of 60 people found the following review helpful
I received a review copy weeks ago and read the whole book. It took me a while to realize this was not about the assassination but about the machinations inside and outside the Warren Commission. As such, it's a good book, quite readable while shedding light on the dark forces that tried to influence the outcome of the Commission's work. America and the world at large had to endure two traumas: the killing of a beloved US President, followed by a shameless cover up, despite (and this was new to me) serious and sincere attempts by Warren's staff, the junior staff members in particular to find the truth.
Shenon should have made it clear from the start, and he should have repeated a couple of times in his book, that he is not primarily writing about the assassination. He is following the leads that were identified as such by the Commission, while staying firmly entrenched in the Oswald-killed-Kennedy paradigm: no accomplices on 22 November, though Shenon looks at the possibility, just like the Commission did, that Oswald was pushed by, for instance, Cuban forces.
Make sure to have some good, general books about the assassination at hand while reading Shenon, otherwise you'll miss a lot!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars It might have been
I watched him being interviewed about the book. So many of his points were prefaced with or ended with the following: maybe so, if, it might have been, could be, possibly or... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Joe Dirvin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book, very persuasively argued and deeply researched. surely JFK's assassination was not the result of the lone gunman.
Published 8 days ago by Liznola
5.0 out of 5 stars What it is .. and what it is not
This is a long read but its saving grace is a riveting story and a graceful style. The author has turned over many rocks which others have not, and he is to be thanked by the... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Richard A. MacKinnon
4.0 out of 5 stars More Facts that make sense
Thought this would be just another re-tread conspiracy theory. Was very much surprised to find a lot of information I had not seen before. Read more
Published 27 days ago by John H. Coffey
5.0 out of 5 stars the book highlights one thing - there are few if any undisputed facts...
Outstanding work on how the Warren Commission and its staff operated. Provides insights as to how the final report almost necessarily had to give rise to the conspiracy movement -... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars ... on the JFK assasination and this was book was excellent. As told...
I have read numerous books on the JFK assasination and this was book was excellent. As told from the perspective of the Warren Commission staff, it was extremely eye-opening. Read more
Published 2 months ago by James L Reed
3.0 out of 5 stars This book can be a good read if one is garnering information about the...
Just another perspective on what we already know. Literally in the last half of the last chapter I learned of a new perspective on old already known facts. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thomas Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by capshky
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Deborah D Adams
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This is a good read....some new information about the killing and cover ups. Shenon presents the material well.
Published 3 months ago by Diane Cunningham
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