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A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination Hardcover – October 29, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805094202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094206
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A New York Times Bestseller

"Jaw-dropping scenes involving the destruction and manipulation of evidence... A persuasive, deeply researched account… A compelling read."—The Washington Post

"A Cruel and Shocking Act has authority, is tantalizingly readable and is convincing in its claim that the Warren Commission was unable or unwilling to uncover the total truth. [Shenon’s] work, I submit, is the one to read."—The Wall Street Journal

"Engrossing reporting… [A Cruel and Shocking Act] raises significant questions."—The New York Times

"Remarkable…I’ve become convinced that, 50 years after the act, a real reporter—not some chat-room know-it-all—has through actual, on the ground, person-to-person investigation, through nonstop digging, tugging at the tangled heart of the mystery, brought us to the brink of answer. An achievement that, I believe, merits the Pulitzer Prize and the thanks of a grateful nation."—Slate.com

"[A Cruel and Shocking Act] contains a number of startling facts… [and] juicy and informative details that shed new light on the JFK investigation…. The book reveals how the investigation was immediately taken over by the very government agencies — the CIA, FBI and Secret Service — that had the most to hide when it came to the assassination…. A remarkable story."— David Talbot, Salon.com

"A judicious account of the Warren Commission, as recalled by the lawyers who did its legwork. A." Entertainment Weekly

"[A] masterful piece of modern history… A work fit to rank alongside the previous masterpiece of the murder, William Manchester's Death of A President... Gripping."—The Independent (United Kingdom)

"Magnificent… An incredible book."—Bob Schieffer, CBS News

"I love this book. It is a terrific read."—Lou Dobbs, Lou Dobbs Tonight

"Impressive… [Shenon] documents the extent to which agencies and actors in those days withheld and even destroyed information that should have gone to the Warren Commission."—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

"A Cruel and Shocking Act may be the best of the big-anniversary crop of books about the assassination – a tour de force of good reporting and excellent storytelling about an event that continues to defy clean and final resolution, 50 years later."—The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana)

"Valuable, smartly written."—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A thorough, fascinating and highly readable record of the details of the murder of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.... One of the more impressive offerings in the 50th-year anniversary of that watershed event."—Bookreporter.com

"Convincing… the evidence [Shenon] assembles is frightening."— The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, OH)

"A Cruel and Shocking Act offers … fascinating detail."— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Sober and powerful…Shenon, a former New York Times reporter, affords the reader access to the behind-the-scenes deliberations and dynamics that shaped a historic inquiry into a national trauma."—Publishers Weekly

"Startling… Shenon has helped us get further than we’ve been before."—Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Customer Reviews

I found the book very interesting and well written.
Claudia Paley
A Cruel and Shocking Act is an outstanding account of the work by the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of Kennedy.
william malin
In some ways Shenon's book builds on some of the previous studies that critiqued the Warren Commission investigation.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 162 people found the following review helpful By J. Boles on October 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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).
Read more ›
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Filip De Mey on December 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 on November 12, 2013
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 By M. Hegener on October 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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