on September 27, 2002
This is an extremely thorough and interesting examination of Ted Kennedy's Chappaquiddick incident, meticulously presenting and analyzing the evidence surrounding the case. The author's tenacity demonstrates that passion in a subject invariably will yield complete understanding of that subject. In this case, author Olsen concludes that Kennedy and Kopechne indeed were in the car together that night, but were frightened when it appeared a policman would stop them. Kennedy evidently panicked, not wanting to be caught in the auto with her, and he got out; she then drove away, toward the bridge and her death. Kennedy walked back to his hotel room, where someone saw him (dry and calm) a little later, seeking a newspaper. The seat in the car was set for Kennedy, meaning that a shorter driver on a dark night would not have exercised as much control of the vehicle as he... thus being vulnerable to running off the road.
So, Olsen concludes that Kennedy was not in the car, he wasn't present to dive repeatedly into the water to try to save her, and he didn't even know about the drowning until the following morning -- thus Kennedy was actually innocent of the general accusation that he caused her death. Problem is, he was in fact guilty of something equally dark, and you'll have to read the book to see Olsen's comments about that.
The author's passion was admirable. It reminded me of Robert Graysmith's pursuit of the Zodiac killer, his personal immersion in the case. "The Bridge" is a terrific book. Find a copy and read it.
on November 26, 2014
I hate the Kennedys.
Oh, it's nothing personal. It's just that they are Democrats, and while that is not necessary for my hate, it surely is sufficient.
A lot of Americans say ridiculous things such as, "Let's reach across the aisle!" or "Can't we just compromise?" when discussing politics. No, I won't. And no, we can't. There is a war going on, a political war, and it's pretty evident nowadays, what with the 2014 mid-term elections, and the nonsense that is going on in Ferguson, Missouri. As far as I'm concerned, you can blame the Democrats for burning down your town. After all, it's not the Republicans doing it. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it. Just like Ted Kennedy.
But I do like Jack Olsen. A lot. His work is always top-notch, seemingly no matter what the subject matter. I've read most of his true-crime books, especially ones written about serial killers. And I've even read "Night of the Grizzlies," serial murder in the animal kingdom against humans. And I've loved most of his books, and just liked only a few.
And unfortunately, I just only like "The Bridge at Chappaquiddick" (TBAC). And that's just barely. I could easily go with a three here, just based upon the ridiculous ending alone.
I will admit, I didn't know that much about this story before reading this book. I was only six when it happened, and I hadn't gotten into politics yet; I wasn't smart enough to hate the Kennedys yet. But my dad used to talk about that "Idiot Ted Kennedy guy" all the time, and how he "should go to prison," "rot in hell," or worst of all, "be forced to become a card-carrying Republican," for his crimes. And after reading the book, I would say that the late senator surely was guilty of something. And not just of being a Democrat.
Before you get all huffy, Mr. Kennedy did plead guilty to "leaving the scene of an accident," after all. But you know that he was probably guilty of more than that. Much has been made of Mr. Olsen's thesis on what really happened, and I urge you to jump to the next paragraph -- if you're still reading, my fellow "Democrat Friends," as yes, I'm only pretending to "reach across the aisle" -- to avoid a spoiler. And that thesis is: Mr. Kennedy wasn't even driving the car!
I think it would have been fine if Mr. Olsen had just written something like, "Now, this is a 'what-if' scenario, and I'm not saying that it happened this way. But hear me out, and it is interesting to think about." Instead, he made it seem as if this scenario is really what he believes, what really happened, and I say, "hogwash!" After all, Mr. Kennedy said that he was the driver immediately -- OK, maybe nine hours later, since he decided to sleep it all off before going to the police -- and there is no way in hell that he would have lied about this fact. It was too damning and too risky for him to say that he was if he wasn't. He would have even changed his story last-minute, before a trial, if he truly hadn't been driving.
But this is only a very small part of the book, so TBAC is only a minor disappointment, unlike most of the "Kennedy Boys," who I feel are "major disappointments." Once again, they are -- or rather "were" now that Ted is dead -- only Democrats. The rest of the book gives some really good background information on a family who believes that they are more important than they are, and suck ups in the local area who treat the Kennedys as such. But all kidding and snarkiness aside, this is, once again, a well-written morality tale. Other than that ridiculous ending.
What do I think happened? Occam's Razor should do the trick.
We know Mr. Kennedy was a drinker, and he very well might have been a womanizer. After all, he was a Kennedy, and this latter trait seemed to be in their general MO, although even if he wasn't it doesn't matter. At the very least, he was probably over-the-alcohol limit. Even if he actually wasn't, if he only THOUGHT he might be, my theory still may hold true. (Mr. Olsen's "logic" on this point is valid but unsound, as the author implies at least an either-or fallacy: Mr. Kennedy was either completely sober or Mr. Kennedy was completely drunk. Naturally, there are an infinite number of possible values in-between.). Indeed he was driving -- he admitted this himself, and stuck with this fact -- and accidentally drove off of the bridge. It's even possible some "extracurricular activity" might have been going on while he was driving, which would have surely stolen his attention. Ahem. (Once again, it doesn't matter. He was distracted enough by something to drive off the bridge.) If this version is true, he probably did try to save her, but as Mr. Olsen establishes, even the police chief couldn't pull her body out in the daylight, and that chief was a strong swimmer. So, Mr. Kennedy, fearing for perhaps manslaughter if he was found to be intoxicated, went back to the lodge to sleep it off; it supposedly requires one hour per drink to metabolize the alcohol, a fact undoubtedly that Mr. Kennedy knew. At any rate, I believe this is the most likely scenario, although there are many other possibilities, even the story Mr. Kennedy gave. I just don't believe his though. And oddly, his version is more likely than Mr. Olsen's. (I believe that the author was a liberal, so he might have lost objectivity here. Or, the author, over fear of a lawsuit, came up with a scenario where it was unlikely he would be sued. Either way, the author drove off the theoretical bridge himself with his theory.)
One interesting tidbit, not about this book per se: this is not yet available as of 2014-11-26 in the Kindle format, and I discovered that it is available for Nook. I had never bought a Nook Book until now. At any rate, the Nook experience is a nightmare. Their version of "ActiveSync" I call "Active Stink," as it doesn't work at all. I had to explicitly force a bookmark before leaving the book to return automatically to the correct page. Ouch. So I tried signing out, and signing back in. Nook deleted the book! So I had to download it again. And then, I found out it not only deleted the book, but it deleted the Dictionary! So I had to install the dictionary again. So I had to return to forcing bookmarks again. Yikes. Not to suck up to Amazon, but Kindle is far superior, which actually isn't saying much though.
I'll go with a minor recommendation though still, as after all, this is written by the "Dean of True Crime," Mr. Jack Olsen. But if you read it and like the ending? Well, I've got a Bridge at Chappaquiddick to sell you. Just make an offer in the Comment section and we'll negotiate.