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The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union Hardcover – October 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1ST edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465021816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021819
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Unlike previous accounts of the man who assassinated Kennedy, which focus on whether he acted alone, journalist Savodnik here delivers a genuine biography that emphasizes the nearly three years Oswald spent in the Soviet Union and attempts to address the oft-neglected question of why he wanted to kill the President. A mildly rebellious youth whose mother never provided a stable home, Oswald joined the Marines at age 17—his service was undistinguished and men in his squadron considered him odd because he was already expressing pro-communist views. Soon after discharge, he traveled to Moscow where he requested Soviet citizenship; suspicious authorities dithered for months before assigning him a factory job in Minsk. Oswald made friends and enjoyed success with women who considered him exotic, but he became bored and dissatisfied. His marriage to Marina Prosakoba briefly improved matters, though he soon resumed efforts to return home, passing the last year and a half of his life growing increasingly irascible. Savodnik&'s impressive research—which includes many Russian sources—does not turn up any revelations, but it paints an intriguing portrait of a restless, tormented soul who accomplished little in a short life until he turned himself into an infamous historical figure. Agent: Ted Weinstein, Ted Weinstein Literary Management. (Oct.)

From Booklist

A lot of people, Savodnik points out, have spent a lot of time speculating about whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President John F. Kennedy. Very little time, on the other hand, has been spent in examining Oswald as a man. Savodnik begins with the assumption, for which he later offers plenty of evidence, that Oswald acted alone, and he devotes his time to exploring the reasons why this 24-year-old assassinated an American president. His focus is on Oswald’s years in the Soviet Union—his reasons for going there, his disillusionment (Russia, it turned out, wasn’t a workers’ paradise), and his state of mind when he returned to the U.S. in 1962. Savodnik busts a few myths along the way; for example, pointing out that the notion that the Russians would use Oswald as a Manchurian Candidate–style programmed assassin is absurd. But his real interest lies in presenting a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald the man, not merely the murderer. A very welcome addition to the voluminous literature about the Kennedy assassination. --David Pitt

Customer Reviews

It is extremely well written, concise, and an easy read.
Amazon Customer
Savodnik does a good job of acknowledging his limits here, usually advancing hypotheses consistent with what indirect evidence there is.
Daniel Weber
Simply an excellent overview of what drove Lee Harvey Oswald to kill Jack Kennedy.
S. J. Snyder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Walker Lamond on January 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally, an author chooses to do some real research and write a thoughtful, entertaining, and ultimately convincing book about JFK's assassin. After 50 years of conspiracy theories, sensationalism, and American myth making, Savodnik gives us a real biography of Oswald by diving deep into his personal history--his transient childhood, his failed stint in the marines, and most importantly, his time in Russia. Contrary to what many JFK "experts" would like you to believe, Oswald's life did not start in the book depository or even in Minsk. He has a long, tortured personal narrative that gives more than a plausible motive for becoming the world's most famous killer.

The story is riveting, not just for the revelation of new facts about Oswald's life, but also because Savodnik is simply a terrific writer. His research is detailed but he does not bog down in the mundane in order to bolster his credibility. He is more interested in telling the story, and the book is a real page-turner. This book makes Norman Mailer's Oswald bio seem like a drunk's fever dream--all waving arms and red faced, but ultimately just fiction. Savodnik's book is the real deal. Oliver Stone has got to be feeling pretty silly right about now.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on October 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Some of the many books concerning President Kennedy or his assassination that are being released this month or next appear to cover very familiar ground, but Peter Savodnik's "The Interloper" provides new observations and insight into the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and sheds light on what drove him to do what he did on November 22, 1963.

Oswald's life was a pattern of restless wandering, or "interloping" as Savodnik describes it--Oswald had an exceptionally unstable childhood, remaining in one place for an average of about ten months. This interloping did not end as Oswald approached adulthood, as the pattern recurred in his stint in the Marine Corps and with his flight to the Soviet Union.

The author notes that Oswald's pro-Soviet ideology was not arrived at gradually and through purposeful, rational thought and examination, but was leapt at--he moved to the Soviet Union in an attempt to find a place to belong. The author reveals why the Soviets chose Minsk as a location for him to settle, describes the people he met in Minsk and what impact they had on him, and shows why Oswald didn't fit in or find there the sense of belonging he had been looking for his whole life.

Oswald was spurned by one love interest and then married Marina Prusakova, but his cycle of wandering and interloping had not ended--by 1962 he wanted to leave the USSR, again not for ideological reasons. The future assassin was not much of a thinker at all, and the writing samples throughout the book show that he was barely literate.

Savodnik closes by describing the final unraveling of Oswald's life after his return to the United States.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For those of you are still wondering who killed President Kennedy and why, this book is a must.
This masterful piece of research and thoughtful analysis, lays bear things about Lee Harvey Oswald that none of us knew. Described as a "failure", this excellent book details his 3 years in Russia. It is based on extensive interviews with people who knew him and other primary sources.
It is extremely well written, concise, and an easy read. Oswald was desperate to find some meaning in his life; in a distorted way, the assignation provided that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Richardson VINE VOICE on January 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It hardly seems possible, with all that is known about the Kennedy assassination, that there are still blank spots. But apparently there has been little detail compiled about Oswald's sojourn in the Soviet Union. Sadovnik rectifies this, interviewing and investigating previously untapped sources, and arrives at a convincing narrative and explanation for the tragedy.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Persephone1000 on October 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any student of Oswald knows all too well how his "lost years" in Russia (particularly in the city of Minsk) have befuddled his biographers. Peter Savodnik's The Interloper goes straight at the mysteries of Oswald's weird Soviet interlude, marshalling a lot of original material, including first-ever interviews with Oswald's surviving contemporaries in Minsk, to give us a lively portrait of Oswald as a frantic, naïve, usually baffled pseudo-Marxist "interloper" in a culture about which he understood almost nothing.

Among the books to appear on Oswald in the run up to the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, and I bet there will be a few, I would be surprised if any other title gets so rawly and insightfully face-to-face with Oswald as this one.

As Peter Savodnik demonstrates, Minsk was quite possibly the worst place in Russia for Oswald to try to reinvent himself as a Communist superman. Totally devastated during the war, the city rebuilt itself as an insular and uncertain place, rightfully perplexed (if not alarmed) by entanglements with foreigners. Into this provincial void Oswald was dumped by his KGB handlers, men who were bewildered by the American's enthusiasm for a Bolshevik ideal that every Russian knew had died decades before. Predictably, Oswald failed to achieve any kind of "life mission" in Minsk, an existential calamity for the restless young man that the author underscores with a vivid mosaic of period detail, first hand reminiscences, and a mastery of the grittiness and confusion of Russia, post-Stalin.

Something more. The Interloper is a useful corrective to the Oswald-as-dark-knight theories trumpeted in some of the "canonical" assassination histories I've read.
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