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Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination Hardcover – October 8, 2013
"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote's scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York's society "swans" of the 1950s. Learn more | See related books
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is slight in both length(184 pages) and in plot.
Normally I try to avoid spoilers in my review but a spoiler is generally something surprising or dramatic and there is little to spoil in this story.
Essentially, Jack Gilmore is a Washington based reporter who was in Dallas on that fateful day in November of 1963. The story opens in 1968 when he is approached by the daughter of one of the Secret Service agents who was part of the President's protection detail. That agent, Van Walters, was the one who decided not to use the bubble top on the limousine for the motorcade. The daughter Marti tells how her father is suicidal and feels he is the one responsible for the death of the President. He thinks that had the bubble top been used in the motorcade, the President would have survived.
And that's about it. We learn about the days and years following November 22 and how Walters and the family were transferred to many cities, how Marti had to deal with high school students who blamed Dallas for killing JFK. Gilmore eventually meets Van Walters and becomes determined to re-enact the incident with the bubble top attached to the car.
That process takes up much of this rather meaningless novel with Jack trying to find the exact weapon, the exact bubble top, the exact angle and more. And when the recreation does happen, he doesn't even have the matches that he needs.
The only character that strikes caring for the reader is Van Walters himself. He is somewhat charismatic as a tortured soul who failed in his job of protecting his President.Read more ›
If you are looking for novels that deal more intimately with the Kennedy assassination I can highly recommend both "11-22-63" by Stephen King and "The Third Bullet" by Stephen Hunter.
And there is an angle: it's fully explained in the 2-3 sentence blurb--in actuality, he heard a Secret Service agent give the "order" to remove the plexiglas bubble top from the presidential limousine that day in Dallas. The fictional part is that Lehrer goes on to imagine that the agent is haunted by guilt and what might have been, despite the fact that the "bubble" was not bullet-proof and was intended only to protect from weather, not bullets. From there, the story-telling goes downhill quickly. The reporter, who is and is not Lehrer himself, gets a call from the agent's 20 year old daughter that he might be able to save this man from death by guilt, if he can come to Kinderhook, NY and convince him that Kennedy's death was not his fault.
Of course, we know it was not his fault, because the decision to have an open car was not actually made by the agent, and because the plexiglas was never intended as a safety measure. But on and on the story goes, with a feeble love interest thrown in to keep the story going for the slim 185 pages.
And in the end, well, nothing happens. The reporter does not fulfill his desire for the girl (she's too young--he's 30 and she's 20, and besides she's a "source." Ho-hum.) And then the two non-lovers meet up 50 years later, and nothing much happens then either.Read more ›
I had high hopes for this book as it sounded like a really interesting premise and I thought they would actually go through the scientific process of trying to recreate this experiment. Sadly, I was disappointed. Not only is the "experiment" rather short and unconvincing (at least to me) the writing of the story is only so so. To me it appears that Leher was trying to write a biography from the eyes of his reporter character, but instead it feels like sometimes he forgets that and instead starts reporting a biography of a fictional character, which makes for some stilted story telling. The characters were also unconvincing in that they alternated between reality--a reporter meeting a source--and fiction--a source trying to seduce the reporter--that just created awkward situations.
While it's an interesting thought experiment, I just expected a bit more convincing of the fictional recreation and a better story. If Leher had stuck with writing it strictly as fiction, it might have been a great story. As it is though...I just had trouble keeping my interest in the book. I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.
ARC provided by NetGalley
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very good book, with an ending that is unexpected, as in many of Jim Lehrer's books. If you haven't read any of his books before, try it! I think you'll like it.Published 13 months ago by Jerry Brookman
If you remember that day in November, this book will take you back to a time when we were all younger and more trusting.Published 13 months ago by FRANK DELIA III
A bit slow at first, but jim always spins a good yarn with colorful interweaving of fiction with fact.
It was an interesting work of fiction regarding a subject that has had so much written about it. He made the Secret Service agent seem very human and how much his family suffered... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Linda
The best thing about Top Down is that at under 200 pages it's a mercifully quick read. The story is about a reporter, Jack Gilmore, who is approached by the daughter of the Secret... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Christopher J. Martin
A fun story, but not one I would recommend for anyone looking for detailed/historically accurate/scientific findings on the theory of JFK's limo bubble top.Published 18 months ago by Andy Meholick
As a man of the Kennedy era and a Marine Vietnam vet this story evokes many thoughts...the integrity of people of that era and the sense of duty people had was clearly brought... Read morePublished 18 months ago by maxx