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Customer Discussions > 11/22/63: A Novel forum

Who killed JFK? Does it matter how King plays this?


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Initial post: Nov 15, 2011 9:03:43 AM PST
First, this will contain a spoiler (not a huge spoiler, and not one that's really all that important to the novel, but a spoiler nonetheless) -- so if you haven't read the novel and don't want to know anything about what happens, please read no further.

King makes the decision in 11/22/63 that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman, shooting three times from the window of that book depository on Dealy Plaza in Dallas. Oswald fired three shots, says King -- the first one did not hit the target, but the second two did. No second shooter on the grassy knoll. No "magic bullet" that had to change direction in mid-air. No CIA, no mafia, no Cubans, no LBJ, no Communists. No conspiracy. Just Oswald.

I bring this up because I read recently that almost 80% of the American public believes that some sort of conspiracy was involved in the assassination of JFK. As few as 12% accept the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald acted alone. I know that when I first heard about this novel I wondered how King was going to deal with the events of that fateful day. King includes an afterward in 11/22/63 explaining that he is now convinced that Oswald was the lone shooter.

Does this effect your enjoyment of the novel? Will the 80% who are sure of a conspiracy feel cheated? Or is it all a moot point, since the novel is much more about protagonist Jake Epping than it is about Kennedy. But there IS all that history . . .

Posted on Nov 17, 2011 5:39:58 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2011 5:40:27 AM PST
J. Brandt says:
I finished 11/22/63 last night. I'm still torn on this issue. A buddy of mine read Vincent Bugliosi's HUGE book about the JFK assassination and he is now convinced Oswald acted
alone because Bugliosi (the famous lawyer) takes every shred of evidence and destroys each conspiracy theory thoroughly in his 1,000+ page book.

Still, Oswald wasn't exactly a super agent or super shot with a rifle, but KING makes an interesting note in this book - Oswald was able to do something he probably should not have been able to get away with in killing JFK. He compares it to the lottery which is a game of pure chance that almost nobody ever wins and yet someone does. Same with Oswald.

By the way, I loved the book 11/22/63. It has to be in my top 10 books that I"ve read in the last 20 years.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2011 6:50:51 AM PST
I agree with you on all counts -- I posted the topic mainly because someone I know is refusing to read the book because he thinks King copped out by not dealing with the conspiracies. He was hoping King would at least provide a plausible explanation as to how things happened as they did.

Since so many people are "sure" that Oswald did not act alone (and some believe he was not even there!), I'm wondering how this will affect feelings about the novel. From what I've read so far (in reviews and comments), not much!

And I loved the book, too. But I'm OK with Oswald as the "lone gunman"!

Posted on Nov 18, 2011 10:34:34 AM PST
MontclairMD says:
I love alternative histories, like The Plot Against America and The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Novel. I guess I was a little disappointed that King didn't go with one of the conspiracy theories and build on it. The book was great though.

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 8:35:19 AM PST
Chris P. says:
If King had played up the conspiracy factor his book would have been panned and he would have been vilified by the media. That's why drivel writers like Bugliosi and Posner are glorified in the press while writers like Lane, Douglass, Nelson, Twyman, Mantik, Livingston, Groden, etc., etc., are ridiculed or completely ignored. Despite the efforts of Chairman Blakely to prove Oswald acted alone, the HSCA had to finally admit that JFK was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2011 9:19:38 AM PST
Chris, I gotta say I can't imagine King ever being "panned" and "vilified" by the media! I fully expected he would examine the conspiracy side of things -- I think his reason not to has more to do with his decision to focus more on his central characters than on the historical events that form the background of the novel. He claims his research has convinced him Oswald acted alone.

I was surprised, though. I think there are a lot more people out there who think like you do than there are people who agree with King's take. Most just don't seem to care all that much . . . at least not when it comes to a Stephen King novel.

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 5:04:16 AM PST
MontclairMD says:
I agree, evidence shows Oswald did it. I just thought Stephen King would've had a grand old time with a conspiracy theory. The thing about conspiracy theories is that they often reveal a truth about politics--like the military/industrial complex, or the collusion between government and organized crime. In fiction, King could've explored any of these ideas.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2011 6:26:23 AM PST
Mrimd: I, too, figured King would have fun with one (or more) of the conspiracies out there. Back when he was writing "Firestarter" he was real big on government conspiracies (and such things have shown up in several novels/stories since), so it seemed like a natural here.

I really think the reason he decided to go with the "Oswald did it alone" version is that he wanted his focus to be on his main character rather than on the assassination itself. This is Jake Epping's story, and not JFK's (although the title suggests otherwise).

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 8:20:06 AM PST
Nick Jones says:
I am in the conspiracy camp; there's just too much suspicious about the whole event, background and foreground, for me to at least speculate that there was a conspiracy. (Try Jim Marrs' Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy for a ton of not-well-known information.) One example: the so-called "magic bullet" was found on a gurney long after Governor Connelly had been taken into surgery, and it's only assumed that the gurney was his - because of the bullet found on it.
But this, after all, is a work of fiction, and I, for one, am not going to get bent out of shape because the evidence I've read differs from the 'lone gunman' meme.

However, I won't be buying it, because in the decades since the publication of The Shining, his fiction has rarely approached the quality of his first three novels.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2011 8:49:27 AM PST
I agree with your final statement -- King's early work is by far his best. I liked "Hearts in Atlantis," but "The Shining" is the best thing he has ever written.

Personally, I have no idea how Kennedy died. My husband agrees with you -- he's read the "The Plot that Killed Kennedy," and he feels the same way you do about the suspicious things connected to the event. You say it wouldn't matter to you that King went with the "lone gunman" version of the events -- that's interesting. I was just surprised at what a large percentage of the American population believes in some sort of conspiracy surrounding the assassination. That mean's King's version isn't going to resonate with the majority of his readers. But maybe they will all agree with you -- it's not terribly important in a work of fiction. So far, I've read NO reviews that are critical of this aspect of the book.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2011 10:14:36 PM PST
dougrhon says:
My hope is that King's massive popularity will help convince more of the public of the truth which is that Oswald and Ruby were both unbalanced people who acted totally alone.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 7:04:43 PM PST
I agree with your take on King's motive in writing his story with the lone gunman, kacunnin. He did say his research had convinced him that there was no conspiracy (though he said his wife believes otherwise).

It was as much a love story taking place in a time-travel setting as it was purportedly about the assassination. He did mention he was very much a fan of Finney's story "Time and Again."

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2011 4:38:31 AM PST
I agree, Patricia -- this is primarily a love story (and a story about how interconnected we all are, like strands in a very complex tapestry). King avoids all the sci-fi aspects of time travel stories (no time machine, no space-time continuum stuff) -- he offers no explanation as to how the portal works, or why it's there. It just is.

It's the same with the Kennedy thing. The most important aspect of that part of the novel is the importance of Kennedy's death in the fabric of our history. If "the past is obdurate," as King keeps insisting, then changing it makes little sense (as we discover in the novel).

I haven't read "Time and Again," but I see a new version is being released next year.

Posted on Dec 6, 2011 7:11:11 AM PST
While I don't doubt that 80% of those surveyed believe there was a conspiracy I suspect that number more accurately reflects the percentage of people who don't think for themselves rather than any kind of indication of the probability of conspiracy in the murder of JFK. What started as a relatively small number of people who, for whatever reason, were unable to accept that one inadequate personality could change the course of history has grown through misinformation, flawed logic, and by tapping into a generalized paranoia about government and the nature of modern society.

Yes, just because we are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get us. But it doesn't mean they ARE either.

Any reasonable person who approaches the subject of the murder of JFK with an open mind and examines the evidence will conclude that Oswald, acting alone, shot the President from the Texas School Book Depository. No other explanation stands up to scrutiny.

By choosing to tell the story as he does, King assumes a certain level of intelligence on the part of his readers. I don't know if that assumption is justified but it is certainly refreshing.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2011 8:49:25 AM PST
William, I agree with your assessment. I find that most conspiracy theories fall apart upon close scrutiny -- or they are self-fulfilling, since the "evidence" comes from other conspiracy theorists (thus the continuing cycle of miss-information).

When I first heard about this novel, I assumed King would spin a conspiracy tale (perhaps not one of those we have already heard; maybe something completely new). Based on a few of his past novels, I assumed he would be first on the conspiracy bandwagon. Yes, it was refreshing that he went in another direction.

I think people (and Americans in particular, for some reason) really like the idea of conspiracies. Perhaps they need to believe that the things that happen in life are somehow controlled by someone, rather than random events. "God's will" is an answer that works for some; for many, though, it's got to be a conspiracy. King makes a point in his novel of saying that "things turn on a dime" -- who knows when or why.

It's a good novel -- satisfying because it doesn't attempt to answer all the questions. It plays with one scenario. And even that is just a very small part of what King's novel is all about.

Posted on Dec 6, 2011 12:36:37 PM PST
I think an interesting study could be made of the parallels between development of conspiracy thinking in the JFK matter and the evolution of religion - particularly the first three centuries in Christianity. Really the similarities are astounding and sufficiently well documented that a serious study could be made. Cast Mark Lane as Paul of Tarsus and see where it takes you - I wish I had the time to seriously study it.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 8:23:29 AM PST
Ben Holmes says:
Bugliosi "destroyed" each "conspiracy theory" only because he simply refused to take on the most devastating evidence.

The "16 Smoking Guns" - for example. He knew about them, HE MENTIONS THEM IN HIS BOOK - then carefully avoids any further mention of them, or any refutation of them. He simply ran from them.

He's also quite clever at lying about the evidence... and unless you actually know the evidence, you will not be aware of any of this. You have to actually read the original testimony for yourself - because otherwise, it's easy to accept the word of Bugliosi.

But the simple fact is that he lied repeatedly about the evidence. As just one example, he claimed that Carrico described the throat wound as "ragged", thus showing support for the idea that it was an exit wound. As anyone who has actually delved into the mass of evidence in this case is well aware, the throat wound was *NOT* ragged, nor was the original throat wound EVER described as such by *ANY* eyewitness. It was described as a small, 3-5mm smooth round hole... it looked PRECISELY as an entry wound looks, and was so described by those who saw it. Bugliosi knows that, but was willing to lie blatantly in order to make his point. He simply changed the look of an entry wound into the look of an exit wound by lying about the testimony of eyewitnesses.

There are numerous critiques of his book around the Internet, and they provide many more examples of Bugliosi simply lying, or running away from known evidence in this case. (As did Posner, as did McAdams, etc.) Unfortunately, the amount of detail and the mass of evidence that must be learned in order to fully understand the conspiracy is quite large... Doug Horne did one of the better jobs, and it took him 5 volumes to describe... if you really want to learn more, visit alt.conspiracy.jfk and lurk around, or ask questions...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 9:53:10 AM PST
A question to you, then, Ben: Have you read King's novel, and if so, does his decision to go with the "lone gunman" explanation ruin the story for you? Even though King isn't trying to explore the minute details of the assassination, he does rest his plot on the assumption that Oswald was acting alone -- he was just a crazy wanna-be communist who was influenced by those around him to believe that Kennedy was a threat to Castro, and thus a threat to communism world-wide. Yes, there was a one-in-a-billion chance that he would be able to actually kill Kennedy, but sometimes those one-in-a-billion chances do happen.

I've read a lot about the assassination -- I am familiar with Bugliosi's book (although I have not read it), and I've read several interviews he's given about the subject. I'm not sure what to make of your contention that Bugliosi "lies" about the evidence in his book -- what would be his motivation for that? He spent an awful lot of time writing his massive tome (decades, actually), and it doesn't make much sense that he would purposely lie about the evidence. He may interpret it differently than you do (or than others do), but he seems to honestly believe his interpretation is the correct one (as you do about yours).

Anyway, this is still a fascinating subject that will likely remain unresolved. Then again, there are a lot of documents that will be released to the public in a few years -- perhaps some light will be shed on what really happened.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 1:36:50 PM PST
Ben Holmes says:
Even the very first poll taken after the assassination showed a *MAJORITY* of Americans believing in a conspiracy - so it's flatly incorrect to refer to a "small number of people" who believe that there were multiple shooters, and a coverup.

And since the educational system and the traditional mass media has been firmly in the WCR's camp - you can't argue that people have been brainwashed into believing a conspiracy.

The truth is that "reasonable people" can look at the evidence, and find that it quite convincingly shows that there was a conspiracy in this case.

When people who support the WCR cannot offer credible and non-conspiratorial explanations for a large majority of the evidence in this case - it's "Case Closed", but not as Posner would have it.

To argue that King "assumes a certain level of intelligence" is to label the vast majority of Americans as stupid - and *that* is a stupid assertion.

There are several major forums on the JFK assassination - and it's rather telling that the one devoted to the WCR's theory is a censored forum.

The truth doesn't need lies to support it, neither does it need censorship.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 2:01:42 PM PST
Ben Holmes says:
Nope... haven't read King's novel, and quite frankly, I'm not a Stephen King fan - it's not my sort of literature.

That's why I kept away from any discussion of a book I've not read, and am not interested in reading - although the fact that he took a Lone Nut perspective would not have stopped me from reading it if that was my type of reading material.

I *have* read Bugliosi's book... several times now, as a matter of fact. And it's a provable FACT that he lies... for example, his lie that Carrico described the bullet wound as "ragged" when in fact he did precisely the opposite. I don't need to speculate about "motivation" when the fact is there. I don't ask about the "motivation" for a fire engine to be painted red, when I know that it *IS* red. Motivation at that point is simply irrelevant. It's only *AFTER* you can admit that Bugliosi lied that you can legitimately wonder about his motivation.

Why worry about "motivation", and actually look into his claim that Carrico described the bullet wound as "ragged"? Then when you find out the truth... ask yourself why Bugliosi lied about eyewitness testimony. Perhaps *YOU* can answer the question! (Ironically, as I write this, I'm sitting in the jury waiting room... :)

Bugliosi is far from the only defender of the WCR's theory that has been shown to be a liar... do a Google search for "HSCA Lied", read it, verify it... then ask yourself what motivation they must have had. Of course, in the end, the motivation isn't important... the evidence is.

You argue that this subject will "remain unsolved" - yet you clearly haven't tried to look at the evidence. It's certainly true that as King isn't 'my' sort of literature, perhaps the JFK assassination evidence isn't your type of reading... but quite a bit of light *has* already been shed on the event, much of which was known that very day on 11/22/63.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 2:16:52 PM PST
Ben Holmes says:
"development of conspiracy thinking"... what a fascinating reversal of actual history!!

A majority of those polled after the assassination believed that there had been a conspiracy - and that number has gotten larger over the years *DESPITE* the fact that the educational system and the traditional mass media is firmly in the WCR's camp.

Mark Lane was merely one of the first to publish on the actual evidence in this case... the fact that no-one has been able to refute him - as has been done for Posner, Bugliosi, McAdams, etc... is quite telling.

Why not study the EVIDENCE in this case?

You might not like what you learn... but it would be a far more intellectually challenging and honest use of your time.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 2:26:39 PM PST
Ben Holmes says:
"My hope is that King's massive popularity will help convince more of the public of the truth which is that Oswald and Ruby were both unbalanced people who acted totally alone. "

Isn't that quite a bit to hope for from a book that everyone *KNOWS* right from the getgo is firmly in the section labeled "fiction"???

Your hope would be better rested in such books as those written by Posner, Bugliosi, or McAdams.

Or perhaps I'm wrong... maybe a popular author like Stephen King can change American opinion... but I wouldn't bet money on it.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2011 3:34:48 PM PST
dougrhon says:
Neither would I. But one can always hope. Very little fiction. Related to the nurser of Kennedy assumes Oswald acted alone. And King is a very popular author.

Posted on Dec 8, 2011 9:34:55 PM PST
SER says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Dec 9, 2011 5:46:58 AM PST
Ben, I did a little reading (as you suggested). I read Dr. Carrico's original testimony where he was asked about the neck wound. Carrico said, "this wound was fairly round, had no jagged edges, no evidence of powder burns, and so forth" (he went on to say it was "compatible with either an entrance or exit wound" -- this was also Dr. Perry's testimony). Carrico also confirmed Spector's statement that there was "a jagged wound in the trachea," which is the wound Bugliosi first discusses in his book (on page 60, according to information online). Carrico then agrees with Spector that the throat wound was most likely an exit wound.

Now, it does appear that later in his book (page 207) Bugliosi uses the word "ragged" in connection to Dr. Perry's testimony about the throat wound, which erroneously suggests that Perry described the wound itself as "ragged" (which he did not). This, I guess, is what you are asserting is a "lie." I quibble only with the word "lie," since that is not at all clear. Whether the skin wound was ragged or smooth is less important to the medical conclusions than whether the trachea wound was smooth or ragged (at least that was the opinion of both Dr. Carrico and Dr. Perry).

So, was Bugliosi "lying"? You may disagree with the way he reports some of the medical testimony, but his conclusions are consistent with those of medical experts. That doesn't mean he's right about the bullet wounds -- but it suggests that he is not a "liar." It is possible to see historical events differently without lying about them.

To SER: The novel isn't "drivel," and King's readers are not dolts. But you are entitled to your opinion, as are we all.
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Discussion in:  11/22/63: A Novel forum
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Total posts:  279
Initial post:  Nov 15, 2011
Latest post:  Mar 18, 2016

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11/22/63: A Novel
11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King (Hardcover - November 8, 2011)
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