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John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best (Publicaffairs Reports) Paperback – April 27, 2004

3.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Last year, Boston Globe reporters working on a multipart series uncovered the stunning news that John Kerry's paternal grandfather was Jewish. This book, an expansion of that series, doesn't find any smoking guns about the presumptive Democratic candidate for president. But it does offer a detailed and at times critical biography of the Massachusetts senator. Relying on years of reporting, the authors trace Kerry's itinerant boyhood as the son of a Foreign Service officer and his later years at prestigious St. Paul's, where early on he demonstrated intellectual seriousness and ambition. This ambition is one of the themes of Kerry's life as presented here. The biography shows Kerry's somewhat bumpy ride as a politician and his strength more as an investigator-on Iran-Contra-than as a legislator. The book, written in the lucid, straightforward prose one expects from a newspaper writing team, is especially strong on Kerry's college and Vietnam years, detailing the sense of service felt by Kerry and his fellow Skull-and-Bonesmen at Yale, and Kerry's doubts about the Vietnam War even before he went over to serve. The authors take critical issues head-on: they explore questions over Kerry's first Purple Heart and his leaving Vietnam before his service was over, as well as the Nixon administration's targeting him as an enemy. Kerry supporters may find the tone a bit harsh, but all who are interested in the 2004 election will benefit from this major serious examination of a man who would be president. 27 photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"An extensive, and in my view, very fine piece of work." -- Brit Hume, Fox News Channel

"Kerry campaign... is portrayed in this book for the inquisitive voter or political junkie." -- Campaigns & Elections, Oct/Nov. Issue

"The conscientious research in this book reveals that [these] reporters ... were out to get the facts." -- Washington Post, June 16, 2004

"The final result is the 448-page John F. Kerry, whose subtitle stands as a fair example of gauntlet-throwing" -- The New York Observer, July 28, 2004

"[One] wish[es] that there were as thorough, up-to-date and probing a biography of George W. Bush available before the election." -- New York Times, May 4, 2004

"a ready guide to the Democratic nominee." -- National Review, May 31, 2004

"an extensive, well-documented overview" -- Louisville Courier-Journal, July 18, 2004

"excellent and thoroughly researched... likely to become one of the most authoritative sources on the candidate." -- Library Journal, June 1, 2004

"exhaustive, textured ... to know who ... Kerry is and what kind of president he might be, this is the book" -- Newhouse News Service, May 30, 2004

"quick read ... gives a ... three-dimensional character... [the authors] have left enough new in there to keep you turning the page." -- ABCNews.com, April 27, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Publicaffairs Reports
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482734
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482732
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,840,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew Wall on August 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
As one might expect from a book expanded from a series of newspaper articles, this biography of John Kerry is a fairly dry and straightforward presentation of the facts of his life. The Globe did an admirable job in assembling, and in some cases uncovering, primary source material on Kerry. (Those expecting a local paper to do a fluff job on the local hero should be aware Kerry has had a strained relationship with the Globe's news staff for thirty years.) As such, this is a very good introduction to the man who would be president, and in a way a sort of skeleton for some as-yet-unwritten future biography that might explore him as a person and public figure in greater detail.

The Globe series pulls no punches in presenting Kerry's career, warts and all. It does a particularly good job at examining the controversies in Kerry's biography and sorting out the facts from the innuendo, the verifiable from the speciously speculative. Vietnam medals, his conservative role in the radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War, his controversial first stabs at elected office, and the basis of his at-times confusing stances on the Iraq and Gulf Wars are all covered from "both sides" with analysis limited only to a reasonable calculus of what version of disputed events is most likely to be true.

As a political biography, this book distinctly has no point of view. Very little in the way of historical context, as might be expected in a more erudite biography, intrudes upon the basic narrative of Kerry's public life. Supporters and detractors of Kerry will find plenty to grab onto within its pages. At the same time, the book should raise questions about Kerry to his partisans as well as underscore his strengths of character, intelllect, and executive abilities to his opponents.
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Format: Paperback
I have read many biographies of political candidates. Almost all such biographies are either puff pieces or hatchet jobs. This biography by contrast is of a different sort, a detailed "who," "what," "when," "why," and "how" the Democratic presidential candidate arrived where he is today. The look is a revealing one that will be helpful to those who want to make a more informed decision about whom to vote for in the coming election. It's well worth your time to read this book.
The authors are three reporters who developed a detailed series on Senator Kerry for the Boston Globe last year. Since then, the series has been expanded and extended to create this volume. The work is much more complete than I expected.
Although I am from Massachusetts, I didn't feel like I knew very much about Senator Kerry before reading this book. Now, I realize why I had this feeling. Senator Kerry hasn't really spent a lot of time in the state except during the period from when he first ran for the House of Representatives until he was elected to the Senate. His father was a foreign service official, and Senator Kerry often lived in foreign lands or at prep schools in either Switzerland or New Hampshire (the Saint Paul's school). He attended college at Yale (where he was a member of the select Skull and Bones) and left there for Vietnam. After he became a senator, most of his time was spent in Washington or in foreign travel. Senate President Billy Bulger used to kid Senator Kerry that part of his district was in Nicaragua.
The book told me quite a few things I didn't know. To me, a man named John Kerry is probably an Irish Catholic. Well, that's not the case.
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Format: Paperback
Overall this book is "fair and balanced" but tends to be slightly more negative than positive (whoever said this is Pro-Kerry "propaganda" has obviously not read it). The authors do a good job of using different sources and weighing their credibility to come up with a reasonable consensus of what happened. I found the chapters concerning Kerry's youth, college years, and Vietnam experience very interesting. However, some of the chapters seemed too long (family tree, 1996 Senate race). I definitely recommend this book for those who want a better understanding of John Kerry.
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Format: Paperback
This book isn't written in flowing prose and it doesn't seem to have any political ax to grind. They just want to present the facts about John Kerry's life for the eventual judgement of the reader.

They present both sides of the controversies Kerry's been involved in (his desire for a negotiated settlement with the Sandinistas, his peace activities after getting back from Vietnam, his first Purple Heart, etc.). However, the authors have a great deal more respect for what is part of the documented historical record and try to compare that to what Kerry or his critics say.

With that said, I liked the guy I read about. I felt that the resume the book ended up presenting was impressive- Kerry volunteered for Officer Training, commanded two swiftboats and won five medals in Vietnam with only his First Purple Heart having any question about it(Kerry got hit by shrapnel and was a little to aggressive in getting a Purple Heart for it). He came back, traveled all over the Eastern U.S. talking to Vietnam Vets and presenting their stories to Congress and anyone else who would listen. He tried unsuccessfully to run for the House, then attended law school, and worked for the DA's office of Middlesex County where he racked up an impressive conviction rate and left because he started vying for the DA's job. He then established his own successful law practice, then ran for and won a Senate seat in 1984. He's spent the last 19-20 years doing mostly investigative work for the Senate, from Iran-Contra to Latin American Drug Smuggling to the BCCI banking scandal and then investigated claims that POW's were still in Vietnam (his work on this gained the respect of John McCain).
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