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The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy: A Novel Paperback – November 22, 2010
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"...America would be a different place had Kennedy remained at the helm. 'The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy' is a fascinating and original work, and highly recommended" -The Midwest Book Review
From the Author
I'm fascinated by those points in history where a small change precipitates large shifts in events. Chaos Theory suggests that butterflies flapping quietly in South America can alter world weather patterns through an ever-magnifying chain of events. This might start with the slight shifting of air flow around their tiny wings, growing to a small breeze, then a gust of wind, a change in pressure that eventually helps power a tornado in Oklahoma. In the same way a small change in one person's actions effects our historical record. What history would we be living now if a few stray chads had shifted the 2000 Presidential election to Al Gore? If the Supreme Court had not intervened and declared victory for George Walker Bush, would the 9/11 terrorist attacks have even occurred? Would Gore have drawn America into two endless wars? Would we have succumbed to an economic meltdown?
And what sort of world would we inhabit if, thirty-seven years earlier, John F. Kennedy had recovered fully from bullet wounds and gone on to fulfill a second term as president? How many times has the question been asked about his potential impact on world history? In looking through the available literature, no one appeared to have answered the question adequately. So, rushing in where angels feared to tread, I attempted to fill that gap with this novel, posing that perpetual question regarding 11/22/63, "What if...?"
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The story is historically factual up until November 22, 1963, but in a sharp turn of history, the author speculates about an assassination ATTEMPT, which the President miraculously survives. In fact, he goes on to win a second term, thereby remaining in office for almost the entirety of the decade of the 1960’s.
The book takes us through the politics of the day, including a hair-raising description of how the world teeters on the edge of annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Later we read about how JFK teeters on the edge of death after the attempt on his life).
We also become privy to the (imagined?) subterfuge by J. Edgar Hoover in plotting with LBJ to keep the true nature of the supposed conspiracy under wraps for the "greater good" of the country.
Most notably, the Viet Nam War winds down quickly and never escalates as we know it unfortunately did.
Certain vignettes are very fanciful. One of my favorite parts of the book takes place in the later years of the President’s second term where he invites The Beatles to the White House. He and John Lennon play a game of golf together. Lennon is not very good at it. :-D
What if, indeed!
The vehicle that the author uses to tell this story is one Patrick Hennessey, a young pup of a journalist to whom the President takes a liking and enlists to ghost-write his memoirs. (Of course, no such memoirs exist in real life; that’s what makes the prospect so tantalizing.) JFK being such a brilliant personage and speaker, the author does a commendable job imagining how these memoirs would play out. The reader feels as though he is reading the real thing, as the book - including most especially the portions where the President is ruminating about his life and politics - is extremely well-written.
There is a sub-plot involving an attractive librarian in the Library of Congress who catches Patrick's eye while he is doing his research there. The "witty repartee" that passes between these two characters while they flirt and do the courtship dance is worth the price of admission alone. My only complaint was that this relationship could have been ratcheted up a notch, but then again, perhaps that would have been too formulaic.
The President himself also gets a chance to throw a few zingers as we see the dazzling Kennedy wit aimed at Patrick, JFK’s brother Bobby, and his golfmates. The dialogue is extremely realistic, given what we know of the Kennedy sense of humor. Very clever writing.
[Speaking of Bobby: While the book takes us to the conclusion of 1968, no mention is made of the assassination of either RFK or indeed Martin Luther King. I found myself wishing that the author had addressed these gaps in history.]
Fifty years later, we are still fascinated with Camelot and the numerous conspiracy theories that have arisen to explain the whys and hows of that fateful day in Dallas.
This book takes a different turn.
In the epilogue to his book, the author quotes a source opining that President Kennedy's death was "about the most important single thing that happened in the 1960's." Considering the tumult that was the 1960's, that's saying a lot. Although that opinion is debatable, "The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy" poses one of the ultimate "what-ifs."
All in all, an excellent read. Entertaining, well-written and enlightening as well. Bravo!
Donald James Lawn presents a story line so conceivable, so articulate, that you are there, right there..., but what is accomplished so masterfully and gently is the weaving of facts into a fictional story line. Once I started this book, I truly could not put it down! You will love the character of Patrick Hennessey, plus feel the personalities of Hoover, Johnson, and the Kennedy's (both John and Bobby). Golfers too will enjoy the humor. This is, most assuredly, a must read.
Also it underlines how sad it is that the so-called intelligence agency has been pivotal in covering up their greatest miscalculation! A though that occurred after reading this book (and before it several others) is that it is quite explainable why this Agency derailed so much of democratic principles and displayed disdain to it during that period of our history: the genesis of the Agency lies in a wartime situation (WWII) and the belief probably took hold with the founders (and the Agency was formalised by Truman) that it always needs to operate under the assumption of the pursuit of war instead of the pursuit of peace (raison d'être). If one then is confronted with a President who believes peace is the path to progress...well one can do the math.
Either way, the book makes you want that the President would not have been killed but lived to complete his work...HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!