Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review "Killing Kennedy" - By Phil Baker

“Killing Kennedy, The End of Camelot” is the second book in the wildly successful “Killing Everybody” franchise of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The 302 page NYT best-seller was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 2012 and is available at the Windham Public Library. It’s the account of Lee Harvey Oswald’s 11/22/1963 murder of JFK and makes a critical study of the 35th President’s time in office. The authors chronicle the death of the president and the demise of the mythical American Camelot. It’s not an exhaustive academic work, rather a light look at a dark era.

In November of 1960 the nation puts John F. Kennedy and his beautiful wife Jackie in the White House. The matinee idol president and his pugnacious younger brother Robert, the Attorney General, quickly upset the balance of power, domestic and foreign.

The hard reality of the Cold War is a heavy burden for the first family. The ingénue, Jackie, finds comfort in casting the White House as a mythical place inspired by the Broadway musical, Camelot. The dark side of the myth is soon exposed. Damage begins with the President’s philandering ways. The press has fallen for the Camelot metaphor and covers for him.

The Bay of Pigs disaster is a rocky start to his foreign policy, but JFK rights the ship with a successful solution to the Cuban missile crisis. He becomes a better husband and father as he becomes a stronger, more confident president. The first couple is expecting a baby and Jackie’s Camelot seems more possible than ever. Tragedy in August of 1963 though sweeps the newborn from them and forewarns the beginning of the end of Camelot.

The depiction of the assassination scene in Dallas nearly fifty years ago is superb. The authors capture the cityscape and human landscape of the Texas metropolis. The state is a battleground the Kennedys need for the election of ’64. But Dallas is an epicenter of southern resistance to Kennedy’s civil rights platform. The Secret Service argues against the trip. Ironically the assassin is a troubled communist sympathizer without a dog in the civil rights hunt; he’s indifferent to the man he brutally kills that November day.

America is left undone by the attack; the death of the President is a tremendous blow difficult to absorb. Nearly as unnerving is the loss of Jackie’s dream; Camelot vanishes like fireworks, gone but for the smoke.
Phil Baker lives in Windham.

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