Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

January 24, 2013

Summary (from the publisher): A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln.

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor; recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy–and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

Liked:

  • This book was quick and easy to read. The authors stuck to the point and didn’t veer off on unnecessary tangents.
  • For the most part, the authors printed only what they considered to be verifiable facts. While acknowledging that conspiracy theories and doubts about the Oswald-acted-alone angle exist, they didn’t give in to speculation.
  • The passages detailing what happened at the hospital in the immediate aftermath of the shooting were riveting. I’ve never read in-depth about the Kennedy assassination before, so all that stuff was new to me.
  • I thought the depiction of LBJ as the brooding, jealous power-seeker was interesting. Again, having never been a student of this time period or administration, I had no idea what was happening behind the scenes.

Disliked:

  • I would have appreciated a bit more analysis from O’Reilly. Yeah, I get that he was aiming for a “just the facts” kind of journalistic account of the assassination, analysis is O’Reilly’s (day) job, isn’t it? I wanted to read his opinions on some of the things he was writing about.
  • I’m not sure why O’Reilly stopped the book with Jack Ruby’s assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. There was plenty more material he could have included, such as Jim Garrison’s investigation (the subject of Oliver Stone’s JFK film) and the findings of the Warren Commission.
  • I’m surprised that there were no footnotes in this book. I’m not sure how the authors expect their work to be taken seriously if they don’t bother citing their sources.

Rating:

Having thoroughly liked Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, I was expecting the same level of enjoyment from Killing Kennedy. But this one falls short — perhaps because the event was too recent (relatively speaking) or because too many facts about the incident were already known even to non-history buffs. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get as much out of this book as I’d hoped. It was a quick and easy read, but has its flaws as well. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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