The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon
|The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Gillon sheds fresh light on the Kennedy assassination by looking at the firs24 hours of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: November 2009|
|Publisher: Basic Books|
The assassination of President Kennedy came at a pivotal moment in my life and for more than forty years I've read most of what has been written about the event. It's been of variable quality, but the books fed the curiosity of people entranced by the charismatic young President who died so publicly. I'd come to the point of wondering if there was anything new to be said, but Stephen Gillom has looked at what happened from an unusual and largely overlooked angle – the first twenty four hours of Lyndon Johnson's Presidency.
It doesn't, of course, begin with the death of Jack Kennedy. There's a brief history of how Kennedy and Johnson came together – it was not a marriage made in heaven – and of how Johnson felt marginalised in the Kennedy White House as the President preferred to discuss matters with his brother, Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General. Johnson felt that his political career was over and wondered how matters had come to this pass. But – on the death of the President the Vice-President steps up to the plate.
There was some delay in telling Johnson that Kennedy was dead – in fact one of those around him was proud of the fact that he knew something which Johnson did not. Much of this came from the low regard in which Johnson was held – contempt is not too strong a word so far as Bobby Kennedy was concerned – and partly because of the total confusion at the hospital. The picture Gillon paints is of a man trying to do his best – knowing that it would be up to him to hold the country together at a very difficult time – but who was misunderstood (possibly deliberately) by the Kennedy family.
In the first twenty four hours after JFK's death all those traits which would shape his Presidency and the rest of the decade were apparent. There was a genuine will to do what was right, both by Jackie Kennedy and the American people, but also evidence that the easy lie was preferable to the difficult truth. The cumulative effect of small misunderstandings between Johnson and the Kennedy family is brilliantly illustrated.
The book reads like a thriller. Of course I knew how it ended but I simply couldn't put it down. The quality of the writing is superb; tension is built and there's a real sense of the grief of the Kennedy family and the strain under which Johnson laboured. Don't think though that this means you can expect a light, unsubstantiated book. Rather than footnotes which always seem to drag you out of the flow of the text Gillon has opted for end-notes and it's up to the reader whether or not they take advantage of them. I checked the sources on points which were new to me but missed them in areas where I was au fait with the details.
It's a superb read and it comes highly recommended by Bookbag.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For a more detailed look at Jack and Bobby Kennedy we can recommend Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot. For a history of the CIA which covers this period, have a look at Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner.
The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.
The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon is in the Top Ten Books on President John F Kennedy.
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