A Book Review: “Killing Kennedy,” by Jack Roth

For many reasons—unrelated to the fact that Mr. Roth devoted Chapter 3 to me and my books—I found his new book Killing Kennedy fascinating.  In large part it was due to his crisp editing skills, which made the narrative flow easily and very coherently. 

But, as importantly, because of its rather unique approach and design:  He focused on the collective works or experiences of twenty-four people, in as many chapters, divided into seven groups.  In order, they were

1) Five researcher-authors;

2) Three people who were residents of New Orleans in the summer of 1963;

3) Four people whose fathers were in the CIA;

4) Two little girls, now grown up with significant personal stories;

5) Three authors specializing in the Deep State and/or the Fourth Estate;

6) Four authors specializing in Psychological, Philosophical and Social Perspectives;

7) Three people who specialize in keeping the story alive.

I can only speak for myself—though I suspect others whose interviews were similarly edited would agree—I know that he deftly cut extraneous words and restructured some sentences to make my words sound much better than what he had to transcribe from the tape.  For that, I am most appreciative.

His experience as an “old-school” journalist shows through the narrative, as he centers the focus of each person interviewed into a central, well-planne­­d, organized storyline that intrinsically connects each chapter with the others.

The “back stories” he uncovered are simply fascinating to read.  Peter Janney’s struggles to cover the real story of Mary Pinchot Meyer are mind-blowing.  What Chana Willis had to say about her father’s experience as a CIA photographer—having been ordered to film the assassination from behind the picket fence in Dealey Plaza—was stunningly poignant, and very revealing (though he was deeply familiar with how the CIA was running the operation, when he was asked who the ultimate person behind the assassination was, his answer was: “It was LBJ . . . [Emphasis added by me] :-).

Reading about my friend Victoria Sulzer’s experience living in New Orleans during the summer of 1963 at the Patio Apartments was very interesting indeed.  I was struck by her plaintive laments about “How did we get into Patio Apartments so quickly when there was such a long waiting list” and the related “coincidences” about getting to know her neighbors Juan Valdez and Mary Sherman, and how Lee Harvey Oswald reappeared in her life one day when he knocked on her door and she recognized him from their days at Beauregard Jr. High School.  I learned a lot more about her spellbinding experiences than I had previously known, and even that which I already knew was presented in a new prism that enhanced my insights.

In similar fashion, the chapters on Ed Haslam, Judyth Vary Baker, David Denton, Lorien Fenton, Donald Jeffries, Peter Dale Scott, Vince Palamara, Larry Rivera, Kris Milligan, Saint John Hunt, Randy Benson and William Matson Law—all of whom I’ve known to varied degrees previously—added to my understanding of “what makes them tick.”  Likewise, for the others not listed, the book provides detailed biographical information along with their very interesting personal stories of their experiences. 

Combining them into a book that brings the disparate experiences together is an interesting story-telling device.  I can’t recall that ever being done in the JFK assassination milieu until now, though a Canadian researcher, Kaspar de Line, has just published a book that is similar in scope.  Though I have not had a chance to read it entirely, the appearance of two new books of this format may portend a new avenue for other non-fiction offerings in the future.

I highly commend Mr. Roth’s work and hope that it will be widely read.

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