Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Conspiratorialist’s Guide to JFK Assassination Books

Actually, you do not have to be a conspiratorialist to read the books mentioned here. Of course, I have not read the hundreds of books published on this subject, so I will be leaving a few out here, as information gets cross-referenced to death. Here is a list to get you started whether you are a novice or a seasoned researcher.

Cross Fire
The Jim Marrs classic that served as a guide for Oliver Stone’s JFK movie. A good beginner’s book, Marrs simply lays down the facts and doesn’t get too conspiratorial or far out, allowing the reader to ponder the information and draw their own conclusions. It was published in the late 80’s and so far hasn’t been updated. It should be as a lot of new information has been released since.

Rush To Judgment
The book that started it all. The classic critique of the Warren Commission and the first best selling book on the subject published in 1966 by Mark Lane and Hugh Trevor-Roper. The government considered the publication of this book so dangerous that it sent the second highest in command at the FBI to beg the publisher not to publish it. No other book helped to sow the seeds of doubt in the public’s mind over the official story of JFK’s death than this tome.

Breach of Trust
Gerald McKnight’s brilliant examination of the Warren Commission, the underlying politics, behind the scene intrigues, and turf battles with the FBI and CIA. Here is the genesis of the controversy. McKnight demonstrates that the Warren Commission wasn’t a true investigation but a politicized rubber-stamping of the FBI’s initial investigation. Hoover’s shadow looms large over the process insuring one conclusion—Oswald acted alone—now move on! One of my favorite books on the assassination and highly recommended. Well sourced and contains information you won’t find anywhere else.

The Last Investigation
Gaeton Fonzie, one of the lead investigators for the HSCA, writes one of the best books ever on the Kennedy Assassination. Finally, back in print. He goes into the political infighting of the HSCA and showcases the high points, and low points of the investigation and how everything was hamstrung by political restraints, lawyers, and CIA deceptions. An excellent book for the students of the HSCA side of things and as aptly titled, the last official government investigation of the death of John Kennedy.

Our Man in Mexico
Jeff Morley’s excellent book on CIA station chief in Mexico City, Win Scott, and the CIA’s surveillance of Oswald’s trip to Mexico City in late September 1963. What they knew, when they knew it, and how the CIA lied to the Warren Commission, and everybody else about it since. Morley shows how the CIA still has information on Oswald classified to this day (such as Win Scott’s memoirs) and how they kept their station chief in the dark about Oswald’s true purpose in Mexico, whatever that was. A good showcase on how spooky the CIA really is.

Witness to History
Apparently a lot witnesses slipped through the cracks and William Law tracks them down. Some people in this book give their witness testimony for the first time. Some excellent interviews with personal closely associated with Bethesda Naval Hospital and the autopsy of JFK. Mostly all demonstrate that there was most likely other shooters in Dealey Plaza. Of particular note is autopsy techs, O’Conner and Jenkins who bear witness to seeing Kennedy’s back wound probed with a metal rod that only went 2-3 inches at downward angle, showing no pass through. You can see why some of these people were not asked to testify, as they did not support the government’s theory of the lone gunman.

The Warren Commission Report
Read the report that started it all. Then you’ll see what a dog and pony show the Warren Commission was and how inept the alleged investigation was. You’ll see by reading some of the other books here first, all of the witnesses and evidence that was ignored or distorted in order for the lone nut theory to work. Actually, the 26 volumes of collected evidence make for a better read of what happened and you can find them at

Ultimate Sacrifice
The Mob did it! Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman explore organized crime’s desire to kill Kennedy. Very plausible scenario and their theories help explain many unsolved mysteries in the case. Could have been the Mob though in this case everybody has a motive. Except of course, the man charged with the crime.

Blood, Guns and Money
LBJ did it! Barr McClellan, former law partner in the firm that took care of Lyndon Johnson tells the tale of conspiracy involving LBJ and his attorney Edward Clark to assassinate the president of the United States. Seems far-fetched, but some bits are plausible. Ultimately, he reverts to theory to explain what all happened, including having Johnson crony Mac Wallace on the sixth floor of the schoolbook depository building with Oswald, as if that were possible. Unnamed extra shooters were on the grassy knoll. Let’s have a Texas shoot out boys! The head Yankee is coming to town!

Someone Would Have Talked
The Cubans did it! Larry Hancock weaves a tale of Cuban involvement though he cites no clear theory as to what happened and hence, no real conclusion. Highly regarded in JFK research circles, though I am not a fan. However, it does feature a good timeline on LBJ in the assassination’s aftermath, suggesting he knew more than he ever told. Book includes a very bad index—look up Silvia Odio and see if you can find her. Photos are icky, rough, low-res scans.

A Farewell to Justice
The CIA did it! Joan Mellen investigates Jim Garrison’s prosecution of Clay Shaw and the surrounding circus of obstruction from the media, CIA/FBI, and Kennedy henchmen. Like big Jim said, for the Feds, this was like shooting fish in a barrel. Only it was just more than the Feds at work here. This is quite a story and takes on a life of its own. She does fumble a bit and references people that not even Jim Garrison took seriously. Overall a fascinating read into the New Orleans side of the case with a huge assortment of characters.

Reclaiming History
The lone nut did it! Vince Buglosi’s spirited defense of the decaying Warren Commission Report. If you have the upper body strength to pick up this massive tome, a willingness to suffer though Bugliosi’s obnoxious insulting personality, and his over zealous attitude against anything conspiratorial, you are in for an interesting read. Ironically, Bugliosi promises up front not to knowingly omit or distort any important facts and then proceeds to do just that through hundreds of pages of text. He has to or else he’ll have more dilemmas than he can ever resolve. Just beware of Bugliosi’s straw man arguments and his cherry picking of the evidence. Sometimes I wonder if Bugliosi believes this stuff. It comes off reasonable till you do your own research and find out the esteemed former prosecutor has no clothes. This book does provide detailed background material so it makes an excellent source book. Ever wanted to know what brand boxers JFK was wearing on that fateful day? You’ll find it here. If you buy it used make sure it comes with the CD-ROM, which offers another thousand pages of notes to examine on disc. And also make sure you read James DiEugenio’s excellent and devastating rebuttal of this book at

Harvey and Lee
The doppelganger did it! John Armstrong’s remarkable research into the Oswald doppelganger theory and builds a strong case with documentation and eye witness testimony. Armstrong keeps the two separate by naming one Harvey and the other Lee. Over 900 pages of fascinating reading on the life of Oswald no matter how many of them there actually were. Also features lots of weird and obscure trivia on the Kennedy assassination as well. Armstrong really did his legwork on this massive work. Regardless of what you believe about this subject, this book makes for a great source volume on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. Hard to find and out of print though published in 2003. Be prepared to pay top dollar for a used copy, if you can find one. Some go for as much as $200. Well sourced and referenced with scanned documents and photos on CD-ROM.

The Assassinations
Lisa Pease and James Dieguenio assemble the better articles from the now defunct Probe magazine. A wealth of material here on all of the murders of the major political figures in the 1960’s—JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X. Great background material on all sorts of issues with JFK assassination.

No Case to Answer
Former UK policeman Ian Griggs does some very nice investigative work into the assassination. This book’s chapters are basically essays so feel free to skip around and read what you want. Of particular interest is Griggs’ breakdown of the rifle Oswald allegedly used showing that it couldn’t be reassembled with a dime, as reported to the Warren Commission by the FBI. And it does not disassemble in two parts, but about a dozen.

Without Smoking Gun
In this thin little book, Kent Heiner explores the death of Lieutenant Commander William Pitzer who was seen filming the autopsy of JFK. Later he was found dead from suicide, his film disappeared too. This book also relates the story of Daniel Marvin who claims the CIA tried to hire him to do a hit on Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer. He declined. Like so many things with this case, all conjecture and circumstantial evidence, but it’s a good yarn. A book to fire the imagination of any conspiratorialist. Out of print, but available at Amazon Marketplace. A nested conspiracy that looms larger than the Kennedy assassination at times.

On My Highly Recommended List

I would place Breach of Trust, The Last Investigation, Our Man in Mexico, Reclaiming History, and Harvey and Lee as must have books to read to provide a broad understanding of the problems and issues of the Kennedy assassination. Other books such as Cross Fire, or Rush to Judgment offer good starting points.