There is so many bad books on the JFK assassination isn’t wasn’t hard picking the eight. What follows is a mix of different styles and angles, with Family of Secrets selected for its JFK section. For the most part the books listed here mostly feature the pro-government account. Why? Because the government’s official story is flawed and those authors ignore that fact for a variety of reasons only known to them. In some instances, such as Gerald Posner’s Case Closed, the book is deceptive in it’s narrative and deeply flawed in its accounting of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
#8 The Interloper
Apparently rushed out for the 50th year anniversary of JFK’s death, this dreck of a book by Peter Savodnik is awful in so many ways I could almost make it #1 on the list. For a guy that traveled the world doing research there is literally nothing new in this book but another reframing of Oswald as the hapless, disgruntled loser with delusions of grandeur. Made even worse are the many mistakes in the book, such Savodnik stating that Lee and mother lived in Manhattan for 6 weeks. Not only did they never live there, but the address listed is one they never lived at. They actually lived in the Bronx for over a year. Even more importantly, the author totally ignored the CIA/ONI false defector program to the Soviet Union. It’s a well documented piece of the story and the author can’t bare to mention it at all. Logically, he can’t because it disrupts his fiction of Oswald being a misguided loner hoping desperately to fit in. Certainly not worth a purchase for the same old song and dance in a different package.
#7 Oswald’s Tale
As I have said in the past, the trouble with books by Norman Mailer is there is too much of Norman Mailer in them. A man who was truly a legend in his own mind, Mailer is another man that started out a conspiracy believer to later throw in the towel and side with the status quo. With an ego so huge hardly any of books can bare the weight of it, the great man of American Letters tackles the character of Oswald in his usual infuriating way. Infuriating, meaning at certain junctures he injects metaphors better suited for fiction. He refers to Oswald as a ghost, the First Ghost he says. Oh brother, I cringe.
Unfortunately, it’s all the same old song and dance with the same old tired conclusions. Mailer makes a valiant attempt in trying to peer into the soul and consciousness of Lee H. Oswald despite his lack of psychiatric credentials. Mailer offers his reader the standard account of the shiftless, troubled loser with delusions of grandeur dreaming of making his mark on history. However, there is one stumbling block Mailer trips over as many others have before him–that stumbling block is motive. There basically isn’t one and everybody knows it. Oswald never expressed any dislike or ill will towards Kennedy. So Mailer will have to put on his Dr. Phil hat and soldier on with the delusions of grandeur profile. And like Bugliosi, Posner, and O’Reilly, he ignores the controversial events of Oswald’s life, including what if he was being impersonated, what if he was a possible government operative, and what was going on with the Mexico city trip? He instead ops for the standard accounting, albeit with literary flourishes that only an author like Norman Mailer can type up.
#6 Family of Secrets
Listed here, for its chapters on the Kennedy assassination and what interaction the Bush family had with it, and in this instance, George H. W. Bush specifically.
Overall, not a bad accounting by Russ Baker of the Bush family if you only document some of the actions of George Sr. and George Jr. with a bit of grandpa Prescott thrown in to round out the trio. The other Bush’s such as Jeb, Neal, and Marvin, assorted cousins, wives and children are out of the loop as are many events that the other three Bush’s are a part of. As it turns out, not much of the Bush family is represented here.
One thing that bugs me about Baker is what a shameless promoter he is of this work. In an interview, he’s primed to make sure “Family of Secrets” is said and said often (and that goes for his news web site as well). This guy is a regular Doug the Plug. On radio interviews I have often heard him say, “The secrets I uncovered for my book...” And I’m left wondering–what secrets? The reader is treated to a standard fare of Bush family antics that have been published elsewhere, although the accounting of George W. Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard is a well done exposé. Never the less, not much ties the elder Bush to the JFK assassination and what Baker provides is interesting, but nothing of substance. Okay, so George Bush Sr. was in the Dallas the night before and the early morning of the assassination. So what? So was Richard Nixon. Bush Sr. knew George De Mohrenschildt who in turn, befriended Lee Oswald. And the connection is? Baker’s use of a “connect the dots” approach makes his book top-heavy with guilty associations. These links might be real or a simple turn of fate.
The issues involving the Bush family and the Kennedy assassination are more well known and can hardly be referred to as secrets. Take for example the retelling of the elder Bush’s suspicious use of an alibi the day of the assassination. As the story goes, Bush Sr. calls up the FBI with a rumor that one of his campaign workers may have made threats against Kennedy’s life. It’s investigated and turns out not to have any basis in fact. Dick Russell wrote about this incident in The Man Who Knew Too Much, a book published in 1992 (one of the few citations is from an 1993 interview). But Baker acts like this is another one of his discoveries. Another issue, that George H. W. Bush was in the CIA long before he became Director, has been in circulation since a late 1980’s document release. It’s much to do about old facts.
Another thing about Family of Secrets is that Baker skirts around the issue of conspiracy in the assassination of JFK and he never really goes there. After all, serious journalists don’t and real sober ones need to be taken seriously by their peers. Finally, Baker’s reporting on what the senior Bush did during the Kennedy assassination does not reveal much, and of that, much is already well known.
#5 Blood, Money & Power
Barr McClellan’s book covering the LBJ did-it-theory. There have been many written on this angle, and this one is among the worst. McClellan states up front that we can never know the exact details for the conspiracy hatched between Johnson and his attorney Edward Clark. So he tells his readers that he will make use of “historical fiction” for those parts. Isn’t that special? This is the main reason one should never use this book as a source. Unfortunately, many LBJ conspiracy authors do.
Lyndon Johnson is indeed a character worth considering in conspiracy as he was one of the most conspiratorial men that ever lived. A supreme manipulator of people and events he was a master of everything that crossed his path. He did so many bad things in his life, and was such a disreputable character totally devoid of scruples that it boggles the mind in regards to what he got away with. Or for that matter, how he could live with himself. (Apparently not an easy thing with his psychotic breaks covered up as “exhaustion.”) If there was ever an unindicted criminal running loose it was LBJ. But karma works and it all came grinding to a halt when the Marines landed in Vietnam. Knee deep in big muddy and Big Fool says to push on, sang Pete Seeger. A classic case of having the chickens come home to roost. Oh boy, did they ever!
Barr McClellan’s account is pairing of Lyndon Johnson with his co-conspirator attorney Edward Clark, the only man the author says, that Johnson ever trusted. The duo starts their alliance early on in the careers of each with Clark being instrumental in keeping Johnson out of his various predicaments, especially the major vote rigging in the 1948 senate race. McClellan gets hired by the Clark law firm so his intent here is to provide the reader with inside information on how it all went down. But as stated above, some of this narrative is going to be made up by the author since he doesn’t have access to all the facts. He claims he is told cryptic statements from law firm partners, John Coates and Don Thomas, about how Clark arranged the assassination of Kennedy. Well, that would let LBJ largely off the hook if he is not scheming too. If it happened this way, boy, did the CIA and other enemies get lucky.
The actual details of the assassination are a mixture of fact, fiction, and nonsense. In this scenario, Oswald is paired with another shooter, one Malcolm Wallace. McClellan alleges he is LBJ’s personal hit-man and there is some truth to that. Wallace was arrested for the murder of a local golf pro and told a detective he had to return to Washington as he worked for LBJ. Later, he got off with a slap on the wrist, never serving any time for the homicide. Even in terms of Texas law that was a blatant misuse of justice. Anyway, according to McClellan, Wallace sneaks in the school book building and makes his way to the sixth floor to team up with Oswald. Here things get out of kilter. McClellan has Oswald taking the first shot that misses, but strangely, not the one you might think. Meanwhile, Mac Wallace shoots and hits Kennedy in the back, with the bullet passing through to break up and incredibly, send a fragment to wound James Tague standing on Commerce street. Wow, more crazy physics than the Magic Bullet Theory! Oswald’s second shot hits Gov. Connelly in the back causing all of his injuries.
But he’s not done yet! McClellan has an anonymous character named “Junior” available from the grassy knoll for the kill shot. Not much on this guy other than Junior is supposed to be a crack shot. He pulls the trigger and the assassination is completed. Junior disappears into history, or rather, into McClellan’s fantasy world. Malcolm Wallace sneaks out wearing a dark suit and flashes his Secret Service credentials to anybody nearby in another make-believe incident. And Oswald, well, we all know what happens to him.
So there you have the essentials of this awful book. Presenting stories as history, complete with invented dialog, is absurd and the real facts get lost in the clutter. So much is left out, particularly Oswald’s life and the employ of Jack Ruby to silence him. It’s all LBJ and his crooked lawyer and few others have a play in this, especially the usual suspects–Mob, CIA, Russians, Cubans, and so on. So few people are involved, there’s hardly a plot to muster up. And the bit about Mac Wallace’s bullet disintegrating resulting in Tague’s wounding is weird and not supported by any facts or any other research. McClellan doesn’t cite anything on this improbable happening for proof. And Junior? Could he be one of the good ole’ boys working down at the local Jiffy Lube?
To think what Barr McClellan could have written on LBJ’s involvement, if any, in the assassination. He was given the opportunity being employed by Johnson’s law film but apparently, did not have enough access to properly research the subject. When it comes down to it, he’s really out of the loop. He does mention one tantalizing thing–the top floor of the law firm is where the files of the clients are stored. And way in the back, under a special lock, are all the files pertaining to Lyndon Baines Johnson. Oh, what a treasure trove lies concealed there!
#4 Ultimate Sacrifice
I feel sort of sorry for Lamar Waldron. He’s sort of Don Quixote figure in the annuals of JFK research. Like Quixote, he suffers from serious lapses of judgement in both professional and personal life. Billed as the “Ultimate JFK Historian” Waldron has co-authored several books on the JFK assassination from the “Mob did it” angle making him the leading authority. His books are filled with unnamed sources, questionable scholarship, and poor citing of references. Probably his most remarkable claim, along with co-author Thom Hartmann, is of an alleged second planned invasion of Cuba set for December 1st, 1963 called “C-Day.” This C-Day plot is not alluded to by any other researchers and there isn’t any documentation that I know that has been cited on this. It’s a bunch of hokum. David Talbot, author of Brothers, asked Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara if he was aware of such an event and he said he was not.
One troublesome area of Waldron’s version of the Kennedy assassination is the notion that JFK and Bobby were deeply involved this Cuban plot; either turn Castro by peaceful means or send in people to knock him off. So if they are in league with the anti-Castro Cubans and the Mob to accomplish this, then why would they murder JFK a few days before the invasion? It doesn't make sense. The proof for this and other scenarios is flimsy at best.
For Lamar Waldron, the Mob is responsible for many conspiracies from the JFK assassination to Watergate. While many have documented a lot of CIA machinations, they always get a pass from Waldron. His recent book on Nixon and Watergate, the Mob pops up again to insnare Nixon, although Nixon is supposed to be good buddies with them going back years.
Picking on the Mob does have it’s advantages. For example, Lamar Waldron gets very good reviews for his books in the mainstream media while virtually all conspiracy authors of JFK books get largely ignored. As we know from the Church Committee hearings the CIA spent millions of dollars–under the table money–to buy off editors and writers in mainstream media outlets. No wonder Waldron gets such high praise. The CIA will never get their dirty linens exposed.
In the end, Lamar Waldron blows a lot of smoke with his Mob fantasies not to mention creating cooked up scenarios that are inadequately documented.
#3 Killing Kennedy
I remember the days when Bill O’Reilly was a reporter for Inside Edition and did some hard hitting pieces on the JFK assassination. I wish the old Bill O’Reilly that looked into this case with a critical eye would have returned here for an encore. Sadly, that’s a thing of the past. Now being a major media figure on FOX he’s gone to the dark side of the Force. Do they have some pictures on this guy? Anyway, this book, co-authored with Martin Dugard (who probably did all the work) is another rehashing of the assassination from the Warren Commission perspective of a lone gunman and no conspiracy. It follows the standard path of Poser and Bugliosi which is to cherry pick the evidence and in O’Reilly/Dugard’s exposition, ignore everything that has happened since the Warren Report was issued in 1964. That would include Ramsey Report, the Rockefeller Commission, Jim Garrison’s investigation and trial of Clay Shaw, the Church Committee hearings, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigation in the late 1970’s, the late 90‘s Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) release of files and sworn witness testimony, and the other released documents gained from FOIA requests made by independent researchers. I should also add the 26 volumes of Warren Commission hearings and collected evidence as well since documents there contradict the final report. Of course, the lone nut gang must take this path to make sure the lone gunman theory appears viable. They treat the Warren Report as if it’s a holy document; the Word of God come down from the mountain top, above reproach.
It’s really a bad book because it is agenda driven and leaves out any evidence that points to a conspiracy, or for that matter, anything that gives us insight to a different Lee Oswald than what we’ve been told. Talk about beating a dead horse, O’Reilly/Dugard even have Oswald proclaimed as a “crack shot” for heaven’s sake! Even a first grader knows that’s a joke.
It’s a huge best seller mainly because Bill O’Reilly used his position on a top rated cable news show to send it to the top of the charts, otherwise this empty suit of a JFK book would be in the discount bin with Reclaiming History and Case Closed. It will probably be the best selling tome ever for the official government sanctioned account. But that will be its only claim to fame.
#2 Reclaiming History
Vince Bugliosi, the man who single handedly changed the image of peaceful, harmless hippies into demonic, zoned-out crazies, tries his hand at Warren Commission defense in this 1,600+ page tome. Weighing in at around 5 pounds don’t drop it on your foot–I did and it hurt! Commonly referred to as a door-stop, it certainly fulfills this purpose. As far as reframing Oswald for John Kennedy’s murder it serves that purpose as well, though Bugliosi has to pull a host of clever lawyer tricks out of his hat and constantly move the goal posts around to score his points. The Straw Men get the hell beat out of them forcing these fellows to wish they were made of stronger stuff. The book starts out reasonably well but it’s not long before the nasty Bugliosi shows up to insult and ridicule critics of the official story in every way imaginable. So obsessed with lampooning critics as “conspiracy theorists” at times he goes off the rails and starts accusing people of conspiracy theory who don’t even invent theories. People such as Dr. David Mantik who simply went to the National Archives and discovered that some of the x-rays of JFK were apparent frauds. That is not a theory but a fact. Never mind, Dr. Mantik is labeled a theorist anyway.
The trouble with Bugliosi’s arguments is they look good at first till you start digging deeper. A good example, goal post shifting is when he states that if there is a shooter on the grassy knoll his angle is off, meaning his shot would pass through Kennedy’s head from ear to ear–not from front to back. This seems logical. However, the only way he accomplishes this is by placing the shooter at the wrong place behind the picket fence to begin with. He has to do this since he has dumped all witness testimony, over 50 witnesses, who heard shots coming from the knoll. All nice and tidy trick till you ponder it.
As many have said, Reclaiming History is a prosecutorial brief. “Oswald is guilty as sin,” begins the esteemed prosecutor. And that indeed, is all this book is ever going to be. It’ll never be an objective investigation into what happened or the possibility that Oswald was innocent. History in this book is a backdrop to the linear path to Oswald’s guilt. There is no drama to take place here as Bugliosi has let his reader know what the end result will be. He tries to convince the reader that the Magic Bullet Theory really does make sense. That the Zapruder film really does show Kennedy shot from the back, despite what your lying eyes tell you. And if you don’t believe him, you aren’t very bright. The contrary evidence and witness testimony has to be dumped to make all of this plausible. However, the members of the Lone Nut crowd all do this. Anything that looks suspicious is just coincidence or a fluke.
Reclaiming History is a book to fool the people that haven’t studied the Kennedy assassination in any depth. I have the sense that Vincent Bugliosi is a devious character. You know, he was sued for slander in the early 1970’s and had to pay a $12,500 settlement to his former milkman. Bugliosi used the powers of his office to stalk the guy, get his unlisted phone number, and generally badmouth him all over. Why? Because he thought the milkman was shagging his wife. Whoa there! So if you want to believe anything this peculiar man has to say, it’s up to you.
#1 Case Closed
They seem to promote guys like Gerald Posner every decade. He was the 90’s poster boy for Warren Commission defense. Vincent Bugliosi was picked for the role in the first decade of the 21st century. Bill O’Reilly gets the honor for second decade. Posner still has his boyish looks all these years later though his face has been resharpened so many times he’s developed that plastic look of an android. Looks aside, his book takes the Numerio Uno slot as the worst book ever in JFK assassination literature. Why? Oh, let me count the ways.
Posner had no background in JFK research and it shows. Like the others that have followed, Posner uses the same slight of hand tricks to insure Oswald’s guilt. (Yes, he’s another lawyer.) He omits facts, has easily proven errors in evidence and logic, and generally makes stuff up. There are wrong dates, erroneous names, even geographical locations are misapplied. His book is in effect, an attempt to discredit everybody or anything that reeks of conspiracy in the case. And with a lap dog press he got away with it for a while till the Internet appeared to unveil the trickery.
One of Posner’s worst acts is to claim interviews with people that later state they never spoke to him, such as star witness James Tague who Posner has three citations on. Tague said he never met or spoke to him. Tague was one of many people that have come forward outing Posner on bogus interview claims.
Basically, Posner is a hack, brought on board with promises of unprecedented access to CIA files. The CIA being the duplicitous bunch they are, used him for a foil. One silly flub was when Posner stated on a cable TV documentary that he had documents proving that Oswald and David Ferrie were not in the CAP together at the same time. He states the same thing in his book as well. Then later a picture emerged of both of them at a CAP outdoor meeting. Oops! Posner was fooled about Ferrie getting kicked out of the CAP in the mid 1950‘s, ignoring that Ferrie started his own branch in another town which apparently the 14 year-old Oswald joined. Actually, Posner’s mistakes get so bad even Bugliosi had to take him to task in his book for numerous errors.
One more thing. Posner resorts to using computer aided studies conducted by Failure Analysis Associates, to prove the lone bullet theory. He makes it appear he commissioned the firm to do this work for him. FAA in turn, refutes any of these claims. It was actually data created for the American Bar Association's mock trial of Oswald, and both sides used it. Oh, and by the way, Oswald was not convicted in the mock trial.
In later years Posner got in trouble for plagiarism and had to hire an attorney (Mark Lane of all people!). None of this is surprising considering Posner’s machinations committed in Case Closed. It all finally caught up with him. Karma is a lady not to be trifled with.
And there you have it. My eight of the worst JFK assassination books of all time. I could have enlarged greatly, such as JFK and UFOs and so on but decided to pass on wading thru that cesspool. I’ll update the list in the future should I find books that are even more offensive than the ones listed here. There probably are.