Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club Vol. LXII

Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club Vol. LXII


Even a pseudo-intellectual knows investigators need access to all the available information if they’re to draw proper conclusions about events — either large or small.
The November 1963 assassination in Dallas, Tex., of President John F. Kennedy was one of the most consequential acts in American history, and questions about what occurred and why loomed large in the public mind.
To reassure the nation, President Lyndon Johnson appointed a commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate and report its findings.
The result was the so-called Warren Report that concuded the accused assassin — no-account, 23-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald — had acted alone. The report also found no evidence of a conspiracy — foreign or domestic. In a particularly cruel twist of fate that fed suspicions worldwide, Oswald was murdered three days after the assassination by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
Questions raised in the intervening decades about the commission’s conclusions led Washington, D.C.-based reporter Philip Shenon to investigate the investigation.
The result is a tour de force that concludes Oswald was the assassin, but that his actions could have been prevented if the FBI and CIA had acted on information the agencies possessed prior to Kennedy’s Nov. 22, 1963, murder.
Shenon also concludes the commission was denied valuable information about Oswald’s possible motives because people high up in the government — including Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother — were concerned investigators might stumble upon evidence revealing the Kennedy administration’s repeated efforts to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
It’s a fascinating story that puts the investigation under the microscope and reveals, among other things, what an incomprehensibly poor job Chief Justice Warren did in leading the probe.
“A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” is terrific — an information-laden page turner that will fascinate those who find this particular chapter in U.S. history irresistible.
For starters, the idea that the seven distinguished commission members actually conducted the investigation is a myth. Most barely participated in the probe, leaving staff lawyers to do the real work.
More disturbing, Warren seemed unaware that he was charged with producing a historic document that would be studied — and challenged — for decades. He was initially prepared to accept the FBI’s findings and leave it at that. But fellow commissioners, including U.S. Sen. Richard Russell and future President Gerald Ford, sensed the depth of their responsibility and pushed for a thorough, independent probe.
Still, Warren had enough clout to foolishly keep JFK’s autopsy photos off limits from his own investigators on the grounds of taste. The result has been decades of debate and confusion about the nature of the president’s two bullet wounds. Warren also inexplicably vetoed investigators’ requests to bring a crucial witness from Mexico to be interviewed.
Shenon reveals the real mystery involving Oswald, a self-styled Marxist and former Marine who lived briefly in the Soviet Union, concerns his five-day trip to Mexico City — from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, 1963 — during which he visited both the Soviet and Cuban embassies in an effort to get a visa to travel to Cuba.
The CIA tracked Oswald’s movements, but it’s clear it did not fully disclose his  activities there. The FBI later reported Oswald threatened to kill President Kennedy during a visit to the Cuban embassy, but that information was lost in the bureaucracy until it was too late.
At the same time, the FBI also withheld from the commission information about its dealings in Dallas with Oswald.
Suffice it to say, it’s a tangled tale never to be resolved. But Shenon’s book provides a helpful road-map leading to a better understanding of the crucial events that occurred before and after that fateful day so many years ago.
Previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club can be found on my web log at news-gazette.com





Here are previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[-] “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides.
[-] “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris.
[-] “A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord.
[-] “April 1865: The Month That Saved America” by Jay Winik.
[-] “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand.
[-] “Lindbergh” by A. Scott Berg.
[-] “The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963” by Laurence Leamer.
[-] “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case” by Sam Roberts.
[-] “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy.
[-] “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich.
[-] “Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World” by Steve Neal.
[-] “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone” by Martin Dugard.
[-] “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors” by Doug Stanton.
[-] “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.” by Bryan Burrough.
[-] “Flags of our Fathers,” by James Bradley.
[-] “Cary Grant: A Biography” by Marc Elliot.
[-] “Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager” by Buzz Bissinger.
[-] “Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York” by Kenneth Ackerman.
[-] “They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967” by David Maraniss.
[-] “Flashman” (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink” by David Margolick.
[-] “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] “Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” by Selwyn Raab.
[-] “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.” by John Taylor.
[-] “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies” by Michael Kauffman.
[[-] “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright.
[- ) “A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports” by Brad Snyder.
[-] “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam.
[-] “Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle
[-] “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan.
[-] “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case” by James Neff.
[-] “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House” by John Harris.
[–] “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith
(-) “The Unlikely Spy” (a novel) by Daniel Silva.
(-) “Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre
(-) “The Interpretation of Murder” (a novel) by Jed Rubenfeld
(-) “The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country” by Laton McCartney.
(-) “The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changes Their Lives Forever”
by Joe Layden.
(-) “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL” by Mark Bowden.
(-) “Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family” by Joaquin “Jack” Garcia.
(-) “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
(-)  “Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” by Neal Bascomb
(—) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Goodwin.
(—) “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph Ellis.
(—) “Clemente” by David Maraniss
(—) “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963” by Robert Dallek
(-) “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler.
(-) “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman
(—) “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly (mystery novel).
(-) “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi
(—) “Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.” by Edward Jay Epstein
(—) “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” by Michael  MacCambridge
(-) “Billy Boyle” (fiction) by James Benn
(-) “The Ghost War” (fiction) by Alex Berenson
(-) “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard
(—) “Cobb” (a biography of baseball great Ty Cobb) by Al Stump.
(-) “The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Dan Brown.
(—) “Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The U.S. Marines Finest Hour in Vietnam” by Gregg Jones.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or at 351-5369.

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