Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot

Here it is. The much-anticipated follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. And like its predecessor, Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot also proves a riveting historical narrative.

Obviously the main facts have been endlessly documented and are more than a little well-known, but O’Reilly and coauthor Martin Dugard adorn their retelling of that tragic day in November 1963 (and the times and circumstances leading up to it) with lesser-known detailsand the resulting text reads like a fast-paced thriller.

It’s beyond dispute that the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy changed the course of American history. But O’Reilly and Dugard manage to get across through their words how that afternoon in Dallas not only killed a beloved commander in chief but also sent the American family into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

Here’s O’Reilly talking about his newest book on Glenn Beck’s radio program:

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalated, Kennedy was struggling to contain the growth of Communism while learning about the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquired a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime began to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy was gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escaped the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in profoundly moving ways.

The following is a crucial excerpt from Killing Kennedy, with detailed anecdotes surrounding the minutes before Oswald pulled the trigger:

Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t bring a lunch to work today. And he doesn’t plan on eating. Instead, he moves a pile of boxes into position on the grimy sixth floor of the depository building, fashioning a well-concealed shooting nest.

At 12:24 p.m., nearly thirty minutes into the motorcade, the president’s car passes Special Agent James Hosty on the corner of Main Street and Field. The G-man gets his wish and sees Kennedy in the flesh, before spinning back around and walking into the Alamo Grill for lunch.

At 12:28 the motorcade enters a seedy downtown neighborhood. Straight ahead, the beautiful green grass of Dealey Plaza is clearly visible. The Secret Service agents are stunned by the reception the president is now receiving, with people everywhere cheering and applauding.

At 12:29 the motorcade makes the crucial sharp right-hand turn onto Houston Street. From high above, in his sixth-floor sniper’s lair, Lee Harvey Oswald sees John F. Kennedy in person for the first time. He quickly sights the Mannlicher-Carcano, taking aim through his scope as the motorcade skirts the edge of Dealey Plaza.

The crowds here are still large and enthusiastic, despite Chief Curry’s prediction that they would have thinned by this point. The people shout for Jackie and the president to look their way. As per agreement, JFK waves at the people standing in front of buildings on the right side of the road, while Jackie waves at those standing along grassy Dealey Plaza, to their left. This ensures that no voter goes without a wave.

The motorcade is just five minutes away from the Trade Mart, where Kennedy will make his speech. Almost there.

Inside the presidential limousine, Nellie Connally stops waving long enough to look over her right shoulder and smile at John Kennedy. “You sure can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you, Mr. President.”

Ironically, at that very moment, if JFK had looked up to the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, he would have seen a rifle barrel sticking out of an open window, pointed directly at his head.

But Kennedy doesn’t look up.

Nor does the Secret Service.

It is 12:30 p.m. The time has come for Special Agent Bill Greer to steer SS-100-X through the sweeping 120-degree left turn from Houston and onto Elm.

Check out the author giving the lowdown on Killing Kennedy to Don Imus: