To claim that one has read a great deal about the assassination of John F. Kennedy is not unique. That's why the tragic day of November 22, 1963 led to a cottage industry of conspiracy books, non-conspiracy books, videos and movies. Best to say that the topic of Bill O'Reilly's new best-seller Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot has been one of intense interest to me for many decades.
Among the hundreds, more likely thousands, of books written on the subject, few provide an unbiased and compelling narrative of not only Kennedy's murder and the days surrounding it, but the many aspects of his life and that of the nation months, if not years, before the assassination.
In 1967, historian and biographer William Manchester wrote what I still consider to be one of the most important works of non-fiction of the twentieth century. Manchester's book, The Death of a President, astonished many with its extreme detail of virtually every aspect of Kennedy's trip to Dallas, the assassination itself and the days leading up to and including the slain president's funeral.
The book took years for Manchester to write and was criticized by some for fitting into the category of "grapefruit journalism" or "grapefruit history," meaning that it was so detailed that the narrative included what those who were described in the book ate for breakfast. But it was Manchester's descriptions that verbally painted, years prior to the release of the Zapruder film, the bloody manner in which a final shot to Kennedy's head immediately ended his life and presidency.
Manchester, a master of descriptive words, enjoyed advantage over his contemporaries in writing the book, which, when completed, ran over 600 pages and according to Amazon.com, has a shipping weight of nearly two and a half pounds. The Kennedy family chose William Manchester to write the definitive story of the assassination and provided unprecedented access to interviews with family members, including extensive sessions with Jacqueline Kennedy. There later would be disagreement between the author and the Kennedy's over content and proceeds from certain efforts to sell excerpts of the book, but the general access and details had already been captured by Manchester.
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