The Secret History of My Magnificent Obsession with Novels about the Assassination of JFK
Posted by: Ben Segedin
One of the perks of working at Booklist is the abundance of publishers reviewer’s galleys that litter our hallways, making our workplace more than just a fire hazard, but instead, a book-lover’s paradise. And while many of the galleys ultimately end up in the recycling bin, a number of them find their way onto precarious piles in our offices, on our desks, shelves, and floors, where we hope that we might someday get around to reading them. Another common destination for these proofs is with family members. For better or for worse, my brother Paul has been the recipient of numerous crime novels that have been reviewed by my colleagues.
Not that long ago I handed Paul a stack of recent novels, a batch that included Max Allan Collin’s Ask Not and Jim Lehrer’s Top Down. He noticed that several of these titles shared a common theme: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I hadn’t yet taken note of the momentous anniversary approaching.
“How many novels do you suppose have been published featuring the assassination?” my brother asked. Being a big fan of James Ellroy, he mentioned American Tabloid. I immediately thought of Don Delillo’s Libra and Stephen King’s 11/22/63. We both recalled Richard Condon’s Winter Kills and the movie that was made based on it. I seemed to recall that William F. Buckley Jr. had written one a while back. And, speaking of Condon, could we include his Manchurian Candidate? Why not? Before I knew it, I was obsessed with the idea.
So here is the fruit of my obsession: “50 Years, 50 Books: The Assassination of JFK in Fiction.” And while I, in the spirit of full disclosure, have read very few of them, and I’m certainly not recommending all of the novels included in my list (in fact, some of them seem downright dreadful—e.g., Sherlock Holmes in Dallas), I did make several interesting discoveries, and, in the course of compiling this opus, I must admit that I am now even less certain about what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.