This is the first of what will now be a weekly posting of excerpts from a present book I am enjoying, an influential book/story I’ve read, or something I am aiming to read. I hope my spectacularly bright and dynamic readers find them both entertaining and enlightening.
My first exposure to James Swanson was with Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase to Catch Lincoln’s Killer. Talk about a page turner!
His accounting of the months/days leading up to the Kennedy assassination is equally compelling. Swanson details Oswald’s path alongside Kennedy’s – jumping back and forth – on their tragic chronological collision course. The man knows how to tell a story.
This is from his most recent book, End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“John Kennedy loved his job. He savored every moment of it – even the times of crisis and testing. He was never one of those presidents who complained about the debilitating stress and awesome burdens of the office. He knew how lucky he was – not just to be president of the United States, but to be alive at all. In addition to his own narrow escapes, many of those close to him, even some of his own siblings, had died young. He and Jackie had lost their stillborn daughter, who Jackie would have named Arabella, and their son Patrick, who had lived less than two days. Just as JFK had described Robert Frost in Frost’s own words in that October speech at Amherst, he too was ‘one acquainted with the night.’
But in November 1963, the Kennedys looked forward to the future. Jackie had emerged from her mourning for Patrick. JFK had started to think about the presidential campaign of 1964. His prospects looked decent. To improve them, he had scheduled the three-day political swing through Texas in the week before Thanksgiving, where he would visit the five cities and make numerous speeches, as many as three in a single day.
Jackie had even agreed to join him on the trip. She had never liked campaigning and had not done it since the election of 1960. But she was eager to make this journey. In the fall of 1963, as unlikely as it might sound to a jaded modern reader with fifty years’ worth of cynicism and hindsight in the wake of all the subsequent revelations about JFK’s private life, John and Jacqueline Kennedy might have been more in love with each other this November than they had been since the year they married.
Once they returned from Texas, they could begin again.”