JFK's Last 100 Days

By now you're probably aware of the media Blitzkrieg advancing on us, recalling, retelling, reshowing the horrific assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago this November 22. The media is all over this like bees on honey. NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS are all doing specials. The cable newsies will be JFK-ing as are the History, Discovery, National Geographic, Reelz, Nova, Smithsonian and TLC channels. Which means there will be an endless loop of the disturbing Zapruder film so we can experience the man getting killed over-and-over-and-over-and-over again.

Also coming is Parkland The movie, which was Parkland the book, which was Parkland the hospital, which is where the president's body was first taken.

Magazines stands are beginning to show their glossy stuff. The Saturday Evening Post is just one of the many commemorative/memorial issues vying for our attention in the coming weeks.

And the web? You're guaranteed to get lost in the maze of assassination websites. Start with jfk.org and go from there.

Books: Where does one begin? Whole forests have been sacrificed providing paper for the 140 JFK assassination titles listed on Amazon. You've got Bill O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy (Oswald did it), Roger Stone's The Man Who Killed Kennedy and Dr. Jerry Kroth's Coup d'Etat (Lyndon Johnson was behind it all). A starter book would be Who's Who in the JFK Assassination, an A to Z Encylopedia.

But out of the many book choices available, JFK's Last Hundred Days is not to be missed. It is utterly compelling -- and it barely deals with November 22.

In addition to being THE event that transformed America from the placid grey-flannel 1950s to the stormy tie-dyed 1960s, the JFK assassination is a generational divider. Those who were sentient when it happened can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the stunning news. These folks are further divided into two factions: the lone gunman did it versus a coup d'etat involving the CIA and/or the FBI, organized crime, the military, Texas oil interests and Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson.

On the other side of this generational divide are the kids who've only heard about the events in Dallas. Their parents may make them watch Oliver Stone's 1991 movie, JFK, but they get lost trying to follow the various linked-in culprits. For them, the Kennedy-Oswald-Ruby triad conspiracy is right up there with the Lincoln assassination -- it's history.

Whichever assassination theory you subscribe to, Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days will fill you with a tantalizing sense of what might have been -- had November 22 not happened.

The affecting power here is found in the daily routines, struggles, conversations and moments -- all the details that make up a day with this president in this White House at this time in history. That's the emotional wallop of this book.

It's not a hagiography by any stretch. You'll hear about Kennedy's apparently voracious sexual appetites with the likes of 62-year-old screen legend, Marlene Dietrich and a romp with stripper Tempest Storm, among others. He tells Republican congresswoman Claire Boothe Luce, wife of Time, Life, and Fortune publisher Henry Luce, that he goes all to pieces if he does not have sex every day. He suffers punishing headaches if he doesn't. These kinds of shenanigans were never reported in those days.

Since his death, there's a lot of speculation about what this president would have done about our military involvement in Vietnam. From what he told various friends and advisors, he was determined to get OUT. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force chief Gen. Curtis Lemay pushed vigorously for major combat involvement, Kennedy listened to the controversial war hero, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who basically said to him, 'no way.' In the spring of 1963, the president told Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield that he had made a mistake increasing the number of military advisors. He agreed with the recommendation for a complete withdrawal. But he said, he'd have to wait until after he was re-elected. If he said anything before then, conservatives would pillory him and could lose the election. Sound familiar?

It's the small details, the little grace notes that Clarke tells us about. Kennedy stayed away from the famous March on Washington, citing his concerns for violence if he were there. But he watched King give his famous address on the first family's only television, a 13-inch, black and white portable -- with rabbit ears.

Of course it also helps the audiobook edition to have a quality production from Penguin Audio and Executive Producer, Patti Pirooz -- which includes pitch-perfect narration from Malcom Hillgartner, who also voices Henry Kissinger and Kennedy patriarch, Joseph Kennedy biographies.