“There is a wealth of useful information about the Kennedy assassination available online,” writes Salon’s founding editor, David Talbot. Talbot’s book about CIA director Allen Dulles will be published in next month.
“But before a beginner wades into these thickets, it’s best to start with some of the best books on the subject,” he adds.
Here’s Talbot’s top seven JFK books. Am I biased because Talbot is a friend and he includes my book? Yes, I am.
1. “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” by James W. Douglass. Written by a deeply thoughtful Catholic peace activist, this book portrays Kennedy as a Cold War martyr – a leader who sacrificed his life to save the world from the nuclear holocaust that was being threatened by his national security team. Douglass draws together much of the best research about the Kennedy administration, and the tensions that finally tore it apart.
2. “The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK,” by Gaeton Fonzi. An aggressive Philadelphia investigative journalist, Fonzi was recruited by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976 to be one of its lead investigators. (The HSCA’s final report in 1979 overturned the Warren Report, concluding that JFK had been killed as the result of a conspiracy, but failed to name the plotters.) Fonzi’s inside account of the committee, which came tantalizingly close to cracking the case before it was sabotaged by CIA obstructionism and congressional cowardice, makes for a gripping and eye-opening tale.
3. “Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why,” by Gerald McKnight. Written by a professor emeritus of history at Hood College, this is one of the few invaluable books on the Kennedy case produced by American academia – which has been as timid as the press when it comes to exploring this taboo topic. McKnight documents how U.S. security agencies immediately hijacked the Warren investigation — and makes a compelling case for their own involvement in JFK’s death.
4. “Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA,” by Jefferson Morley. By focusing on Scott, chief of the CIA station in Mexico City at the time of the JFK assassination, Morley sheds a revealing light on a fascinating sideshow in the Oswald story. Morley demonstrates how Oswald was the object of an intensive CIA shadow play, which can be traced back to the agency’s wizard of deception, James Jesus Angleton.
5. “Oswald and the CIA,” by John Newman. A former military intelligence officer, Newman brought his unique expertise to deciphering the flood of JFK documents that were declassified in 1992 as a result of the public outcry following Oliver Stone’s film “JFK.” Newman shows that – despite CIA denials – the agency had a strong operational interest in Oswald that dated back years before Dallas.
6. “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” by David Talbot. Yes, I plead guilty to shameless self-promotion. But in my defense, my book broke new ground by documenting how Robert Kennedy himself was one of the first JFK conspiracy theorists. Based on over 150 interviews with Kennedy relatives and administration insiders, the book traces Bobby’s secret search for the truth about his brother’s murder.
7. “Deep Politics and the Death of JFK,” by Peter Dale Scott. A retired University of California, Berkeley, literature scholar, former Canadian diplomat and distinguished poet, Scott is the Wise Man of the Kennedy research movement. Though not trained as a historian or investigative journalist, Scott took up the challenge of the JFK mystery in his spare time over four decades ago, delving assiduously where few reporters or academics dared go. “Deep Politics” is his Kennedy masterpiece, a meticulously detailed examination of the deep network of power that underlies the events in Dallas. The book is filled with provocative insights about how the upper circles of U.S. power actually operate (often in concert with the criminal underworld). I list “Deep Politics” last, only because it’s not for beginners – readers should approach this dense and challenging book after getting a basic grounding in the Kennedy case.