The narrative of Libra, Don DeLillo’s lucid novel about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is propelled by the ruminations of one Nicholas Branch,a mid-level CIA man in post-60s America. A civil servant, Branch is ordered by anonymous superiors to pull together everything the Agency has on “the six seconds that broke the back of the American century.”
As Branch takes on this Sisyphean task he marvels at the enormity and complexity and opacity of the CIA’s record related to the events that culminated with the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas. As he sifts through the case officer reports, the fitness evaluations, the budgets, and the op plans, the story of Libra unspools.
Russ Holmes, whose death in December was recently announced, was a real-life Nicholas Branch.