Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Kennedy Detail (Gerald Blaine)

Our most recent book for our book club was The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine. It is, naturally, about the Secret Service Detail assigned to JFK during his presidency and especially on the day of his assassination, and it is written by one of the men on JFK's detail.

Do I recommend this book? Yes and no. The topic was indeed fascinating, but the telling of the narrative was a bit. . . slow. The book is more than four hundred pages long, so if you have the time to read four hundred rather slow pages, knock yourself out. I did! You'll learn lots of interesting facts. If you don't have lots of time to sift through  a l l    t h o s e    w o r d s ,  then call me and I can give you a synopsis of the most interesting facets of The Kennedy Detail.

In Blaine's defense, he really did do a great job re-telling the story of JFK's assassination. By nature, Secret Service men and women are very detail-oriented and tend to file away in their minds a wealth of information about each and every scenario in which they find themselves. So you could say it was his DUTY to turn those six seconds in Dallas in November of 1963 into four hundred pages.

But here! Some broad-stroke, interesting-to-all take-aways for you:
-The Secret Service does not believe what the general public believes about the Kennedys and all of their alleged affairs. They claim it was impossible for Marilyn Monroe and JFK to have had an affair. And I guess they would know, since they never left the president's side.

-The men on duty during the assassination were tormented for the rest of their lives about their "failure" to do their jobs. Some were able to continue working for the Secret Service, but many retired to the private sector to escape the guilt they felt. One, Clint Hill (the man who ran up to the president's car after the shots were fired), was interviewed on 60 Minutes in 1975, and the interviewer (Mike Wallace) said he had never seen a more broken, tormented man in all his life. You can see some clips here.

-Jackie was not crawling on the trunk of the car to reach the Secret Service agent Clint Hill after JFK was shot; she was actually crawling after bits of her husband's head that had. . . escaped from his body.

-When JFK was assassinated, his detail consisted of forty over-worked men. Now the Secret Service is almost TEN TIMES that size.

-All of the conspiracy theories are unfounded and can be explained away very easily and quickly. Blaine perfunctorily dedicated a whole chapter to this. I did a fair amount of internet research on these conspiracy theories, and I have to say that Blaine did indeed debunk them all. Which is sad, as we all love a good conspiracy. I guess we'll just have to turn our attention to the lunar landing!

Well, there you have it. Let me know your thoughts on this book if you've read it! (Or if you want to borrow it, let me know!)


  1. I love a good synopsis that substitutes for having to actually read the book! I have chosen--no kidding--War and Peace to read on my next plane trip. So much to read and so little time!

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