It is a shame that, sometimes, the NY Times Book Review hires people to review books on subjects of which they are totally ignorant.
Case in point: Bryan Burrough, a writer from the increasingly disappointing Vanity Fair, was strangely asked to review
, in last week's NY Times Book Review, Vincent Bugliosi's new tome on the JFK assassination.
Bugligosi has written a book on the JFK assassination
that is 1,621 pages--plus a separate CD-Rom which stores the endnotes. Yup, even Burrough was struck by that ridiculous number of pages, all purporting to explain that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Yet, Burrough, who appears to know little about the JFK assassination other than it happened, is overwhelmed by it all--to the point where he ends up agreeing with Bugliosi that those who believe JFK was killed by more than one lone nut deserve only "ridicule." If there is to be ridicule, it should be directed against Burrough and Bugliosi.
In his review, Burrough quotes the venerable conspiracy investigator, Harold Weisberg, who admitted he could never prove Oswald was anyone's "agent." Burrough thinks this statement proves Weisberg failed to prove a conspiracy, which, under the law, is simply two or more people engaged in an illegal act or scheme
. Burrough is wrong. Weisberg's statement is not
an admission that there was no second gunman; just that he couldn't prove at the time he may have said that, whether Oswald was someone's agent.
I recall a similar statement by Weisberg when I spoke to him once in the late 1980s. At the time, I had stumbled upon, and read, the first of Weisberg's books, Whitewash
. I found his book so fascinating that I tracked him down through telephone information (for you kids out there, we dialed "411" on our telephones) and called him. At the time, he was living in the State of Maryland. I asked Weisberg about his other books, and finally got the courage to ask the bottom line question: "So, who killed JFK?" Weisberg laughed and said that anyone who said they knew who killed JFK was just guessing. However, he did say there is little doubt there was more than one gunman--we just may never know who did it. Weisberg also said that simply because "someone" had the motivation to kill JFK, that did not mean "someone" killed him.
If Burrough knew anything about the subject, and had actually read Weisberg's work, he would know Weisberg actually spoke with the various witnesses who appeared before the Warren Comission, and read and absorbed their deposition testimony. That was the basis of Weisberg's conclusion that the Warren Commission report is flawed. Again, one doesn't have to prove Oswald was an agent for anyone
to conclude the Warren Commission's report failed to sufficiently prove there was only one gunman or that the lone gunman was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Burrough is so credulous and ignorant that he never mentions, in his review, the Mob connection to the JFK murder. See here
for my recent discussions regarding the Mob connection to JFK's murder, for example. However, the reviwer in Publisher's Weekly (see Publisher's Weekly review in the Amazon
link to Bugliosi's book) noted there is reason to believe the Mob was involved in JFK's assassination. The Publisher's Weekly reviewer further noted Bugliosi spends more time attacking Oliver Stone than analyzing the evidence regarding the Mob's involvement in the assassination, which I think proves WW Norton's editors were horribly negligent in their approval of this poorly edited and vetted book.
It's ironic to note that historian Alan Brinkley
, asked to review a new book on the Kennedy brothers, in the same edition of the NY Times Sunday Book Review, is more solicitous, though still doubtful, regarding a second gunman or conspiracy to kill JFK. Brinkley has enough knowledge of the JFK assassination to know there is credible information to prove the involvement of the Mob in JFK's murder. Brinkley's review even begins with the revelation that RFK's initial reaction to the assassination was that the Mob, the CIA or related elements may have been involved.
Brinkley also correctly notes that the new book on the Kennedy brothers is too credulous about JFK's success as president and too optimistic that Kennedy was going to lead America to the promised land. I was very impressed that Brinkley recognizes that JFK was not likely to avoid the Vietnam War if he had lived and continued as president.
But allow me to get back to Bugliosi's book, which I am still waiting to read at least part of it.
I am deeply disappointed in Bugliosi
for writing a book that even another positive reviewer
says is over the top in its invective and sarcasm. Worse, Bugliosi breaks no new ground and spends too much time arguing about Oliver Stone's film, "JFK," and precious little time with the most salient theory that JFK was the victim of a Mob inspired "hit."
It is sad for me to say all of this because Bugliosi is someone I have previously and deeply admired. His book on the OJ Simpson criminal trial
is, by far, the best book on the subject--where he kept his vitriol under better control and provided strong support for his vitriol. His book on the Bush-Gore Supreme Court decision in 2000
was rock solid on the legal arguments in that case--but I began to feel Bugliosi's vitriol was beginning to get the better of him. In this latest work on the JFK assassination, Bugliosi's bluster against people such as Harold Weisberg or Dan Moldea is unwarranted, wrong and says more about Buglosi losing his mind than all of his sarcasm that permeates what is ultimately a ridiculous book.
I admit to having a personal peeve against Bugliosi's publisher, WW Norton
. A few months ago, my literary agent told me WW Norton rejected publishing my alternative history on RFK in soft cover because the book was supposedly too long at almost 640 pages (with another 60 pages of endnotes). I guess the editor at Norton hadn't read or even heard of any of the novels of Neal Stephenson
or William Vollman
Yet, Norton has published Bugliosi's book, which is 1,000 pages longer than my book. Just let that sink in: 1,000 pages longer than my book
. Unlike Bugliosi's book, my book received a starred
or top review from Publishers' Weekly. Plus, my book received endorsements from credible historians, writers and literary persons--and even the book's critics are impressed with the historical information provided in the book.
I apologize to readers for airing my personal frustration, though this is after all, a blog. However, I have been frustrated these past few months as my agent attempts to find a publisher willing to publish my book in soft cover in advance of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, coming up in June 2008. If someone has any connections to publishers who may be willing to publish my book in time for the 40th anniversary edition, please contact me at "email@example.com." I also have a connection to HBO where a top exec there says, "Mitchell, just get the book out in a soft cover, and I'll work to get a 'green light' for a miniseries." Hence, the frustration at seeing the mess that is Bugliosi's book.