50th Anniversary of the Assassination of JFK

The Assassination of JFK: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo

I was just three and a half when JFK was assassinated, so I remained blissfully unaware of the tragedy that had happened on 22nd November 1963.  They say it’s one of those events that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news.

I’ve checked my late Mum’s diaries and she didn’t comment, (in fact hardly any events in world politics made it into them). I asked my father (who was 84 on Monday- Happy Birthday Dad!) what he was doing. – he remembers it as a badminton night, and is sure they’d have heard the news over tea before going out to play that evening.

So, fifty years later we are remembering Kennedy’s untimely death. Jonathan Mayo, who has already done a ‘Minute by Minute’ treatment for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, has done the same for JFK. It is going to be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on the 22nd at 6pm.

The book takes the timeline from just before Kennedy’s arrival in Texas in the evening of the 21st of November and follows through chronologically until the evening after JFK’s funeral on the 25th.  Mayo tells the story of everyone who was involved in the story, however small their role. It is, Mayo says:

The story of what took place in Dallas is not just about President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald; it’s also about the scores of people who were drawn into the developing drama. Some are famous, some obscure, but it affected them all, putting them in unexpected situations, and sometimes making them behave in unexpected ways. This book is full of stories that I hope will restore the impact of the assassination.

There is no room for conspiracy theories in this book which tells it as it happened.  This immediacy gives it the feel of a thriller.

I had no idea that there was no love lost between Kennedy and Johnson, and the Texas Governor Connolly, and that it had been considered dangerous for Kennedy to go to Dallas.

I was amazed to find that DJ John Peel had been in Dallas at the time, and was just feet from Oswald when Jack Ruby shot him, whereas Alastair Cooke had declined to go on the trip being fed up of Democratic politics, and had remained in New York.

Lyndon B Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One with Jackie still in her blood-stained outfit beside him. Photograph by official White House photographer, Army Capt. Cecil W. Stoughton

I was saddened to hear that JFK’s back-brace for chronic back pain, held him in a position where the second bullet was able to hit his head.  We share Jackie’s pain as she steadfastly stays in her pink Chanel suit, even when they reach Andrews Air Force Base saying ‘No, let them see what they’ve done.‘ when it was suggested that she change her dress. I really felt for her, Robert, and her children.

As for Lee Harvey Oswald – well, he was obviously a wrongun’! Enough said.

There was so much I didn’t know about the events in this book. The only thing missing in this book were some more photographs.  Adding the famous ones like that above, the Jack Ruby one, Oswald posing with his gun, etc. would have given it just that little extra to make it an exceptional read.  The minute by minute format gave it real pace, and unlike those difficult novels (and a certain recent Autobiography), the fact that the events unwind in the present tense generated a real sense of suspense and anticipation.  No matter what you think of JFK, this book gives a fascinating insight into some truly sad days. (9/10)

See also DoveGreyReader for another excellent review of this book.

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Source: Publisher (thank you). To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Assassination of JFK: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo, pub Nov 13 by Short Books. Hardback 288 pages.

7 thoughts on “50th Anniversary of the Assassination of JFK

  1. Alex says:

    I was at a friend’s house and her younger brother came running up the stairs to tell us what had happened. I remember that she wasn’t the slightest bit interested and I don’t think I ever felt the same way about her again.

  2. Ed says:

    I once read a similar book about the day that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. I have little time for conspiracy theorists, but in the case of Lincoln’s death there was one. But it was a very low level conspiracy between John Wilkes Booth and a group of either sad or psychopathic misfits who hung around with him. Nothing like the high level conspiracy fictions surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.

  3. LizF says:

    I have bought the book as a Christmas present for my other half who is fascinated with the subject – and yes I probably will end up reading it before him!

  4. Guy Savage says:

    Lucky you to have your mum’s diaries. I never even considered them as an heirloom–not that I have any to leave.

    I don’t remember the assassination of JFK but I do remember the assassination of his brother. It seemed very shocking at the time, and it gave me an impression of America as a strange place full of people who had guns–which as it turns out wasn’t inaccurate.

    • gaskella says:

      I have painstakingly transcribed about forty years worth of my late mum’s diaries Guy – but they’re only really a record of what she went to the theatre/opera/ballet/cinema to see with one line reviews, plus all her holidays – still it took ages, but now they’re all on a spreadsheet and I can refer to them easily!

      I don’t remember Robert Kennedy’s assassination either I’m afraid. Your impression certainly seemed right!

  5. litlove says:

    This sounds very intriguing. I’m into biography at the moment, and like anything with a slightly different structure than birth through to death including way too much detail from the busy middle years. This sounds like something I’d enjoy.

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