Monthly Archives: November 2013
The End of Days : The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (Harper Collins, 2013 398 pages) is a readily readable account of the four days in November 1963. The author’s title was intended to be a metaphor which marked the end of days for JFK as well as naivite for the nation.
Swanson is a skilled writer who was able to condense 80 pages of source notes into a page turning murder mystery story without the mystery. Swanson firmly believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, and Swanson’s story gives no credence to the proliferation of conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination which have been circulating over the last fifty years.
Swanson gives 60 pages of background switching between the 35th President and his assassin in a parallel lives narrative style before their lives start to intersect in Texas.
One of the virtues of the End of Days was giving insight into Lee Harvey Oswald’s mindset by way of recounting Oswald’s appearances on New Orleans radio programs during the summer of 1963 supporting the Fair Play for Cuba cause.
Swanson’s short history of the Kennedy Administration does not whitewash the young Democrat President’s philandering foibles but it does not focus on it. Kennedy is portrayed as a fervent anti-Communist who was positioning himself for his run for re-election on a pro-growth, tax cutting theme. These traits are often ignored in other retellings of the American “Camelot”.
The End of Days also adroitly points out the imaging campaign which the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy used to immortalize her assassinated husband’s Administration as Camelot
The detailed account of the run up to the dastardly deed, the manhunt and the interrogation of the perpetrator was masterful. Since the Oswald murder by Jack Ruby and the state funeral were televised live and became iconic images imprinted on the American psyche, Swanson alludes to a couple of these scenes. Unfortunately, The End of Days did not seem to have reproduction rights for the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald just before he was shot or little John John’s salute of the casket.
Although The End of Days read like a Murder Mystery in which the reader knows what will happen, there were a couple of instances when the foreboding background voice of the fate that awaits seemed overwrought. The ending of the book seemed rushed in trying to tie up the loose ends about concerns about Robert Kennedy becoming President Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President and Jackie O’s estrangement from American popular focus.
While I enjoyed reading “The End of Days”, his media appearances had me expecting a little more.
The End of Days would neither satisfy a Sixth Floor Museum devotee nor a convicted conspiracy type, but Swanson was not writing for that audience. If someone wants to read a true life potboiler chock full of facts about the JFK assassination, they should consider reading James Swanson’s “The End of Days.”