(Henry Holt, $28)
Bill O’Reilly is rewriting history, said Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today. Following up on his blockbuster account of the Lincoln assassination, the Fox News host is once again staring down at more-credentialed historians from the top of nonfiction best-seller lists, this time thanks to a “you-are-there” retelling of another familiar national tragedy. O’Reilly doesn’t claim that he and researcher Martin Dugard broke any new ground while researching the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy: He says he didn’t find enough evidence to conclude that triggerman Lee Harvey Oswald was the fall guy for a deeper conspiracy but doesn’t rule it out. “This is history as fast-paced thriller,” intended to be read by millions, not thousands, so there’s little time to dwell on potential sideshows.
But did he have to wait until the afterword to “break his only bit of news?” asked David Talbot in Salon.com. Back when O’Reilly worked at the tabloid TV show Inside Edition, he dug deeper on this story and “had the guts to track the epic crime all the way into the dark labyrinth of the CIA.” Here, he eventually reveals that in 1977, he was standing on the Florida doorstep of oilman George de Mohrenschildt, who he suspected was the CIA’s link to Oswald, when he heard a shotgun blast inside. De Mohrenschildt’s death was ruled a suicide, but O’Reilly doesn’t explore other possibilities. Though “he’s obviously still haunted by the suspicions of the younger, freer Bill O’Reilly,” he “wimps out.”
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There’s no wimpiness in O’Reilly’s prose, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. His brand of “punchy” nonfiction “sells for good reason”: The books are “blunt and clear, not burdened with an overload of pesky footnotes,” and not shy about highlighting Kennedy’s sexual voraciousness or such details as his lifelong habit of swimming in the nude. “Scintillating? No. But sneakily dramatic? Yes.” When the book finally arrives at “its date with destiny,” it even succeeds in investing “fresh anguish” into a tale most of us know too well.
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