Oswald acted alone.
Although its been a year since its release I just got around to reading Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63. It’s about a time traveler who attempts to prevent the assassination of John F Kennedy.
I find it hard to pass up any book on the Kennedy assassination. This November will mark the 50th anniversary of that awful day. Although I was only 7 when it happened it was the first thing I ever wrote about. My grade two teacher, Mrs. Kennedy (no relation to the president, but was the sister of the Toronto Maple Leaf) thought it would be a good idea if her young students wrote things down as a way to help her see how it was affecting us.
Encouraged by my mother and father I played the reporter, gathering the information on TV, radio and with their help, the newspaper. I watched mostly the CBS coverage with Walter Cronkite because our old black and white Admiral television set couldn’t get more than one U.S. channel. That moment and its aftermath directed me to want to be a journalist. On my request, my mother ordered “The Torch is Passed” The Associated Press Story of the Death of a President which I still possess. It would not be the last book I’d read on the assassination.
According to Stephen King, the idea for this novel came to him in 1971, eight years after the Kennedy shooting and just before the release of his first novel, Carrie. He says in the afterword of 11/22/63 that it was too soon then to write about it. While promoting the book he went further saying that he felt a historical novel required more research than he was willing to do at the time.
King and longtime researcher Russ Dorr prepared for the novel by reading many historical documents and newspaper archives from the period, looking at clothing and appliance ads, sports scores and television listings. The 1958 price of a pint of root beer (10 cents) or a haircut (40 cents).
King and Dorr traveled to Dallas, where they visited Oswald's apartment building and had a private tour of the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in the Texas School Book Depository. I have also toured the museum. I did so after walking around Dealey Plaza where a painted X marks the spot where the president was shot. The exhibit wasn’t as tacky, in fact it was impressive, respectful and well presented. While standing at the infamous sixth floor window, looking down on the street I could see how clear and close the view was. It was there that I finally committed to what I now believe. King also studied various conspiracy theories, ultimately coming to the same conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
King writes, “because all of the accounts, including those written by conspiracy theorists, tell the same simple American story; here was a dangerous little fame-junkie who found himself in just the right place to get lucky. Were the odds of it happening just the way it did long? Yes. So are the odds on winning the letttery, but someone wins one every day.”
He uses both fictional and historical characters like James P. Hosty, an FBI agent who is a favorite target for conspiracy theorists. While I don’t want to give away any of King’s story Hosty gets an interesting treatment in the novel.
So what would the world be like if JFK had survived? King met with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, an assistant to Lyndon B. Johnson and the author of books about several presidents, including Lincoln on which the Academy Award winning movie is based. He used some of her ideas of worst-case political scenarios in the absence of Kennedy's assassination.
Will King’s book become a movie? I hope it does, but Jonathan Demme who was to write, produce, and direct a film adaptation of 11/22/63 with King serving as executive producer, has recently announced that he withdrew from the project after disputes with King over what to include in the script.
All the more reason to read it, you won't be disappointed.