THE KENNEDY MEN, 1901–1963: The Laws of the Father
Release date: 10/01/2001
Journalist Leamer (The Kennedy Women) provides a stirring narrative of the Kennedy men but comes up short as regards analysis of the byzantine motivations, complex psychology and persistent moral failures that lie behind the events he otherwise describes so well. Putting his own spin on well-known anecdotes (including all the most popular tales from so many other books that document Joe Sr.'s rise in business and politics, his failure to recognize the menace of Hitler and his sponsorship of his children's careers) Leamer steadfastly refuses to shed a critical light on the proclivities of Kennedy père. The author soft-pedals, for example, the Kennedy partriarch's well-documented anti-Semitism. The same lack of critical analysis—despite Leamer's access to never-before available materials—constitutes a considerable flaw throughout the book. Although offering engaging and fast-moving accounts of such events as Joe Jr.'s death and Jack's rise in politics through means both fair and foul, Leamer consistently refrains from considering the ethical implications of his stories, or the evident shortcomings in the character of more than one Kennedy. He seems, for example, to step back in awe when considering the brilliance and audacity of the Kennedys' stealing Cook County—and therefore the election—during the 1960 presidential race. In the final analysis, Leamer is a fan, idealizing his subjects. The result is a good read, though not necessarily a balanced history. Leamer's book is the first of a projected two-volume set. 32 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Joy Harris. (Oct. 16)
Forecast: The Kennedy Women sold 350,000 copies, and this new book will probably be the biggest Kennedy book in a big Kennedy season; it's a BOMC main selection. Leamer will be on the Today show on Oct. 17, and there will be a cover story in USA Weekend, a 15-city TV satellite tour and a 15-city radio campaign.