cover image The Kennedy Assassination - 24 Hours After

The Kennedy Assassination - 24 Hours After

Steven M. Gillon. Basic Books, $25.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-465-01870-3

In this fresh take on John F. Kennedy's assassination, history professor Gillon probes the chaos that surrounded Vice President Johnson's ascension to power as he coped with both the trauma of Kennedy's murder and the enmity of Kennedy's inner circle. At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, a battle of wills between Johnson and JFK's inner circle-including appointments secretary Kenneth O'Donnell and military aide Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh-contributed to the confusion then (and now) over the timeline of Kennedy's death and Johnson's assuming the presidency. Leading the anti-Johnson contingent was the president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who tussled with LBJ over the swearing-in details (both disagreed bitterly about the episode afterwards). Johnson faltered as he moved into the spotlight, trying in vain to adopt Camelot as his own by trying (unsuccessfully) to console Jackie and persuading (with varying degrees of success) Kennedy staffers to stay on. Gillon captures the two faces of Johnson-the insecure second-guesser and the brilliant politician-as well as the earliest signs of the Johnson presidency's eventual failure.