Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination

Jim Lehrer. Random House, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6916-3
Lehrer (formerly the anchor of PBS’s NewsHour) draws upon his experiences as a reporter in Dallas on November 22, 1963, for this unusual take on the Kennedy assassination. His fictional alter ego in the novel, Dallas Tribune reporter Jack Gilmore, is at Love Field when the Kennedys arrive. Fact-checking his story, Jack asks a Secret Service agent if the president’s limousine will be traveling through Dallas with the plastic bubble top up or down. Since the top is intended only for use in the rain, and clear skies are expected, agent Van Walters indicates that it not be used. That reasonable choice (the top was neither bulletproof nor intended to protect Kennedy) naturally leads to feelings of profound guilt on Van’s part after the fatal shots are fired in Dealey Plaza. Five years later, Van’s 20-year-old daughter, Marti, asks for Jack’s help reversing her father’s depression, leading to a macabre reenactment in which the former agent tries to prove to himself that there’s nothing he could have done differently. Lehrer doesn’t say anything particularly profound here about the tragedy’s long-lasting aftereffects, but his premise does make for a refreshing change from the usual conspiracy thrillers about the J.F.K. assassination. Agent: Will Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilken. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
Release date: 10/08/2013
Genre: Fiction
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