Dark Side of Camelot

Dark Side of Camelot

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by Seymour M. Hersh
     
 

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December 1997

The headlines have appeared in newspapers and periodicals nationwide for weeks: "Camelot Revisited, Again" (USA Today); "Author Hersh Defends 'Dark Side' J.F.K. Tell-All" (New York Daily News); "Book Portrays J.F.K. as Reckless and Immoral" (The New York Times); "Pool Parties In Camelot?" (Newsweek). Pulitzer

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Overview

December 1997

The headlines have appeared in newspapers and periodicals nationwide for weeks: "Camelot Revisited, Again" (USA Today); "Author Hersh Defends 'Dark Side' J.F.K. Tell-All" (New York Daily News); "Book Portrays J.F.K. as Reckless and Immoral" (The New York Times); "Pool Parties In Camelot?" (Newsweek). Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Seymour M. Hersh takes the most critical look yet at the already tarnished image of President John F. Kennedy in his new book, The Dark Side of Camelot, and the book has created quite a stir of outrage and intrigue. For millions of Americans, J.F.K. still evokes memories of a golden age in U.S. presidential history; Hersh has concluded from his investigations that there were in fact shadows cast on the halls of the White House during the 35th presidency, and that more secrets about John Kennedy were hidden from view than anyone had ever suspected.

Much of the public resistance to The Dark Side of Camelot has stemmed from accusations that Hersh manipulated historical fact when writing the book, and that his bombshell discovery -- a collection of documents linking Kennedy to the mob and Marilyn Monroe -- is a forgery. Other objections have come from people who rely on the image of J.F.K. as a symbol of a great era in American history and, for better or worse, do not wish for that vision to be diminished. In his introduction, Hersh wrestles with this notion but gives his reasons for going through with the publication of the book:

"I began writing this book knowing that it would inevitably move into a sensitive area: When is it relevant to report on the private life of a public man? The central finding that emerged from five years of reporting, and more than a thousand interviews with people who knew and worked with John F. Kennedy, is that Kennedy's private life and his personal obsessions -- his character -- affected the affairs of the nation and its foreign policy far more than has ever been known."

Much of the information that Hersh highlights in his book has been documented in some form or other before, but THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT is set apart by on-the-record interviews with Secret Service and FBI agents that provide new firsthand accounts of J.F.K.'s character. All told, the book presents a revised history of the Kennedy presidency, and it offers evidence of personal flaws and secret compromises that put the safety of the nation in potential jeopardy. Among the accusations and secrets that Hersh brings to the forefront:

  • Kennedy's near obsession with promiscuity, and how he kept his many mistresses from derailing his political ambitions

  • How family money, doled out in bribes and payoffs, led the way to J.F.K's nomination at the Democratic National Convention

  • Information suggesting ties between Kennedy and Sam Giancana, a reputed Chicago mobster, during the 1960 presidential campaign

  • Kennedy's desire to assassinate Fidel Castro, and how that desire affected the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and involved Giancana and the mob

  • A chronicle of J.F.K.'s dealings with Nikita Khrushchev behind closed doors

  • How the Cuban missile crisis, seen as a public triumph, privately was less than a victory for the president

  • How the president controlled the use of the White House's elaborate tape-recording system

  • How John, along with his brother Robert, sought to remove Lyndon Johnson from the reelection ticket

    The amount of diligent research and effort that Seymour Hersh put into The Dark Side of Camelot is apparent, and he concludes the book by looking at the troubles that plagued Kennedy right up until his untimely death in Dallas. The secrets that are made public here would have been devastating in the 1960s, when a nation blinded by awe for such a charismatic man would not have been able to handle the truth behind the facade immediately after the president's assassination. "In writing this book," Hersh writes, some 35 years later, "my hope is that I have been able to help the nation reclaim some of its history."

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  • Editorial Reviews

    Steve Weinberg
    Hersh's relentless reporting led to a high level of factual accuracy in some of the book's high-risk segments, and for me, that level of accuracy provided confidence in the book's larger judgments.
    Columbia Journalism Review
    Gore Vidal
    Hersh is an old-style muckraker. The fact that he's found more muck in this particular Augean stable than most people want to acknowledge is hardly his fault. -- The New Yorker

    Product Details

    ISBN-13:
    9780316359559
    Publisher:
    Little, Brown and Company
    Publication date:
    11/10/1997
    Pages:
    498
    Product dimensions:
    6.29(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.64(d)

    Read an Excerpt

    The Dark Side of Camelot


    By Seymour M. Hersh

    Back Bay Books

    ISBN: 0-316-36067-8


    Chapter One

    Author's Note

    This is not a book about John Kennedy's brilliant moments, and his brilliant policies. Nor is it a book about the awful moment of his death and why he was shot.

    John Kennedy's policies and his life contained many superb moments. After his death, his glamour and wit combined with his successes in foreign affairs and domestic policies-real and imagined-to create the myth of Camelot. But there was a dark side to Camelot, and to John Kennedy.

    I began writing this book knowing that it would inevitably move into a sensitive area: When is it relevant to report on the private life of a public man? The central finding that emerged from five years of reporting, and more than a thousand interviews with people who knew and worked with John F. Kennedy, is that Kennedy's private life and personal obsessions-his character-affected the affairs of the nation and its foreign policy far more than has ever been known.

    This is a book about a man whose personal weaknesses limited his ability to carry out his duties as president. It is also a book about the power of beauty. It tells of otherwise strong and self-reliant men and women who were awed and seduced by Kennedy's magnetism, and who competed with one another to please the most charismatic leader in our nation's history. Many are still blinded today.

    In writing this book, my hope is that I have been able to help the nation reclaim some of its history.

    Seymour M. Hersh October 1997

    (Continues...)



    Excerpted from The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour M. Hersh Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Dark Side of Camelot 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
    TBWallace More than 1 year ago
    I am currently in master's classes and try to avoid reading for entertainment at this time. I have read a few other books about Kennedy's and found this book full of information details that were probably unailable over the past 50 years about the political process and how the Kennedys actually stacked the deck. How power in American really works. I don't take everything in the book for absolute truth, but it makes clear how American politics have changed. JFK was probably the last president where the system was willing to hide their glarring flaws and tolerate the idea of democracy for democracy sake. A real page turner. I finsihed half the book in one day.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book provides a critical look at John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy clan, and the camp followers who were willing to do anything that was asked of them either out fear of rejection by the man they followed blindly, or of reprisal. It is to the point and strips away the myth of the man, those that surrounded him. Not surprisingly, his wife emerges as the one decent individual who fulfilled her role with dignity. Kennedy and CIA involvement with the criminal underworld is revealed and provides a good backdrop to The History Channel¿s November 2003 Documentaries on the assassination of Kennedy. As such, it seems to support some of the theories advanced by the documentaries. The real story behind Kennedy¿s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis reveals a far different story than that promoted by Kennedy lovers and is especially revealing when considering who really did drag the US to the brink of war. Was it really Khrushchev? Or JFK? Did the Russians really blink, or did JFK beg Khrushchev for a way out. You get to decide. Hersh¿s account reveals a seat of the pants mode of operation in which Robert Kennedy is continually engaged in damage control from the start of the presidency. John Kennedy¿s personal weaknesses, inability to learn from mistakes, and refusal to accept responsibility for his own shortcomings, point to a presidency on route to destruction from the start.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Hersh has done an excellent job in stripping away the mythology surrounding the Kennedy administration and writing a good historically objective account of the man and his presidency.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Seymore Hersh is a legend in the investigative reporting field. In this book Hersh tries to desiminate information currently released from the closed file of the currently viewable Kennedy Library. In between the now semi-public files of Kennedy's adminstration, Hersh fills in the gaps and provides excellant credibility with his relentless testimony of the most credible witneses, I.E. Kennedy's secret service agents, Members of staff, retired politicians, and so on. Hersh leads the reader through Joe Kennedy's ruthless abadonment at getting his son elected at any cost, John's personal life during his administration, and the death and resulting fallout that ensued. If it were any other author, I too would be a skeptic. However, Hersh has been to reliable an author to not sit up and pay attention. Though the reader might feel uncomfortable with some of the incidents that are revealed, feel good in the fact that what you are reading is the result of an honest, hardworking, pulitzer prise winning author. Hersh in my opinion is a modern day historian.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    DeValera More than 1 year ago
    Filled with half truths and outright slander...the product of a maligent mind. See CSPAN evaluations by the top 50 Presidential Historians J.F.K. rated 6th best. Quite a feat for a man who was only in office for two years and 10 months. Mr Hersch is a sad creature filled with irrational hate that produced a false poison pen. Like the historian/writer John Toland, in his vicious false attacks on F.D.R., Hersch has revealed the dark soul of a corrupt revisionist.
    Kevin79 More than 1 year ago
    This was a difficult read for someone from Massachusetts who grew up hearing the worship of the Kennedy brothers and the story of "Camelot." Well written eye opener that I recommend to everyone, "friend and foe alike"
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I loved it! It dispelled some of the aura of royalty that had enveloped the Kennedy family for so long.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Much of the info in this book comes across as soft. Much may be true, but it doesn't feel like a well-researched book,notwithstanding the credentials of the author. Some things however i find quite believable if not fully proven, like the threat or perhaps even reality of Kennedy clout being used to place a potential threat in a mental hospital. If you really study the Kennedy family, it does not seem like a family at all, rather more of a managed entity, where different Kennedys represent different special interest groups under one organizational structure termed the ' Kennedy family'. The Kennedy family seems more a political body than a true family despite the surface veneer.I would read this book skeptically.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Born almost 2 decades after JFK was killed, I am still quite intrigued by the entire Kennedy family. This book covers any questions you may have had about them, and many more you would never have thought to ask. Simply fantabulous!