Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation

Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation

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by Bill O'Reilly

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On a sunny day in Dallas, Texas, at the end of a campaign trip, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is assassinated by an angry, lonely drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes briefly, but is hunted down, captured, and then shot dead while in police custody.

Kennedy's Last Days is a gripping account of the events leading

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On a sunny day in Dallas, Texas, at the end of a campaign trip, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is assassinated by an angry, lonely drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes briefly, but is hunted down, captured, and then shot dead while in police custody.

Kennedy's Last Days is a gripping account of the events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century. Author Bill O'Reilly vividly describes the Kennedy family's life in the public eye, the crises facing the president around the world and at home, the nation's growing fascination with their vigorous, youthful president, and finally, the shocking events leading up to his demise.

Adapted from Bill O'Reilly's best-selling historical thriller Killing Kennedy, with an unforgettable cast of characters, page-turning action, and art on every spread, Kennedy's Last Days is history that reads like a thriller. This exciting book will captivate adults and young readers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Killing Kennedy:


"Immersively written . . .  Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Dugard succeed in investing a familiar national tragedy with fresh anguish. . . A powerful historical précis."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times


"All the suspense and drama of a popular thriller."—Husna Haq, The Christian Science Monitor

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Starting with a change of name, Bill O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy has been transformed into an illustrated version for adolescent readers, rewritten with more decorum and without the sexual allusions. The title is misleading, since the author includes earlier events in Kennedy's life and devotes many pages to other characters like Ruth Paine, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and to himself, Bill O'Reilly. Written mostly in the present tense, short chapters roll along, changing quickly from Kennedy's life to Lee Harvey Oswald's or to suspenseful episodes such as Kennedy's exploits as a young officer whose PT boat sinks in Pacific waters; his handling of the disastrous invasion of Cuba; and his triumph over Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban missile crisis. Emphasizing Jacqueline's glamorous presence, an entire color section presents the President as a devoted family man and their marriage as perfect. Although the civil rights struggle, gathering steam at the time, was momentous and the black-and-white photos of it are instructive, it does divert focus from the declared subject of the book, and from a coherent story of Oswald's troubled life. O'Reilly draws out the suspense as he describes the president's fateful 1963 trip to Dallas, packing each chapter with details (many irrelevant, like the number on the presidential limousine) and a countdown to doom as Oswald acquires guns and becomes desperate to prove himself important. Chapters on the aftermath of the assassination convey a sense of the nation's grief and the poignancy of loss to Kennedy's family and the nation. An afterword, including a photo family tree of the Kennedys, JFK's inaugural address, and pages about pop culture in the early 1960s, provides teens with further background. O'Reilly and publisher Henry Holt have targeted a whole new audience for their bestselling dramatization of Kennedy's death. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
VOYA - Mark Letcher
Written as a younger readers' companion to O'Reilly's bestselling Killing Kennedy: The End Of Camelot (Henry Holt, 2012), this book offers an engaging and thorough discussion of the events leading up to that fateful November afternoon in Dallas, the assassination itself, and its aftermath. Beyond that, though, the book serves as an outstanding introduction to the Kennedy presidency, and the evolution of Lee Harvey Oswald from a former Marine to the 20th-century's most famous assassin. Ample photographs and maps add further context, and abundant appendices lead readers to web and print resources on the Kennedy family, the enduring legacy of the Kennedy administration, and the 1960s. Accessible for upper elementary to older students, this book would be ideal for middle school libraries and social studies courses. O'Reilly employs a straightforward style, and alternates the book's focus between Kennedy and Oswald, building the tension toward the day their paths would tragically intersect. The book can serve as an effective research source for students, or simply as an engaging read in its own right. Even readers who already have strong knowledge of the Kennedy assassination will find new information on the subject. Separate from his combative television persona, O'Reilly has found a niche as a thoughtful and careful chronicler of American history. Reviewer: Mark Letcher
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—This adaptation of O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's Killing Kennedy (Holt, 2012) retains the adult version's brief chapters and "you are there" style. It opens with O'Reilly's memories of the day his high-school class learned of the events of November 22, 1963, and then briefly describes the backgrounds of the president and the assassin. Most of the book, however, follows the parallel paths of Kennedy and Oswald as they approach the fateful day in Dallas, describing the most important aspects of Kennedy's presidency and life, contrasting them with Oswald's radical beliefs, myriad failures, and growing isolation. O'Reilly discusses both men's personal lives but omits details of Kennedy's sexual escapades and Oswald's marriage found in the adult version. He gives an hour-by-hour account of the day and the assassination, and Oswald's capture and subsequent murder, and evaluates Kennedy's legacy. An afterword relates the post-assassination fates of major characters, and back matter provides primary-source documents, source information, and an overview of the Warren Commission's investigation. The well-captioned photos and maps that appear on almost every page are a major strength of the book. YA titles such as Wilborn Hampton's Kennedy Assassinated! (Candlewick, 1997) offer similar, detailed accounts of the assassination, but readers will find O'Reilly's readable style and juxtaposition of Kennedy's and Oswald's lives to be appealing. The popularity of the adult title will drive interest, but this book is strong enough to draw its own audience. An excellent choice for middle-school libraries.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO
Kirkus Reviews
Aiming for a young audience, the popular political pundit pares down his Killing Kennedy (2012) considerably (and leaves out the sexual exploits) while shoveling in sheaves of documentary photographs. O'Reilly writes in staccato bursts of present-tense prose chopped into short chapters and featuring quick shifts in point of view. This effectively cranks up the suspense despite tinges of purple ("The man with fewer than three years to live places his left hand on the Bible") and the foreordained outcome. The book chronicles John F. Kennedy's course from PT-109 through a challenging presidency and positively harps on Lee Harvey Oswald's determined but doomed quest to become a "great man." Though he ends with a personal anecdote that hints at the possibility of a conspiracy, the author's closely detailed account of the assassination itself and its aftermath follows the Warren Commission's version of events. News photos or snapshots on nearly every page provide views of the Kennedy and Oswald families over time, as well as important figures, places and major world events. Aside from a perfunctory list of "Fun Facts About the Early 1960s" that seems misplaced considering the somber topic, the backmatter is both extensive and helpful for further study of Kennedy's career and accomplishments. The melodrama is laid on with a trowel, but it's nevertheless a thoroughly documented, visually rich presentation of the official version. (timeline, quotes, capsule bios, sites, books, films, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
1050L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Six

February 1961

The White House 1:00 p.m.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES is on schedule. Almost every afternoon, at precisely 1:00 p.m., he slips into the heated indoor pool located between the White House and the West Wing. John Kennedy does this to soothe his aching back. The pain is constant and so bad that he often uses crutches or a cane to get around, though rarely in public. He wears a back brace, sleeps on an extra- firm mattress, and receives regular injections of an anesthetic to ease his suffering. Aides know to look for a tightening of his jaw as a sign that the president's back is acting up. The half hour of breaststroke and the heat of the pool are part of Kennedy's physical therapy.

The White House staff is getting used to the new president and his family. Very little that was unexpected happened in the White House during the eight years the previous president, Dwight Eisenhower, lived there.

But now everything has changed. The Kennedys are much less formal than the Eisenhowers. Receiving lines are being abolished, giving formal functions a more casual feel. The first lady is readying the East Room for per for mances by some of America's most notable musicians, such as cellist and composer Pablo Casals, opera singer Grace Bumbry, jazz artist Paul Winter, and even full symphony orchestras.

Still, the White House is a serious place. The president's daily schedule revolves around periods of intense work followed by breaks for swimming and family time. He rises each morning around seven and reads the newspapers in bed, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Kennedy is a speed- reader; he can read and understand 1,200 words per minute. He is done with the newspapers in just 15 minutes, and then moves on to a pile of briefing books, reports prepared by his staff that summarize information about events going on around the world.

The president then has his usual breakfast in bed: orange juice, bacon, toast slathered in marmalade, two softboiled eggs, and coffee with cream.

He is in the Oval Office at nine o'clock sharp. He sits back in his chair and listens as his appointments secretary, Kenny O'Donnell, maps out his schedule. Throughout the morning, as Kennedy takes calls and listens to advisers brief him on what is happening in the rest of the world, he is interrupted by his handpicked staff. In addition to Dave Powers, who is now special assistant to the president, and Kenny O'Donnell, there are men such as the former Harvard history professor Arthur Schlesinger Jr.; Ted Sorensen, the Nebraska- born special counselor and adviser; and Pierre Salinger, the former child prodigy pianist who serves as press secretary.

After swimming, Kennedy eats a quick lunch upstairs in the first family's private rooms, often referred to as "the residence." He then naps for exactly 45 minutes. Other great figures in history such as Winston

Churchill napped during the day. For Kennedy, it is a means of rejuvenation.

Then it's back to the Oval Office, most nights working as late as 8:00 p.m. After business hours, Kennedy often puts two feet up on his desk and casually tosses ideas back and forth with his staff. It is the president's favorite time of the day.

When everyone has cleared out, he makes his way back upstairs to the residence for his evening meal with his family or with friends Jackie invites.

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