In the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination, the shock is multiplied for young CIA agent Philip Marsden when he learns of the death of his own Cuban-Amercian wife. As evidence builds and the threats begin to mount, he discovers that the two tragedies might not be unrelated.
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About the Author
Leon Berger is an award-winning writer and photographer, with seven published books to his credit, including two previous docudrama thrillers. In his early years, it was the Kennedy era that sparked an avid interest in geopolitical affairs. Each morning over breakfast, Berger read everything he could about the tanks in Berlin, the missiles in Cuba, and that fateful day in Dallas. Eventually, this fascination with the world at large paved the way to an extensive international career spanning over fifty countries on five continents. At various times, he was based in London, New York, Singapore, and Beijing, before finally returning to Montreal, where he currently resides with his Québécois wife and French-speaking parrot. Today, half a century after JFK, it’s fair to say that this trilogy represents a return to Berger’s intellectual roots. Over the years, he claims to have read just about every book, seen every video, and heard every theory—yet he guarantees that these works are his own impartial take on this most iconic period in history.
Read an Excerpt
The Kennedy Revelation
Book 3 of a Trilogy: Dallas A Political Thriller
By Leon Berger
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2013 Leon Berger
All rights reserved.
When that final projectile buried itself in the 35th president's brain, his skull exploded like a volcanic eruption, splattering blood and bone and tissue all over the open-topped automobile.
Next to him in the rear seat, his wife was traumatized. She twisted awkwardly in her tight pink suit with the matching pillbox hat and climbed out over the back to retrieve the missing piece of his cerebral cortex. At the same time, a dark-clad Secret Service agent mounted the rear fender of the presidential Lincoln and leveraged his way onto the trunk in order to shield the occupants with his body.
Even as echoes of the fusillade still seemed to be reverberating around the plaza, the driver was instructed by radio to accelerate rapidly towards the nearest hospital, Parkland Memorial, about seven minutes away. On arrival, the first lady followed the gurney as it was hurried along the corridors, refusing to let it out of her sight. She was daubed with gore, on her face, on her hair, on her pink suit, and was still clutching the large fragment of scalp in her gloved hands.
"Look what they've done to him," she kept saying to anyone who would listen. "Look what they've done to my husband."
There had always been some hesitation about this visit to Texas.
Even within the friendly confines of the White House, it was acknowledged that the president and his brother, the attorney general, had managed to generate an array of powerful enemies in their three year tenure, including senior elements of the military, the security agencies and the unions, as well as key figures within organized crime. In the context of this particular trip, they'd also angered oil interests in the state with a proposal to cut industry subsidies, as well as generating reaction all across the south with their crusade to enforce federal desegregation laws in schools and colleges.
In effect, the primary accusation against the Kennedy's was that they'd dared disturb the status quo but perhaps just as serious was the establishment's perception that they were arrogant, just a couple of rich boys whose daddy had rigged the election and who never really understood reality, neither the limits of office nor the acolytes to whom they owed favors.
Yet despite such institutional misgivings, JFK, with his boyish charm and infectious grin, remained a charismatic figure for much of the mainstream population. He refused on principle to be discouraged from visiting from any American city, so when his staff warned him about Dallas, he simply referred them to his national poll numbers which remained steadfastly high. Then, when Air Force One touched down at Love Field that Friday morning and he was greeted by a larger than expected turnout, it appeared as if he'd once again been proven accurate in his assessment.
At the foot of the aircraft stairs, the six-vehicle convoy was already lined up for a stately drive through the downtown core on their way to the Trade Mart for a steak lunch with local dignitaries. The smiling president, however, chose to spend some extra time shaking hands along the cordon line, so the journey began later than scheduled. Although the ground was still damp in places, the morning weather was ideal for the parade and the Secret Service had already agreed to remove the bullet-proof bubble top of the presidential limousine. Only with hindsight did this initiative come into question.
Following the assigned route, the cars cruised towards the office canyons, where sidewalk spectators waited ten to twelve deep, just hoping to catch a glimpse. Sitting directly in front of the president and the first lady was Governor John Connally with his wife, Nellie, and it was she who turned and said: "You can't say that Dallas doesn't love you, Mr. President".
They were supposed to continue along Main Street but a last minute change at Dealey Plaza saw them turn right on Houston, sunlight bouncing from the chrome of the motorcade, before reducing to a crawl for the sharply angled left on to Elm Street, past the Dal-Tex building and the Texas schoolbook depository. It was just as the lead car was close to the half way point between the intersection and the Union Pacific overpass that the high-powered rifle reports pierced the air in quick succession, the shots striking the governor as well as the 46 year-old president.
Onlookers were stunned, appalled, overwhelmed by disbelief, yet there were many who still managed to retain sufficient presence of mind to perceive critical moments.
From the running board of the vehicle directly following the president, Agent Paul Landis initially believed that the fatal shot had come from the side, not the rear as he eventually testified.
Nearby, on a four-foot pedestal above the grassy knoll, local businessman Abraham Zapruder kept filming with his 8 mm Zoomatic home-movie camera alongside his assistant, Marilyn Sitzman. His immediate impression, too, was that the president was hit from the side – although his employee's subsequent report contradicted his first account and endless examination of his shaky footage failed to provide conclusive proof either way.
Also taking souvenir pictures from across the way was Mary Ann Moorman, who snapped off a photo at almost the exact moment the last bullet struck. It was her blurry image across the parade towards the knoll which appeared to capture a shadowy figure amongst the trees wearing what looked to be a badge and holding something which might have been a long-barreled weapon.
Not far away from her were Jean Hill and Malcolm Summers, who both remained focused enough to observe what they, too, believed were gunmen amongst the greenery. From atop the same knoll, Gordon Arnold, an army private on his way to a posting in Alaska, claimed to have heard a bullet whistle past his ear. Beyond him, in the train yards behind the trees, railway worker Lee Bowers thought he saw armed men running from that same vicinity. A few moments later, Ed Hoffman, deaf and mute, who had a direct view down from the overpass ramp on to the limousine, was convinced that he saw the large exit wound in the left rear of the president's head, which seemed to confirm, too, that the fatal bullet came from the knoll. Then, just after the automobiles had sped away, several dozen people followed a policeman up that same grassy bank in the belief that they were giving chase to the escaping assassins.
All these first-hand impressions, given to security personnel within minutes of the attack, appeared to conflict with authorized reports which stated from the very start that all the shots came from behind the car, giving rise to debate and speculation with the conclusions obvious. If they all came from one direction, it was theoretically possible for a gunman to have acted alone. If they came from two, it meant a conspiracy.
The confusion continued at Parkland hospital, where Doctors Perry, Crenshaw, Carrico and others attempted to resuscitate their patient by a tracheotomy procedure. With an injury of that magnitude, however, it was a meaningless gesture and the only result was that visual reference of the throat wound was obliterated, thereby compromising crucial evidence. Finally at 1.00 p.m. local time, exactly thirty minutes after the shots were fired, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, second son of Joseph Patrick and Rose Elizabeth Kennedy, was officially pronounced dead. Yet far from concluding the controversy, the arguments continued to mount.
Among the accusations were claims that surgical photographs had been falsified in order to concur with official reports. This led to serious concerns about where and when the official autopsy should be conducted, an issue ultimately decided by an altercation along the hospital corridors when Secret Service agents physically seized the president's body from medical staff in order to take it back to Washington. Although hospital officials insisted that such transport was contrary to Texas state law, the blatant use of federal force won the day and the remains were flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital. There the formal procedure was carried out by relatively inexperienced pathologists under the strict authority of several ranking military figures who remained in close attendance throughout. Who provided that authority was never discovered.
Another major contention involved the day's media updates. After the initial disarray, bulletins were issued to journalists throughout the afternoon but it was during these critical hours that some of the key facts mysteriously began to change. Perhaps it was new evidence coming to light, or perhaps, even as some felt at the time, it was because the truth was being manipulated.
Connie Kritzberg of the Dallas Times-Herald, for example, found her reported details of the throat wound altered without her consent, from front to rear entry. Then there was Mary Woodward of the Dallas Morning News, who was personally on the scene at the critical moment and hurried dutifully back to her office to write that the third bullet had been almost simultaneous with the second and that it had come from the grassy knoll, only to have her story excluded from the edition. Nobody ever told her why. Others claiming to have seen a bullet hole in the limousine's front windshield, including Parkland doctor Evalea Glanges, were being contradicted on air by various spokesmen, who were already declaring that three shots, and only three, had come from the schoolbook depository building. Later, on national television, even Walter Cronkite, the CBS news anchor dubbed "the most trusted man in America", changed his report about the assassin's rifle found on the sixth floor of that same building, switching the model and caliber without explanation from a 7.65 Mauser to a 6.5 Carcano. This meant that either the first detectives on the scene had misidentified the weapon, or the description had been substituted in order to coincide with a firearm owned by the 24-year old who was about to be accused.
In the meantime, a description of this primary suspect was being widely disseminated amongst law enforcement authorities, including the Dallas Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They were seeking an average-looking white male with brown hair, between 5ft.6 and 5ft.8 tall, and slightly built at around 165 lbs. He was an employee of that same schoolbook depository at the corner of Houston and Elm where the rifle was found and he'd been observed in that building's cafeteria soon after the shooting. His full name was Lee Harvey Oswald, an American citizen born in New Orleans but something of an enigma even to those who knew him. Despite his record as a Marine, he was listed on FBI files as a Marxist agitator who had not only distributed pro-Castro pamphlets on the streets of his home town but had also resided for a period of time in the Soviet Union, eventually returning to the US with his Russian wife, Marina.
While the area around the depository was still being sealed off, another murder occurred in which a man fitting Oswald's profile was reported to have shot and killed a uniformed patrolman by the name of J.D. Tippit over in the quiet residential district of Oak Cliff. However, before the authorities could fully adapt their dragnet to that area, they received information from local cinema employee Butch Burroughs to say that the man they were hunting was right there in his Texas Theater on West Jefferson, where they were currently showing a movie called "War Is Hell". That was the tip which seemed to spur the Dallas P.D. into concerted action and at 1.50 p.m. local time, no more than eighty minutes after the attack on the president, a large detachment of officers swarmed the building, raised the house lights and after a brief struggle, Detective Gerald Hill took the alleged assassin into custody.
Law enforcement officials congratulated themselves on such a remarkable capture in so short a time. Yet from the very first, Oswald insisted that he was being set-up and on numerous occasions he loudly reiterated the same words both to the police and to the press corps: "I'm just a patsy."
At approximately the same time as Oswald was being arrested, federal officials and administration staff were assembling in the main cabin of Air Force One, which was still on the ground at Love Field, Dallas. The purpose was to inaugurate the state's favorite son, Lyndon Baines Johnson, as 36th president of the United States.
A high-school teacher by profession, LBJ as he was known to all, followed his father into politics and spent over a decade as a senator in Washington, including several years as majority leader, until he was persuaded to join the Kennedy presidential ticket which needed his southern prestige and influence. Many who knew him in Texas described him as possessing extraordinary ambition – some even called it lust – yet his career seemed to alternate between noble ideals and dubious practices. During the war, for example, he earned a silver star for bravery but under questionable premises. On his postwar re-entry into federal politics, he was recognized as a forceful and competent candidate, yet he was accused of stealing the primary nomination. Even his detractors admitted he had the ability to get the job done but never without securing full credit for himself – and in one instance, arm-twisting valuable federal broadcast licenses for his savvy wife, Claudia Alta, or Lady Bird as she came to be known.
It was this kind of checkered background that the Kennedy clan had always disparaged and the two men, JFK and LBJ, had shared a deep mutual antagonism as well as an ideological mistrust. This was now magnified by Jacqueline's vague suspicions of Johnson's implication in her husband's death, which was why she continued wearing her blood-stained outfit even as she took a prominent position next to Johnson in the crowded central aisle of the aircraft. It was a deliberately provocative way to demonstrate both her sorrow and her outrage and she even regretted having washed her face.
In front of them stood the federal judge, a diminutive, bespectacled woman called Sarah Tilghman Hughes, who was an old family friend of the Johnsons. Although sixty-five years of age, Hughes was new to her role in the judiciary and when telephoned unexpectedly at home by the United States attorney for the northern district of Texas, she was unfamiliar with the required procedure.
"Is there an oath I should deliver?" she asked.
"We believe so," came the reply. "But we haven't found it yet."
"Don't worry," she said, "I'll make one up."
What neither realized was that the precise form of words had actually been enshrined in the Constitution and it was only at the last moment that this was called through to the judge. Then yet another minor panic occurred when nobody could find a Bible on which to swear, so a Missal was used in its place, a book of liturgy for the Catholic celebration of Mass as found by an aide in the presidential bedroom at the back of the aircraft.
Altogether, twenty-seven people were crammed into a space just sixteen feet square for the brief ceremony, including two Congressmen, the Dallas police chief, a couple of Secret Service agents and several White House staffers, with the makeshift event recorded for posterity by the assistant press secretary, Mac Kiduff, on a handheld Dictaphone. When it was concluded, the incoming president leaned over to kiss his wife, the new first lady, and it was she, in turn, who reached out to her predecessor.
"The whole nation mourns your husband," she said quietly.
The Kennedy era was over – and nine minutes later, the packed aircraft took off for D.C. with the former president's remains locked away securely in the cargo hold.CHAPTER 2
While news coverage continued that entire Friday, the normally well-informed Philip Thomas Marsden had fallen asleep on the beach and was aware of nothing at all.
He'd stolen a rare long weekend from his office at CIA Miami but since his wife was out, attending some charity function with her father, he'd driven across town, spread himself lazily on a towel and dozed off while flipping his way through Asimov's brick of a novel, Foundation and Empire. It was only when he returned to his bungalow in Coral Way, his pale skin already turning the color of a Florida sunset, that the next-door neighbor, an elderly widow by the name of Renée Alvarez, came to peer over the hedgerow.
Excerpted from The Kennedy Revelation by Leon Berger. Copyright © 2013 Leon Berger. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Who killed JFK? Berger has figured it out in this intelligent, engaging novel. Kept me hooked from beginning to end.