Most people live their lives as if the end were always years away. They measure their days in love, laughter, accomplishment and loss. There are moments of sunshine and storm. There are schedules, phone calls, careers, anxieties, joys, exotic trips, favorite foods, romance, shame, and hunger. A person can be defined by clothing, the smell of his breath, the way she combs her hair, the shape of his torso, or even the company she keeps. All over the world, children love their parents and yearn for love in return. They revel in the touch of parental hands on their faces. And even on the worst days, each person has dreams about the future—dreams that sometimes come true. Such is life. Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath. (262)
Although this second installment in Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series is slightly less exciting than the first, Killing Lincoln, it’s not by much. The authors’ maintain their fast-paced and fact-filled writing in Killing Kennedy, but their efforts are diminished somewhat by something out of their control: history itself. Because the events in Kenndy are 100 years more recent than those in Lincoln—and thus more familiar to the average reader—the “novel” feel that O’Reilly and Dugard had hoped to convey simply gets lost in the events that most people know so well. Nevertheless, Killing Kennedy is an interesting and exciting read, and once again, the authors teach their readership much about all the facts which lie behind the assassination of another U.S. President.
From a Christian perspective, Kennedy was far more racy than was Lincoln (and I suppose I’m referring to the men as much as I am the books). Specifically, Chapters 4 and 5 of Killing Kennedy, which chronicle the realities of JFK’s countless extramarital love affairs, were as skippable as any in the book, for they exist to diffuse his public image of “husband of the century” and add little to the thrill of the story. Also, as the authors remind their readers time and again of both JFK’s and Jackie’s own personal physical “releases”—be it alcohol, cigarettes, or sex—one cannot help but compare their crass, 1960s White House to that of good old Honest Abe, whose own favorite pastimes involved reading the Bible and chatting with friends. I realize that these differences are nothing more than the basic differences between unbelievers and believers, but their glaring presence in either book really do affect readability, so reader beware. Personally, whereas I plan to give Killing Lincoln to my kids for some healthy historical reading, I likely won’t give them Killing Kennedy—at least not so readily.
In some etc. areas, I did enjoy reading more about the ups and down of Vice President (and eventual President) LBJ, including both his feelings of impotence in what should have been the 2nd most powerful position in America, and his constant and growing animosity toward Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. Plus, I enjoyed reading more about the character (or lack thereof) of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, one might wonder why Bill O’Reilly hasn’t yet tackled a project titled Killing King, but in the course of writing about MLK, he shares that all records are sealed til 2027 (179). So I guess we’ll have to wait quite a while for that hit.