EVEN A CURSORY READ of the facts (“Just the facts, ma’am”) and not someone’s opinions will reveal a mass of data that would lead anyone free of assumptions to assume that things just don’t add up. In 11/22/63, King does not deal with these inconsistencies, contradictions, and controversies surrounding the evidence or lack thereof.
Not that I expect that to be a part of the narrative, but it is a part of the background and should be considered. For example, the paraffin test given Oswald to uncover any nitrites from the gunpowder indicated that he had not fired a rifle in the preceding 24 hours! So, if that is so, then Leon was not a shooter, let alone the shooter.
Or the relatively well-known controversy surrounding the possibility that the so-called murder weapon was devoid of prints when first examined by the authorities. This is noted in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK.
Or fact that the rifle found by the three Dallas police officers who were first on the scene in the sniper’s lair in the Book Depository was specifically identified by those officers as a German 7.65 Mauser. That would indicate a conspiracy after the fact, again altering King’s background.
(And the saga of the three cops and the German-made rifle is worthy of a book and a movie by itself. More on this below …)
These are both telling pieces of information that were conveniently overlooked by Posner, and therefore by King. Oh well, as someone once famous once said, “So it goes …”
The assassin or the patsy? Whichever, the Dallas police beat him up, something never mentioned by anyone.
Oswald confessed to being the patsy
Outside of Oswald’s Tale, the reported comings and goings of Lee Oswald weave a intriguing, if baffling, story, and could lead any reader to conclude that he was exactly what he claimed to be—the patsy. If so, he was the center of a complex series of events (yes, yes, the conspiracy) and therefore the Rosetta Stone to understanding what happened that day. In the eyes of people like Oliver Stone what happened on November 22, 1963 still resonates in the present, fifty years after the fact.
(Since I mentioned filmmaker/director Oliver Stone and hinted at the animosity piled upon him by rightwing pundits, I want to reiterate that his movie JFK was so loathed by the righties that political columnists suddenly became movie critics and ripped his film to pieces in their columns. Like I said, these guys … they hate him! This despite the fact that at the age of 21, he enlisted in the Army to serve his country, requesting combat duty in Vietnam!
During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Mr. Stone earned a Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat, an Air Medal for combat missions in a helicopter, a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat, and the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service. Sounds like the type of guy the righties should be running for office, yes?)
Oswald stated that “I don’t know what this is all about … I’m just a patsy.” Why did Oswald claim to be a patsy? For the lone gunman theorists, that’s an obvious lie, an attempt to turn attention away from himself. To conspiracy theorists, it was as close to a confession as Lee Oswald was allowed to utter.
But what if the I’m-just-a-patsy statement was actually a realization that occurred to him at the moment of his arrest. That, up to that point, Oswald thought of himself as a player in a play for which he knew his part, his script—to get a job at the Book Depository and make all his shifts—but knew no one else’s part nor the direction of the script …
Could not his almost immediate arrest after the shooting tell him and him alone the truth: that his role in the play was to be the right person at the wrong place at the right time—or any other configurations of that cliché you want?
I don’t know, and neither do most researchers! A few on each side of the argument believe they do know—although each is formulating an opinion based on extrapolation and speculation, not on facts, as there are none.
Mauser or Mannlicher-Carcano? Which is which and which was found where?
So many things happened that day
My time spent reading books on the events of that day lead me to one conclusion: the word “assassination” simply does not adequately describe everything that happened that day. One of the things that I noticed was that the lone gunman theorists boiled the whole day down to just that one event: the assassination. They worked their course of events around that fact.
But the assassination was only one of a myriad of events that day (and the two days following) that remain unexplained. For example, what happened to the “hobos” who were arrested and taken from the scene of the crime and never seen nor heard from again?
Why was Officer Tippit murdered and why were there two sets of bullet casings found at the scene of the crime and did it really have anything to do with the bigger crime?
My point is that if one breaks The Day up into the many events that occurred in connection with the assassination, one ends up with a near endless list of possible trails for further investigation—a staggering number of situations where evidence was lost or destroyed and eye-witnesses ignored.
One also ends up with a boatload of the seemingly ubiquitous coincidences required by “official” explanations for the big three ’60s assassinations and 9/11 (but that’s another story.) And these inter-related events is where the conspiracists pay attention while the Posners and the Mailers apparently turn their backs …
Gosh, they don’t look like the hobos in the movies …
What did Posner say about the Mauser?
In 1993, Gerald Posner’s Case Closed received an extraordinary amount of coverage in the major media, and thereby became a big selling title. In fact, the attention it received was way out of proportion to its importance in the scheme of things vis-a-vis “assassination literature.” It seemed almost as though, yes, you guessed it: the Posner book was part of the ongoing cover-up!
(How’s that for carrying things too far? Am I becoming a bit too much like Mulder at his creepiest? Are you feeling the need to be my Scully right about now?)
Mulder and Scully could have spent several seasons investigating the day of the assassination. Everything was there for an X-file but an alien abduction …
Unfortunately, its power and importance lie in the fact that for many Americans, it was the only book on the JFK assassination that they had ever read—and would ever read. A friend of mine was such a person. He is a religious and social conservative and that leads him to vote as a political conservative. (The book reverberated most strongly with conservatives.)
He offered to loan me his copy of the book, suggesting that I read it, as it makes clear that Oswald acted on his own, all alone.
I asked one question: “What did Posner say about the Mauser?”
He answered with one question: “What Mauser?”
Which would seem to indicate that the case is closed on Case Closed as a serious investigation into the myriad events November 22, 1963.
As I noted earlier (above), three Dallas police officers arrived at the Book Depository within minutes of the shooting. They found a rifle near the sniper’s lair and identified it as a German 7.65 Mauser, not an Italian 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano!
Amazingly, within days of the murder, this Mauser—the rifle that may have actually fired shots at the President of the United States and the and hit him at least once—was lost. It has not been seen since and, in fact, many claim that it ever existed—that all three officers mistook the German piece for the Italian.
For Posner to overlook this is mind-blowing. And, for me, reason enough to write off his book and not waste my time reading it. Which is what I told my friend, who was baffled. As would be anyone who read Case Closed with no other frame of reference upon which to judge the author’s evaluations and conclusions—and the evidence he chose to focus on and that which he chose to ignore.
(The story gets even more interesting: two of the cops eventually changed their minds—or had their minds changed?—and altered their testimony to a it-was-an-Italian-rifle-all-along-and-we-all-just-got-it-wrong argument.
Except one, who adamantly insisted that the Mauser they found and identified was just that—a Mauser. And his life became a horror show, starting with his being ostracized by his fellow officers, his dismissal from the force in 1967, his being humiliated continuously for sticking to his original testimony, and his eventual suicide in 1975. Needless to say, that’s another story …)
What did Mailer say about the Mauser?
11/22/63 could have been a better book if only …
King’s not acknowledging these facts—all such inconsistencies and improbabilities are swept under the umbrella of the dismissive term conspiracy theory—is only important because of the book’s afterword.
Had he left well enough alone, the novel’s story was opaque enough that no explanations were called for … until after reading the afterword.
As fiction, 11/22/63 was the best writing that I have ever read by King—even if it cried out for a strong editing hand. There were several chapters where he had a perfect line or paragraph or occurrence to close the chapter and start the next one. Instead, he kept rambling on.
The closing of a chapter is as important as the opening of a chapter! But he kept on writing after that perfect line or moment or scene, diluting the effect.
How the hell did I fit Steve Carlton into this essay?
There’s a story about Steve Carlton, a pitcher so dominating at his prime that when you said “Lefty”—a common nickname awarded virtually any left-handed player at any position in the game—everyone in baseball and every baseball fan knew exactly who you were talking about!
Carlton became so powerful a presence on his team, that his manager and coaches were afraid to take him out of a game where he clearly was not pitching well.
This caused Lefty to turn wins into losses that handing the ball over to a reliever would have alleviated. It caused his team to lose games that they should have won. It caused one of the great pitchers of the game to turn the few years of his career into one of disappointment after disappointment.
Strong personalities often have that effect on others around them. Perhaps King is so dominating a literary presence that the editors assigned him are afraid to trim the writer’s excesses. Afraid to do exhaustive fact-checking (rarely relevant in fiction but here important), or point out to him that the chapter should end a few paragraphs back, etc. Perhaps.
Still, 11/22/63 the novel gets my recommendation
After all this digression and meandering, back to the book! So, would I recommend this book? For a casual read, yes, of course. Why not? It’s a good narrative and an engaging story for at least 500 pages. And Jake Epping (known as George Amberson in the past) did engage me as a character and the endless plot twists he had to navigate his way through kept me wanting more.
I couldn’t resist an opportunity to slip in a plug for Poul Anderson’s dashing Ensign Dominic Flandry, the type of science fiction “hero” that Harrison Ford should have fought to portray in a movie decades ago. Or Pierce Brosnan.
Now, I am going to root through my boxes of books and find some Poul Anderson to sink my mind’s teeth into! Or maybe some Poul Lite with a little Ensign Flandry, anything to stop wondering why why would Stephen King believe Norman Mailer and Gerald Posner …