Whodunit vi: choice of characters (a)

Yesterday I mentioned that, given all the information that exists about the Kennedy assassination, writing a book about it is almost like writing a novel. With that in mind as a premise…

Would you have your three-person team of CIA-contracted assassins include a woman who was a heroin addict? Then while driving from Miami to Dallas, would you have one of the men with whom she was traveling throw her out of a bar, leaving her to wander until hit by a car, so that the police would take her to a hospital for the withdrawal symptoms she was experiencing and, en route, have her explain that the purpose of her trip had been to a) get some money; b) pick-up her baby; c) kill the president; d) proceed to Houston to purchase 10 kilos of heroin from a seaman arriving from Galveston; and e) go to Mexico? A few days later would you have her volunteer that she had worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper and knew he and Lee Harvey Oswald had been engaged in a long-standing homosexual relationship? Finally, having failed to eliminate her before she’d made any of these statements, would you, two years later, have her shot in the head but convince the coroner to attribute the cause of death to a motor vehicle accident?
I didn’t think so.

David Talbot omitted this woman, usually known as Rose Cheramie, from his book. James W. Douglass gave her two pages. He admitted there was a question as to “how reliable” Cheramie was but satisfied himself because the police had confirmed that the ship she’d mentioned had docked in Galveston; the seaman was aboard; and the man supposedly holding the money and her baby was a suspected drug trafficker. For Douglas this outweighed, that, according to Vincent Bugliosi, “Cheramie” was but one of the woman’s two dozen aliases; that she had been arrested more than four-dozen time; and that she had been hospitalized three times for mental problems. Douglass does not mention that there is no record of Ruby ever having owned the club at which she says worked, nor that, within the few days following her first being picked up by the police, she also said that she alone was going to kill the president; that it was the others, but not she, who would; and that it was not any of them but different people entirely, which struck my wife, a former psychotherapist – and someone who believes Oswald didn’t act alone – as the type the mentally ill often make to themselves – or others, as long as they are willing to put up with their ramblings.

Whodunnit (ii): the murder of JFK

Thanks to a libris, I now have the four books I mentioned last blog. So let me provides some vital statistics. (All weights include index and footnotes, except for the Bugliosi which has its fns in a CD rom I didn’t get.)

In the black (pro-Warren) corner, Posner’s volume (1993), the veteran of the bunch, weighs in at 637 pp. His partner, the massive — think Andre the Giant — Bugliosi (2007) has 1632. In the white (anti-Warren) corner, the Talbot (2007) is a slim 417 pp, and the Douglas is a nearly as trim 510.

Before joining me in standing while Marilyn Monroe sings the national anthem, let me make a few observations. Posner, being published first can address none of the other books. Reviewing the other indexes though, I see Bugliosi mentions Posner several times, not generally complimentarily, but neither of his opponents, perhaps understandably since their publication dates were close to his. Talbot mentions Posner but not to rebut any points he made. Talbot says that Posner’s book became a best seller because it was favorably reviewed by the mainstream media since its conclusion let the same media “off the hook” for its complicity in the cover-up. (Any implications of his own book becoming a “bestseller,” as its softcover edition proclaims, are not drawn.) Douglas mentions neither Posner nor Bugliosi. The failure of Talbot and Douglas may be due to the fact to the close proximity of the publication dates of their books, but Bugliosi’s book stemmed from his having prosecuted Oswald in a 21-hour British television trial, broadcast over several days in several countries, in July 1986. (A condensed American version was shown on SHOW in November.) Gerry Spence was the defense attorney. The jury convicted Oswald, after six hours deliberation. This would seem to have warranted some mention.

Maybe it did in some later writings by Douglas and Talbot. I haven’t checked, but I am aware of an article in Talbot in “Slate” (11/6/13) where he places Douglas’s book atop a list of the seven “best books” about Kennedy’s killing. (His own is Number Six.) Neither Posner nor Bugliosi made the list but are dismissed as “hardcore lone gunmen” theorists.

I ought to say I am no impartial referee. I believed Oswald did it up until around the time of Oliver Stone’s movie on the subject. (Like most Americans, I had read none of the books on the subject.) Then I conceded it was as likely as not that other people were involved. Since then I have swung back to my original opinion.


As I finish the last writing project to which I’m committed, I’m looking at a new one. I approach it cautiously, due to its nature and because this decision coincides with my going off one of my meds, and the last time I dropped it, some regrettable e-mails and impaired relationships resulted. But I aim to uncover who killed Kennedy.

My plan is to lay out, point-by-point, the arguments in two books which believe the Warren Commission got it wrong and weigh them against the answering points, if they exist, in two books that agree with the Commission. In one corner are James Douglas’s “JFK and the Unimaginable” and David Talbot’s “Brothers.” In the opposite ate Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed” and Vincent Bugliosi’s “Reclaiming History.” I chose the Douglas because it is so highly thought of by my good friend and respected political thinker M that he will no longer discuss its subject — or much else of substance — with me; and I chose the Talbot because it is highly thought of by good friend and respected political thinker B, who not only still puts up with my thoughts but is sometimes influenced by them.

I don’t expect to convince anyone of anything. But I expect to inform myself, not only about the ostensible primary topic, but about how people — including myself — think and reason and inform themselves about what they choose to believe.

Stay tuned. This will take a while.