by DALE K. MYERS
There are dozens of books hitting the shelves this fall in anticipation of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination and given the economy and most people’s pocket books, I thought it might be handy to present a buyers guide of what’s what and where your hard earned dollars might best be spent.
This is by no means an all inclusive list of everything that’s available, but more a list of what I have personally found – after 38 years of researching the assassination story – to be either worth your time or definitely something to avoid, with a few in-between.
Unfortunately, this is a rather short list comparatively speaking. Here are some of the standout books worth your time, in no particular order.
A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination by Philip Shenon. – The promise: A groundbreaking, explosive account of the Kennedy assassination that will rewrite the history of the 20th century's most controversial murder investigation. Featured on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Reality check: A mix of new, original work and old well-worn material (some of it flawed). The focus here is on the Warren Commission investigation, with an emphasis on Oswald’s trip to Mexico City. To Shenon’s credit, he traveled to Mexico City and uncovered some new information through original interviews which confirms the work presented by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton in 2007’s “Brothers in Arms” (which Shenon credits). Some flaws, but worthwhile.
History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Howard P. Willens. – The promise: An eye-opening new account of the Commission and its findings from Willens, one of the few surviving staff members of the Warren Commission who supervised the investigation from the very beginning and has waited until now to silence the critics and well-intentioned armchair detectives. Based on Willens’ own never-before-published journals and extensive notes on the investigation. Reality check: Inside story of the commission’s formation and behind-the- scenes struggles to gather and present the true facts surrounding the JFK assassination. Essential reading from a first-hand source.
The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union by Peter Savodnik. – The promise: Because Oswald briefly defected to the Soviet Union, some historians allege he was a Soviet agent. But Oswald’s time in the U.S.S.R. reveals a stranger, more chilling story. Drawing on groundbreaking research, including interviews with Oswald’s friends and acquaintances in Russia and the United States, The Interloper brilliantly evokes the shattered psyche not just of Oswald himself, but also of the era he so tragically defined. Reality check: Good summation of Oswald’s life in the Soviet Union from inside sources. Worthwhile.
Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination – compiled and edited by Gus Russo and Harry Moses. – The promise: Companion book to the two-hour NBC documentary event scheduled for broadcast in November 22, 2013, special correspondent Tom Brokaw interviews people close to the tragedy as well as former heads of state, politicians, authors, journalists, performers, musicians, and more. Reality check: Transcripts (much of it not included in the TV special) of those interviewed. An easy and interesting read. Includes a rare interview with Marie Tippit, plus such assassination notables as Buell Frazier, Johnny Brewer and Ray Hawkins (the back and forth in this combined interview is interesting) Ruth Paine, Robert Groden, Oliver Stone, and Vincent Bugliosi (highly entertaining). Plus many politicians and celebrities. One big revelation (see the interview of Oleg Kalugin), worthwhile.
LIFE The Day Kennedy Died: Fifty Years Later: LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment by The Editors of LIFE. – The promise: Commemorative large format book featuring all 486 frames of the Zapruder film on a fold out sheet, personal stories, rare new photos, a full reprint of LIFE’s 1963 issue covering the assassination, plus lots more. Reality check: Deluxe printing and image reproduction done only the way LIFE magazine can do. Excellent coffee-table style format. Well worthwhile.
JFK Assassination: The Reporter’s Notes by The Dallas Morning News – The promise: Rarely seen notes of The News staffers’ recollections of Dallas’ darkest day written in the months that followed the assassination. Reality check: A large format book printed on high-gloss, heavy paper tells the story of the assassination in text and rare photos as seen through the eyes of its reporters. The back of the book has photographic reproductions of the original note pages that make up the book. A fascinating glimpse back in time. Beautifully done. Well worthwhile.
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi. – The promise: A narrative compendium of fact, forensic evidence, reexamination of key witnesses, and common sense. Every detail and nuance is accounted for, every conspiracy theory revealed as a fraud on the American public. Bugliosi's irresistible logic, command of the evidence, and ability to draw startling inferences shed fresh light on this American nightmare. Reality check: Hands down the best single volume on the assassination that was never read. Some minor flaws, but incredibly readable, exhaustive in its analysis, and highly entertaining. No single volume covers it all like this work. Back in hardback for the 50th anniversary. Also released under the paperback titles Four Days in November and Parkland, though both are excerpted versions. Do yourself a favor and get the full-length hardback.
With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit by Dale K. Myers. – The promise: The definitive second-by-second account of the murder of Tippit and its aftermath and the frantic manhunt that ended in the arrest of Oswald. Reality check: Okay, it’s my book. Did you think I wouldn’t mention it? This time it’s back in print for a limited run (no joke, get it while you can) with 140 new pages of text and photographs including the only comprehensive account of Tippit’s life and death based on family interviews. Make sure you get the 2013 edition with the blue cover. Highly recommended by yours truly and thousands more who have nothing to gain.
Unfortunately, this would be a rather long list if I included all of them. To spare you the pain, I’ve cut it down to the ones getting the most media coverage this fall. If you’re interested in the truth, avoid the following, in no particular order.
Who Really Killed Kennedy?: 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination by Jerome Corsi, PhD. – The promise: Provides convincing analysis that existing evidence rules out the possibility that JFK was killed by a lone assassin. Apparently, fifty years after this epic American tragedy, there’s still a gunman on the loose. Reality check: Pages and pages of factoids long ago debunked. Consider this one the Black Plague of conspiracy books and run far and fast.
The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry J. Sabato. – The promise: Explores the fascinating and powerful influence Kennedy has had over five decades on the media, the general public, and especially on each of his nine presidential successors. Reality check: New evidence? Sabato’s big revelation about the acoustic evidence (which ran as a headline around the world) was nothing that hadn’t been known for more than 30 years. Biggest boner? Interviewing Gary Mack (leading proponent of the acoustic evidence) about my own work on the photographic evidence, which proves the acoustic evidence invalid.
Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies: From the Warren Commission to Bill O'Reilly, A History of Deceit in the Kennedy Assassination by Dr. Lance Moore – The promise: Unbiased facts, concisely-presented by a skilled, acclaimed author who is also a credible voice: an ordained Methodist minister. Dr. Moore presents over 200 source-notes supporting a compelling case that the death of President Kennedy involved more than a “lone nut” assassin and that there was indeed a second sniper, positioned in front of the Presidential limousine, who fired the fatal head shot. Reality check: Another bloated, factoid based inspiration saddled with numerous misspellings and outright falsehoods. Only someone who knows nothing about the case will find this interesting.
They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK by Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell and David Wayne. – The promise: The ultimate compendium that covers every angle—from the plot to the murder—of JFK. Not only discusses the most famous of theories, but also brings to light new and recently discovered information, which together shows that the United States government not only was behind this egregious plot, but took every step to make sure that the truth would not come out. Reality check. It’s Jesse Ventura.
Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination by Richard Belzer and David Wayne. – The promise: A fair examination of the evidence of each mysterious death case, leading to (necessarily) different conclusions. The findings were absolutely staggering; as some cases were clearly linked to a ‘clean-up operation’ after the murder of President Kennedy, while others were the result of ‘other forces’. The impeccable research and writing of Richard Belzer and David Wayne show that if the government is trying to hide anything, they’re the duo who will uncover it. Reality check: You know that when J.D. Tippit (murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald), Eddy Benavides (accidentally shot and killed during a barroom shooting), Earlene Roberts (heart attack after years of health problems), and numerous others make the mysterious deaths list, you’re fishing a dry hole. An ancient theory recycled.
Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit by Joseph McBride. – The promise: An epic and personal journey into the assassination labyrinth incorporating rare interviews with key people in Dallas, archival discoveries, and an often surprising spotlight on Kennedy’s murder and on one of the murkiest, most crucial aspects of the case, its “Rosetta Stone,” the Tippit killing. Reality check: A ludicrous explanation of the events surrounding J.D. Tippit’s life and death.
This book goes a long way toward proving why the notion of conspiracy in the Kennedy and Tippit killings is unfortunately destined to be with us always.
The vast majority of McBride’s search for Kennedy’s killers is actually spent on the shooting of J.D. Tippit – something I happen to know a good deal about.
In 1998, I wrote and published With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit, the definitive second-by-second account of Tippit’s murder and its aftermath. It was the culmination of research I began in 1975. Even today, it is the only book ever written solely about that murder.
A few months after its publication I became acquainted with Tippit’s siblings, assorted relatives, and close friends. Over the last fourteen years, we’ve developed a close friendship based on mutual trust. For nearly two decades, I’ve been documenting their family story – their ancestral past, and recent past – in images and anecdotes. Much of it has been published on the Internet at jdtippit.com, a website devoted to truth and justice for their late brother, uncle, husband, and friend.
When I read McBride’s Nightmare I was immediately struck by how much of the information I had originally gathered and published in both book and digital form had been re-used in his book – some of it credited, much more of it uncredited. Many times I felt I was reading my own work.
The judicious use of my efforts to document Tippit’s personal life gives McBride’s book an undeserved air of legitimacy. Oddly, while McBride borrows heavily from my work he simultaneously marginalizes my contribution to the subject, serves up backhanded compliments, and dismisses my efforts as some half-assed “whitewashed celebration of this supposedly heroic cop’s life.” Nice.
The reality that McBride can’t duck no matter how much he borrows from others is that his Nightmare is a pretentious, self-loathing, and often irrational journey into the tortured soul of a conspiracy theorist. If you’re looking for the truth of Tippit’s death, you won’t find it here.
“I felt I was terribly lied to and fooled as a kid,” McBride told Internet radio listeners shortly after the publication of Nightmare, “by my religion, my parents, [my] democratic beliefs…and by the schools, and by the media. So, I felt that I was, you know, I was angry being kept in the dark all of those years, so I’ve been devoting the rest of my life to finding out what goes on behind the scenes.” 
McBride vents his anger in Nightmare by painting J.D. Tippit as a bigoted, uneducated, rightwing extremist who, as the so-called Badge Man figure, fired the fatal shot into Kennedy’s skull from the grassy knoll, then raced out to Oak Cliff to track down and kill Oswald, only to be murdered himself by his fellow Dallas police co-conspirators at Tenth and Patton where Jack Ruby waited with handpicked “witnesses” who were willing to follow the conspirator’s script. Did you get all that?
This utter nonsense is what is being celebrated by some of McBride’s avid followers posting on Amazon.com as “…a Masterwork!... Wonderful!... A must read!... “A giant step forward!” and “…Impressive!...”
Allow me to show you just a tiny example of how little respect McBride has for the intelligence of his readers:
A hopeless case
On page 411 of Nightmare, McBride writes that Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the Warren Commission that the day after the assassination (Nov.23) he was worried that he didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges against Oswald in the assassination:
“Wade told the commission, “I think they had some witnesses who had identified him (Oswald) there at the scene [of the Tippit killing], but I was more worried about the assassination [,] of them filing on somebody that we couldn’t prove was guilty.” The DA went so far as to admit that “I wasn’t sure I was going to take a complaint,” i.e., to file on Oswald for the assassination…Wade told the commission that as early as November 23, with the police talking too freely to the media about the evidence they planned to present against Oswald, thereby prejudicing the case in the minds of potential jurors, he “felt like nearly it was a hopeless case.” 
The way McBride describes it, even the Dallas district attorney didn’t believe police had a case against Oswald in the presidential assassination. But take a closer look at Wade’s actual testimony and you’ll see just how McBride manipulates reality.
(1) “…I think they had some witnesses who had identified him (Oswald) there at the scene [of the Tippit killing], but I was more worried about the assassination[,] of them filing on somebody that we couldn’t prove was guilty…"
This is completely out of context. It comes from the Warren Commission Hearings & Exhibits, Volume 5, page 219. Wade explained that he went down to police headquarters to make sure they had enough evidence in the assassination case to charge Oswald before they did so because it would be his responsibility to try the case in court, not theirs. Upon arrival he talked to Jim Allen, one of Wade’s assistants who had been with Fritz all night:
WADE: …I asked Jim Allen, a man whom I have a lot of confidence in, do they have a case and he said it looks like a case, you can try.RANKIN: Is that the case about the assassination?WADE: Yes; we are talking entirely about the assassination. On the Tippit thing, I didn’t take the charge on that and I think they had some witnesses who had identified him there at the scene, but I was more worried about the assassination of them filing on somebody that we couldn’t prove was guilty. 
Wade was then informed of the evidence they had collected on Oswald up to that point: how Oswald brought the gun to work, the curtain rod story, how the employees left him on one of the upper floors, the lunchroom encounter, the scuffle and attempt to shoot an officer in the theater, the palm print on the rifle stock, the marked street map found in Oswald’s room, and the statements by bus driver McWatters and taxi driver Whaley.
McBride takes Wade’s comment and switches the chronology to make it seem as if Wade told the Commission he was worried about the case after he had heard the evidence.
(2) “…The DA went so far as to admit that “I wasn’t sure I was going to take a complaint,” i.e., to file on Oswald for the assassination…”
This is also out of context. On pages 229-230 of Wade’s testimony, Rankin asked Wade whether he had evidence to support a charge of “conspiracy” in a complaint? Wade explained that he was told there was communist correspondence but that he never saw it personally and that it didn’t matter whether Oswald was a Communist or not as far as filing a charge against him:
WADE: …I wasn’t sure I was going to take a complaint, and a justice of the peace will take a complaint lots of times because he doesn’t have to try it. I knew I would have to try this case and that prompted me to go down and see what kind of evidence they had. 
Clearly, when Wade says, “I wasn’t sure I was going to take a complaint,” he is talking about before he went down to police headquarters and saw the evidence, not afterwards, as McBride implies.
(3) “…Wade told the commission that as early as November 23, with the police talking too freely to the media about the evidence they planned to present against Oswald, thereby prejudicing the case in the minds of potential jurors, he “felt like nearly it was a hopeless case.”
This is yet another misleading statement. On pages 227-228 of Wade’s testimony to the Commission, Wade stated that he kept telling Chief Curry not to talk to the press about the evidence. On Saturday afternoon, while at home, Wade saw Curry on television talking to the press about an FBI report connecting Oswald with the rifle found in the TSBD:
RANKIN: I see. Did you do anything about that, then? Did you call him and ask him to quit that?WADE: No; I felt like nearly it was a hopeless case. I know now why it happened. That was the first piece of evidence he (Curry) got his hands on before Fritz did. 
Once again, McBride infers that Wade felt the case against Oswald in the JFK assassination was a hopeless one after seeing the evidence. In fact, Wade’s comment refers to the hopelessness of getting Curry to stop talking to the press about the evidence that the Dallas police had against Oswald.
What McBride doesn’t ever say is that at a Saturday morning (Nov. 23) meeting Wade and seven to eight others in his office were discussing whether “to try Oswald for the murder of the President, whether [we] could prove the flight and the killing of Officer Tippit, which we became satisfied that we could, I mean from an evidentiary point of view.” 
So, in fact, the record shows that Wade and others in the district attorney’s office felt they had plenty of evidence to try Oswald for the Kennedy and Tippit killings. This shows just how bankrupt McBride’s arguments are and what he’s willing to tell readers to sell his concoction of innuendo, half-truths, and outright falsehoods.
The big revelation
I found it exhausting trying to follow McBride’s irrational logic, not just because it was factually incorrect (and by that I don’t mean we have a difference of opinion, I mean it’s flat out factually incorrect), but because most of it makes absolutely no sense.
Thousands of pages could be written debunking each and every one of McBride’s nutty bull-dongles, but what would be the point?
I do recognize that a book this bad only comes along once in a great while. If nothing else, it should be celebrated as a shining example of just how crazy conspiracy theories have gotten over the past fifty years.
How wacky is it, you ask? Check this out – McBride’s big revelation, the one that forms the heart and soul of his book:
According to McBride, J.D. Tippit and another officer were ordered to track down Oswald in Oak Cliff just fifteen minutes after the assassination – before police could possibly have known about Oswald’s link to the assassination. This, according to McBride, is proof positive that Tippit was part of a police plot to kill Kennedy and then murder his alleged assassin.
The sole basis for McBride’s claim is his December 1992 interview with J.D.’s ninety-year-old father Edgar Lee Tippit. McBride describes Mr. Tippit as “vigorous” and “very sharp” with a memory “that seemed very good,” although I’m not sure how McBride could gauge the sharpness of the elder Tippit’s memory given this was his only interview of him.
The reality is that Mr. Tippit’s family had already begun to notice the onset of dementia by 1990, which was full blown only a few years later. Edgar Lee Tippit’s father – J.D.’s paternal grandfather – also suffered from the same affliction. 
According to McBride, Mr. Tippit revealed how J.D.’s widow told him that shortly after the assassination a police officer informed her (that’s hearsay times three for those keeping track) that he and J.D. had been told that Oswald was headed in their direction, toward Oak Cliff, but that he (the other officer) had “a little accident, a wreck” and didn’t get to where Tippit encountered Oswald in time. The elder Tippit couldn’t remember the other officer’s name.
“When I hear a story from a witness such as Mr. Tippit,” McBride told an Internet radio audience, “I don’t just automatically believe it. I check it out with all the other evidence one can find in the FBI reports of interviews with policemen of which there are a lot and the Dallas police department records and the House Select Committee investigations – they interviewed a lot of policemen and other people – the police radio transmission even though some of those are suspect – you can draw a picture of what was going on in Oak Cliff and I spent years doing this – ah – trying to figure out what was credible about what was happening.” 
McBride was apparently so busy checking out Mr. Tippit’s claim among police records that he overlooked the most obvious place to look for corroboration for the story - Mr. Tippit’s source, Marie Tippit.
Surprisingly, McBride never bothered to contact Marie Tippit until he wrote a letter to her (which she never answered) on March 5, 2013 – twenty-years after Edgar Tippit initially told him the story, seven years after the elder Tippit’s own death, and just three months before McBride’s book was published. 
Anyone who’s ever written a book knows that McBride’s 675 page tome had already been written by then.
Perhaps McBride avoided Mrs. Tippit because she was part of the big conspiracy. After all, he claims in his book that Mrs. Tippit probably fabricated J.D.’s visit home for lunch on November 22, 1963. Marie Tippit must be lying about her husband’s lunchtime visit – according to McBride – because if she’s telling the truth, J.D. can’t be the so-called Badge Man figure firing the fatal shot into Kennedy’s head from the grassy knoll – another essential part of McBride’s cockamamie theory.
Finding a co-conspirator
Or perhaps McBride was too busy trying to figure out who he could finger for Tippit’s co-conspirator – you know, the unnamed officer who according to Mr. Tippit told Marie about the orders to track down Oswald.
It doesn’t take long for McBride to get around to William D. Mentzel, the officer assigned to District 91 in Oak Cliff – the district in which J.D. Tippit was murdered.
Mentzel has become a favorite whipping boy of the conspiracy crowd for his so-called “mysterious” actions after the assassination. (Did you ever notice that the conspiracy buffs never accuse anyone of being a conspirator until after they're dead?)
McBride names Mentzel as the one likely to have been the officer in question because he was tied up at a traffic accident in his district at the time that Tippit was gunned down.
But Officer Mentzel’s link to a traffic accident in Oak Cliff (a fact known for better than thirty years) doesn’t really support the essence of Mr. Tippit’s allegation, does it?
It does make clear, however, that Mr. Tippit’s claim is no doubt a slightly scrambled version of true events, especially if you know a bit about Mr. Mentzel.
In a 2008 interview, Officer Mentzel’s widow told me about the pain that J.D.’s death caused her husband.
“Bill told me how bad he felt about Tippit’s death,” Ardyce Mentzel said. “He felt like Tippit had died for him, since he was killed in my husband’s district. Bill later served as an honor guard at the Tippit funeral and was very emotional about the duty saying, ‘It’s so hard for me to go to that funeral.’ “ 
Officer Mentzel told his wife that had he not got hung up at the traffic accident he was called to, it likely would have been him that would have come across Oswald, been killed, and been lying up at the funeral home instead of J.D. Tippit.
It doesn’t take a mental giant to figure out that Mentzel is the one who approached Marie Tippit, told her the same thing he told his wife – how bad he felt that the traffic accident kept him from being the one that encountered Oswald on Tenth Street, and that Marie passed this on to J.D.’s father. Add thirty-years and a dash of dementia and you get the slightly skewed version Edgar Lee Tippit apparently told McBride.
One thing’s certain beyond any doubt (and frankly, I’m ashamed to even have to say it) – J.D. Tippit and William D. Mentzel weren’t part of some secret Dallas police hit squad bent on rubbing out Oswald.
The anti-thesis of reality
The rest of McBride’s book is made up of every conceivable Tippit-connected conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard supported by pillars of innuendo, suggestion, and wholesale malarkey.
Once again, instead of clear, unadorned fact, we get dealt the same old re-cycled nonsense about Tippit’s death – a much earlier shooting time than ever officially acknowledged, marginal eyewitness testimonies elevated to central roles, Dallas cops switching evidence to frame poor Lee Oswald, and much more of the same unbridled blather we’ve been reading for years.
All of this is may seem quite surprising given McBride’s stature as an acclaimed film critic, biographer, and professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. Yet, there is something about the Kennedy assassination that makes otherwise intelligent people check their brain at the door.
Nightmare is the anti-thesis of reality; a sloppily assembled collection of disjointed musing on Tippit’s death dredged from a swamp of conspiracy theories - none of which would hold up under fire at a grade school debate.
Of course, for dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy theorists, facts are never a substitute for a good yarn about Tippit’s murder, especially one filled with a fabricated lunch, phantom orders to hunt down a would-be patsy, and racist cops whose imagined interactions make sense only to someone who felt lied to as a kid. [END]
 Black Op Radio, Show No.640, July 25, 2013, 00:28:02;27
 McBride, Joseph, Into The Nightmare (California: Hightower Press, 2013), p.411
 Interview of Joyce (Tippit) DeBord, July 11, 2013
 Black Op Radio, Show No.642, August 8, 2013, 00:37:12;17
 McBride, Nightmare, p.512
 Myers, Dale K., With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit (Oak Cliff Press, 2013), Endnote 571 (Author’s interview of Ardyce Mentzel, March 3, 2008, p.1)