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4.0 out of 5 stars CONCOCTING A PLAN, 21 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live: Oswald, Kennedy, and the Conspiracy That Will Not Die (Paperback)
Steven Gillon, author of this book, clearly states that he is of the belief that Oswald was the sole shooter in Dealy Plaza that dark Dallas day and therefore the one and only assassinator of JFK. In the pages of this slim book he unabashedly writes with his mind made up, therefore Chapter Two begins: "At 12:30 p.m., Oswald pulled the trigger..." - and so forth. The troubling thing is, however, that after reading this account of Oswald's last forty eight hours on earth I am more convinced than ever that Oswald was most probably railroaded and that he may well have been what he said he was, a patsy.

There are some truly startling facts in this book that should lead anyone to think twice about a rush to judgment, for truly there was a rush to judgment in getting Oswald to either confess or be able to prove to the world that he was the "lone nut" and only nut behind the murder of the President. On page 90 is this: "A few officers in the Dallas police station, frustrated that Oswald was so defiant, had discussed their own scheme for getting a confession. An assistant sheriff concocted a plan to invade Oswald's cell while he slept and threaten him with more traditional Dallas justice. 'You're going to the electric chair,' they planned to tell him." And then: "Perhaps the threat of death...would entice a confession. It's unclear why the assault never took place, but the presence of the world's media likely played a role." Wow, as Terry Malloy might say. Read that again. The cops were so frustrated that Oswald did not confess (to a crime he said he was innocent of!) so they "concocted a plan" to force a confession! I hear that train a-coming. And as for plans being concocted, with such a mindset as described above, couldn't the concoctions and plans have also included fabricating evidence or leaving a door open so cop pal Ruby could get up close and personal to Oswald and terminate him with extreme prejudice?

Keep in mind that even though he repeatedly asked for a lawyer, Oswald never had one! And for 48 hours he was interrogated endlessly - and there are absolutely NO tapes nor transcripts as to what he said! Oh yes, FBI agent Hosty scribbled down some notes whilst Dallas Police Chief Fritz questioned Oswald. In 2010 Hosty "recreated" the interrogation in his book, thereby putting god only knows what words into Oswald's mouth. Hosty also said that when he saw Oswald in custody he was surprised that at 24 years old Oswald's hair "had deeply receded." But it truly hadn't. Just like the Mauser wasn't a Mannlicher-Carcano!

Captain Fritz comes across as quite a piece of work. He had once helped track down Bonnie and Clyde, and no one ever knew the man's true age! On page 103 we have Fritz telling another police chief while Oswald is in a lineup (and Oswald was the only disheveled and bruised one of the lot!)that "This case is cinched. This man killed the president, there is no question in my mind about it." Really? Then six pages on Fritz waffles some and after Oswald continues to insist on his innocence, we learn that "Fritz could only conclude that Oswald was either the victim of an immense and well-coordinated conspiracy or he was a psychopathic liar."

On page 79 we learn of Assistant DA Alexander pushing Chief Curry to push Fritz to file charges against Oswald for killing Kennedy. "We wanted to file on him before midnight," Alexander told Vince Bugliosi. "It just would look better that we got the SOB on the same day he killed Kennedy." Wow, again. Talk about a rush to judgment here. When Alexander talked to the press after Oswald had been charged with the murder of Officer Tippit, he said: "As a lawyer and officer of the court, I will do everything I can to see that Oswald gets a fair trial. But, as an individual, I detest him." Wow, once more! Reminds me of the scene in ONE-EYED JACKS where the crooked sheriff answers imprisoned Brando when Brando wonders if he'll get a fair trial - "Sure, sure. You'll get a fair trial. And then we're gonna hang you!" What are we to make of this? A rush to charge Oswald on the same day of the killing because "it would look better"? Here is a DA saying he will uphold the law and give the man a fair trial - but then adds "I detest him." His personal feelings so unprofessionally relayed to the press could but color the mind of the public, of potential future jurors.

Words can be weapons. A woman who rode the bus along with Oswald after the shooting of JFK later said "He looks like a maniac." Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Maybe this woman had heard someone like the DA voice his detestation of Oswald and so colored her descriptive to please the blood-thirsty crowd. During the news footage of Oswald over the next 48 hours can anyone truly say he looked like "a maniac"? Jack Ruby thought he looked like Paul Newman! But words carry weight and can be the most subversive of weapons. Even the author of this book uses words overtly - as in "Oswald pulled the trigger..." and subtly, as in this instance: on page 71 we read about Oswald's being led through the crush of reporters with flashbulbs popping and reporters yelling out questions. Gillon writes: "Oswald used the occasion to communicate directly to the media, creating a carnival-like atmosphere." So now Oswald is guilty NOT just of the killing of Tippit and Kennedy, no, he is also - according to our author - guilty of using the occasion and "creating a carnival-like atmosphere." Interesting. It doesn't matter that Dallas police policy enabled the surge of reporters to be there or that flashbulbs were firing or that Oswald was handcuffed and being hurried from one room to the next to have god-only-knows what happened behind those closed doors, no, to hear Gillon tell it Oswald is responsible for creating the circus! Incredible! And what does Oswald say to the reporters that helped create a "carnival-like atmosphere"? "These people here have given me a hearing without legal representation," he says into a microphone shoved into his face. When asked if he shot the president, he says "I didn't shoot anybody." Some carnival he created, just because he was proclaiming his innocence.

And after Oswald is charged we find that none other than J. Edgar tells LBJ "The evidence they have at the present time is not very, very strong. The case as it stands now isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction." Very interesting.

On page 81 is a stunner related to another matter: "At Bethesda Naval Hospital...doctors were immersed in the grim work of performing an autopsy while morticians struggled to camouflage the president's head wound. They had expected the process to take a few hours, but doctors were having a hard time figuring out the trajectory of the president's bullet wounds, and the morticians had difficulty reconstructing the JFK's shattered head. At the time no decision had been made about whether there would be an open casket, so the morticians aimed for precision." Wow! It seems like both activities were taking place at the same time! The thing is, were the morticians truly doing a reconstruction - or an unwitting cover-up? If the doctors were having difficulty figuring out the exact bullet trajectories, shouldn't that have taken top priority over the wax reconstruction of the shattered skull? What, therefore, do we actually see in the photographs of the dead JFK? Is it real - or wax? Was the final determination of trajectories based on the head of Kennedy before or after reconstruction?

In the book, Gillon offers no insights into the "I'm just a patsy" statement. He also overlooks all evidence of Jack Ruby's mob ties. No mention is ever made of the pristine magic bullet magically found on the hospital stretcher. There were witnesses who saw two people in the book depository window that day, yet nothing else is made of it. There is no mention of the mystery cop car honking outside Oswald's rooming house after the assassination. No detail about the curtain rod lengths not equaling that of a disassembled rifle. Oswald's favorite show as a kid - I LED THREE LIVES - about a businessman working for the FBI who undercover infiltrated the U.S Communist Party - isn't even mentioned in the book. The picture painted is of a Marxist Oswald - but no mention is made of his anti-Communist dear friend from the Russian emigres, one George de Mohrenschildt. Nor of the confusion and lying to be found in practically everything Marina Oswald ever had to say to anyone, whether because of coercion or confusion. By the way, the gun residue tests on Oswald were "inconclusive," which is strange for a man who is said to have fired a rifle three times and a pistol even moreso. And Bobbie Kennedy himself always believed that it was the Mafia killed his brother.

The purpose of this book - to relate the chronology of Oswald's last 48 hours - is marred by the author's mindset with regards to Oswald's guilt or innocence. Yes, Steve Gillon had every right to say - as he does - in his Preface that he thinks Oswald did it. But his narrative is then colored by his belief to the detriment of the book. It should have been, as Joe Friday would say, "just the facts." But it isn't. It has way too many Warren-inspired asides to make it the impartial, objective work it should have been. Despite its agenda, however, the story told is riveting - and it is a story not fully told in way too many other assassination books. The only trouble is, for Gillon that is, that one is much more likely to come away from the book believing that Oswald may, indeed, have been just what he said he was - "A patsy." Oswald even told his brother "Don't believe all this so-called evidence." Putting that together with such things as the "concocted plan" the cops came up with to force a confession surely would make anyone give some pause before rushing to judgement. In brief, the book would have been so much better if it had remained open-minded.
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