Far too many people of a certain age were introduced to the JFK assassination by Oliver Stone's 'JFK'. An entire generation were 'imprinted' with Stone's lies and this distorted first-impression has had far-reaching effects on how many perceive their history.
Stone's film, of course, was based - if that's the right word - on the real events of the trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans. The film was pure fantasy from start to finish. Historical accuracy was not considered whilst dramatic licence and effect rode roughshod over what was a genuine human tragedy.
James Kirkwood's account is the real story. It was written shortly after Shaw's acquittal in 1968. He was there, in court, from the beginning of the Preliminary Hearings all the way up to the verdict. He was able to talk to the key personalities and he was so stunned that such a debacle could unfold in an American court of law he wrote this book.
The author relates the key testimony that was adduced from all the principal witnesses (and minor ones, too) and, the more often this book is read, the more incredible it seems that such a case ever got to trial.
Perry Russo can be seen as the pliable, confused fantasist that he really was and the inability of the State's other witnesses' to persuade the jury of the charge is a stark illustration of the shabby case that the DA presented.
Kirkwood injects much of his own humour and anger into the narrative and he makes no attempt to remain `impartial'. He met and grew to like Shaw (and Shaw's friends) and the incredulous outrage of all of them permeates much of the book.
The author rounds-off the book with a series of interviews that he had with key participants a few weeks after the trial ended. He spoke to a couple of jury members, Judge Haggerty, Jim Garrison and Perry Russo at length.
These exchanges are most enlightening and close the book with a flourish.
Had Stone `based' his movie on this book rather than the two that he did, a whole generation might now have a much more accurate understanding of, not just the murders of President Kennedy and Police Officer Tippit, but what an awful act of vindictive persecution Jim Garrison - a District Attorney - inflicted against a wholly innocent man.
Read this in conjunction with 'False Witness' by Patricia Lambert, 'Counterplot' by Edward Jay Epstein, 'Plot or Politics' by James & Wardlaw and - if you can find a copy - 'The Garrison Case' by Milton Brener.