A bright spotlight on well-worn ground.

KENNEDY'S AVENGER

ASSASSINATION, CONSPIRACY, AND THE FORGOTTEN TRIAL OF JACK RUBY

Why did Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald?

Abrams, chief legal analyst for ABC News, and journalist Fisher team up for their latest investigation, this time focused on the trial of Ruby, accused of killing JFK assassin Oswald. With the shooting broadly televised, Ruby’s defense lawyers—headed by “square-jawed, silver-maned, impeccably groomed Californian Melvin Belli, arguably the most famous lawyer in the country”—hoped to spare Ruby from the death penalty by conjuring an innovative defense. Ruby, Belli asserted, suffered from a rare mental illness—psychomotor variant epilepsy—that resulted in a fugue state, during which he had no control over what he was doing. The authors offer an animated, overwhelmingly detailed examination of the trial, from the family’s decision to hire a high-powered “superstar” lawyer, whose $50,000 fee, the family believed, could be raised by selling Ruby’s story; to the verdict, when jurors unanimously found Ruby guilty and sentenced him to death. Jury selection was predictably contentious. Of 900 people called to serve, 500 showed up, and after 14 days of lawyerly wrangling, a jury consisting of eight men and four women, all White Protestants, was finally seated. Abrams and Fisher mine transcripts and news coverage to dramatize the trial as it unfolded, including witness testimony, lawyers’ objections, the judge’s rulings, and Belli’s repeated calls for a mistrial. Medical experts for the defense and the prosecution offered contradictory theories about Ruby’s mind. The verdict “was simply the end of the beginning”; Belli won an appeal, citing more than 200 errors by the judge. An increasingly paranoid Ruby testified before the Warren Commission about his motivation, denying a prior connection to Oswald. Suffering from cancer, he died in prison, awaiting a new trial. Did Oswald act alone? Did Ruby? Hints of a conspiracy, left unquestioned by the authors, feed into what they contend “a majority of Americans” suspect.

A bright spotlight on well-worn ground.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-335-91403-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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