A remarkably leaden and literal-minded first novel--a ""what-if"" thriller about a John F. Kennedy clone who survives the assassination attempt in Dallas. As the motorcade carrying President John Trewlaney Cassidy passes the Texas Book Depository Building, shots ring out and Cassidy slumps. Shortly thereafter, Arthur Strode is arrested in a Dallas movie theater on suspicion of attempting to assassinate the President--for, yes, Jack Cassidy has survived, albeit with a serious head wound. After Strode is shot and killed by a Dallas nightclub owner, the Vice President--a lanky Texan by the name of Rance Gardner--becomes Acting President, and Cassidy recuperates in Hyannis and Palm Beach. In the meantime, FBI special agent Jim Sullivan hunts a mysterious Cuban who calls himself Lopate, and who is the ""second gunman"" behind that ""grassy knoll."" The plot-- serviceable up to this point--now curdles into an amalgam of nearly every conspiracy theory ever put forth: basically, Lopate was in the employ both of the widow of a Cuban patriot killed at the Bay of Pigs and a Mafia chieftan out to get revenge on Cassidy's brother, Attorney General Tim, for prosecuting him. While agent Sullivan tracks Lopate down byzantine trails, Rance Gardner becomes President (with a still-recuperating Jack Cassidy's blessings, and Tim Cassidy as his V.P.). But in 1967, the Cassidy brothers muscle Gardner aside for a family mn at the presidency--and Jack finds himself, just after winning the California primary, about to enter the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel, where the crazed Lopate lurks dressed as a busboy. . . History sits heavily astride the shoulders of ""characters"" like the Cassidys, and they never attain fictional life of their own. Readers with a bent for fiction based on the Kennedy assassination would do better to turn to Don DeLillo's Libra (p. 843) or Charles McCarry's The Tears of Autumn (1974).