Tabloid-style gossip about the senior senator from Massachusetts. David (coauthor, Bobby Kennedy, 1986, etc.) has been a Kennedy watcher for 30 years, but his breathless tone here suggests that he's only just discovered that controversial family. While the Kennedys are known for embodying achievement, charm, herculean power, and greed, very little of this is conveyed in David's one- sentence paragraphs as they dart from crisis to quarrel to bottle to bed. David jumps immediately into his subject's head (`` `What the hell is that guy jabbering about?' Ted Kennedy wondered as he listened to the announcer's frenetic shouting, mingled with snatches of prayer, on the car radio''). After some disjointed scene-setting, we learn that Robert Kennedy has just been shot, making Ted the Kennedy heir apparent. This sort of swirling melodrama goes on throughout, leveling events so that details like the African mahogany selected for RFK's coffin bulks as large as the slain senator's evolution from Redbaiter to fierce liberal. Minutiae abounds--which hotel, what island, which celebrity, what boat--although there are excursions into deeper history, such as the first arrival on American soil of a Kennedy, ``a brawny lad named Patrick, who stepped off a packet boat in 1849 with a suitcase tied with a rope and about a hundred dollars in his pocket.'' Given the value of a hundred dollars at that time, one wonders why Patrick so rigidly rationed his food as to be ``close to starvation''--but rather than explain, David instead gives us what everyone knows--from excessive drinking to Chappaquiddick. We also learn a lot about Jackie O. and Onassis, but nothing new about the senator and how he has earned the respect of fellow legislators of both political parties. Good subject, bad treatment.