“Killing Kennedy” By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

The President is not only considered the most powerful man in America, but he is well respected and extremely influential throughout the world. Reading a novel that provides insight on both the broadly publicized aspects and very private aspects of president John F. Kennedy’s life is highly intriguing. The authors were able to gather the kind of information that readers crave; the inside scoop that people were not necessarily aware of during Kennedy’s presidency. Although I have only read the first quarter of the book at this point, I feel like I know Kennedy well. The book elucidates the way in which Kennedy was able to obtain the support of the American public and become the reigning political leader and figurehead of America during the 1960s.

An aspect of the book that captured my attention rather quickly was the explanation of Jacqueline Kennedy’s role in her husband’s presidency. The fact that that she was able to become so prominent during the time period of his presidency is inspiring. Jacqueline was forced to tolerate Kennedy’s inconsistent and impulsive behavior, and despite her somber attitude towards their relationship at times, she was able to maintain her widespread popularity. I like that the authors place noteworthy emphasis on Jacqueline because I can see how here role in JFK’s presidency might be overlooked. In addition, although many have perceived her lifestyle to be very luxurious and desirable, she overcame significant emotional adversity, and this is relatable to readers.

Aside from the authors’ interesting elaboration of Jacqueline Kennedy, they relay their story from unique angles. Most books we read are in simple chronological order and skipping events or jumping around rarely occurs. However, because JFK’s presidency was so eventful between his busy public and private lives, the authors transition from one event to another quite frequently. The reader might be in the midst of hearing about the unfortunate nature of the Cuban situation when he is suddenly thrown into JFK’s secret affair with Marilyn Monroe! This constantly changing angle keeps the story alive and causes the reader to constantly crave new information.

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13 responses to ““Killing Kennedy” By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

  1. katyhowells

    My favorite presidents are Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Coincidentally, these two presidents have much in common, as highlighted throughout the book, “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Rielly and Martin Dugard. Unsurprisingly, due to my love of JFK, I have read this entire book, so it will be hard to include only a bit of information in this one post. I flew through this book, the rich language and concrete images fueling my hunger for it. As Lauren said above, an important aspect of this book was the “inside scoop”. I have learned much about the life and presidency of JFK that I had previously not known, such as the Mafia ties explained in this section. This section blew by quite fast for me
    A key aspect to Kennedy’s life was how fast paced it was. Dugard and O’Rielly did a fantastic job of highlighting this. The events flew by each other, with some occurring on the same page. The authors do such a good job of showing the readers how stressful JFK had it, that I was even stressing out what JFK had to deal with! These fast paced events were riveting with inside detail and just enough of a hook to keep the readers thinking about it long after they have breezed by the event.
    Another important topic brought up again and again in this book and by Lauren above was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy; or “Jackie”. I would say most stories and media surrounding JFK focused on him, and not specifically Jackie. What “Killing Kennedy” focuses on is not only JFK but Jackie as well. By doing this, this gives the book a more universal appeal due to the family and couple aspect. By including Jackie often, the authors were able to convey a different point of view of JFK; the emotional view. Readers can relate to Jackie’s struggles with JFK’s affairs, and the stress of living up to expectations.
    The first section was excellent, but the book will only get better.

  2. Undoubtedly among the most popular presidents, JFK has always been a name to linger. It’s clear why. For me, the first “real” experience catching a glimpse into the scandal and glamour filled lives of the Kennedy’s was on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination this past November. All across the History Channel were well-advertised special documentaries and television series reenacting the lives of some of the most hopeful American dreamers. To this day, I can still remember exact phrases that historians in those films I watched on November 23rd, 2013 said. What stuck with me was the extreme “panache” of the Kennedy’s, and the president’s “magnetism”. In one documentary, a poll taken the day after the assassination was discussed; the majority of the United States claimed that this loss of “Jack” whom they knew and loved was as emotionally painful as losing a family member. These lines stuck with me because of their intense human-like qualities. There is so often a thick divide between the everyday person’s field of interest and politics. For the first time in American political history, Kennedy seemed to have crossed into a range of idolization and hope, driving his followers to not only praise him as an icon, but respect him as a family figure. This overlap immediately caught my attention, fifty years after the Kennedy reign was suddenly put to an end. Long story short, this fascination prompted me to ask for Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s “Killing Kennedy” for Christmas.
    Luckily almost three months after receiving this book, I’ve had an excuse to savor it properly. And I’m quite thankful for the opportunity! I’ve grown a new appreciation for non-fiction, which seems an unlikely occurrence for me. This is likely because of the style of writing displayed within “Killing Kennedy”. As both Lauren and Katy mentioned, there are extremely precise details placed in just the right spots in the writing to draw the reader’s attention. As Katy mentioned in her post, this is definitely a fast paced novel, which can be seen through the clear and often change in focus. One page may include the current whereabouts of Jacqueline Kennedy, when it suddenly swoops to the other side of the globe to check in on Lee Harvey Oswald or Fidel Castro. These shifts keep the novel paced quickly which adds to the entertainment aspect while properly demonstrating the fast pace of the Kennedy lifestyle and the stress it carried (as Katy also mentioned). Last but not least, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying all of the (fun) facts that the author’s add, which are likely unknown to many. During the first few pages addressing JFK’s inauguration ceremony, it’s mentioned that the sun was shining so brightly in Robert Frost’s eyes that he was unable to read special verses he had prepared. Not only does the extreme detail provide incredible commentary to the story, but adds to the reader’s experience. All in all, the quarter of O’Reilly and Dugard’s “Killing Kennedy” that I’ve read has been both intensely satisfying and thrilling. The perspective used almost offers the stance of an omnipresent bodyguard lingering a close distance behind or next to the Kennedy’s, seeing all, hearing all, and protecting the legacy of America’s favorite royalty.

  3. katyhowells

    As Tuesday stated above, protecting the legacy of America’s “favorite” family is an extremely important job. In elementary school, we were taught about Abe Lincoln, George Washington and the current president of that time. As kids, we never spent that much time focusing on other presidents. Sure, we all knew who was assassinated and who was not. To this day, I am still figuring out all the presidents. This book was a great enlightenment to me. I figured things out about Kennedy and a few other presidents as well. Such as who designed which wing, which president was favored, etc. So not only does this book teach about the life and time of JFK, it also provides information of past presidents and the world they lived in; contrasting with the Kennedy era.
    Like Lauren and Tuesday, I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I am not a great fan of non-fiction, but I seem to be warming up to it considerably. I even think I will read Killing Lincoln next. What is different about Dugards and O’Rielly’s nonfiction is that it puts the reader in the story. At some points in the book, I felt like I was there with JFK looking over an audience. And at other points I could feel Jackie’s pain as she realized her son would never live over a day. This book continues to reel me in and start to appreciate history in a book a little more.

    • Shannon Kehoe

      As an avid fan of non-fiction and somewhat of a Kennedy buff, I find this book to be knowledge regurgitated. Though O’Reilly detailed Kennedy’s important life events in intriguing ways. Obviously I wasn’t well versed in ever aspect of Kennedy’s short life, so I did learn some new things from well written book. A heavily discussed theme in this book is the fact that the Kennedy Administration presented a new era, widely regarded as “The Era of Camelot”. America’s golden family finally taking the White House seemed to usher in a wave of social, technological, and worldwide advances. The 1960’s were a time of change, and a young President to carry out these changes gave America hope. When Kennedy was shot, the whole world stopped, and I think “Killing Kennedy” does an exceptional job of catching the national (and global) emotion of the republic, shattered after a tragedy. It seemed like an impossible prospect that the youngest President ever elected was to be murdered in the presence of his own First Lady, but Oswald made America’s worst nightmare a reality. O’Reilly, being an outspoken Republican seemed an interesting author to detail the life of a Democratic President, but I was pleasantly surprised at O’Reilly’s ability to show his appreciation for Kennedy. The book’s beginning is really what captured me. O’Reilly tells of where he was when he heard Kennedy had been shot. I also thought it nice that O’Reilly told of America’s love for Kennedy in a line that said nearly every American born before ’53 can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news of JFK’s death. With an introduction that defied my expectations, “Killing Kennedy” has quickly become a new favorite of mine.

  4. Shannon stated that the advancements made during President Kennedy’s time in office were profound, and I agree. These social and technological developments greatly influenced Kennedy’s presidency. A primary example of this is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Previously, weapons of mass destruction such as missiles had not been strategically placed in locations where they would have the potential to harm large masses of people. The book did an excellent job of describing the extreme tension as JFK dealt with this crisis and how it severely impacted his mental and physical state, as well as those of other White House residents. I was not aware that the missiles the Soviet Union planted had the potential to destroy the entirety of Washington D.C. The fact that JFK was able to handle this crisis effectively demonstrates his extraordinary leadership abilities that do not fail in times of immense anxiety and political turmoil.
    Aside from technological advancements, social changes occurred. The Kennedy family brought into the White House a new kind of energy, a youthful, vibrant energy that had not been implemented by previous presidents. Despite having an unfathomably stressful job, President Kennedy always found time in his day to enjoy his children and be playful. Some of his favorite moments were said to be those playing childish games in the midst of his daily work schedule. He also cherished the little quality time he was able to spend with his wife. For example, the authors of the novel described how times of agitation strengthened JFK and Jackie’s relationship because they were comfortable confiding in one another. The relationships between previous presidents and first ladies were less personal and more professional. JFK exemplified his unique ability to remain a “family man”, even though he held such a powerful position. This is one of the reasons why I am so greatly enjoying this novel, for it brings to life not only the concrete events in JFK’s career, but also the beloved “behind the scenes” moments in which he was able to release his true character.

  5. After reading another quarter of Bill O’Reilly’s chart topping bestseller, it is clear why Kennedy’s life is considered such an idyllic standard of glamor, wealth, power, beauty, and status. Although I can say that I’m enjoying my reading, sometimes I find myself shocked at the utter amount of detail placed into each sentence. Because of this, the sentence structure is often not as easily ensuing from the page to my brain as some novels, making it slightly more difficult for me to read than Divergent or TKAM, for example. The detail provided however allows the amount of stress JFK was under to be exemplified. The integration of themes such as family, status, and Camelot, along with detailed updates on the political affairs of the time such as the Cuban Missile Crisis provides a historically accurate and interesting account of the Kennedy empire. So far I’d have to admit though, that I sigh of relief when the topic switches from Fidel Castro to Frank Sinatra’s mafia ties or Marilyn Monroe’s appearance at JFK’s 1962 birthday gala. This isn’t to jab at Martin Dugard or Bill O’Reilly of course, I just feel like the book could potentially become even more enjoyable if some of the more confusing political jib jab were eliminated. (I understand that those snippets of information are obviously extremely important, but as a reader with a short attention span, less facts about politics in Pakistan and more scandals or emotionally appealing material would be appreciated). The aspects of Killing Kennedy that I’m enjoying most so far are both the mainstream gossip and underground information provided about the Kennedy reign. It’s extremely easy to see why the world was so entranced by the Kennedy family; they were beautiful, powerful, educated, and despite their flaws, maintained a strong standing image. The stresses the family faced only seemed to provide a basis of credibility to America, to assure that the Kennedy’s, although so superhuman, were a family like any other. In the remainder of the novel, I hope to see even more continuous integration of the Camelot parallels to the Kennedy’s, as I believe that the connection between King Arthur and John Fitzgerald Kennedy is not only interesting, but provides crucial information about the eras in which both lived: tragic and wonderful.

  6. Shannon Kehoe

    I agree with what Tuesday said above about the amount of detail thrown into nearly every sentence written. At one point in the novel, O’Reilly and Dugard go as far as recounting the fact that the president endured a case of diarrhea one weekend due to unrest about the Bay of Pigs. That was a seemingly shocking and unnecessary detail, but I think it proves how educated both authors are on JFK and the inner workings of the White House from 1960 to 1963. I also think Tuesday is correct when saying that she prefers the more underground and undiscussed reality of the Kennedy’s past the facade. While I do relish the passages in which the Bay of Pigs, and motor torpedo PT-109 are recounted, I also love reading about Jackie’s chain-smoking, scotch drinking habits, and John’s relationship with his pit bull of a brother, Robert. Yet again, I am impressed by this book. I think O’Reilly and Dugard have fantastically depicted the life, death, struggles, quirks, demeanor, habits, and family of John F. Kennedy.

  7. After reading another quarter of Killing Kennedy, I agree with Shannon and Tuesday that Bill O’Reilly’s detail about the Kennedys’ lives can be excessive and distracting from the plot at times. These minor details that are weaved incessantly into the main events can cause JFK’s most admirable qualities to be overshadowed. For example, Bill O’Reilly chooses to add frequent detail about Kennedy’s affairs with women and how he would engage in inappropriate behavior on a regular basis. This distracts immensely from the fact that he was a great family man, and I think Bill O’Reilly could have done a little better job of juxtaposing the two sides without going into intimate detail about the downfall of his personality quirks. We all have flaws, and O’Reilly portrayed Kennedy in a negative light at times because of his unnecessary elaboration.

    Although O’Reilly’s detail was overwhelming at times, he does an excellent job of providing insight into the life of Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and how the building turmoil in Oswald’s life led to the ultimate tragedy. O’Reilly’s thorough description of Oswald’s family troubles and his often times violent reactions to them allowed the reader to understand why the assassination occurred (not that it still isn’t appalling). By providing the reader with information on Oswald’s past and on the rash decisions he made throughout his life, the plot becomes much more engaging. Although the novel is non-fiction and the ending is obvious, it is easy to start thinking of JFK as the hero who must be saved from the malevolent villain, Oswald, and his sidekicks.

  8. katyhowells

    In this book, I believe that the authors do a great job of leading one event to another, such as the case with why Oswald did what he did. As Lauren said above, the building turmoil of Oswald’s life led to the death of President Kennedy. Without these fine details, I would have never understood the motive for the assassination of one of the greatest presidents.
    Even with all this new information, I wish now that O’Rielly had included more about what happened to the Kennedy family and not just little excerpts at the end of the book. I am still left wondering how Jackie handled the death, or how his kids did. The book briefly went over this section, and I felt it was too fast for me to get a true understanding of the pain that ensued after the horrific death. Overall, this quarter of the book was fast paced and rich with detail. I am left with more knowledge of the assassination, but little of the emotion that followed.

  9. tuesdaylew

    In my last post along with Katy, Shannon, and Lauren’s, we all agreed that while the excessive ornamentation of each sentence by O’Reilly or Dugard is crucial, it also makes Killing Kennedy somewhat difficult to read. Having just read the third quarter however, I see how pivotal this information all is. In this section of the story, we see JFK’s life through a quickly shifting lens. We’ve seen before his brutal assassination, but we now begin to catch a glimpse during and afterwards. The amount of detail in this segment of Killing Kennedy however is much more tolerable than previous areas of the story because it is not so much background information, but allows the reader more knowledge on undoubtedly one of the most crucial moments in American (and global) history- the moments surrounding Kennedy’s death. With Harvey Lee Oswald becoming a larger character in the plot, O’Reilly/Dugard will say things like: “Now, on a hot April night, Oswald hides in the shadows of a Dallas alleyway. His new rifle is pointed at Major General Ted Walker, an avowed anticommunist” (157) immediately after Kennedy has been the focus of attention. The story begins to follow two quite closely versus just JFK and his entourage. These details surrounding Oswald have made the story much more interesting than I would have imagined. We are told of Marina, Oswald’s wife, and their life together. Because the lives of the Kennedy’s and the Oswald’s are told somewhat simultaneously, it is extremely interesting to juxtapose the two. I like finding parallels between Jackie and Marina, the wives of some of America’s most important pieces in a historical chess game. O’Reilly and Dugard’s details tell of the secret wishes and motives of the two women, which I can honestly say I find much more interesting than earlier in the story, when the sole focus was on Kennedy and his political affairs. It is also compelling to read about the similarities between JFK and Oswald- both men secretive, politically in-tune, and living short lives of scandal and tragedy. I really appreciated this quarter of the story because it was much faster paced than any of the others, and finally told of the afternoon on November 22nd, 1963 that I’d been waiting to hear about since I first received Killing Kennedy. I’m interested to see where the journey will continue, how the Kennedy empire will continue, and how the bullets shot from Oswald’s rifle will continue to leave the world ringing for so many years afterwards.

  10. tuesdaylew

    Killing Kennedy 9.5/10 Stars

    (I’d first like to begin by saying that in my last blog post I had said Harvey Lee Oswald instead of Lee Harvey Oswald.) Whew, glad that’s off my chest, now onto the review. The bad: like I have mentioned before and will not fail to reiterate, I think that Bill O’Reilly’s writing style is a bit tough to read due to its high density of factual information. In fact, throughout Killing Kennedy there is little text that’s commentary, as its 302 pages are mostly filled with the exact whereabouts of political figures, glamorous musicians, and scraggly assassins at specific hours of specific days of specific years. With each page I read, I thought, ‘when will I ever read about Camelot or themes or anything?!’. I felt as if the information would never stop flowing my way. In my last post, I pleaded that I hoped that there would be a sense of closure at the end, if it were even possible. In a situation that continues to astound the nation and evoke the often deeply buried patriotic instincts in Americans, it seemed as if no sense of peace would be endowed. Luckily, I was allowed some relief in the final pages. It stated the resolutions of the lives of many involved in the grand Kennedy life and death, which I found quite interesting, but it was still just more facts. What I thought was truly amazing was the final chapter, in which Jackie Kennedy’s raw emotions and grace are unveiled in an extremely personal way, by O’Reilly’s descriptions of her speaking to Life magazine about the legacy and end of Camelot. Theodore White said, “There’ll never be another Camelot”, which truly embodied the quick ending to the one of the nation’s greatest tragedies. The novel is nicely concluded in the afterword by telling: “A generation after his assassination, more than four million people a year still arrive at Arlington to pay their respects to the fallen president. And also the grand American vision that he represented”. I truthfully don’t think it could be said any better. After finishing the complete and compelling story about a topic that will never be truly understood, I understand something. I realize why O’Reilly and Dugard choose to portray the Kennedy era with such fact-dense pages. The era left behind by the Kennedy’s is timeless and ageless. The story of hope and freedom of Camelot are not only to be freely dreamed about and interpreted upon, but intended to be. If opinionated commentary were to be included in the story, readers would not be able to interpret the Kennedy life with any sort of personal connection or admiration. It would be like looking through glasses in which a prescription that is too strong is placed. Kennedy is an everlasting symbol of the timeless American dream and its graceful process endured with hope. With the authors of Killing Kennedy providing the facts, readers are allowed the opportunity of feeling for themselves the sun grazing on Dealey Plaza on November 23rd, 1963 or the days following. This chance is available for generations who have seen the Vietnam War with their own eyes, those who remember the crackling loud speaker announcing that school would be let out early due to the 35th president of the United State’s assassination, or even those who have never heard the name “Kennedy” in their short lives. Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is a read that should be required in school. I firmly believe that the timelessness of Kennedy’s ambitions and strongly instilled hope in America should be shouted on the streets and taught in classrooms. The era in which is looked back upon with such tragedy and harsh lighting is anything but dead. Through this novel, we are reminded that it was a time of celebration and progress, hope for the future, and heroes of the past. The untimely and unlikely turn of events only further re-outlines the path Kennedy paved through his support of civil rights and the American dream- appreciate and embrace life.

  11. katyhowells

    Killing Kennedy: 10/10 stars.
    I really loved this book. The writing was done beautifully, for it was able to bring my attention to every single detail in the book. I do not believe I ever once skimmed over a paragraph. I agree with Tuesday about how densely packed the book is with facts, but I was able to read through them all and eventually understand why O’Reilly does this, as Tuesday stated above. Another reason why I was entranced with the writing of this book was the non opinionated style the authors wrote with. If O’Reilly and Dugard really liked Kennedy, the readers may not have seen the dark sides of the President. Or if O’Reilly and Dugard really disliked K’ennedy, the readers may not of seen the good qualities of JFK. The authors both do a good job of hiding their opinions and instead weaving both sides of the man into the story.
    After reading this book, I am left with overwhelming sense of insight into the American Dream. Sure, I had heard of this concept, but I had never really understood it. What is it really? Words cannot explain the Dream. But a family can. The Kennedy family represents this Dream. For the Dream is not only about freedom, comfort, and family, but also about struggle and heartbreak. The charismatic Kennedy family has stayed in the people’s hearts forever, but it is not only because of their success, but because of their struggle and heartbreak. The book, “Killing Kennedy” does a fine job of outlining this, and as I close the last page of the powerful book, I am left knowing that the American Dream was forever altered after Camelot died with President Kennedy.

  12. Killing Kennedy, 9/10 stars

    As Tuesday and Katy relayed, Killing Kennedy is very unique because of its highly elaborate writing style, and although many nonfiction stories revolve around facts rather than emotions, Killing Kennedy is more detailed than most. The intricate descriptions of the president’s daily routines in office may have been overwhelming at times, but in conjunction with the entirety of the novel, they were necessary. In order to preserve JFK’s formidable nature as a politician, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard had to provide the public with thorough detail on not only his life, but also his entire family’s. The Kennedy Dynasty had a large impact on the history of our country, and because of their sudden falling through the cracks after JFK’s assassination, it is important that others know of the Kennedys’ significance. The title of this novel, “Killing Kennedy”, can be misperceiving. This novel digs far deeper than an overview of JFK’s assassination. It displays the accomplishments of the Kennedy family leading up to JFK’s death so as to demonstrate their influence on American society at the time of their existence. The novel does not highlight death, but rather life in which American history is embellished by a powerful family that shows its ability to both charm the public and make changes as leaders for the benefit of the entire society. The Kennedy family made a clear imprint on the history of our nation, and I believe that this novel did an excellent job of conveying that.

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