Guest Post by Susan Sloate on Writing about the Kennedy Assassination

forward to camelot by susan sloateToday’s guest post is from Susan Sloate, one of the authors of today’s featured review book, Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition. Her topic is the continued fascination with the Kennedy Assassination, an event that took place over 50 years ago.

Like the author, I was also in the first grade when JFK was assassinated. Unlike most children my age, I was home that week, sick with tonsillitis, so I don’t have that clear-cut memory of a school announcement. But the world still changed that day.

And without that one shattering moment, other equally heart-breaking events probably might not have taken place; the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Many authors have gone back and imagined the different course that history would have taken if JFK had lived, because those moments in Dallas feel like a turning point that overshadows history.

Why Write about the Kennedy Assassination?
By Susan Sloate

     Why write about an event that took six seconds to occur, and that is, in the words of one reviewer, ‘probably the most written-about crime in history’? Why add yet another book to the cartloads of books appearing on the 50th anniversary? Why, in other words, bring it up yet again? What does it matter?

You don’t realize, especially when you’re very young, when an event cuts straight through  your heart. I realized on 9/11 that something enormous and heart-breaking was occurring—and as I wept I knew I would remember it always, and forever after, it would hurt. But I was at that point in my 40’s and a mother of two small children. The impact—on them and me—was so clear. And I’d been through national tragedies before.

I didn’t realize the impact when I heard the announcement in my first-grade classroom, though I never forgot it. I don’t remember having much reaction at all. Two years before, when my nursery-school bus driver drove us home, he entertained us with the story of Lincoln’s assassination. God knows why you’d tell this to four-year-olds, but I was very interested and filed it away in my mind. (And grew up to write a book about Lincoln—everything is potential fodder!)

So when the news came from our principal, Mr. Kahan, that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas that afternoon, I don’t remember any of my classmates reacting as their older brothers and sisters did—with shock and grief and anger. We were children. We didn’t realize what it all meant. (And in my case, having heard about Lincoln so recently, I just figured that was how presidents got out of office.) I remember my twenty-something teacher announcing at once that we were going to lay aside our work and instead, each write a letter to Mrs. Kennedy, telling her how sorry we were for her family. It was what you did in 1963. Mrs. Kennedy, apparently, received millions of these notes from all over the world, in a massive outpouring of grief.

jfk in rotunda aerial viewI do remember looking at my parents’ copies of Life and Look magazines. I remember in particular the aerial photo of the President’s casket, draped with the flag, as it lay in state at the Capitol. Its imprint sank deep into my memory. The photo strip of the Zapruder film reproduced in Life—I saw that too, and it touched something deep inside me.

Several years later—I was twelve or so—I would come home from school to find my mother baking bread. The clearest image of that is the log-shaped loaf she would set on the counter to rise, covering it with a clean kitchen towel—thin colored stripes on a white background. Every time I saw it, it reminded me again of that flag-draped casket.

I grew up and read a few books about the assassination and found them interesting. But I didn’t realize how much the event had clutched me to its heart until 1992, when I saw Oliver Stone’s brilliant film JFK.

     I took a long meditative walk and asked myself, with all the people who knew it was going to happen, why didn’t the right people find out in time to stop it? And I began to imagine what I would do if suddenly, I could travel miraculously back to that vanished world and interfere with the history that was.

With writers, it’s just a step from daydreaming to planning—and before I knew it, I was sitting down to type some pages. None of them remain in the finished novel, which became Forward to Camelot. It would be years before I’d pull in my friend Kevin Finn as my co-author, and more years before we’d even figure out a way through the maze of information. But I knew that what I was going to do was fix what went wrong in November 1963. I was going to make things turn out differently for the President and the country.

The urge to ‘fix it’, to make the bad things go away, is a motivation for many writers, I think. It’s certainly mine: to take something bad and using the alchemy of structure, plot and character, turn it into something beautiful.

So why write again about the most written-about crime in history? Because this time, through a brave heroine and against impossible odds, Kevin and I unraveled the threads of history and set them right. And when I hear from readers, “How I wish this was true”, I know that our mission succeeded, in their dreams and in ours.

SUSAN SLOATE is the author of 20 previous books, including the recent bestseller Stealing Fire and Realizing You (with Ron Doades), for which she invented a new genre: the self-help novel. The original 2003 edition of Forward to Camelot became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in three literary competitions and was optioned by a Hollywood company for film production.
Susan has also written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, including the children’s biography Ray Charles: Find Another Way!, which won the silver medal in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Awards. Mysteries Unwrapped: The Secrets of Alcatraz led to her 2009 appearance on the TV series MysteryQuest on The History Channel. Amelia Earhart: Challenging the Skies is a perennial young-adult Amazon bestseller. She has also been a sportswriter and a screenwriter, managed two recent political campaigns and founded an author’s festival in her hometown outside Charleston, SC.

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Review: Forward to Camelot 50th Anniversary Edition by Susan Sloate and Kevin Finn

forward to camelot by susan sloateFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: time travel, alternate history
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Drake Valley Press
Date Released: August 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SAVED? On the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination comes a new edition of the extraordinary time-travel thriller first published in 2003 with a new Afterword from the authors. On November 22, 1963, just hours after President Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President aboard Air Force One using JFK’s own Bible. Immediately afterward, the Bible disappeared. It has never been recovered. Today, its value would be beyond price. In the year 2000, actress Cady Cuyler is recruited to return to 1963 for this Bible-while also discovering why her father disappeared in the same city, on the same tragic day. Finding frightening links between them will lead Cady to a far more perilous mission: to somehow prevent the President’s murder, with one unlikely ally: an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald. Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition brings together an unlikely trio: a gallant president, the young patriot who risks his own life to save him, and the woman who knows their future, who is desperate to save them both. History CAN be altered …

My Review:

One of the historic events that alternate history writers LOVE to play with is the Kennedy Assassination. What if John F. Kennedy had not been killed on November 22, 1963? What if that brief period of bright hope was not extinguished so tragically? Would the U.S., would the world, be a brighter place now? Or does the tragedy make JFK seem nobler than he was, or would have been?

Forward to Camelot is the story of one attempt to change that history, but rather than attempt to focus on the broad sweep of the last 50 years, the authors have chosen to view the change through the lens of one person’s life. There is also more than a bit of science fiction “hand-wavium” regarding the method of time travel.

And it doesn’t matter. It’s the story of that brief period in November 1963 that compels. Using the point of view of a woman from the year 2000 makes it just that much easier for us to be swept along by the events.

The story pulls us along because we get set up right along with the main character. Cady Cuyler is sent back to 1963 to retrieve a priceless artifact, not to change history–or so she thinks. As an actress, she feels that she is being prepped to play a role, the part of a 20-something woman in Dallas in 1963. The world she is stepping into is both familiar and different.

While her employers want her to retrieve the Bible used to swear in President Johnson, Cady is willing to do this crazy thing in the hopes of saving her father. He also disappeared on November 22, 1963. Her mother has never recovered.

By inserting Cady into the past a few days before the assassination, we get immersed with her. She meets her father, and discovers that he’s not quite the loving, caring husband her mother portrayed. But while he’s hitting on her, he offers her a job as a temporary switchboard operator at his import/export business.

The more Cady sees, the more she realizes that things are not the way she was told they were. Not just because her father is no knight in shining armor, but because there is something terrible going on and he is in it up to his neck.

Her father has damned himself in a way that Cady can’t forgive. He is part of the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. The only person who might be able to help her save the President is the person she least expects to be on her side, Lee Harvey Oswald.

But then, nothing in 1963 is what she thought it would be. Her father is trying to kill the President and Oswald is helping to save him. Cady might never get back to her own time, but if she can save JFK, it doesn’t matter.

Escape Rating B+: This is one of those stories that absolutely shouldn’t work, but it definitely does. I kept carrying it around, wanting to get just a few more pages read.

This book is a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Not just that Oswald was set up by the CIA and FBI, but that there was a separate conspiracy planning to assassinate Kennedy in order to send troops back to Cuba to fight Castro. It sounds wild now, but it makes sense in the historical context. Even more fascinating, the type of coverup outlined in the book has a basis in evidence released in the 1980s and 1990s due to Freedom of Information Act requests. While the coverup may not have been quite as dramatic as written, that one occurred is pretty easy to believe, especially post-Watergate.

But it’s Cady’s story that kept this reader glued to the story. The way that she takes the information that she finds and keeps running with it, despite the odds and the insane things that keep happening. Would someone try to save JFK? Yes, quite probably. But the story, her story, is all in how she does it. She starts out not having a lot of confidence, thinking that real life happens to other people. Going back to the past she grows up, she finds her courage, she saves the President because she saves herself first. The cool thing is that she does it twice.

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-24-13

Sunday Post

It’s very timey-wimey that the 50th anniversaries of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Doctor Who share a weekend. They did in 1963, too. In 1963, JFK was killed on Friday, November 22, and Doctor Who premiered on Saturday, November 23. In 1963, there was considerably more attention paid to the assassination of a U.S. President.

In 2013, I’m not so sure.

200px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_color_photo_portraitIn 1963, I was 6 years old. Unlike many of my peers, I was not in school that day. I was home with tonsillitis. (I got my tonsils out just before Christmas that year). My memory of that entire weekend is of being home, sick, and that there was nothing else on television except the repeating coverage of the assassination and the funeral. I was bored and I had no one to play with. Not my finest moment, but six-year-olds are fairly selfish.

This time around it’s amazing how easy it is to ignore the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination if you only want to see the coverage of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. Which I haven’t seen yet, we have tickets to see it tomorrow night in a theater, but some of the reviews worry me.

Time marches on in its timey-wimey way.

Current Giveaways:

Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft — $25 Amazon Gift Card
Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce — $50 Amazon Gift Card
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway
Gratitude Giveaways Hop – $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Winner Announcement:

The winner of The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane is Jo J.

seductive powers by rebecca royceBlog Recap:

A- Review: Tangled Web by Crista McHugh
B Review: Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams
D/B- Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen (f/k/a Michelle Maddox)
B+ Review: Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft + Giveaway
B+ Review: Highland Protector by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
A- Review: Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce + Giveaway


Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie GriffinComing Next Week:

Buying In by Laura Hemphill (review + giveaway)
In Love With a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle (review + giveaway)
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodi Griffin (review)
Poisoned Web by Crista McHugh (review + giveaway)