The Kennedy Assassination Tapes by Max Holland

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 4 Critic Reviews



A major work of documentary history–the brilliantly edited and annotated transcripts, most of them never before published, of the presidential conversations of Lyndon B. Johnson regarding the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath.

The transition from John F. Kennedy to Johnson was arguably the most wrenching and, ultimately, one of the most bitter in the nation’s history. As Johnson himself said later, “I took the oath, I became president. But for millions of Americans I was still illegitimate, a naked man with no presidential covering, a pretender to the throne….The whole thing was almost unbearable.”

In this book, Max Holland, a leading authority on the assassination and longtime Washington journalist, presents the momentous telephone calls President Johnson made and received as he sought to stabilize the country and keep the government functioning in the wake of November 22, 1963. The transcripts begin on the day of the assassination, and reveal the often chaotic activity behind the scenes as a nation in shock struggled to come to terms with the momentous events. The transcripts illuminate Johnson’s relationship with Robert F. Kennedy, which flared instantly into animosity; the genuine warmth of his dealings with Jacqueline Kennedy; his contact with the FBI and CIA directors; and the advice he sought from friends and mentors as he wrestled with the painful transition.

We eavesdrop on all the conversations–including those with leading journalists–that persuaded Johnson to abandon his initial plan to let Texas authorities investigate the assassination. Instead, we observe how he abruptly established a federal commission headed by a very reluctant chief justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren. We also learn how Johnson cajoled and drafted other prominent men–among them Senator Richard Russell (who detested Warren), Allen Dulles, John McCloy, and Gerald Ford–into serving.

We see a sudden president under unimaginable pressure, contending with media frenzy and speculation on a worldwide scale. We witness the flow of inaccurate information–some of it from J. Edgar Hoover–amid rumors and theories about foreign involvement. And we glimpse Johnson addressing the mounting criticism of the Warren Commission after it released its still-controversial report in September 1964.

The conversations rendered here are nearly verbatim, and have never been explained so thoroughly. No passages have been deleted except when they veered from the subject. Brought together with Holland’s commentaries, they make riveting, hugely revelatory reading.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Max Holland

See more books from this Author
Max Holland has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for more than twenty years. In 2001, he won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for a forthcoming narrative history of the Warren Commission. He is a contributing editor at "The Nation "and "The Wilson Quarterly, "and his articles have also appeared in "The Atlantic, American Heritage, "the "Washington Post, "the "Los Angeles Times, "and the "Boston Globe. "From 1998 to 2003 he was a research fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs. His work has also been supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. This is is his third book. He lives with his wife and daughter in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Published September 14, 2004 by Knopf. 453 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

On the 40th anniversary of the Warren Commission Report, a documentary history uses LBJ's phone calls to reveal how the assassination of JFK cast a shadow over his successor's presidency.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

A month after the assassination, Johnson confessed to Pierre Salinger his continuing political need of anyone ''that's ever smelled the Kennedys.'' Still tainted by a sense of illegitimacy, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, as late as March 1966: ''I have no objections to Bobby b...

Oct 31 2004 | Read Full Review of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Holland, a contributing editor to the Nation, provides an overly exhaustive compendium of LBJ's White House conversations in the immediate aftermath of JFK's murder, the rationale and mechanics of forming the Warren Commission, and virtually every presidential conversation (however trivial) touc...

| Read Full Review of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

Bookmarks Magazine

In The Kennedy Assassination Tapes, Holland uses transcripts of telephone conversations to reveal how Johnson handled his heavy inheritance—and tries to make the record clear, once and for all.

Oct 10 2007 | Read Full Review of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

Reader Rating for The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

An aggregated and normalized score based on 14 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review