A slew of books is showing up in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination on Nov. 2, 1963. Among them is “Where Were You?” compiled and edited by veteran journalist Gus Russo and film director Harry Moses, with a foreword by newsman Tom Brokaw (Lyons, $29.95, 416 pages; on sale Nov. 5).
In it, dozens of people offer their recollections of the fateful day, and ruminate on the big-picture meaning and consequences. Included are politicians (Jimmy Carter, John Glenn, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden) and entertainers (Judy Collins, Jay Leno, Jane Fonda) and others. The book is the companion to NBC’s special two-hour documentary of the same name, set to air Nov. 22.
Two other Kennedy titles caught our eye. “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House” by presidential historian Robert Dallek is an inside look at the Kennedy “brain trust” of advisers, who were infamous for their bickering (Harper, $32.50, 512 pages).
“Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis revisits the power structure of 1960s Dallas. The authors call the “ruling class” of politicians, business leaders and community activists “obsessed men who concocted a climate of hatred” that could well have had a direct connection to the tragic events in their city (Twelve, $28, 384 pages).
Water and politics
Boom describes itself as “a journal of California (that) aims to create lively conversation about the vital social, cultural and political issues of our time.”
In the current fall issue are many thought-provoking articles on the Los Angeles aqueduct and its 100th anniversary, along with a piece that separates truth from fiction in the Roman Polanski-directed movie “Chinatown,” and excerpts from a summer journal written at a small cabin in the Sierra. Boom is published by the University of California Press and can be purchased at www.boomcalifornia.com – $10 for single issues, $37 for a yearly subscription of four issues.
Titles on the list
The National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award form a powerful literary triumvirate that can make a writer’s career and validate his/her works.
Now comes the announcement of the NBA foundation’s “long list” of 40 titles in four categories by a group of international finalists, to be followed by the “short list” on Wednesday and the awards ceremony Nov. 20 in New York City.
As a sampler, here’s the long list for fiction; the complete lists for the other three categories (nonfiction, young people’s literature, poetry) is at www.nationalbook.org.
• “Pacific” by Tom Drury
• “The End of the Point” by Elizabeth Graver
• “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner
• “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri
• “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra
• “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride
• “Someone” by Alice McDermott
• “Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon
• “Tenth of December” by George Saunders
• “Fools” by Joan Silber
New on the shelves
Few things are as personal and individualistic as reading tastes, as evidenced by these disparate titles:
“Louis L’Amour’s Law of the Desert Born,” adapted from the L’Amour short story by Charles Santino, illustrated by Thomas Yeates (Bantam, $25, 160 pages): This is the first graphic novel to come from L’Amour’s 89 novels and 14 short-story collections of what he termed “frontier stories” of the Old West.
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” by Henry Farrell (Grand Central, $15, 304 pages): This special reissue is by an author who published the gothic horror novel/psychological thriller in 1960 as a way to raise money to pay his wife’s medical bills. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford starred in the 1962 film version of two sisters psychologically conjoined by regret, fear and hatred.
“The Mountain of Light” by Indu Sundaresan (Washington Square, $16, 352 pages): The star of this fascinating slice of history is the 105-carat Kohinoor diamond, which Sundaresan follows as it changed hands during the 19th century to the present. Murder, betrayal and lust attended the precious gem over the decades.
“Backlash” by Lynda La Plante (Bourbon Street, $14.99, 496 pages): In the eighth entry in the Anna Travis series, the London chief inspector takes on a “stalled case” involving a man who may or may not be a serial murderer. La Plante wrote the “Prime Suspect” novels that were adapted for PBS and starred Helen Mirren.
“Norman Mailer: A Double Life” by J. Michael Lennon (Simon & Schuster, $40, 960 pages): This could be the definitive biography of the novelist-journalist-provocateur. Helping in that endeavor is the publisher’s note that Lennon “knew Mailer for 35 years, and in writing (the book) had the cooperation of Mailer’s late widow, his ex-wives, all his children (and) his sister, (as well as) access to Mailer’s unpublished correspondence.”
Stretching out the story
The online site www.mentalfloss specializes in “random, interesting and amazing facts,” such as this entry. Noticing that 36 years had passed between the publication of Stephen King’s “The Shining” and the new sequel, “Doctor Sleep,” the editors compiled “other books that made fans wait decades to find out what happened next.”
• “Psycho” and “Psycho 2” by Robert Bloch – 23 years between books
• “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri and “Heidi Grows Up” by her translator, Charles Tritten – 37 years
• “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and “Dracula the Un-Dead” by his great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker – 95 years
• “Peter and Wendy” by J.M. Barrie and “Peter Pan in Scarlet” by Geraldine McCaughrean – 77 years
• “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Son of Rosemary” by Ira Levin – 30 years
• “The Witches of Eastwick” and “The Widows of Eastwick” by John Updike – 24 years
• “Catch-22” and “Closing Time” by Joseph Heller – 33 years
• “Dandelion Wine” and “Farewell Summer” by Ray Bradbury – 49 years
Editor's note: This story was changed Oct. 16 to correct who wrote the foreword for "Where Were You?"