Top Down: The Kennedy Assassination
Could the bubble top have saved Kennedy?
The remarkable novel concerns a little-known fact about the Kennedy assassination - one that is completely true and was witnessed by the author himself.
Indeed, it describes an event in which he took part and which could have changed the course of the world. Literally. Quite a thought
The bubble top on the presidential limo
Although this is novelised version of events, it is true that on the morning of November 22, 1963, one man made the decision that the car in which Kennedy rode and died should not have its protective bubble top - a thick plexiglass covering - attached during the motorcade.
Would Kennedy have died?
This cover was not bullet-proof. However, it existed to offer protection to the president during bad weather.
- But, the book asks, would it have prevented the assassination?
- Would light have been reflected from it that would have altered Oswald's aim?
- Would bullets have been deflected by the cover?
The Secret Service
There is,of course, another option. Could the plexiglass have been shattered into hundreds of tiny shards? In that case, those pieces could have killed, maimed or injured the other occupants of the limousine - or even bystanders.
Who decided that the bubble top should not be used? A Secret Service man.
Fact or fiction?
What I have written above is true, although the matter wasn't raised in the subsequent investigation. But this is where the author, Jim Lehrer, takes over. What, he asks, would the effect of his decision have on the man who made it? It's true that the men whose role was to protect Kennedy largely thought they had failed.
In this novel, the agent who made the decision - that Kennedy would not have the (debatable) protection of the bubble top - is completely overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, so much so that this affects his overall health to the extent that his family fear he will die.
In an attempt to save her father, the daughter of the agent (several years later) enlists the aid of the newspaperman who had been there on the day; the man who asked whether the president would be using the cover. They decide to reconstruct the event.
- Would the plexiglass shatter?
- Would it have protected the president?
- And how would the results affect the guilt-ridden agent?
I strongly recommend this fabulous book. Try it, you won't be sorry
The fascination of the Kennedy assassination
I believe that we don't know all the facts about what happened that day in November 1963.
Of course, there have been hundreds of theories,if not more. The famous Zapruder film has been analysed over and over again. Photographs and witness accounts have been pored over.
But nevertheless, the general public still feels that the truth is yet to be revealed.
Is this book a part of the puzzle?
There were many circumstances that came together on that day. There are obviously going to be 'what-ifs'. In fact, as far as the bubble top is concerned, it is Kennedy himself who is responsible plus the weather.
Kennedy disliked the protective cover - he believed that it made him seem too remote to the crowds who turned out to see him. He insisted that it should only be used in bad weather.
It had been raining that morning and therefore, the bubble top had been fitted to the presidential car. However, by the time the president arrived at Love Field the weather was clearing.
The agent, who in reality was named Forrest Sorrels, was asked by the author if the president would be using the top during the motorcade. The agent had an open phone line to downtown Dallas and asked about the weather there. It was clear. He ordered the top to be removed.
Have you read these?
See two more fascinating books about the 'day that changed America'.
This is an excellent companion piece to the Lehrer novel. This is factual though.
It's written by one of the Secret Service men who had the task of protecting Kennedy.Although the bubble top isn't referenced directly, it mentions Sorrel several times and is a fascinating look behind the scenes.
The Lehrer novel is short and perfect for reading on a short plane trip or train journey. This marathon by King is very different.
However, this is also a 'what if' book about the assassination but very different to Top Down.However, this book is enormously entertaining to read as well as educational, helping us today understand more about the events in the middle of the last century.
Meet the author
In this video, Jim Lehrer talks about the book and his own personal involvement back in 1963. He describes how many of the people who were part of various decisions have suffered in the same way as his fictional agent.
© 2014 Jackie Jackson