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Top Down: The Kennedy Assassination

Updated on June 10, 2015
Top Down. A novel about the assassination of President John Kennedy.
Top Down. A novel about the assassination of President John Kennedy. | Source

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?

President and Mrs Kennedy in the motorcade
President and Mrs Kennedy in the motorcade | Source

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'.

The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence

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.

11/22/63: A Novel
11/22/63: A Novel

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

I'd love to hear what you think.

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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Matt Oaks - thanks for the recommendation. It sounds excellent!

    • profile image

      Matt Oaks 

      4 years ago

      I have been reading a great book on this by Larry Kaplan, is his site. HIs book called When The Past Came Calling. Avery compelling read on the events surrounding the assassination of Kennedy and things that I haven't really thought of before, a great read.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thanks for pinning, Merrci. It's a completely fascinating story.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Sounds like a fascinating book that is going right on my wish list. Can't even imagine the emotion and weight of responsibility of the agent's decision. Still if someone wants to get to another, seems there is always a way. Back then if would have been even easier. Pinning.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Susan300 - it's fascinating.Part of the reason is the very question you ask. It's a huge 'what-if' isn't it?

    • Susan300 profile image


      4 years ago

      I can see ow the bubble would likely have deflected the bullet, but might changing its angle have caused it to hit someone else? Perhaps Mrs. Kennedy...? Nancy also makes a good point, that the assassin(s) would simply have made the attempt at another time/place. This sounds like very interesting reading!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      That is a great question, Jackie. When I was a teen, 13 to be exact when Kennedy was assassinated. I was led to believe that he would have been protected if they had used the bubble top, I am seeing now that it was a rumor that people were told. Like many events in time, rumors spread around. Glad that this book was written, I will add it to my lens coming up about that day. Great review Jackie.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think it would not have saved the President. Plexiglass shatters, especially with a high powered bullet hitting it, but I can imagine how this agent felt. We, of course, blame ourselves if we're involved in something that results in such a tragedy. But the one thing we have to remember, is that we are not GOD, we cannot prevent some things from happening. If it had not happened there in the limo, it would possibly have happened somewhere else, and possibly more people would have been injured or killed. Excellent review! Using it in my FB page and blog!


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