Stephen King once said, “People want to know why… I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.”
Actually, it was Robert Bloch who said it, although the line is often attributed to King. And because King is such an imaginative fellow, it is easy to believe that it was he who said it. Nevertheless, Stephen King is quite a clever writer. And so you may wonder what the King of Horror made of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subject of his book “11.22.1963.” A miniseries of the same name is to air on Hulu, the streaming service. It premiered on President’s Day.
You might be disappointed. Imaginative as he is, King apparently could not imagine the truth behind the Kennedy assassination, which is as screamingly scary, as hair-raising, as bone-chilling, as heart-stopping, as it gets.
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King believes what few Americans, and almost no real experts believe, namely that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy, end of story. Trotting out the same old Warren Commission narrative should have made for a disappointing tale.
But King, doing what he does so well, has come up with an imaginative scenario: what if there were a time machine, and someone could go back and stop Kennedy from being killed? It’s a fascinating premise.
Of course, it would have been even more fascinating — and much more frightening — if “11.22.1963” dealt with the tremendous forces actually arrayed against Kennedy, and if it revealed the way that Kennedy’s murder liberated those forces — the corporations, the super-rich, the war-making industries, the unaccountable security apparatus. Monsters that have essentially dominated this country ever since.
As a student of the JFK assassination — five chapters on it in Family of Secrets, my history of the Bush dynasty and their remarkable connections to events like Watergate and the death of Kennedy, and a new book purely on JFK in the works — I was at first dismayed to find out the premise of King’s book. Another helping, I thought, of the long-discredited official slop tossed into the media/public feeding trough.