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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Top Down by Jim Lehrer

Top Down by Jim Lehrer The premise for Top Down is a "what-if" question. What if the bubble top on the car in which JFK was riding in the Dallas motorcade in which he was assassinated had not been removed by a Secret Service Agent? The Secret Service had ordered the top removed because the earlier inclement weather had passed, and JFK preferred as many people as possible could view him without the visual obstruction of the bubble top. Had the top been left in place, would JFK's life been spared by the plexiglass bubble serving to stop the bullets Oswald shot from the book depository OR would the bullets have penetrated the top, possibly killing everyone inside the car?

Jack Gilmore, a reporter for the Dallas Tribune is approached by Mardi Walters, daughter of Secret Service Officer, Van Walters, to help her in performing an experiment replicating the shooting. It's 5 years after JFK was murdered, and Agent Van Walters holds himself personally responsible for the successful assassination attempt. He believes if the top had remained in place, JFK would have survived because he would have been shielded from the bullets. Reporter Jack Gilmore was at the site when the decision was made by Van Walters to remove the plexiglass, and he remembers the aftermath when questions were asked about who ordered the top to be removed. Now, these 5 years later, Van Walters has become unable to function either at work or in his personal life because of his crushing guilt over Kennedy's death. Daughter Mardi believes that because Gilmore was present that day he is best suited to help her recreate the situation. Against his better judgment, Gilmore agrees to help on an "off the record" agreement meaning he will be unable to use any information he gets from the Walters family in writing an article for his newspaper about this experiment, or even more important to Gilmore, writing an entire book about the experience.

This forms the basis for, what was for me, a very disappointing book. I'd not read any of Jim Lehrer's books before, but I was certainly aware of his presence as a PBS news personality. So it was particularly shocking to me to see the very amateurish writing skills exhibited in the ARC I read. Not only was the writing poor and often very awkward during conversations between the characters, but for someone who has published as many books as Mr Lehrer has, the story itself was poorly done. For me, it never became even remotely relevant. Never mind the time frame of the book, we are now nearly at the 50 year anniversary of Kennedy's death. Is anyone still debating questions about the judgment in removing the bubble top. Seriously?? Wouldn't that question been asked and answered about a bazillion times in all the conspiracy debates? Wouldn't someone have been able to replicate the event in their own backyard and shared conclusions with the public at large years and years ago?

I can't recommend this book to anyone. I learned nothing new about the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Lyndon Johnson, or any of the other main participants in the event. Since there are scant details included about the crime that shattered the USA, I can't recommend the book based on historical significance either. As a result I'm giving this book a 2 Star Review.

I was given an ARC for this book from Net Galley in return for which I agreed to do an honest review.

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