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Most Popular JFK Books


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I think it would be interesting to compile a list of the hardback and paperback sales of the most popular books on the assassination. Obviously limited to the most popular since I know there are thousands. Anyone know an easy way to compile this information?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, the publishers must have this information.

I wonder how many Posner books were sold?

Perhaps Larry can tell us how many copies of his fine book have been sold.

I think it would be interesting to determine which asssassination books are most popular.

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Well, the publishers must have this information.

I wonder how many Posner books were sold?

Perhaps Larry can tell us how many copies of his fine book have been sold.

I think it would be interesting to determine which asssassination books are most popular.

I agree. Well, we can start with acknowledging which ones were best-sellers. I believe the Warren Report, Rush To Judgment, Marina and Lee, Best Evidence, High Treason, and Case Closed all made the best-sellers list, but I could be wrong. Who Killed Kennedy? was a best-seller overseas, I believe. The sales on many of the other early books i.e. Whitewash, Inquest, Accessories, Six Seconds, Portrait, etc.. were reported to be disappointing. Outside of maybe On the Trail of the Assassins, which was fueled by the film JFK, I'm pretty sure nothing has sold respectably for years. The Bugliosi book will of course be released to unaminous acclaim and go on to sell a ton to those wearing blinders, while many of the rest of us vomit.

As a coffee-table book, Groden's The Killing of a President did very well. He told me he still lost money on the effort, however, due to his having agreed to pocket much of the expense.

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Pat, interesting post.

It would appear from this that although the percentage of people who believe a conspiracy killed Kennedy is quite high, few are interested enough to purchase a book to read about it. This could be a function of changing demographics: i.e. the decreasing percentage of living Americans old enough to have been alive at the time of the assassination.

It is also interesting that Posner's book was a best-seller. Is there any objective evidence, e.g. a poll, that that book changed any one's opinion re the assassination? Arguably, enough LN theorists could have purchased it to make it a best-seller. What other book was there to support their theory (only one other recent one as I recall)?

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The early books about a possible conspiracy were published in Europe. Operation Mockingbird did not function effectively in Europe in the early 1960s. In the same way that it took an Australian publisher to break the story that MI5 had been involved in a failed plot to bring down Harold Wilson’s government (Peter Wright’s Spycatcher).

I remember reading that Rush to Judgement sold 30,000 copies soon after it was published. Even Operation Mockingbird could not initially stop the desire for capitalism to exploit this situation and it was quickly followed by other books on the case. However, I don’t believe these books had the same sort of sales achieved by Mark Lane.

There was also an explosion of books on the assassination following Frank Church’s investigation into CIA’s covert activities (including Operation Mockingbird) in the 1970s.

The release of JFK also resulted in a lot more books being sold. In the UK the best seller has been Anthony Summers’ book, The Kennedy Conspiracy. Originally published in 1980 it was revised and reprinted in 1989. Further reprints took place in 1990 (3 times), 1991, 1992, 1993 (twice), 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002.

Worldwide I would have thought Jim Marrs’s book, Crossfire, was the largest seller.

As far as the academic community is concerned, Peter Dale Scott’s Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, is the book on the subject that is held in the highest regard.

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I did think it unusual that Summers' book and Marrs' books were not mentioned on Pat's list. One would think sales of "Crossfire" would have increased after it was cited in the "JFK" movie. If I recall correctly, Stone paid $300,000 for the rights to "Crossfire".

I must mention Russo's "Live By the Sword". No idea about its sales but it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I too like "Deep Politics" by Scott.

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I did think it unusual that Summers' book and Marrs' books were not mentioned on Pat's list.  One would think sales of "Crossfire" would have increased after it was cited in the "JFK" movie.  If I recall correctly, Stone paid $300,000 for the rights to "Crossfire".

I must mention Russo's "Live By the Sword".  No idea about its sales but it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  I too like "Deep Politics" by Scott.

The three versions of Summers' Conspiracy combined would also probably make the list of Jfk best sellers, as would Crossfire. The problem, I believe is attention span. The writers that are way into this stuff, such as Harold Weisberg, end up way above the heads of the mass audience, who like to be titilated. It's significant that the two best sellers that advocated fairly widespread theories--High Treason and Best Evidence, had lots of pictures.

Russo's book was well-done, but seething with an anti-RFK bias. I can't help but believe that his hatred of RFK infected his brain, and led him to believe that Castro did it, so that he could blame Bobby for his brother's death.

This idea that the evil Bobby pushed the good-natured CIA into doing unspeakable acts is the biggest bunch of horsepoop around. I've read much of the Church Committee testimony. The CIA was up to all kinds of shenanigans and didn't feel the need to tell McCone what they were doing. That men like Helms and Harvey would protect Bobby's memory in any way is positively laughable.

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Pat, any idea why Russo hates RFK?

Also, as most people know, his book does not really state that "Castro Did It."

A weakness of the book, IMO, is that he argues that LHO was the lone gunman, but he suggests LHO may have been encouraged by or even assisted by Castro forces.

RFK was certainly friendly with many of the anti-Castro Cuban exiles e.g. Artime and Williams.

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If you haven't read "Without Smoking Gun" by Kent Heiner you have missed a well research book relating to the truth of what happened to LCDR William Bruce Pitzer, the man who I feel strongly was killed for the photos he had of the real JFK autopsy. I was asked to do that very thing.

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Pat, any idea why Russo hates RFK?

Also, as most people know, his book does not really state that "Castro Did It."

A weakness of the book, IMO, is that he argues that LHO was the lone gunman, but he suggests LHO may have been encouraged by or even assisted by Castro forces.

RFK was certainly friendly with many of the anti-Castro Cuban exiles e.g. Artime and Williams.

I believe Russo admits to working with Seymour Hersh on The Dark Side of Camelot, and having that experience change some of his opinions. I believe Russo, as with a lot of former liberals, developed a hatred of what he interpreted as Kennedy hypocrisy. I know some who developed a similar hatred for Bill Clinton. These people get so angry when they discover that their heroes are flawed that they end up choosing obvious crooks like Nixon or Bush over possible crooks like Humphrey or Gore. They just don't trust the nice-guys.

That's just my opinion. Maybe Gus can stop by and tell me I'm full of it.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Tim, you will find a handy overview by Jerry Organ of the major books on the case at this link:

http://www.geocities.com/jfkword/

I would add a few comments to Organ's list:

1) Revolution: 1963-1969

In the early period 1963-1969 Organ omits The Oswald Affair by Leo Sauvage. Sauvage was the U.S. correspondent for Le Figaro and very respected in European circles, but being a frenchman he got no respect in the U.S. In that respect the times they ain't a-changin'.

Sauvage conducted his own investigation in Dallas and his book was contracted to Random House, but they cancelled the deal when they discovered that the book argued that Lee Oswald had no more involvement in either the Tippit or JFK killings than Dreyfus had in selling military secrets to the Germans. The French edition (L'Affaire Oswald) was published in Paris in the Spring of 1965 and favorably reviewed by major newspapers and magazines in France and Switzerland.

Harold Weisberg completed Whitewash around the same time, but could not find a publisher, thus L'Affaire Oswald will forever have the distinction of being the first book ever published to analyze the Warren Report and the 26 volumes, and so Paris trumps New York as the capital of free speech.

"Quite a few New York publishers" (Sauvage doesn't specify how many) also rejected the book, but eventually a Cleveland Ohio company that specialized in The Bible brought out the English language version. (Operation Mockingbird did not extend to Cleveland?) Reviewers either ignored the book or -- as in the case of the New York Times -- completely mirepresented its contents, and I believe it never got past a first printing. Many U.S. libraries have copies or you might be able to obtain a copy from Andy at Last Hurrah books, or from a dealer in Paris.

Incidentally, Sauvage wrote the introduction to the first edition of Accessories After The Fact by Sylvia Meagher (I own a mint condition copy signed by Sylvia herself, if anyone is a millionaire and wants to buy it). He also became embroiled in controversy with Thomas Buchanan, whose book Who Killed Kennedy? was written before the Warren Report. Sauvage also made no secret of his disapproval of Mark Lane, but of course Lane sold over a million copies of Rush to Judgement vs a few thousand copies of The Oswald Affair.

Sauvage took part in a few discussions on radio, but I believe he dropped the subject of the assassination in complete frustration, and concentrated on writing about theatre and popular entertainment.

Does anyone have any info about a U.K. edition of Sauvage's book?

2) Revelation: 1970-1978

In this period I THINK that Anson's book made the paperback bestseller list

3) Reformation: 1979-1991

In this period both Plausible Denial and The Texas Connection spent significant time on the New York Times bestseller lists, much longer than Posner's book managed to do even with millions of dollars worth of free publicity from the major networks..

Organ omits Mafia Kingfish by John Davis, which made the New York Times bestseller list in 1989. Although Davis is a talented wordsmith, his analysis of the JFK case isn't worth tuppence of my money. He doesn't like Italians, hence his desire to blame the mafia, and he doesn't like the Kennedys. I spent some time with Davis at the 1991 Third Decade conference at SUNY Fredonia. He is a cousin of Jackie O, but he confessed that he and she were never "kissing cousins." which I understood to mean that she had no use for him. The poor man was never invited to the Camelot White House.

4) Enlightenment: 1992-present

I don't blame Organ for omitting Double Cross, by Sam & Chuck Giancana, although it was a major New York Times bestseller. This book is a novel masquerading as non-fiction and was dreamed up by a clever New York literary agent.

Also in this period Harry Livingstone's High Treason 2 and Killing The Truth both made the NYT bestseller lists.

Your's Truly comes in for a shellacking in Killing The Truth pages 492-496. For the record, on page 496 Livingstone garbles up a letter I wrote him in which I argued that if HL Hunt wanted to prevent repeal of the oil depletion allowance, all he had to do was bribe a few key senators and congressmen. The oil depletion allowance did not constitute a sensible motive for murder to a man with Hunt's money.

Livingstone was commenting on my review of the Texas Connection which appeared in the Third Decade. My assessment was that Zirbel got one thing right: Lyndon Johnson had a motive to murder the president, just as every Vice President does by virtue of a provision of the Constitution that should have been amended following Lincoln's assassination.

I predict that the next period will be captioned: "2003 - 2010: The Truth Emerges"

Ray

"Do not block the way of inquiry" C.S. Peirce

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Incidentally, Sauvage wrote the introduction to the first edition of Accessories After The Fact by Sylvia Meagher (I own a mint condition copy signed by Sylvia herself, if anyone is a millionaire and wants to buy it). He also became embroiled in controversy with Thomas Buchanan, whose book Who Killed Kennedy? was written before the Warren Report.  Sauvage also made no secret of his disapproval of Mark Lane, but of course Lane sold over a million copies of Rush to Judgement vs a few thousand copies of The Oswald Affair. 

See the following for a discussion on Thomas Buchanan:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=2846

According to Thomas Buchanan the attack on him was by Leo's brother:

http://karws.gso.uri.edu/JFK/The_critics/B...f_a_theory.html

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In his letter to the New Leader Buchanan claimed that Leo Sauvage was not the author of the anti-Buchanan article in a previous edition of that same journal. However a review of Chapter 18 of the Oswald Affair (Cleveland 1966), which deals with Buchanan, shows so many similarities of style and content to Sauvage's New Leader article that I personally have no doubt that Buchanan was mistaken (wishful thinking on his part,perhaps?).

Ray

"Do not block the way of inquiry" C.S. Peirce

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Dear Mr. Carroll:

Thanks, very helpful posts. Interesting comparing time on the New York Times bestseller lists for "The Texas Connection" versus "Case Closed". Also interesting comments about Mr. Davis. He is a good writer.

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