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Book bits

Three books about dads, an interview with Vincent Bugliosi, big books for the fall, and what readers are reading.

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More than three decades ago, Vincent Bugliosi wrote "Helter Skelter," reputed to be the best-selling true-crime book of all time, about the 1969 Manson family murders. Now, he's tackled an even bigger case inReclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. In more than 1,600 pages (plus hundreds more in an accompanying CD-ROM), the former prosecutor vividly debunks a universe of conspiracy theories. In an interview, Bugliosi talked about the most infamous murder of all time.

What are your main arguments?

I believe beyond all doubt that [Lee Harvey] Oswald killed Kennedy, and I believe beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no conspiracy. I set forward the 53 separate reasons why Oswald is guilty. You cannot be innocent in the real world and have 53 pieces of evidence against you.

Why do you think JFK conspiracy theories have such resonance in American society?

There are many reasons for it, and one is JFK himself. Here was a greatly beloved man, and [the theories] are possibly a way of holding on to this guy who was very special. Another reason: a belief that powerful forces had killed the president gives more meaning to his life and death than the notion than some lone nut with a crazy deranged mind did it.

What motivates the conspiracy theorists?

The vast majority of conspiracy theorists are patriotic, and I think they're sincere. They feel that dark forces are responsible for killing the president, and they want to shed some illumination and bring the killers to justice. [But some] just flat out deliberately distort the official record. There's no question about it.

Are there many people who haven't made up their minds about what happened?

I'm going to convince at least those who are not allergic to the truth and only believe conspiracy theories because they saw the Oliver Stone movie or read a book. The ones on the jagged margins of the community, I'm not going to be able to convince them.

You tell a joke about conspiracy theorists who go to Heaven and hear from God that Oswald acted alone and there was no conspiracy.


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