John f. kennedy

Vivid, gripping and surreal: a new slice of Ellroy madness

Los Angeles, August 1962. PI and extortionist Freddie Otash is snooping on Marilyn Monroe for labour leader and racketeer Jimmy Hoffa, who’s paying good money for dirt on Jack and Bobby Kennedy. Is Jack really schtupping Miss Monroe? Who cares? Make it so. But the operation is rumbled and then Monroe dies of an overdose (or does she?) and Otash finds himself pushed from pillar to post by greasepole Pete (Pitchess, 28th Sheriff of LA County) and ratfink Bobby (US attorney general Robert Kennedy), for they too have a stake in filthing-up the film star’s name. Maybe, through it all, Otash can find who and what really got her killed

The sexploits of Mariella Novotny

Orgies! Gangsters! Drugs! Spies! Scandals! This biography promises much but I’m not sure it actually delivers, or not in any credible way. Searching for facts in the foetid gloop of Pizzichini’s prose feels like bog-snorkelling. The subject, Mariella Novotny, was a ‘party girl’, or prostitute, who turns up like Zelig in many 1960s scandals. She claimed to have had sex with John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby when she was only 20, and she was on the scene when Christine Keeler was having her affairs with Profumo and the Russian spy Ivanov. She featured in several News of the World exposés, and later contributed an autobiographical serial to the

How the third world war was narrowly averted

Nuclear weapons carry a payload of cold logic: if both sides have them, neither will ever use them. But in 1962, when the Soviet Union and US squared up to one another over Cuba, that logic broke down. As this superb new book shows, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the product of miscalculation, ignorance and staggering recklessness. The main culprit was Nikita Khrushchev. His first error was to mistake the US president for a callow weakling. ‘Don’t worry,’ he assured his Cuban friends, ‘I’ll grab Kennedy by the balls.’ After their first meeting, JFK remarked that negotiations with Khrushchev had been the ‘roughest thing in my life’. The argument concerned

The magic of JFK remains undimmed

It’s easy to forget that John F. Kennedy lived such a short life. At 43, he was the second youngest president in history; when he died, he was younger than Barack Obama was in 2009. Kennedy’s presidency was brief —‘a thousand days,’ as the historian and Kennedy confidant Arthur Schlesinger Jr memorably put it — but included some of the most intensively covered episodes in modern history, from the civil rights movement to the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a result, JFK has not lacked for attention. So, what more is there to say about him? A good deal, it turns out. Kennedy is familiar yet mysterious, and therefore difficult to