The JFK Assassination Debates

Lone Gunman versus Conspiracy

Michael L. Kurtz

Who killed JFK? Ever since that fateful day in Dallas, theories about President Kennedy's murder have proliferated, running the gamut from the official "lone gunman" verdict to both serious and utterly screwball conspiracy theories. Michael Kurtz, a distinguished historian who has plumbed every crevice of this controversial case for more than thirty years, now sums up and critiques four decades of debate, while also offering provocative new perspectives.

Kurtz presents an objective accounting of what we actually know and don't know about the assassination, underlining both the logic and the limitations of the major theories about the case. He then offers unique interpretations of the physical and forensic evidence and of existing areas of controversy, leading him to new conclusions that readers will find hard to dismiss.

“Kurtz offers a superior account. He has spent four decades researching the assassination, and the result is this balanced appraisal of the varying theories, from the lone gunman—‘magic bullet’—premise to those conspiracy theories that cannot be dismissed as the ramblings of kooks. Kurtz himself favors conspiracy and includes convincing evidence, from previously classified documents released after the 1992 President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, that reveals CIA, FBI, Secret Service, and Warren Commission cover-ups. Intriguing accounts bolstering the authors conclusions include details relating to Lee Harvey Oswald, the Cuban-Mafia connection, the bumbling autopsy of the slain President, and the controversial roles of Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, and Warren Commission members Arlen Specter and Gerald Ford. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“It is refreshing to see an academic historian turn his attention to this subject. . . . Whether one agrees completely with all of Kurtz’s arguments or not, it is time for historians to take back some of the ground that has been seized by the sensationalists.

—Journal of American History
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Kurtz shows how the official investigation's egregious mishandling of the crime-scene evidence—related to virtually every aspect of the case—is largely responsible for the lone gunman/conspiracy schism that confronts us today. Those responsible for that investigation (including the Dallas police, the FBI, and the Warren Commission) failed so miserably in their efforts that they would have been laughed off the air if they had been portrayed on any of TV's popular CSI series.

One of the few experts writing on the subject who actually met Oswald, Kurtz also provides new information about the accused assassin's activities around the time of the assassination and about his double life, analyzing Oswald's ties to the intelligence community, to organized crime, and to both anti- and pro-Castro Cuban activists. Mustering extraordinary documentation-including exclusive interviews with key figures and extensive materials declassified by the Assassination Records Review Board-he both confirms and alters much previous speculation about Oswald and other aspects of the case.

Who really killed JFK? Forty years later, most Americans still feel they don't know the truth and that their own government isn't telling them the whole story. This book offers a corrective to even the most recent "final verdicts" and establishes a sound baseline for future research.

About the Author

Michael L. Kurtz is professor of history and dean of the graduate school at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's Perspective, the first book-length scholarly study of the subject.