Sunday, November 13, 2011's Double Standard on Book Reviews

Having just submitted a book review (on Stephen King's novel '11/22/63') on and had it rejected (first one ever) I now am forced to ask the reasons why. The rejection email received reads as follows:

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My actual book review is as follows:

Fun, Engaging Ride - But Not Historically Correct!, November 12, 2011

This review is for: 11/22/63: A Novel (Hardcover)

The writing in this new King novel is realistic, engaging and transports the reader to the late 1950s and early 60s. This is King's forte found in so many of his other novels, including 'The Stand', 'It' and others. This writing acumen is what makes suspension of belief feasible, much like another terrific time travel story by L. Sprague de Camp: 'Lest Darkness Fall', (1939), about a 20th century professor - Martin Padway - who finds himself suddenly hurled back to the Roman Empire in the sixth century by encountering a "time slip" in Rome.

All King's main characters are fully developed also, especially Jack Epping and through him we see the world of 1963 even though many readers may have been born long after that year.The problem with it is King's basic scenario of stopping Lee Oswald, and hence the JFK assassination.

This is, sadly, predicated on the false historical presumption that Lee Harvey Oswald was the perpetrator and sole assassin. (Thanks to the Warren Commission, which was really a creature of Lyndon Johnson, as opposed to an official government investigation such as the 1978-79 House Subcommittee on Assassinations which found a "96% probability of conspiracy") This is abject nonsense, and mainly was perpetrated on an unsuspecting (but shocked) American public in the fall of 1963, in order to placate the lords of power and cop to political expediency rather than truth telling.

The deceitful core of the Warren Whitewash inhered in the (Nov. 25, 1963) memo from then Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach that preceded it. The key memo segments that bear on the way the Warren Commissioners were to conduct their business are as follows:

"It is important that all facts surrounding President Kennedy's assassination be made public in a way which will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.

1. The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin, that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

The last is especially fell and egregious, an insult to the whole concept of justice and being innocent until proven guilty. Indeed, Katzenbach's injunction goes under the rubric of a fundamental logical no-no called: 'Affirming the consequent' - i.e. affirming ab initio that which you need to prove. Taking the expedient shortcut - avoiding the process, more: ensuring the outcome of the process blends with one's own agenda!

Let's even leave out for now, the fact that a trained team of expert marksmen was unable to replicate Oswald's alleged feat! Oswald was presumed to have fired from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, so effectively six stories up or 60' in altitude. However, the experts were allowed to fire from a tower only half this altitude (30')[1]. In addition, while Oswald had to have fired at a limousine moving at 11 mile per hour, the experts fired at stationary targets. Anyone who's ever fired a high powered rifle will tell you it's much easier to hit a stationary target than a moving one!

[1] The Warren Commission Report, p. 137.

The target area was also magnified for the experts, to the whole upper torso of the target prop's body - while Oswald was limited to the head and neck. More to the point, the rifle was altered away from the one Oswald used. The rifle sight itself was rebuilt and "metal shims were fitted to provide a degree of accuracy previously absent'. When Ronald Simmons, the Chief of the Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch of the Army's Ballistics Research Division was asked about this he replied:

"Well, they could not sight the weapon in using the telescope" (Op. cit. ,Vol. II, p. 250.)

He added that the aiming apparatus had to be rebuilt by a machinist with two shims added, one to adjust for the elevation, the other for the azimuth. In other words, had they actually used the rifle in the same condition Oswald was alleged to have had it, then they'd likely not have hit the side of a barn. (Maybe one reason the Italians dubbed their Norma Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm bolt action rifle that Oswald was supposed to have used as "the rifle that never killed anyone")

At the end of the test trials, these Master Marksmen each fired two series of three shots each (18 rounds in all) at 3 stationary targets placed at distances of 175', 240' and 265' (the last coming nearest to the distance from the Texas School Book Depository to the head shot). Even Chief Simmons admitted that the targets were not placed where they ought to have been to emulate conditions on November 22, 1963.

Just one of the three expert riflemen was able to get off three shots in under 5.6 seconds - the designated time interval for total shots declared by the Warren Commission. And most to the point: none of the total 18 shots fired struck the targets in the head or the neck. In other words, from a technical standpoint of duplicating Oswald's alleged shots- this trio of experts failed. Another key aspect: for the duration of the 18 rounds, two of the "master" riflemen were unable to reload and fire at the stationary target as rapidly as Oswald purportedly did for the moving limo.

Again, the facts don't add up, and that non-addition gets compounded when one factors in another little detail the Warren Whitewashers never bothered to disclose: that the purported assassin window on the 6th floor of the TSBD was nearly totally blocked by the branches of an oak tree at the time. (This image is shown in my new book, 'The JFK Assassination: The Final Analysis')

Only a fool or half idiot would have attempted such a shot. The preferred shot then would have been out from the window facing and overlooking Houston St. as the limo was approaching the steep turn around the TSBD, not going out onto Elm St.!

Questions thereby emerge of why King wasn't familiar with these facts in doing his background research? Why didn't he examine other aspects as well such as the Nix and Zapruder films - especially the 2 frames after Zapruder 312 which clearly show Jackie moving across the rear of the limo.What was she doing? Why did she choose to move in that particular direction? Her own special testimony delivered in secret and not formally printed with the main volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings (but in their Appendices), is telling: she was trying to retrieve a dislodged piece or fragment of JFK's skull. (Note: This is also affirmed by her in recently released audio tapes she made, dated from 1964, in interviews with historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr.).

But here's the problem: If this is indeed so (and a number of other films, photos, e.g. the Nix film shown in the Italian documentary The Two Kennedys, appear to bear it out), then it could **not** have been Lee Oswald firing from the Texas Book Depository to the REAR of the limo! The reason is linked to basic physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics and the transfer of linear momentum. Hence, if a piece of skull fragment is displaced over the rear of the limo, it could not have been from a bullet fired to the rear of the limo, but rather from the front. But the front is not where Oswald is claimed to have been by the Warrenites! In other words, the account of the Warren Commission is exactly 180 degrees opposite to the principles of basic physics.

Which again engenders the question of why King avoided all these salient facts. According to a gushing Wall Street Journal review of King's effort ('Stephen King's New Monster', p. D1, Oct. 30) King:"studied various conspiracy theories. He ultimately dismissed them, drawing the unsettling conclusion that a single person with no political power or charisma managed to alter the course of history by himself".

All well and good, except that neither the ballistics, as evidenced in assorted reactions captured on the Z- film (such as that with Jackie referenced above), the post-event efforts at expert replication of the shots, or even the astronomical aspects for shadow configurations (in the purported LIFE Oswald photo) support King's dismissal.

Does this mean King was lazy? Not necessarily! But as any fiction writer knows, the writing (and reading!)of any novel is enhanced by simplicity of plot not additional concatenations (even if lending to a greater historical accuracy) that may try the readers' patience, especially in today's tweeter-ipad, sound bite age. Thus, one may regard King's dismissal of conspiracy for his novel as more in concert with justified artistic license than deliberately ignoring the fact that Oswald as assassin doesn't add up. Or to put it more bluntly, King opted for go for an expediently written novel, as opposed to one that reflected history more faithfully (such as Don deLillo's excellent, 'Libra'.)

Leaving out a non-historian fiction novelist's WSJ cited ruminations and choices, I will refer readers to Prof.. David R. Wrone's take, in The Journal of Southern History(6), February, 1995, p. 188:

"I believe that irrefutable evidence shows conspirators, none of them Oswald, killed JFK. A mentally ill Jack Ruby, alone and unaided, shot Oswald. The federal inquiry knowingly collapsed and theorized a political solution. Its corruption spawned theorists who tout solutions rather than define the facts that are locked in the massively muddied evidentiary base, and released only by hard work."

So, read and enjoy King's latest novel, but do so while retaining a little cautionary reservation in the back of your mind. The real guys that King's protagonist Jack Epping needed to get were obviously so clever that they got Epping (and King by extension) to go after the wrong man!I awarded the novel 2 stars because, while the writing was superb, King's historical "punt" continually annoyed and distracted and took away a full enjoyment of the book.


Okay, first one can see that the review does diverge somewhat from guideline (2). However, on surveying other reviews of the same book I came across no less than five that didn't meet this standard either! In fact, if one peruses this set:

One will find assorted complaints to do with the price of the Kindle version, or that said version contains superfluous ancillary aspects (audio, video) in which the purchaser had no interest, or complaints about an electronic version which can't be sold or traded (hence of limited value).

The point is that ALL of these "reviews" miss for the same reason mine was rejected and indeed, they were even more grossly derelict since they didn't touch on the content of King's novel at all! So why were these accepted when Amazon's own guidelines would indicate they are not actually BOOK reviews, but gripes over issues irrelevant to the book's content, plot, characters etc. '? In other words, if I wished to buy, say a hardcopy of this King book, none of these reviews would be any use to me, period! They are a waste of space and even several comments were left by others to that effect! This prompted me to respond to Amazon's email as follows:

Actually, I have no intention of revising or re-submitting this review given that you have already allowed FIVE one-star reviews of this same book – none of which meet criterion (2) of your “guidelines” . Not one of those 5 reviews has anything to do with the book content but rather issues of Kindle, its problems and certain features re: the book purchased on Kindle!

Hence, if you are going to allow those sort of reviews, devoid of reference to content, I see no reason why you can’t include mine. Indeed, the rejection tells me that the reasons are a red herring and the actual reason may have more to do with my showing King’s historically inaccurate slant, in basing his novel on Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin.

If you can give me reasons why those five (*)reviews, which are basically Kindle critiques, were allowed while mine (to do with actual content) was rejected, I will be happy to listen – and then possibly post a comment predicated on what I have written. Otherwise, I will expect those 5 irrelevant reviews to be removed!

I plan to wait and see if intends to persist in their double standards on book reviews, or - since they rejected mine - if they follow their own guidelines and remove the other reviews that say even less about King's novel's content than mine!

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