Summary and book reviews of The Kennedy Men by Laurence Leamer

The Kennedy Men

1901-1963

By Laurence Leamer

The Kennedy Men
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2001,
    912 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2002,
    928 pages.

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Book Summary

In this triumphant new work already hailed as a powerful American epic, Laurence Leamer chronicles The Kennedy Men and their struggle to create the most powerful family in the United States. The Kennedy Men is the first volume in a multi-generational history that will forever change the way America views its most famous family. Beginning in 1901 with twelve-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. delivering hats to Boston's social elite and ending in 1963 with the assassination of his son, President John F. Kennedy, Leamer seamlessly unites the complex strands of their economic, political, and social rise.

This magnificent new volume is based on four years of interviews with Kennedy insiders and experts, as well as in-depth research including unprecedented new sources and materials: the private archives of JFK's longtime secretary Evelyn Lincoln, secret tapes JFK recorded in the Oval Office, revealing letters from the president's doctors, Rose Kennedy's never-before-heard interview tapes, and interviews with CIA operatives and Kennedy family members.

Throughout, The Kennedy Men brings to life five bold, ambitious men. The Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., was one of the richest, strongest men in America's history. His firstborn son, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., was the heir apparent, a handsome, gregarious youth who died a hero's death. John F. Kennedy picked up his brother's fallen mantle and carried it all the way to the White House. Leamer details the heartbreaking story of President Kennedy's health and how it affected not only him, but also America and the world. Robert F. Kennedy, his brother's liege, was an attorney general of unprecedented power, fighting both organized crime and a secret war against Castro. Edward M. Kennedy, the youngest of that generation of Kennedy men, was a fun-loving athlete who reluctantly headed up the hard road to power.

Combining powerful dramatic narrative with impeccably researched detail, Leamer illuminates the Kennedys' aspirations and love of family, their accomplishments and failures, their heroism and frailty, their loves and passions, and their patriotism and selfishness. Filled with startling revelations from headline-making stories of great events within the Oval Office such as the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis to the secret untold tales of their wives and lovers-the story of The Kennedy Men is here in all its triumph and tragedy. It is a spellbinding personal history of individuals and a journey of character through time told by a brilliant, masterful writer.

Chapter 21
The Torch Has Been Passed

0n the day before the inauguration of the thirty-fifth president of the United States, a fierce storm fell upon Washington, blanketing the capital with eight inches of snow, stranding ten thousand cars across the city, grounding planes, and slowing trains. Crews worked during the night cleaning the main roads, and by noon on January 20, 1961, a crowd of twenty thousand stood on the Capitol grounds in the twenty-two-degree cold, braced against the eighteen-mile-an-hour winds and looking up at the portico where the nation's leaders sat outside to witness the ritual of passage. One million other Americans began gathering along Pennsylvania Avenue to greet the new president as he traveled in a parade that would carry him to his new home in the White House.

The onlookers had bundled themselves up against the fierce cold wearing an eclectic collection of wool coats, snowsuits, fur hats, ski jackets, hiking boots, galoshes, mufflers, face masks, ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Dr. Sheldon M. Stern, Historian, John F. Kennedy Library, 1977 to 1999
Leamer is a great writer and storyteller . . . An honest account of a remarkable, perhaps unique, American political family.

Author Blurb Myer Feldman, Deputy Special Counsel to President Kennedy
If there is only one book about the Kennedys to read this must be it.

Author Blurb Burton Hersh, author of The Education of Edward Kennedy and The Shadow President
Leamer has . . . taken more chances than any other serious writer in the field. This is a breakthrough.

Author Blurb Dan Moldea, author of The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy
This book is full of extraordinary revelations . . . this is serious history written by a masterful storyteller.

Author Blurb Gus Russo, author of Live by the Sword The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK
The last word on America's greatest political dynasty. Draws the reader into the Kennedys as no book before.

Booklist

This is no dry, by-the-numbers biography - Leamer's writing is impressive throughout, regularly catching the reader up with a felicitous phrase or a surprising insight.

Publishers Weekly

In the final analysis, Leamer is a fan, idealizing his subjects. The result is a good read, though not necessarily a balanced history. Leamer's book is the first of a projected two-volume set.

The New York Review of Books

[Leamer] portrays the triumphs and tragedies of the male side of the family melodrama with appropriate flair.

Washington Post

Fast-paced...High heroic narrative...Leamer is well versed in the vast literature on the Kennedys...

USA Today

Leamer has a real gift for writing popular, accessible history..

Newark Star-Ledger

...One of the most valuable accounts of a family that vowed to help shape its country, then did.

Boston Herald

Fascinating...Absorbing...With the dramatic and powerful style of a master storyteller.

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    The only biography ever authorized by a sitting President - yet written with complete interpretive freedom - is as revolutionary in method as it is formidable in scholarship.

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