Stephen King TV on JFK Hit: Will Fiction Lead to Truth?

A TV Miniseries About Saving Kennedy’s Life Could Breathe New Life Into a Cold Case

James Franco as Jake Epping and Sarah Gadon as Sadie Dunhill in the HULU mini series 11.22.63 Photo credit: Sundance

Stephen King once said, “People want to know why… I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

Actually, it was Robert Bloch who said it, although the line is often attributed to King. And because King is such an imaginative fellow, it is easy to believe that it was he who said it. Nevertheless, Stephen King is quite a clever writer. And so you may wonder what the King of Horror made of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subject of his book “11.22.1963.” A miniseries of the same name is to air on Hulu, the streaming service. It premieres on President’s Day.

You might be disappointed. Imaginative as he is, King apparently could not imagine the truth behind the Kennedy assassination, which is as screamingly scary, as hair-raising, as bone-chilling, as heart-stopping, as it gets.

***

King believes what few Americans, and almost no real experts believe, namely that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy, end of story. Trotting out the same old Warren Commission narrative should have made for a disappointing tale.

But King, doing what he does so well, has come up with an imaginative scenario: what if there were a time machine, and someone could go back and stop Kennedy from being killed? It’s a fascinating premise.

Of course, it would have been even more fascinating — and much more frightening — if “11.22.1963” dealt with the tremendous forces actually arrayed against Kennedy, and if it revealed the way that Kennedy’s murder liberated those forces — the corporations, the super-rich, the war-making industries, the unaccountable security apparatus. Monsters that have essentially dominated this country ever since.

As a student of the JFK assassination — five chapters on it in Family of Secrets, my history of the Bush dynasty and their remarkable connections to events like Watergate and the death of Kennedy, and a new book purely on JFK in the works — I was at first dismayed to find out the premise of King’s book. Another helping, I thought, of the long-discredited official slop tossed into the media/public feeding trough.

***

Despite my admiration for King as a master storyteller, I couldn’t bring myself to read his fantasy, so I can’t tell you how closely the TV series (starring James Franco, and with a significant producing role for JJ Abrams) conforms to the book. But after attending a sneak preview of the first episode at Sundance, I can report that, although I found parts of it irritating, I kind of enjoyed most of it, and I actually loved some scenes — especially the re-creation of the early-60s ambiance, complete with those cars, and those girls.

Mostly, though, I focused on whether this was going to be more Hollywood claptrap utilizing a controversy of tremendous importance to amuse audiences, make money and, oh sorry — contribute still more to the slag heap of disinformation generated by the establishment over the course of 50 years. As expected, the TV series hardly gets into the background of the events of November 22, 1963. Instead, in that classic Hollywood way, it simply asks its characters to recite the “basics” in a few breathless lines.

But just when I had about given up hope, something quite unexpected happened that made me sit up straight: one of the most mysterious people involved in this case, George de Mohrenschildt, suddenly appeared on-screen. (Well, of course, the actor playing him.)

From my own research, I knew this complex figure only too well. An upper-class Russian emigre, he had moved to Texas in the early 1950s and soon was ensconced among the oil elite. And, for several months, he was a principal figure, a manipulator, in Oswald’s life after he returned from a half-hearted “defection” to the USSR. Then, roughly six months before Kennedy was shot, de Mohrenschildt abruptly left the country, replaced as Oswald’s de facto guardian angel by the “Quaker Russian language enthusiast” Ruth Paine.

In the first episode, we see the time-machine hero, on instructions from his muse, following de Mohrenschildt to a Kennedy-for-President rally in Dallas, 1960, where we briefly see him call  to and embrace, of all people …Jackie Kennedy.

Oswald’s ‘mentor’ was a hugging friend of JFK’s wife? Yup. That much is actually, stunningly, true.

It went by so fast on the screen that I wondered if the non-JFK specialists in the audience even noticed it or realized the significance.

Moreover, I don’t think the audience could really follow what was actually going on. The stuff the viewers seemed to enjoy the most, unsurprisingly, were the cool convertibles with the finbacks, the glamorous clothing (think Mad Men), the overall air of mystery, the various little moments of violence and sci-fi wonder.

However, in one scene, we see de Mohrenschildt in a glamorous restaurant, dining with some no-nonsense men in suits emanating purpose and urgency. The implication is that, well, there is more to this story.

And, perhaps there will be. At the Q&A session after the screening, most of the questions were the craft-oriented, technical ones you’d expect from a largely industry-insider and film buff audience. But one person nailed what I would have asked: what did those present representing the production personally believe was the truth about Kennedy’s death?

Showrunner Bridget Carpenter, executive producer of the series, who wrote the first episode, prefaced her response by saying she would answer this very briefly, signalling what most successful people know — this baby is the electrified third rail of a career. Fiction on JFK is a lot safer than fact.

Then, she proceeded to explain that she knew little about the JFK assassination beyond what most folks do. She was aware that Stephen King was, well, Stephen King, and that he was a fervent “lone-nutter,” i.e., he believes Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy — and not that elements of the government, having pulled off a series of violent coups abroad in the preceding years and months, had brought their regime-change tactics home.

Then she added that, as she became more familiar with the story through making the TV series, her own view has… changed. I heard no follow-up questions pursuing that line.

Clearly, most of the people associated with this series don’t know any more than Stephen King does. Yet, somehow, unlike him, some of them have gotten a glimpse of a larger story. In the first episode we see at least a hint that more may be going on.

And that is why those of us who know that there is much more to the story than the miniseries shows should not treat it as an opportunity lost but rather as an opportunity gained.

Undoubtedly, it will get people talking about the JFK assassination again — arguably more than at any point since Oliver Stone’s seminal 1991 movie. That means there will be debate on social media, which wasn’t around at the time “JFK” was in the movie theatres, and that will allow those with greater insight to educate others.

With that in mind, I gave the publicist copies of Family of Secrets for the director and producer, and then emailed with follow-up questions, hoping to start a dialogue and learn more. Thus far, I have not heard back. But you never know.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald in the HULU mini series 11.22.63 Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from (SerienTrailerMP / YouTube)

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35 responses to “Stephen King TV on JFK Hit: Will Fiction Lead to Truth?”

  1. Michael Richards says:

    Sorry, but nearly every real expert has proven Oswald killed Kennedy. There is far more evidence in this case, in fact, than with most killers who are convicted. Ignoring the truth doesn’t change it and speculation is not evidence.

  2. Charles Drago says:

    See “Killing Time: The First Full Investigation into the Unsolved Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman,” by Donald “Executive Action” Freed and Raymond P. Briggs, published in 1996 and yet definitive.

  3. 0040 says:

    it appears that both the OJ saga and the JFK coup d’état are being historically rewritten by Hollywood’s propaganda machine to better fit the current elites narrative. Stephen King joins an infamous group – Chris Matthews, Gerald Posner, and Vince Bugliosi. All have written fictional accounts of JFKs murder using the also fictional Dulles /Warren report as their basis. Your book ‘Family Of Secrets’ is the gold standard on the JFK murder. Oliver Stone’s account while allegedly fiction holds more truth than the Warren Commission report and these status quo apologists’ novels.

  4. bobthegoon says:

    The establishment has tried tenaciously over the last 20 years or so to paint the ‘Oswald did it alone’ theory as the position of the intelligentsia, and that any talk of conspiracy is evidence of ignorance, hatred for American institutions, and just general mental illness on the part of the espousing. I think any famous or public figure who comes within reach of this topic is under tremendous pressure to conform to the establishment view. Not only does this pressure come from without but also from the mind. Everybody wants to fit in with the big boys, everybody wants to be seen as informed and intelligent.

    You would think that with such an effort on the part of the Establishment to portray the Warren Commission’s scenario as the only rational and sensible explanation, there would be a vast amount of scholarship to back up the stubborn insistence. But on the contrary, the most recent and in-depth research has only bolstered the claims of conspiracy first made back in the sixties. The Assassination Records Review Board of the 1990s did much to further knowledge concerning this case, and unearthed information that indicated a conspiracy behind Kennedy’s murder. Authors like Gaeton Fonzi, John Newman, Jim Douglass, James DiEugenio, Russ Baker, John Armstrong, and David Talbot have blown the field wide open and proven conspiracy beyond any reasonable doubt. That these men and their work have been all but censored and ignored by the mainstream media says volumes about the establishment’s commitment to truth.

    Establishment ‘scholarship’ concerning this matter has taken the form of repackaged and restated versions of the Warren Commission, from the monolithic and incoherent ‘Reclaiming History’ by Vincent Bugliosi, to the embarrassing and misleading ‘Case Closed’ by Gerald Posner. It was with a sense of sadness and a bit of amusement that I read of how the latter work ‘convinced’ Stephen King of the lone nut theory. Apparently, King did not dig very deeply in his quest for truth.

    And really, why would a person of his status do so? Can you imagine the heat he would have been under in the media if he had come out pro-conspiracy? As it is, he seems to have joined the rank and file of those who smugly assert that Lee Oswald acted alone and who attribute that conclusion to their own perceived intelligence. Do they not realize that they are merely parroting a pre-packaged narrative devoid of all common sense and logic? Can they not grasp that their tenacious denial of the facts, done in such an arrogant and self-satisfied fashion, is antithetical to the very concept of intellectualism?

    • 0040 says:

      You don’t mention Mark Lane who wrote the first and most accurate description of this CIA-sanctioned crime and coverup, “Rush to Judgement” and “Plausible Deniability.”

    • Charles Drago says:

      Unsubscribe.

  5. ThirteenthFloor says:

    For those that may still believe the lone assassin Warren Report, as King apparently does, may I suggest one watch Jim Garrison’s rebuttal to NBC News (July 1967) where he starts off by stating people must “distinguish between truth and fairy tale, justice and injustice…”. The 27 minute telecast was paid for solely by Jim Garrison. Whether you have followed the investigations into the JFK murder, or new to the subject, I cannot think of a better start, than Jim Garrison’s 27 minute rather straightforward presentation. You may find the video on several YouTube channels.

  6. Armand A. Ruhlman says:

    could more info be provided re: the relationship of Oswald’s “MENTOR” and Jackie Kennedy…sounds pretty damn cozy…

  7. hoss2013 says:

    Didn’t King have a strange nearly fatal car accident around the time this book came out ?

  8. Charles Drago says:

    Like the quote you use to begin your piece, the “time traveler tries to save JFK” meme is not original to King. See “Profile in Silver,” a 1985 episode of the rebooted “The Twilight Zone” series. (Alas, it too supports the LN lie.)

    • jneilschulman says:

      I wrote the “Profile in Silver” episode of The Twilight Zone and the first-draft script I submitted had a second gunman dressed as a Dallas policeman on the grassy knoll. CBS demanded it be removed from the script.

    • Charles Drago says:

      Thank you much for the reply. My own JFK assassination-related script, “Autumn Too Long,” is garnerning some serious industry attention after a long hibernation. I’ll find “Profile in Silver and Other Screenwritings.”

      Vis a vis CBS’s action: In my review of Clint Eastwood’s “In the Line of Fire,” I suggested an alternate ending in which the tape recording left by the eliminated would-be presidential assassin (John Malkovich’s over-the-top “Mitch Leary”) absolves Eastwood’s Secret Service agent of guilt over JFK’s murder: “It wouldn’t have mattered, Frank. Even if you didn’t freeze … even if you had covered Kennedy from the back … I still would have taken him from the knoll.”

  9. punkyboy says:

    King’s book was a red herring, a few “facts” skewed to his erroneous conclusion.

    • bob lackey says:

      Sorry but King was correct and not erroneous. I can prove it with dozens of witness interviews and physical evidence.

  10. Larry Jamison says:

    There were six people including witness Jean Hill who made statements to the Warren Commission about shots fired “in the car.” This very quickly implicates the Driver, William Greer as responsible for the fatal shots after the shooters mentioned in Jim Marrs book “Crossfire” missed. Arlen Spector would cut off Jean Hill and say “it’s time for a cup of coffee.”

  11. Trutherator says:

    JFK silver certificates, disobeyed those “Captains and Kings”, replacing fed notes, becoming a Christian, American University or Press Club talk, becoming a real Christian… Psalm 2.

  12. Synickel says:

    Boy, this must be a good website. Looking at the comments, there’s a lot of astroturfers lurking in this stadium.

  13. Synickel says:

    The only error in this article is saying that King believes what few Americans believe . . .

    He doesn’t believe that. He’s just another NWO pawn, carrying water for the establishment criminals.

    • claire says:

      I agree. He is not stupid or uninformed. He is of the generation that lived through the event. He knows perfectly well, and that’s what makes his fictional “conclusions” despicable. You can just see the “intelligence” cabal gathered in the CIA basements planning to get the famous pop-horror writer with the highest profile to write it and to boot — a high five for the JFK haters who carried all of it out (don’t believe their descendants aren’t still around and active) — everything goes to pot and war if JFK had lived. Of course that’s what they want us to believe. In fact everything went to war when JFK died. That’s when troops were sent in to Vietnam and perpetual war and terrorism were implemented as an ongoing policy. Btw, recent photographic evidence shows Bush II, aged about 17, wandering in Dealy Plaza. At least that’s who it looked like to me. The image was more identifiable than the image of Oswald in the doorway.

  14. Gil G says:

    All the conspiracy theories have been long answered. It was easy target for a crack shot like Oswald who got himself into a good vantage point. Apparently some are basing it on the notion that Oswald claims he was innocent as though those who committed murder have no incentive to lie. In fact the insiders who supposedly wanted J.F.K. dead would have known that he was a very ill man and really had no real incentive to off him.

    • Trutherator says:

      Right. The top #1 and top #5 Vietnam Marine snipers said they could not make that shot,after repeated attempts even with better equipment 20 years later. See book “Kill Zone” by Craig Roberts.

      Mark 2:24

  15. sfulmer says:

    Russ’ book Family of Secrets opened my interest in understanding history to the point that it tangibly made sense of the world as I could already see for myself. In other words, it was an explanation that explained. Now, I would urge everyone who hasn’t already read James Douglass’ “JFK and the Unspeakable” to do so, ASAP. It can’t wait for the clever mind of Stephen King.

  16. Gaynor Kaiser says:

    The evidence is absolutely overwhelming: Oswald did not kill JFK. Every single piece of evidence for a lone gunman is countered with documented proof otherwise… plus ample evidence of government cover-up.

  17. bob lackey says:

    I agree with King. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and the only shots fired came from the depository. Every “JFK As It Happened” recording on YouTube from all the networks and all the media portrays 3 shots. Merriman smith was the first reporter to call in the assassination from the press car in the motorcade when he called UPI yelling “Three shots were fired at the motorcade! Make it a bulletin precede”! Bob Clark of ABC was on the air on ABC radio very quickly using a phone at Parkland Hospital and said “when 3 shots rang out from somewhere in the crowd”.
    Harold Norman was absolutely on the 5th floor in the window below Oswald on the 6th floor and suddenly he heard Bang! click, click..Bang! click, click….Bang! click, click right over his head. Norman heard 3 shots and the bolt action of the rifle being worked after each shot and 3 spent shell casings hit the ceiling above him. Harold Brennan saw the rifle being fired out the window as did Amos Euins as both were in front of the depository across the street. Photographer Bob Jackson was one of two reporters who looked up at the 6th floor when the shots rang out, in time to see the rifle sticking out the window before it was pulled back in.
    And indeed a bolt action rifle was found on the 6th floor and 3 spent shell casings near the window.
    3 shots, and there is no doubt all came from the depository. King has that right and most Americans are wrong. And it’s a lie most experts do not believe in the lone gunman position. Most experts do.
    It’s a shame so many books have been written by conspiracy theorists who ignore the hard evidence in this case and concentrate on phantom evidence.
    They all ignore Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie who were riding in front of the Kennedys and both said the 3 shots came from over their right shoulders from the rear. Connally was struck by the 2nd shot and when he heard the 3rd shot he could tell it hit someone to his rear and suddenly he and his wife were covered in human debris.
    King has the lone gunman position correct!!!

    • Gaynor Kaiser says:

      ‘Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies’ – tears every single one of your points to shreds.

    • Elderly R. Staff says:

      Well, Thanks for your analysis. I was a teenager in 1963. My impression was, at the time, ‘one more political assassination’. I didn’t even consider a lone deranged person taking out a President with all his security. I have yet to be convinced a loner could do what he is supposed to have done. It is not much different in my mind to a loner taking out J. Edgar Hoover or Sam Giancarno. Texas, in my knowledge, has for many years been a territory of complete lawlessness so I can’t believe people who run their own show would not be on top of a loner. He must have been a person of interest – if he was acting alone – to the Texas good ol’ boys. They are not that dumb on home turf.
      I am a good shot – 4000/4000 at moving targets. I am distantly related to the famous aboriginal shooter Nemaluk. I doubt all the shooting fantasies could be possible. Most good shots are not much above 400/400 at moving targets. I believe the 7 or more shooters triangulating with the best shooter at 365/400 at least. The whole problem is reload time.

    • old golfer says:

      You, unfortunately, believe the government and the very flawed Warren Commission report. JFK was triangulated in a professional hit. I have done a lot of shooting with quality rifles. I could not make those shots and neither did Oswald, with that cheap piece of crap rifle. Oswald was what he said he was, a patsy.

  18. Antony Wong says:

    great!

  19. ArniePalmer says:

    I think it is a great subject for a TV series, an opportunity to educate people on all the theories out there, and the forces arrayed against Kennedy, and to follow the leading suspects during the months and days before the assassination. If you use a time traveler as a vehicle, what would make it really interesting would be to have the guy be a lone nut believer, like Stephen King, and he shows up at the Book Depository and gets into a fight with Oswald, putting out of commission. Then, shots ring out from somewhere else, and Kennedy is dead.

    Then, the traveller has to appear at the grassy knoll and do the same thing. Except the grassy knoll (or wherever the other shots came from under the theory of the show) was probably pretty well defended from intruders. You’d have to be there and find exactly where the shots came from, then come back with enough firepower to take out the team of men who were there to execute the plan.

    Or, if that won’t work, go back and try to somehow warn the President about the plot.

    Lots of potential story lines for 2 or 3 seasons there. And when that story line is exhausted, and the good guys have prevented the assassination, maybe a season or two about what America would be like if Kennedy had lived. No Vietnam, no Great Society, no Nixon–what would have happened instead? Who knows, you could come up with anything.

    • colinsky says:

      RUNNING AGAINST TIME (1990) was a TV movie on the same topic: Robert Hays time-travels back to stop Oswald, but each attempt leads to confounding problems.

  20. Bryan Allen says:

    As much as I like Stephen King’s work, this is one time I have to disagree with him. I don’t think Oswald acted alone. Let’s not forget, JFK had & made a lot of enemies while in office many of which probably wanted to rub him out. And someone did. Do I think it was Oswald? No. Do I think Oswald fired off any shots? Yes. Do I think Oswald fired off ALL the shots. No. Do I know who did? No.

    But I go by laws of physics. And this whole “magic bullet” thing defies the laws of physics. So that said, its kinda hard to believe that Oswald could defy the laws of physics. Besides, like it or not, here’s a fact: Oswald was never charged in the assassination of JFK. He was picked up at the movie theater on “suspicion” of the murder of police officer Tippit. And many “assumed” that Oswald was guilty of the assassination of JFK. Now I’m no rocket scientist, but you can’t be arrested for an assassination, based on an assumption. I think Stephen King better do some more research on this. But I still like his work, though.

    • Gil G says:

      The “magic bullet” isn’t an issue and comes from that Oliver Stone movie.

    • Blank Reg says:

      No, the “magic bullet” was an invention of Warren Commission researcher Arlen Spector (later Senator from PA), and the Oliver Stone movie just pointed out the gross absurdity of it. There was more than one shooter. Period.

    • hoss2013 says:

      And the bullet on the stretcher !!!!

    • 0040 says:

      Arlen Specter built his career and fortune on that “magic bullet”.

    • hoss2013 says:

      The Elephant in the Room is the question
      “Who made the JFK car be driven at slow speed through two 90 degree turns and right in front of the building where the patsy worked ?”

      Those that can arrange that are the ones responsible not Oswald.