Conspiracy (Summers)

Anthony Summers, 1980
McGraw Hill
640 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780070623927

One of the great all-time mystery stories, Conspiracy is the unsolved story of who killed President John F. Kennedy—and it is not a work of fiction.

Conspiracy attempts to prove what many have believed all along—that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a lone gunman.

Summers' book dovetailed with the work of the Congress Assassinations Committee. The CAC had just published its own 1,000-page report, which presented striking evidence of a joint plot—by the mafia and Cuban extremists—to kill Kennedy.

Like a crime writer follwing his craft, Summers lays out the empirical evidence used to convict Oswald in the public's mind. As the author shows, little of it stands up to scrutiny, especially when subjected to technology unavailable in 1963.

The author next traces the complex web of Oswald's connections with a host of strange and shadowy characters, all of whom were connected, in one way or another, to the FBI, CIA, or—most prominently—to fringe elements of those agencies. The latter were individuals working with Cubans and the mafia to overthrow Fidel Castro. And all detested Kennedy.

More terrifying by far, as Summers shows, both mafia and Cuban militants were the two groups who had "the motive, means, and opportunity to kill the president." All they needed was a "lone crazy." Someone like Oswald.

This is a thoroughly researched and intelligent examination of the Kennedy assassination. It's hard to ignore the frightening implications of Summer's work: that the true story of the assassination of President Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas has never been disclosed, even after 50 years. (From LitLovers.)

Author Bio
Birth—December 21, 1942
Where—England (?)
Education—Oxford University
Awards—Crime Writers' Award–nonfiction
Currently—lives in Ireland

Anthony Bruce Summers is the non-fiction author of seven best-selling investigative books. He is an Irish citizen.

After studying modern languages at Oxford University, his early work took him from labouring jobs to freelance reporting to London newspapers, to Granada TV’s World in Action, the UK’s first tabloid public affairs program, to writing the news for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, then back to England to the BBC’s 24 Hours, a pioneering late evening show that brought viewers coverage from all over the world.

Summers became the BBC’s youngest producer at 24, travelling worldwide and sending filmed reports from the conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East, and across Latin America. A main focus, though, was on the momentous events of the 60s and 70s in the United States—with on-the-spot reports on Martin Luther King’s assassination and on Robert F. Kennedy’s bid for the presidency.

He smuggled cameras into the then Soviet Union to obtain the only TV interview with dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov when Sakharov, who had just won the Nobel Prize, was under house arrest.

Before moving on from the BBC, Summers became an Assistant Editor of the prestigious weekly program Panorama. Long based in Ireland, he has since the mid-70s concentrated on investigative non-fiction, usually taking from four to five years to produce a book—conducting in-depth research, combining digging in the documentary record with exhaustive interviewing.

The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 (July 2011) is an investigation of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, published by Random House to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It is the first comprehensive independent account of the event that traumatized America and the world, the product of five years’ research and access for the first time to tens of thousands of previously withheld 9/11 Commission documents.

Summers is also the author of Goddess (1985), a biography of Marilyn Monroe; The Arrogance of Power (2000), a biography of Richard Nixon; Official and Confidential (1993), on J. Edgar Hoover; Honeytrap (1987), on the Profumo spy scandal; The File on the Tsar (1976), an investigation of the disappearance of the last Russian imperial family; and Conspiracy (1980), on the assassination of JFK, which won the Crime Writers’ Association’s top award for non-fiction.

With Conspiracy, his book on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Summers took a middle road—avoiding the wilder conspiracy theories while, at the same time, throwing doubt on the findings of the Warren Commission. He reported in detail, adding the results of his own interviewing, on the finding of Congress' Assassinations Committee that the "committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."  As did the Committee, he allowed for the possibility that major organized crime figures combined with anti-Castro elements—perhaps with the connivance of some CIA personnel— were behind the plot.

Four of Summers books were developed into successful television documentaries; Goddess was dramatized for television; and Honeytrap was turned in to the film Scandal, starring John Hurt.

Summers has been consultant to numerous television documentary programs and he is a contributor to Vanity Fair magazine.

Summers and Robbyn Swan were married in 1992. They live in Ireland. (Adapted from Random House Publishing Group and from Wikipedia. Both retrieved 10/9/2013.)

Book Reviews
(Older books prior to the internet have few, if any, mainstream press reviews online. See Amazon and Barnes & Noble for helpful customer reviews.)

Conspiracy attempts to prove what many have believed all along—that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a lone gunman. This is a thoroughly researched and intelligent examination of the Kennedy assassination. It's hard to ignore the frightening implications of Summer's work: that the assassination of President Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas remains unsolved, even after 50 years.
LitLovers Reviews (read more)

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

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Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
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Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to get a discussion started for Conspiracy:

1. What was the primary material evidence used by the Warren Commission to support its conclusion that Oswald was the lone gunman?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: How does Anthony Summers refute the material evidence presented by the Warren Commission? Consider the following:

  • acoustical analysis
  • ballistics analysis
  • eye witness accounts
  • the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle
  • Oswald's location immediately prior to and after the shots

Does Summers raise credible doubt regarding the evidence? Or is his counter evidence too speculative?

3. Why does Summers (and the Congressional Assassinations Committee) believe that Oswald was probably connected with a branch of U.S. intelligence? What makes him come to that conclusion? Are you able to connect the dots—how all these people and organizations are connected? With each other...and with Oswald?

4. What is the mafia's role in all of this? Why does Summers conclude that it would like Kennedy dead?

5. What role did the Bay of Pigs play in Summers' conspiracy theory? And what was the role of the CIA with regards to the Cuban exiles?

6. Talk about the collusion between the mafia and the CIA? When did it begin and why were the two groups still working together?

7. Who was Jack Bannister and why does he figure so prominently in Conspiracy? What was the nature of Oswald's connection to Bannister?

8. Do you think Oswald was a communist sympathsizer? What do you make of his defection to the Soviet Union; the ease of his return to the U.S.; his distribution of pro-Cuba pamphlets; and his connection to Guy Bannister?

9. Jack Ruby—how do you explain him? What were his connections? Why do you think he shot Owsald? Was it out of patriotism and sympathy for Mrs. Kennedy?

10. What do you think of the Warren Commission's report? Was it a whitewash...or an honest effort to get to the bottom of the assassination?

11. After all the evidence, where does Anthony Summers finally land on the question of who shot John F. Kennedy? And just as importantly...where do you land?

12. Does this information matter? Is it important that we uncover the truth behind JFK's assassination? Or is it simply dredging up old wounds from a national trauma 50 years ago that are best left untouched? What do you think?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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