Stephen King’s on his miniseries on JFK: ‘I think Oswald was acting alone’

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The adaptation of Stephen King’s book 11/22/63 premiered on Hulu last night. 11/22/63, for those of you who do not know, is the date that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. One of the most pervasive conspiracies about President Kennedy’s assassination is was there another gunman or did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Part of the reason we don’t have this answer is because two days after he shot the president, November 24, Oswald was gunned down on live television by Jack Ruby.

Just for clarification, the TV miniseries is 11.22.63 and the book is 11/22/63, because that’s not confusing. I have this book on my nightstand but have not read it yet, I think I might have to move it to the top of the pile. The story deals with Jake Epping, a teacher, who agrees to take over his friend Al’s obsession of preventing the Kennedy assassination by going through a time portal in Al’s diner, which I believe is the first story King has ever written involving time travel. King, who has not always had much success with television adaptations of his books, sat down with The Daily Beast to discuss his theory of Kennedy’s killer and other conspiracies:

Did you watch the assassination of JFK on the news, and what effect did that have on you?
We watched, my mother, my brother, and I. I got out of school and lived in a little town south of Waterville, Maine, and this guy who drove a bunch of us kids back and forth, he never played the radio, and that afternoon the radio was on. He said, “Some son of a bitch just killed the president.” And we were just stunned to silence. We saw everything that happened after that. My mother was a rock-ribbed Republican but she cried her eyes out; she kept talking about the little kids that he had. We were watching Sunday with our dinner in our laps to see Oswald transferred from the lockup in Dallas to the bigger jail, and we saw him assassinated on live TV. Our jaws just dropped. We couldn’t believe it.

Why do you feel that this tragedy has birthed more conspiracy theories than any other moment in American history?

Because Jack Ruby shut Oswald’s mouth before he could talk about what he had done. Oswald was taken into custody and said the things anyone would say initially—“I didn’t do it,” “I was a patsy”—and that’s where the conversation ended. The reason there’s been all the conspiracy talk is because Oswald never broke down and said, “I did this,” but also what it says at the front of 11/22/63, the Norman Mailer quote: We find it difficult to believe that one lone wingnut with a gun could kill the most powerful man in the world. But we’ve seen it time and time and time again. We saw it with John Lennon—that was no conspiracy, it was just a crazy lone gunman who killed him. Bridget Carpenter, the showrunner, came to disagree with me, but I think Oswald was acting alone.

The crux of 11.22.63 is that preventing the assassination of JFK would’ve altered the course of history by further averting the Vietnam War and the murder of Bobby Kennedy. What one recent event, for you, do you think would have drastically altered the course of American history? The 2000 presidential election, perhaps?

The Bush election is a pretty good one—I would put that in second place. In fact, it’s even mentioned in 11/22/63 where Al says, “If you could go back in time to the year 2000 and spread around even $100,000 in Florida and promised it to people to vote for Gore instead of Bush or Nader, then in that case, Al Gore becomes president and there are big changes.” But that’s only second place. The big one is 9/11. If someone could go back and make one phone call and say, “There are bad people getting on airplanes right now and here’s where it’s happening,” there would have been huge changes: the War in Afghanistan, the War in Iraq, the lives that have been lost, the amount of blood and treasure that’s been spent on those things, all because those guys went through the checkpoints with their box cutters and got on those planes.

[From The Daily Beast]

In the interview, King talks about the current election and how, like most of us, we thought Trump was making a really good joke when he declared he was running for president. He talks about David Bowie calling him once because Bowie had an idea for a scary, concept album. The idea never went beyond the phone call, unfortunately. John Mellencamp reached out to King about making a musical; they discussed it for ten years, which led to a good friendship but no musical yet – thank you for the correction @Angela. They did, in fact, produce Ghost Brothers of Darkland County – my apologies. Please, oh please, if this musical ever gets made, let King and Dave Barry’s literary band, The Rock Bottom Remainders, perform it.

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Photo credit: WENN and FameFlynet Photos and Getty Images

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45 Responses to “Stephen King’s on his miniseries on JFK: ‘I think Oswald was acting alone’”

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  1. Aussie girl says:

    I’m excited for this series, even through I’m not a fan of James Franco and I’m hoping he will surprise me. I’m not sure on whether Oswald did it or not but I can’t stress enough about how much I enjoyed 11/22/63, great read.

  2. BengalCat2000 says:

    I read this book a few years ago and loved it. Pieces of shit like Oswald have taken down great men since the dawn of time. Never understood the conspiracy theories. One visit to the School Book Depository and you can see what easy access he had.

    • Betsy says:

      And I never understood why despite clear evidence of a conspiracy, people refuse to believe such a thing.

      • Azurea says:

        I’m with you there, Betsy. I always wonder if those who think Oswald did it even look at the evidence to the contrary. A great book to read or listen to about this in a wider context is Dr. Mary’s Monkey, by Edward T. Haslam. While the assassination is not the main focus of the book, it does show the spiderweb of evil & deception lurking below the surface of hallowed institutions of government, medicine, and foreign relations.

      • AJ says:

        Agreed. People who dismiss it have no clue the vast web of people who were working for the government to assassinate other world leaders. It’s documented in our own government records; it’s not like it’s a secret that we pulled all kinds of ish to get rid of Castro so??

        But I have another book recommendation on the topic of the Kennedy: “Brothers: the Hidden History of the Kennedy Years” by David Talbot (he founded Salon dot com).

        ETA: RFK was virtually suicidal right up to the day he was killed, which is because he was wracked with guilt. No one else JFK was close to was plunged as deeply into depression as RFK did, and he wasn’t even the sibling he was closest to. The reason why RFK felt guilty only makes sense if you know about what he knew of the people and plots within the government’s intelligence community.

    • kcarp says:

      I loved this book too. It was by far for me at least the best Stephen King book. It is soooo much more than time travel book. It is a love story.

    • Pancake says:

      I don’t know what King’s stance is apart from his quick quotes that I scanned on this site, but anyone who thinks Oswald did it is wrong. There’s a mainstream book by James Douglass called JFK and the Unspeakable. If you’re curious about the truth, check it out. RFK Jr endorsed it a couple of years ago and wrote a long editorial in Rolling Stone about it, which is basically a quick summary if you’re too lazy to read the whole book. But I recommend reading it. One of the saddest books I’ve ever read and goes beyond the womanising cliche to give a real picture of JFK in the context of the real threat of a nuclear war and his trigger-happy military advisors. Read it and mourn, but at least you’ll know the truth.

  3. Betsy says:

    Oswald did not kill the president. I’m not even convinced he fired a single shot. And at any rate, if he did shoot a bullet toward the president, he could not have acted alone – the bullet that hit the curb by the underpass was one too many for the number of shots that could have been fired from the alleged assassination weapon, the Mannlicher Carcano, in the time that the presidential convertible would have been visible from the gun nest.

    The defensiveness that people have around lone gunman theories baffles me. Yes, lone nuts can and do injure and kill – Lennon’s assassin and Reagan’s would be assassin – but so do conspiracies. He goes on to mention 9/11, arguably one of the most famous conspiracies of our day, for Pete’s sake!

    • FingerBinger says:

      Have you ever been to Dealy plaza? It wasn’t an impossible shot for Oswald to make.

    • BengalCat2000 says:

      I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about this case and watched hours of documentarys about it. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Dallas and have been to Dealey Plaza many times. I don’t have time to go into why I disagree with you, but I encourage you to do more research. I’m always open to more information about this but I just don’t believe it was a conspiracy.
      Having said that, I believe it’s healthy to question our government and other situations like this, so please don’t think I’m being harsh with you! 😊

    • Pancake says:

      I agree Oswald was a patsy. He actually worked for the CIA, that much is clear. You need to read JFK and the Unspeakable. Robert Kennedy Jr has endorsed that book. The best book on the subject ever written. A whole bunch of people and institutions were involved in his assassination, and it was basically because JFK wasn’t interested in escalating/jumping into a nuclear war with Russia.

      • BengalCat2000 says:

        Thanks for the info, I will check that book out. Like I said, I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I’m always open to new information. I appreciate your response!

  4. Patricia says:

    I’ll have to check this one out. I love Stephen King. My favorites of his are The Stand, It and The Shining. Classics.
    He is such an incredibly humble and down to earth person. He is so kind to everyone that you ever see interact with him. Truly a gem and I’m glad he’s still out there using his huge talents.

    • Shoe_Lover says:

      you have to read it. It’s so good. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, The Stand is my favourite, and i have to say that this book is now tied with The Stand for me. I couldn’t put it down

  5. INeedANap says:

    Yeeesss Rock Bottom Remainders! I saw them at a bar in DC years ago and it was a ton of fun. Everyone was dancing with each other and the mood was so festive, plus they played great songs.

  6. Mrs. Darcy says:

    It is one of his better recent efforts, goes off the rails a little bit towards the end I thought but gripping nonetheless. I really did not picture James Franco playing the part I have to say. More of a Garrett Dillahunt/Jeffrey Dean Morgan/someone who has darkness/gravitas type role.

    • Mrs. Darcy says:

      Also: it’s been a while since I read the book but pretty sure his version of Oswald IS kind of a dim patsy/manipulated hit man for some shadier types, so I am surprised he’s contradicting his plot line a bit.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        That’s my recollection as well, so I was confused by this.

      • BrandyAlexander says:

        It’s been a while for me too, but my recollection was that he made Oswald pretty evil. Thinking it about it more, he was influenced by other people, but made the decision and acted alone in the book. I think he is just saying there wasn’t other people shooting along with him, not that he was acting in a bubble in this interview. And I do remember the forward saying he heavily researched it and came to the concussion that acted alone that day.

  7. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I was so mad at him for about a week for endorsing Ted Cruz, like why is he even endorsing anybody, and who knew he was from Iowa, until, you know, not the same Steve King…

  8. Miss M says:

    I am a Franco apologist, but I do not know if this was the right call. I think I eill give it a try.

  9. Chaucer says:

    Yay! More literary celeb coverage, please!

  10. Murphy says:

    I love alternative history, would love for King to write that “what if” story about the 2000 election.

  11. The New Classic says:

    Ever since I read “On Writing” I’ve LOVED Stephen King. His life story is interesting and the way he writes about his wife is precious. He talks about his addiction and other tough parts of his life with some humor. Also, reading about his experience when he was hit by that van really got to me.. Stephen King is one of America’s treasures.

  12. pf says:

    Maybe Oswald acted alone. I remember Vincent Bugliosi’s book put forth that argument too, with great detail and resources. But the fact that Jack Ruby was tied to the Chicago mafia will always make the assassination a little conspiratorial. Seems too convenient to me.

    • Pancake says:

      Read JFK and the Unspeakable. The best book on the subject.

    • Jag says:

      Oswald recognized Ruby when Ruby came to kill him. I remember seeing it when I was a child – the film that is shown regularly is edited – and my parents remember it when it happened. You could see the look of recognition when he saw Ruby, and then he was shot and killed. That tells me that there is more to the story.

      • Marie says:

        Thank you! I remember this too, and Oswald’s face was a look of recognition and regret and anger, “I lost!”

  13. Tessd says:

    “If someone could go back and make one phone call and say, “There are bad people getting on airplanes right now and here’s where it’s happening,” there would have been huge changes”
    – there are numerous reports of this being a known fact. Why the special forces chose not to act is a different story.

  14. Angela says:

    Stephen King and John Mellencamp collaborated on The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. The musical toured the country last year, I believe. It was a great show and the music was fantastic!

  15. isabelle says:

    My uncle worked in the Secret Service for many years, another uncle was FBI in DC when Kennedy was killed. Even had an Aunt that was a Kennedy Nanny. A lot of my family members were working in DC at the time Kennedy was assassinated. They whole heatedly believe Oswald did it alone. My (FBI) uncle say it was rumored he was full on crazy while being held. Its possible he was a plant provoked by another agency but think he did act alone.

  16. Fancyamazon says:

    The book was great, love King. The series I haven’t seen, but I find very few of his works translate well to TV/movie format. Many have tried, few have succeeded. Those that have, though, have been fantastic.

    • Aussie girl says:

      I Agee that most don’t translate well onto screen. I would love for them to do a remake of the stand though. I think stand by me ( the body), green mile and shawshank were the best. I don’t really dig horror so I’ve never read the the shinning but Katy bates was superb in misery and do dolores claibone. I’ve just read the basaar of dreams and even though I’ve never been a fan of short stories I loved it.

  17. J-Who says:

    Ok, Stephen. Just one guy who’s gun was able to shoot from 3 or 4 different angles. Everyone knows LBJ had a hand it the assassination and why Oswald was killed immediately after the shooting.

  18. Pancake says:

    Actually, while the official files are sealed until 2099 or something, King is wrong and everyone knows what happened. Even the Kennedys have endorsed the best book on the subject, JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass. Read it if you’re curious at all. Impeccably researched.

    • Annie says:

      That’s a terrific (and terrifying) book. It gets to the heart of why people are quick to brush it off. The notion that our military-industrial complex is so strong that they can act unilaterally behind the scenes is deeply discomforting. To those who turn the other way I say dig into it a little deeper, and remember that human nature doesn’t change. The powerful still want power, and they will protect it as they see fit. The illusion of transparency and popular control of the gov’t is a placebo; democracy requires vigilance, not crossing our fingers and hoping everyone will follow the rules.

      The entire book serves as an important reminder of how hand-cuffed our leaders truly are; if we want change, we need to change ourselves, our hearts, and our neighborhoods first.

      • Pancake says:

        +1 You said it all much better than I could have. And nice to know someone else on this board has read it too.