Sunday, March 2, 2008

Secret Service Agent Tells of JFK Plot


From Publishers Weekly:

Conspiracy theories haunt the Kennedy assassination; Bolden offers a new one, concerning discrimination and evidence suppression. Becoming, in JFK's words, the Jackie Robinson of the Secret Service, Bolden joined the White House detail in 1961. Already beset by racism (he once found a noose suspended over his desk), his idealism is further shattered by the drinking and carousing of other agents. Soon after the assassination, he receives orders that hint at an effort to withhold, or at least to color, the truth. He discovers that evidence is being kept from the Warren Commission and when he takes action, finds himself charged with conspiracy to sell a secret government file and sentenced to six years in prison, where both solitary confinement and the psychiatric ward await. That there was a conspiracy to silence him seems unarguable, but Bolden's prose is flat; so is his dialogue. This story is more enthralling than Bolden's telling of it, but the reader who sticks with it will enter a world of duplicitous charges and disappearing documents fit for a movie thriller. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Review“Excellent...Recommended for all public libraries.” —Library Journal, starred review.
"Heart-rending, longtime-coming defense of his record by a Chicago detective who paid dearly for blowing the whistle on JFK’s Secret Service."A native of St. Louis, the author became a Pinkerton detective and then a Chicago Secret Service agent. In 1961 President Kennedy handpicked Bolden for his personal detail in Washington. A self-described “racial pioneer” at each step of his professional career, he was immensely proud to serve as the first black agent on the presidential detail, and grateful for JFK’s sincere commitment to racial equality. However, Bolden soon collided with the “ol’ boys network.” He endured crude racist caricatures drawn in his service manual, separate accommodations in a “Negro Motel,” casual slurs by other agents and a shockingly blatant outburst by his superior: “You will always be nothing but a nigger. So act like one!” In early November 1963, responding to uneasy intuition and visions that had plagued him since childhood, Bolden told superiors that drinking was rampant within the ranks and that if a crisis occurred, the service could not act swiftly or appropriately to secure the president’s safety. He was in Chicago at the time of the assassination, and after that found the Secret Service wary of his outspokenness. Framed for his role in busting a Chicago counterfeiting bond gang, he was forced to take a lie-detector test and arrested by the feds in May 1964. His first trial ended in a hung jury thanks to a lone black juror; in the second, an all-white jury found him guilty. Bolden was imprisoned for more than five years, mostly in the psychiatric ward of the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. In September 1969, after a short stint at a prison camp in Alabama, Bolden was granted parole. Many documents in the case have vanished, but the author tirelessly reconstructs the record in his compelling, if somewhat tedious and repetitious look at an attempt to silence an honorable man"An astonishing tale of aborted justice."—Kirkus Reviews

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