I belong to no organized party.  I am a Democrat. -- Will Rogers

I cannot live without good books --  Thomas Jefferson.

A man who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. -- Mark Twain

When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food.  -- Desiderius Erasmus

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In general, a review should include: The name of the author and the book title and the main theme. Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry; the context of the book and/or your review, and the thesis of the book. Most important is if you would recommend the book to a reader.

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A Nonfiction book Published by Arcade Publishing, a registered trademark  of Skyhorse Publishing Inc, a Delaware Corporation. Arcade of New York

Copyright 1999 & 2011

ISBN 978-1-61145-048–4 (pbj)

491 pages

Subtitle:  The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby


Review by Carolyn Leonard

This book was painful for me to read. It shows all too clearly how the American presidency was being run by organized crime, at least in the 1960s.  The facts make it difficult to believe our political system enables good people to rise to power and act on behalf of those who elect them. Written by a Kennedy insider, it is an eye opener - especially the way it showed the way the two brothers played off of the other, supporting and encouraging, bouncing ideas off each other. The author implies  that the mob was likely the main culprit for the death of both Jack and Bobby.

Joe Kennedy, Sr:  worked hand and glove with known mobsters in amassing his bootlegging fortune during Prohibition and used those long term connections to ensure his son’s political career.

Jimmy Hoffa:  VP of the Teamster’s Union, five feet five inches tall but cruel as a titan.  He regarded politics as war by other means, ordering up violence against opponents the way a lawyer might file a motion in court.

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill: House Speaker O’Neill described how one of Joe Kennedy’s real estate partners said, “I love this young Kennedy boy. He can help the nation, by God. He’s got the feeling for it. Here’s $3,000 or $5,000. You carry your county for him and I’ll give you a little reward on my way back.”

Bobby Kennedy: Painted as a reformer, dedicated, religious, and practically worshipful of his brother with a fierce sense of loyalty. He was full of ideals but ran into a wall of reality limiting the power of a president and his men.  What was hardest for me was how Bobby dealt with the mob. He wanted to destroy them one moment and made deals with them the next. He wanted to fix the Civil Rights inequities inspire of being prejudiced himself.

JFK:  For a forty-three-year-old who spent most of his adult life in a state of pain, Kennedy seemed unusually fit. …As Jack stood … to accept his party’s nomination … few knew he had just received a heavy booster shot of novocaine in his lower back and was wearing an aluminum back brace.

Frank Sinatra:  “The thing that didn’t change for the skinny son of immigrants with pop-out ears and pool-water-blue eyes was that he continued to be the mob’s best man in Hollywood and Las Vegas. He lent the glamour and legitimacy as well as access to the loftiest places in the entertainment industry,”

The Mafia:  The CIA’S Jim O’Connell arrived in Miami to work out the assassination plot against Castro, meeting with Rosselli and Maheu. …..They agreed the hit would be something “nice and clean,” not the gangland-style ambush the CIA originally wanted. Poison was the preferred means.

Herbert Hoover:  The President was confronted with the fact that Hoover not only knew the full extent of JFK’s philandering, the full extent of his extramarital liaison with Judith Campbell Exner and also her concurrent relationship with Rosselli and Giancanna, but Hoover had also documented it and blackmailed Jack. Hoover was strongly opposed to revealing FBI sources and was himself compromised by the mob.

The Mafia: After the assassination of JFK, an informant for the FBI revealed there was a Mafia contract of several hundred thousand dollars to assassinate Bobby Kennedy.  


Book Review

The Kennedy Brothers

by Richard D. Mahoney

Kennedy Scholar emeritus of the University of Massachusetts

Six Questions to Ask When Writing a Book Review:

(from Phyllis Anne Duncan) 

1.  Do technical aspects (punctuation, grammar, style) need attention? 

2.  Are the characters believable and three-dimensional?

3.  Is there a protagonist who wants/needs something? 

4.  Is there an antagonist who’s trying to keep him/her from that goal? 

5.  Does the tension build to a conflict, and is that conflict resolved? 

6.  Last, but not least, would you recommend the book to a friend?

Leadership: In Turbulent Times 

Released:  September 18, 2018

byDoris Kearns Goodwin(Author)

Available in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, and CD

‍        Hardcover:496 pages

‍        Publisher:Simon & Schuster; First Edition/First Printing 

‍        ISBN-10:1476795924

‍        ISBN-13:978-1476795928

‍        Product Dimensions:6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches

‍        Shipping Weight:2 pounds 

I’d call this book, case studies on how to deal with difficult situations.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Harvard history professor, frames the leadership question around the lives of the four US Presidents she has already written books about: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Her classes have a primary focus on the lives and careers of these four men. 

She spent her life studying those four US presidents – Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, and Johnson - detailing and comparing  their personalities, skills and character traits. 

The thick book is divided into three sections: 1.  Ambition and the recognition of leadership. 2. Adversity and growth. 3. The leader and their times, how they led. Also included is a complete bibliography.

The author points out how these four, although each very different in personality, also shared high intelligence and resilience, and set their goals early in life. The book demonstrates politically how leaders are made, not born. Each one had the desire to enter politics, each leader encountered calamitous blows that knocked them down but they got back up and tackled the struggles that were tearing the country apart during their time in office. Those in the top office before them could have addressed the problem, but they kicked the can down the road. 

She describes Lincoln's delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation to approach the crisis of slavery and the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt's handling of labor strikes for the rise of giant corporations, FDR's battle against the Great Depression in his first 100 days,  and Johnson's prioritization of civil rights to fight racial discrimination while the country was still mourning the death of JFK.

I highly recommend the book to historians, or anyone interested in politics and leadership. While I have always admired Lincoln, and respected the two Roosevelts for their accomplishments in spite of their wealth, I never felt that LBJ was so much to be admired. The author gave me a new view of Johnson’s term in office. 

Martha Washington: An American Life

Author:  Patricia Brady

Genre: Biography

ISBN: 978-0-14-303713-2

Published by the Penguin group

Patricia Brady uses her wonderfully vibrant description and down-to-earth writing style to get through the “frumpery” that has been imposed on Martha Washington, to bring out the wealthy, attractive, and much loved young widow who captured the heart of George Washington. The author brings us along on the journey as we ride in stagecoaches, chariots and horseback from the Custis plantation to Mount Vernon to New York to Philadelphia to Valley Forge in the winter encampments. From Williamsburg to GW’s mother’s estate they rode in uncomfortable splendor. The author uses word paintings to help a reader feel intimately acquainted with Martha and George, their joys and sorrows, lives and times. She includes genealogy charts of the Washington’s family. I do recommend the book to all lovers of history.

Martha Washington

Prologue:On the Road to History

One:Little Patsy Dandridge


Three:Young Mrs. Custis

Four:The Widow Custis and Colonel Washington

Five:Gentry Life at Mount Vernon

Six:Lady Washington and the American Revolution

Seven:Valley Forge and Eventual Victory

Eight:Mount Vernon and a New Family

Nine:The President’s Lady

Ten:The Torments of the Second Term

Eleven:“Under Their Vine and Under Their Fig Tree”

Twelve:The Widow Washington

Epilogue:The Real Martha Washington





Title:  Mistress of the Monarchy

Subtitle: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

Author: Alison Weir

Nonfiction, copyright 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-45324-2

Publisher: Ballantine Books trade paperbacks, New York

Katherine, daughter of the knight Paon (Pan, Payne, baptized Gilles) de Roet, granddaughter of Jean and granddaughter of Huon de Roet, a prominent family in Hainault (now Belgium), is worthy of the many books about her.  She was first the mistress and later the wife of the famous and honored John of Gaunt (Ghent), 3rd son of King Edward and Queen Philippa.  From Katherine is descended every English monarch since 1461, and no fewer than five American presidents.  

As an infant, Katherine, born probably 1350, was placed in the household of Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife to Edward III of England around 1352, when her father left to protect the Countess Margaret’s sons on a pilgrimage to St Martin’s. Apparently her mother was deceased. Paon is believed to have had two older children, Elizabeth and Walter and one younger, Philippa. Elizabeth is believed to have spent her whole life in the convent, William later married King Edward’s cousin, Matilda of Lancaster, William later served as knight to Queen Philippi’s eldest son, known as the Black Prince, and Philippa married poet Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Father of English literature. 

In that world, Katherine would have lodged at Windsor Castle, Westminster Palace and a number of other luxurious residences of the King.They dined in style on rich cuisine, drank to excess, and dressed in extravagant fashionable and colorful clothing. Women dared not show an ankle but necklines were very low often leaving the shoulders and breasts half bared. The population of about 3 million lived in an economy based on farming, wool, and overseas trade, in tight communities, in villages or on manors, in crude wattle-and-daub cottages. The contents of a knightly household might comprise a canopied or “tester” bed, covers, blankets, linens, coverlets, mattresses, painted cloths, rugs, napkins, towels, washbasins candelabra of bronze, marble and silver gilt, bronze poets and pans, twelve silver spoons, spits, poles, iron pots, vessels of silver gilt and lead for beer, silver-gilt salt cellars, three iron braziers, trestles and boards for tables. Furniture probably included cupboards, buffets, and stools.

Katherine grew up in this male dominated, militaristic society. Girls like Katherine knew they must wait to be addressed, keep their eyes downcast, and their hands folded. Females were non-persons without a husband but catching one was not so easy for penniless women in that time of arranged marriages. Courtly love had little to do with the hardheaded medieval approach to marriage, which then was essentially a business contract giving full control of a wife to her husband. But Edward was devoted to Queen Philippa and they enjoyed a long and happy marriage. 

in the year preceding Katherine’s birth, the Black Death, a particularly virulent form of bubonic plague, killed almost 3/4ths of the population of Europe, leaving the world a very different place.

Females were bound n marriage as quickly as possible.The husband chosen for Katherine at age 12 was Sir Hugh Swynford, lord of the manors of Coleby and Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire. In the meantime, John of Gaunt had married the Duchess Blanche and they had several children.  Both Katherine Swynford and the Duchess Blanche were pregnant when their husbands rode off to war in 1366. Both their spouses, Blanche and Hugh, died in subsequent years, leaving John of Gaunt and Katherine alone. Their affair had certainly begun by the spring of 1372. John  was required to make an alliance for the good of the country so he married Constance of Castile as his second wife, but was already committed to his “unspeakable concubine” Katherine. For the next nine years Katherine remained John’s mistress and bore 4 or 5 of his children, and after the death of Constance, John made all special arrangements and married Katherine, even though she was not of the royal blood line.

I probably would not have read this book if not for the book study led by Elizabeth Prosser. It does drag in places and reading the fiction version (below) is much easier.  So I would recommend it only to true fans of the history of  english queens.