Monday, June 02, 2008

Robert Blair Kaiser's "R.F.K. MUST DIE!" in Los Angeles Times

Robert Blair Kaiser's riveting exploration of the RFK assassination and subsequent trial of Sirhan Sirhan receives praise from David Ulin in yesterday's LA Times feature story on new RFK books published on the 40th anniversary of his death: "For the rest of the story, there's Robert Blair Kaiser's R.F.K. Must Die!': Chasing the Mystery of the Robert Kennedy Assassination. Originally published in 1970 and now substantially revised, Kaiser's book is a definitive account of the shooting and its aftermath. The author talked his way onto Sirhan's defense team and spent more than 200 hours in interviews with him; he came up with the "Manchurian Candidate" theory, which suggests Sirhan was programmed (by himself or someone else) to fire on Kennedy and then programmed to forget.Of all the RFK conspiracy theories, this is the most compelling, for Sirhan dabbled in Rosicrucianism and self-hypnosis and always claimed not to recall what took place at the Ambassador. Still, the real value of Kaiser's book lies in its methodical re-creation of the crime and the investigation, as well as its insights into Sirhan. In one particularly vivid scene, Sirhan "re-enacts" the shooting under hypnosis: "Sirhan's right hand pounded climactically on his right thigh -- five times. His right forefinger squeezed and twisted three more times in a weakening spasm. Then he was still." Later, in an unguarded moment, Sirhan talks about the killing. Asked by a defense investigator why he didn't shoot Kennedy between the eyes, he answers calmly, 'Because the son of a bitch turned his head at the last second.That sounds like a confession, and it's to Kaiser's credit that he includes it, even though it casts doubt on his own theory. In the end, however, it matters less how the assassination happened than what we lost."

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