View high resolution
In any case, one of James’s best chapters is on the Kennedy assassination. James begins by systematically blowing away the conspiracy arguments. The idea that Oswald was in cahoots with the Soviets or the Mafia or that he had an accomplice somewhere or there was a second assassin or that he was under the control of some menacing force is just too complicated, James points out: It requires too many coincidences and leaps of logic and extravagant assumptions. And besides — and here is where James really shines — there’s a much simpler explanation.
James loves the Kennedy book Mortal Error by Bonar Menninger, which is based on the work of a Baltimore ballistics expert named Howard Donahue. Donahue’s focus is on the mysterious third bullet that hit Kennedy — and that ended up killing him. It didn’t behave like the first two bullets. It disintegrated inside Kennedy’s skull, for instance, which a bullet fired from Oswald’s rifle should not have done. And from where Oswald was situated it is hard to see how the bullet could really have traveled in the trajectory that it did. The questions surrounding the third bullet are a big part of the reason so many people believe in a conspiracy. So what was Donahue’s explanation? There was a second gunman. But it wasn’t an assassin. It was a Secret Service man named George Hickey who heard the first two shots, panicked, and let off a shot that hit the president in the head. It was all a tragic accident. Hickey’s AR-15 rifle matches the ballistics and trajectory of the fatal bullet perfectly. And numerous eyewitnesses reported seeing him grab his weapon and wave it about. I could go on. James describes in brilliant detail just how convincing this particular explanation is.
— Malcolm Gladwell on Bill James