The Dark Side of Camelot
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The Dark Side of Camelot

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,016 ratings  ·  113 reviews
This monumental work of investigative journalism reveals the Kennedy White House as never before. With its meticulously documented & compulsively readable portrait of John F. Kennedy as a man whose reckless personal behavior imperiled his presidency, The Dark Side of Camelot sparked a firestorm of controversy upon its initial publication--becoming a bestseller & on...more
Hardcover, 1st, 498 pages
Published November 10th 1997 by Little, Brown & Company (Boston) (first published 1997)
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Eric
"Drinking and partying became constant features of presidential travel."

I press this book on people all the time. No one believes me when I cite the most tawdry Kennedy stories, so I have to point them to Hersh's interviews with Secret Service agents who observed close-up the bacchanal that was the JFK entourage. In addition to those interviews, the stuff on Joseph P. Kennedy is fascinating--what a beast! It took a political master like FDR to checkmate him.
Rebecca
Well, that was life-alteringly depressing.

I have never been a great Kennedy fan, but I've also never been a huge detractor. I was aware of some womanizing "issues" (although I had no idea the extent), and that the Bay of Pigs was a total cluster fudge, but beyond worse d that I really had no opinion. Good things, bad things, seemed like the normal mix of a presidency, just more extreme in some areas.

It was...a little than I thought, and the author destroyed virtually any possibility of a positi...more
Sean
Hersh's thesis is that JFK's moral weaknesses limited his ability to fulfill his duties as President; and that, moreover, the image of JFK as the devout Catholic and focused President, who was fully committed to the well being of his family and country, is more myth than fact. His thesis is proven through interviews and documentation, which indicate extensive adultery and corruption.

The book serves as both a challenge and a caution. It's a challenge to those who would allow a politician's charis...more
Heather
I think I need to put this disclaimer in first. I am a fan of John F. Kennedy. I do have my own strong opinions about his career and his life. However, I do see myself still able to review books without a huge amount of bias. Mainly because I am aware of this potential bias from the outset.

The reason why I did not like this book is because most of the accusations the author spews is unsubstaintiated. He gives many "unnamed sources" which completely dissolves his argument in my view. If you are g...more
Jon
Hersh's take on JFK is oddly bifurcated (then again, JFK's personality was too) as he tends to alternate chapters about Kennedy's sexual rapacity and other peccadilloes with chapters about policy issues. (Of course, these often intersect, as in the infamous "contract for General Dynamics to build a plane that didn't fly, instead of Boeing to build one that would have worked, in exchange for GD officials not blackmailing JFK over his affair with Judith Campbell Exner" deal.) One wonders how JFK f...more
Jon
I was intrigued by Kennedy's presidency after reading Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy", but found myself completely disturbed by the accounts reported in this book. If only a quater of these accounts are accuate, it's disturbing - not jsut the womanizing, but the path to election and the cover-up of mistakes. I guess I never really looked into the claims and rumors I had previously heard and like most Americans of my generation just accepted the accounts of the Kennedy dream presidency. We've f...more
Sara
I want to start by saying that I did like this book. I thought it had a lot of great information and a lot of great gossip, which I love. I definitely learned things about the Kennedys and his presidency that I did not know before, and the things I did know I felt like Hersh shined a new light on them. Hersh did his research and you can tell in this book. The things that I didn't like are mostly things that I as a reader just don't enjoy. Names. So many many names. Its hard to keep track of whos...more
Steve
I just finished reading The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour M. Hersh. Hersh is a digger, and I've read plenty of his magazine articles over the years. This was my first time reading one of his books - boy, did he find out plenty about John F. Kennedy and his life hidden from the public eye. Yeah, we all know about the sex, but not to the degree Hersh describes. And we know Kennedy got the U.S. into Vietnam, but not the level of involvement Hersh charges him in keeping us there longer than we sho...more
Mike H
Interesting information and details, but Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. And Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. And Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. Yup, that's exactly how it feels to read this book.

And I got very tired of reading the phrase "in an interview for this book....."; Yeah, I get it, you conducted interviews for the book. I figured that out on...more
Alan
Mar 26, 2009 Alan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Alan by: A friend who hasn' read it.
Seymour Hersh obviously didn't win Pulitzer prizes on the merits of this book which reads more like a gossip rag than a serious study of the Camelot years. While I admit to being one of those who wants to believe in the myth I have heard much of this before and much more that I for one don't want to hear at all. Salacious, mean spirited and somewhat poorly documented much reads like hearsay and hearsay from people who in a court of law wouldn't be given much credence. I've had enough...
Brendan Steinhauser
An excellent read about the dark side of JFK, RFK and the yes men around them. The case against them is pretty shocking and repulsive, if you believe the charges that the author makes in this book. Definitely worth a read for all students of American history.
Joan Carrigan
A sad but true story of the philandering president Kennedy and his sex history. How amazing that he had a bout of chlamydia while the Cuban Missle Crisis was going on. No wonder Americans aren't allowed in Cuba!
Biblioteka
This book shows the man behind the myth.I read it about 8 years ago. The lurid details regarding John F. Kennedy's sex addiction and his affair with the German prostitute kept me on the edge of my seat, and they still linger in my mind to date. Enter Marilyn Monroe and the story gets more unbelievable. I also had no idea Kennedy suffered Addison's disease (I thought he just had a nice tan).

The black and white photos added to the realness of the story. I sympathised with Jackie for what she had...more
Jeff Breiwick
Should be required reading for anyone who grew up during the sixties.
Aaron Johnston
A lot has been written about the Kennedy administration, and a great number of those books, if not the vast majority, paint Kennedy as a national treasure, a shrewd negotiator, and a champion of Civil Rights, space exploration, and global democracy. He was the people's president. A loving family man adored by photographers, the press, and the public alike.

This is not that book.

This is the truth. John F. Kennedy was a terrible human being. A sexual predator. A drug addict. A crook. A plotter, sc...more
Cheryl
This book, heavily documented with original interviews and sources, attempts to undo myths about JFK.
Sadly, this handsome charismatic president was also a complete phony and fraud. He was consumed with extramarital sex and regularly defiled the White House; we might have as well elected Hugh Hefner as president for all the sexual hijinks, mob connections and secret business deals that went on in the Kennedy White House. (Ted too).
This book also shows how dangerous it is for journalists to (lite...more
Sara
This was a tabloid, in book format. All kinds of salacious gossip about the Kennedys, much of which is probably true. I have no doubt that the author did his homework, but I wouldn't exactly consider this a piece of scholarly journalism. The author also seems to fault Kennedy for acting like a politician. I don't think it was particularly well written, and there was a LOT of self-aggrandizing. The phrase "in an interview for this book" or something similar appears on nearly every page. I also ha...more
Ira
I would expect more from Sy Hersh than what appears between the covers of this book but I guess it is my fault for trusting the author's name alone when purchasing this book (perhaps this is how woodward fans felt after reading the Belushi book).

Darkside of Camelot is about Kennedy and those around him. Hersch includes underbelly bios on the Fitzgeralds and Joe Kennedy. He is supplied stories from former JFK women, secret service men, government workers etc and etc. Each time some information co...more
Sandy
Having read this book, it utterly mystifies me that despite all the revelations Hersh uncovers about the Kennedy political dynasty- illegal, immoral and otherwise- JFK is still treated with such veneration and respect by so many Americans and foreigners. The image of JFK as a young and idealistic, yet tough and resolute leader is torn asunder in this book, and he is portrayed here as a womanizing, cynical, petty and corrupt president who failed to apply the requisite level of caution and serious...more
Tessa
I really liked this in the sense that it was readable to someone like me who is a nonfiction dabbler and it's impressively reported, not four stars in the sense that I read it feverishly and it changed my life. It did make me a little sick, which I think good history-writing should do--and it highlighted how skewed history can become just because people supress stuff, which is also a mark of effective history writing.

So... JFK did some really dumb stuff. In particular, continuing to go after Cas...more
Jane
Sep 08, 2009 Jane rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate the Kennedys
I think a lot of Seymour Hersh so I was inspired to read the book based on the fact that I have always considered him fair and not some right-wing muckraker. He based the book primarily on interviews with people who knew the Kennedys or worked with them during JFK's administration. I was disappointed by much of the content of this book and wondered after I finished it if I wouldn't have been better off not reading it. I used to boast that one of my proudest accomplishments was casting my first e...more
Tom Hannis
A hard pill to swallow about the man most responsible for sparking my interest in a career in public service. My heart says "no, no." But this seems a meticulously researched work, and Hersh does not seem to unfairly overstate his findings. My brain tells me that most of this is sadly true. "Johnny (and Bobby), we hardly knew ye." Indeed.
Kaelie
While this was a good example of journalism, it focuses on all the negatives behind Kennedy and the Kennedy family. I found this to be cumbersome, but unsurprising since journalism only writes what is interesting. And we aren't interested on what people did right, are we?

I balanced this out with Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life, and found them to cancel out two extreme views of my favorite president of American history.

This book was good for covering why Kennedy is so scandalous, and a lot of...more
Scott
Two very interesting things about this book:
1) It reads like something Sean Hannity would "write" (I refuse to acknowledge he is actually literate) because it is the harshest attack on JFK one can imagine. But, since it's actually written by Sy Hersh, one of the finest investigative reporters ever, I'm inclined to believe it all.
2) Obama should be required to read this, just in case there's anything remotely shady going on with the president-elect. Not that I think there is, but some of the non...more
Justin Mitchell
Another very informative but difficult to read book. Lots of information, organized in a very non-linear fashion that doesn't make it horribly readable. Also, Hersh's fetishization of footnotes gives David Foster Wallace a run for his money. Generally a very fractured read, which I guess makes sense seeing as this book functions as something of a postmodern deconstruction of the Kennedy myth from the inside out. It's hard to know what to believe, as a lot of the book is based on hearsay, but it'...more
Kent
Having lived through the Kennedy years, I've loved reading everything I can about them. "The Dark Side of Camelot" is aptly named, because it tells of things that most people would just as not hear....things that have been covered up or swept under the rug. Seymour M. Hersch, being a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writes a compelling expose of all the behind the scene negotiations, clandestine meetings, and sexual dalliances of JFK. I know that all of the interviews he conducted, the quotations,...more
Peyotitlan
It is OK, but I personally found it a bit droll.

A lot of the material seems to be exclusive, as the author continuously reminds us. The subject is very interesting and the events that are discussed, are amazing too... I just didn't feel the writing flow. Several times I found myself nodding off.

It is not a bad book, but it lacks rhythm and all I got out of it was a list of bullet points. I suppose there is plenty of material out there to compare against and to try and get more detail. Though, th...more
MisterFweem
I should stop reading books about politics and politicians, as it doesn't do much good in breaking down the cynicism I've developed over the years when it comes to politicians.

So chalk up Jack Kennedy as another guy who pretty much figured rules didn't apply to him. Thanks to him, the idea of plausible deniability for the POTUS came into vogue in a big way -- let the president's men be the scumbags at his behest, but allow him to keep his nose clean so he can be shocked, SHOCKED, mind you, when...more
Monte Lamb
This book will show you a side of JFK that opens up a lot of questions as to his personal life as well as the way in which he ran the country. The writer is a well-known investigative reporter who did a lot of homework to find out this seamier side of JFK. The interviews were with mostly respectable people and do have a reasonable sense of credibility in almost all cases. What is striking is just how far on the edge JFK and RFK lived and how close they were to a scandal that would have ended the...more
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The truth of American history 2 5 Dec 13, 2012 07:16PM  
  • JFK: Reckless Youth
  • Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years
  • Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot
  • Robert Kennedy: His Life
  • The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family
  • Robert Kennedy and His Times
  • Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy
  • Make Gentle the Life of This World: The Vision of Robert F. Kennedy
  • All Too Human the Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy
  • In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam
  • The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon
  • Best Evidence
  • J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets
  • The Kennedys: An American Drama
  • Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
  • The Death of a President: November 1963
  • The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga
  • JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
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Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a "five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award."

He first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the...more
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