Over the past half century, the assassination of President Kennedy has been the subject of books, magazine and newspaper articles, documentaries, movies and T.V. shows (on that note, well worth watching is the 1986 Twilight Zone episode “Profile in Silver.”).
One book worthy of note is George Bernau’s 1988 novel Promises to Keep, which postulates “what if the president survived the assassination attempt in Dallas?”
The president in this case is John Trewlaney Cassidy, who was shot while riding in an open motorcade with his wife, Suzanne. As Cassidy struggles to recuperate, vice president Rance Gardner serves as acting president.
Over the course of the novel, Cassidy’s injuries force him to step down from the presidency, but he eventually pursues a senate seat as part of his effort to make a political comeback and keep the promises he’d made. Meanwhile, the Republicans hope to defeat Gardner in 1964 and attorney general Tim Cassidy, the president’s younger brother, pursues his own agenda. This includes a fateful decision to go to Vietnam.
We also follow the efforts of FBI agent James Sullivan to determine what really happened that day in Dallas, even as those involved in the conspiracy (yes, in Promise to Keep the assassination attempt was part of a concerted plot, not the actions of a lone gunman; an understandable storyline in a suspense novel) take steps to cover their tracks.
The novel both diverges from and parallels the history that we know. While the events of the book take Tim Cassidy’s life in a different direction than that of his analogue, Bobby Kennedy, Rance Gardner’s path is an almost exact parallel of Lyndon Johnson’s.
And even as the novel opened in Dallas in November 1963, events lead certain characters to be in Los Angeles in June 1968 at the climax.
If you’re interested in the Kennedy presidency and/or his assassination and/or you enjoy reading political thrillers, you’ll probably enjoy Promises to Keep.
Copyright 2013, Patrick Keating