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JFK’s Last Hundred Days

JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President (Penguin, 2013)
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“Certainly demonstrates that three often painful years in office had taught Kennedy valuable lessons… Clarke delivers a thoroughly delightful portrait.”
—Kirkus (starred)

JFK’s Last Hundred Days is listed in Amazon’s best books of July 2013 and iTunes’ best books of August 2013

More reviews below


A revelatory, minute-by-minute account of JFK’s last hundred days that asks what might have been

Fifty years after his death, President John F. Kennedy’s legend endures. Noted author and historian Thurston Clarke argues that the heart of that legend is what might have been.

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JFK’s Last Hundred Days reexamines the last months of the president’s life to show a man in the midst of great change, finally on the cusp of making good on his extraordinary promise.

Kennedy’s last hundred days began just after the death of two-day-old Patrick Kennedy, and during this time, the president made strides in the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam, and his personal life. While Jackie was recuperating, the premature infant and his father were flown to Boston for Patrick’s treatment. Kennedy was holding his son’s hand when Patrick died on August 9, 1963. The loss of his son convinced Kennedy to work harder as a husband and father, and there is ample evidence that he suspended his notorious philandering during these last months of his life.

Also in these months Kennedy finally came to view civil rights as a moral as well as a political issue, and after the March on Washington, he appreciated the power of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for the first time.

Though he is often depicted as a devout cold warrior, Kennedy pushed through his proudest legislative achievement in this period, the Limited Test Ban Treaty. This success, combined with his warming relations with Nikita Khrushchev in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, led to a détente that British foreign secretary Sir Alec Douglas- Home hailed as the “beginning of the end of the Cold War.”

Throughout his presidency, Kennedy challenged demands from his advisers and the Pentagon to escalate America’s involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy began a reappraisal in the last hundred days that would have led to the withdrawal of all sixteen thousand U.S. military
advisers by 1965.

JFK’s Last Hundred Days is a gripping account that weaves together Kennedy’s public and private lives, explains why the grief following his assassination has endured so long, and solves the most tantalizing Kennedy mystery of all—not who killed him but who he was when he was killed, and where he would have led us.

More Reviews of JFK’s Last Hundred Days

“Thurston Clarke has done the seemingly impossible: he has found a revealing new angle of vision on John F. Kennedy that brings the president and his times back to vivid life. This is excellent narrative history.”
—Jon Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

“Clarke makes the drama, the excitement, and the dark side of Camelot seem like only yesterday—indeed, you feel as though you’re right there, in the Kennedy White House, at Hyannis Port, and aboard Air Force One with JFK, today.”
—Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution

“Certainly demonstrates that three often painful years in office had taught Kennedy valuable lessons… Clarke delivers a thoroughly delightful portrait… few will put it down.”
» Read the full starred review

“The three-months before President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas were frenetic times: civil rights, Vietnam, Berlin and reelection were on his mind. Thurston Clarke’s JFK’s Last Hundred Days does a marvelous job of reliving Camelot’s fragile promise. Clarke is a masterful storyteller and able researcher. This book sings. Highly recommended.”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite

“A fascinating close-up look at the final dramatic months of a young president’s life. Thurston Clarke’s portrait of Kennedy is masterful in this compelling convergence of history and biography.”
Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times.

“A graceful, bittersweet chronicle of President Kennedy’s final months… Those who remember Kennedy and those too young to do so, will find this an absorbing narrative.”
—Karl Helicher, Library Journal Review
» Read the full review

“As we approach [its] 50th anniversary… there will be a slew of books on John F. Kennedy’s death, but the early prize goes to historian Thurston Clarke’s meticulous reconstruction of JFK’s Last Hundred Days. Here we see a president in action, a man maturing and developing as a thinker and executive, and so we are haunted all over again by what might have come next.”
—Jimmy So and Lucas Whittman, “Brainy Beach Reads,” The Daily Beast/Newsweek

“Thurston Clarke takes a fresh look… [a] compelling portrait of one of the towering figures of 20th-century America.”
The Christian Science Monitor, 10 best books of July

“Clarke has written a real page-turner… deftly weaving together the private, personal, and intimate with the public, the political, and the-then-secret public and political.”
—Harvey J. Kaye, author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, in The Daily Beast
» Read the full review

“…There will be few, if any, contributions more entertaining and informative than Thurston Clarke’s comprehensive chronological telling of his last 100 days in office… Now, as Clarke underlines so well, we can still only wonder what might have been.”
—Jurek Martin, Financial Times
» Read the full review

“Mr Clarke is a good storyteller, and his account—one of many JFK books timed for the 50th anniversary of the assassination—offers an enjoyable snapshot of the day-to-day workings of the presidency.”
The Economist
» Read the full review

“…A superb piece of writing—richly detailed and, considering that the end is all too well known, surprisingly enthralling.”
—Frank Gannon, Wall Street Journal
» Read the full review

“A wonderful new book…”
—Marc Ambinder, The Week

“A gracefully written, fresh look at the oft-told story… Clarke throws light on personal details to bring his subject vibrantly alive.”
—Don Graham, The Dallas Morning News

“Thurston Clarke has written a superb book… We see… a composite portrait of a ‘casually gracious’ man who, despite his flaws, was principally characterised by ‘nobility and sacrifice.’”
—Roger Lewis, The Daily Mail (U.K.)
» Read the full review

“All of the upcoming retrospectives will be hard-pressed to match the haunting work of Thurston Clarke…  Agree with him or not, Clarke has delivered a compelling history in an interesting manner… That he has done so while writing about the nation’s most glamorized presidency borders on the miraculous.”
—Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor
» Read the full review

The Last Campaign

last campaign book (small)
The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America (eBook, 2013)
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The Last Campaign is a great read, an evocative and engaging reminder of the glory and the tragedy of Bobby Kennedy’s run for the presidency in 1968. Thurston’s keen eye for the telling and his fast-paced narrative make The Last Campaign a must-have for any student of American politics.”
—Tom Brokaw


The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now

After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope.

More Reviews below
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He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’s seeming inabilities to solve its problems of race, poverty, and the war in Vietnam. Bobby sensed the country’s pain, and when he announced that he was running for president, the country united behind his hopes. Over the action-packed eighty-two days of his campaign, Americans were inspired by Kennedy’s promise to lead them toward a better time. And after an assassin’s bullet stopped this last great stirring public figure of the 1960s, crowds lined up along the country’s railroad tracks to say goodbye to Bobby.

With new research, interviews, and an intimate sense of Kennedy, Thurston Clarke provides an absorbing historical narrative that goes right to the heart of America’s deepest despairs—and most fiercely held dreams—and tells us more than we had understood before about this complicated man and the heightened personal, racial, political, and national dramas of his times.

More Reviews of The Last Campaign

“A stunning, heartbreaking book, a reminder–which we badly need these days–of just how noble public life can be. Robert Kennedy’s brief, passionate 1968 presidential campaign set a standard of course and candor and sheer gorgeous language that is unlikely ever to be unlikely. This is a book worthy of the man and that moment, an honorable and unforgettable piece of work. The Last Campaign should be required reading for anyone seeking public office, and for the rest of us, too.”
—Joe Klein

The Last Campaign is a triumphant look at Robert F. Kennedy’s heartfelt plunge into the poverty underbelly of America. The reader can’t help but be moved at how deeply Kennedy cared about the underclass. Thurston Clarke has written a smart political book which actually inspires.”
—Douglas Brinkley

The Last Campaign is a magnificent account of the final months in the life of a man who changed so many of us, and the brilliantly told story of a campaign that broke our hearts.”
—E.J. Dionne

“Tremendously moving… Clarke compellingly recreates this “huge, joyous adventure”… Kennedy’s gradual but determined evolution into a fearless, formidable winning candidate makes stupendous reading. The hope he inspired… still provides instructive and pertinent, especially in this election year. Generous without being slavish, beautifully capturing Kennedy’s passion and dignity.”

“…revealing as an iconic portrait of the passionate, turbulent zeitgeist of the 1960s.”
—E.J. Dionne

“Piercingly and painstaking researched, it’s political history written right.”
New York Magazine

“The images from The Last Campaign, Thurston Clarke’s powerful account of Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency . . . impel themselves on the reader, touching chords of memory and sorrow.”
—Michael Kennedy, The Boston Globe

“. . . a fine addition to the Kennedy canon.”
—Todd Leopold, CNN

“I’ll be shocked if I read a more devastatingly beautiful book than Thurston Clarke’s The Last Campaign. . . . Robert F. Kennedy’s moral imagination shines in this book, so brightly, so compassionately, so full of literature and light and sacrifice, that it will haunt many readers who had hoped matters of war, poverty and inequality might have been solved 40 years ago.”
The Austin American-Statesman

“Mr. Clarke advances at a sprightly pace, has a keen eye for detail and captures not only the externals but the fascinating inner dynamics of the contest. . . . Captures [Kennedy’s] transformation with skill, showing RFK emerging, page by page, into a brilliant and utterly iconoclastic politician over those short months on the trail.”
—Ted Widmer, New York Observer 

The Last Campaign, a beautifully written and emotionally powerful examination if Robert F. Kennedy’s1968 presidential campaign. . . . Thurston Clarke has built The Last Campaign on an incredible amount of research, both archival and through hundreds of interviews with those who knew Kennedy best. The result is a vivid, intimate, historical portrait of a candidate who knew how to speak to an electorate amid troubled times. . .. Clarke’s books will break your heart but it may also relieve your cynicism, reminding all of us that candidates need not pander to succeed.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Clarke captures the Kennedy campaign in unusually graphic terms, quoting people along motorcade routes, quoting conversations Kennedy had with his staff and leading political figures. He makes the campaign come alive again. . . . This is political storytelling at its zenith.”
Deseret News

“Clarke’s stirring narrative takes readers back to the late 1960s, that idealistic, hopeful–then tragic–time in history.”

“Fortunately. . . the author of this book is Thurston Clarke, an excellent writer and super-diligent reporter.”
Toledo Blade

“Well-reported and well-written.”
—Dallas Morning News 

“A ride inside the spinning bubble of [Kennedy’s] frenzied, idealistic, doomed campaign. [Clarke’s]discussion  of the politics of class and race–the “backlash whites” in Indiana, the affluent antiwar voters in Oregon–proves remarkably topical, as is the moral challenge of Kennedy’s speeches on poverty.”
The New Yorker

“The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s last campaign.”
—Tucson Citizen 

“Clarke comes away with a focused, unique and worthy discovery of what happened during those two and a half months.”
—The Hill (Washington DC)

“Takes a detailed and fascinating look at the period.”
—Hartford Courant

“. . . very well written and offers a ringside seat on tumultuous times.”
—Mike Barry 

“One of the many pleasures of reading Thurston Clarke’s… The Last Campaign… is the introduction it provides to RFK’s fierce moral rhetoric.”
—Nick Hornby