Non-Fiction Reviews

Head Shot: The Science Behind the J F K Assassination

(2010/2012) G. Paul Chambers, Prometheus, trdpbk, £15.99 / US$18, 264 pp, ISBN 978-1-616-14561-3


Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the 2010 hardback edition of Head Shot. I wrote, 'G. Paul Chambers… is the first experimental physicist to write an account of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his findings should perhaps be required reading for anyone who wants to write SF about it hereafter. He reopens a lot of issues which I thought were long settled, and… makes it seem astonishing that the exercise hasn't been done before.'

The main points were a detailed reconstruction from the surviving evidence, from which it seems that the second round to hit Kennedy was fired from in front by a low-calibre, high-velocity weapon such as the Winchester .220 Swift, 'a favourite assassination of the 1960s'. This is consistent with the events on the Zapruder film, the eyewitness accounts, the acoustic recordings and other major points which cannot be reconciled with any kind of shot fired from the rear. To his scientific evidence Chambers added a detailed examination of the Warren Commission Report, for whose shortcomings he had few kind words, though he sympathised with some of its members who found their hands were tied in regard to the enquiries they were allowed to make. 'For anyone who thinks they have a new twist on it now,' I wrote, 'Head Shot would be a good place to start the research.'

With the 'Expanded Edition', I have undertaken a forensic investigation of my own. I was anxious to avoid a 'Rush to Judgement', because in updating books and articles before publication, and in preparing second editions, I have often found myself having to tailor the length of the new material to fit exactly into the space of what it replaces. I have therefore checked not just every page, but every paragraph, beginning, middle and end, looking for new material, and in that regard the Expanded Edition appears to contain nothing. Even the one error I found in the previous edition, on pp.88-89, remains on exactly the same pages, in exactly the same place. What's new is a two-page Preface, which tells us only that Kennedy's death was important, and a four-page Postscript, in which the only new thing is that Chambers has visited Dealey Plaza, finding it to be 'much tinier than one imagines' and the perfect spot for a killing. It's such a disappointment that I would like to think he didn't know this edition would be packaged as 'Expanded'. If you don't have the previous edition, buy this one by all means, but if you do have it, keep your money. Either way, you need have no fears that you're missing anything.

Duncan Lunan

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