For many people aged, say, between 55 and 75, the assassination of John F Kennedy remains the biggest news event of their lives. (Will those of us with less vintage feel the same way about September 11 in 2051?) The 50th anniversary of the killing by Lee Harvey Oswald falls in two weeks.
One of the many skills of a good news or features editor is spotting the throwaway item in a gossip column or the 37th paragraph of a long read, and thinking, “Crikey, that would make a hell of a story, if only...”
i’s Features executive, Jac Fuller, thought just that when she read an article by the Mail’s Peter McKay in June. He name-dropped 11 22 63, the “brilliant” fictionalised account of the Kennedy assassination by Stephen King, whose books have sold more than 350 million copies.
Following a few months of negotiation and editing, I’m pleased that i, as a one-off experiment, carries an extract from the novel, with an introduction by King. It’s longer than our usual feature articles so we’ve chopped it in half: Part I runs today (in place of a regular technology item) and Part II tomorrow, in Friday’s i. It's entertainment that gets you thinking, and tees up wider news coverage over the next fortnight.
I’ll leave King to tell you more about the extract, and where he thinks the JFK killing leaves us, half a century on. Having studied the evidence for years, he believes Oswald was the lone gunman, writing: “Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation is usually the right one.”
Many of the conspiracy theories about the death of Kennedy – as with the bombings of New York and London, and the proceedings of the so-called “Illuminati” who secretly run world affairs (cough) – have gained fresh traction on an unfiltered internet. Narratives like King’s time travel fantasy, rooted in fact, let us meddle with history and counter-myth.