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Promises conspired Promises conspired
by Thanos Kalamidas
Issue 15
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Book
Promises to Keep
George Bernau
Warner Books Inc, 1988
The last issue was full of promises, at least that was the theme of the issue and since it was full of promises I decided to read a book with a…promising title: "Promises to Keep" by George Bernau. I've never read anything from this author before and I have to admit that I've never heard his name before either, but I noticed something on the book's cover when I bought it: "The most enthralling suspense thriller since the Day of the Jackal."

My mistake was that I didn't read what was written at the bottom of the cover, but it was in the same gray color as the rest of the book, a bit lighter perhaps so I missed it: "What if he didn't die?" As a principal I never read books that have this 'if' because this 'if' tense can be huge - if the pig had fins then it would be a fish, which is something I heard long time ago and thought was funny.

However the book has only one if: What would have happened if J. F. Kennedy hadn't died? I know what you are thinking: another conspiracy theory! These theories have the unbelievable talent to sound so real, so believable, but then before I started reading it I checked the small bio on the fifth page. George Bernau, a lawyer and full partner in a well-known firm, left his work at the beginning of 1983 to work and write this novel. Now that makes you wander.

If I was a lawyer with an established career, would I risk everything to write a book with another conspiracy theory among thousands of others about the JFK assassination? The most obvious answer would be no and that became the motivation for me to read the only conspiracy book I have ever read.

I'm not going to tell you what happens because it will spoil everything, I can only say that the book follows the president's recovery, come back and his time with the rest of the family, including his brother Bob. The story follows the life of the assassin and also a very twisted low level FBI agent who was there in Dallas on the tragic day.

I think so much has been said about JFK that there is nothing special or new about the character in the book. On the contrary, I found him often very presidential, if that sounds correct. He is very pompous and very saintly at the same time. The same applies to the rest of the family and yes Jackie is not going to marry the rich Greek for the ones who still feel hurt from that.

The assassin is definitely a parasite, you dislike him from the very first time you encounter him in the book till the last moment. I suppose that's how the American readers would like him. After all, he killed a symbol and people who kill symbols are greasy parasites and Cubans! Please don't wonder…the book is written in the early-80s and the Cuban issue was still very sensitive, so everything he does and thinks are a little predictable.

Finally, the low rank FBI agent, who is actually a nothing with only one feeling, something is not right. The story follows him for over two years. You meet his girlfriend, his parents and at every step he doubts what he's doing. The doubts become twists and there it starts with what the cover promised: an enthralling suspense thriller.

Did the book keep its promise? To some extent, yes it did. Unfortunately not to others. It took me sometimes days to read the parts of the assassin and the parts of the manipulating and power games around the president, but then it took minutes to read the chapters where the agent was looking into suspicions and secrets. Actually, I think it would have been a much better book if it had only the pages of the FBI agent and small chronicles for the others.

The best way to read this book is to get cross with it. Read all the pages with the agent and go fast through the other pages. Was it worth reading? I think the answer to this question hides behind another question: Was the theory about J. F. Kennedy believable? The scary answer from the result of the story is YES!


  
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