Cover image for Sons & brothers : the days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy
Sons & brothers : the days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy
Mahoney, Richard D.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade Pub. : Distributed by Time Warner Trade Pub., [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 441 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E842.1 .M34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E842.1 .M34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E842.1 .M34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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This intriguing book brings a fresh perspective to bear on the intimate, charged partnership of John and Robert Kennedy. The author, Richard D. Mahoney, whose father was a friend of Bobby's and an appointee of Jack's, has both the academic and political experience necessary to evaluate evidence of the Kennedys' relations with the Mafia, anti-Castro rebels, and other groups lurking in the shadows of American life. He also has a sharp eye for the brothers' differing yet complementary personalities. Jack was intellectual and cheerfully cynical, with a zest for pleasure increased by a life-threatening illness concealed from the public. He looked to passionate, partisan Bobby for bulldog-like political support and used his brother as a "moral compass" when planning his administration's actions on civil rights, the corruption of organized labor, and the containment of Communism. Their powerful father, Joseph--whose deep pockets basically bought Jack the presidency and at the same time compromised it because of Joseph's links to organized crime--looms over the brothers as the author of a Faustian bargain that may well have played a role in JFK's assassination. Mahoney's vivid, compulsively readable text offers suggestive questions rather than definitive answers, but it certainly succeeds as a bracing corrective to "America's inability to see its history as tragedy," a failure Jack and Bobby emphatically did not share. --Wendy Smith

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The relationship between John Kennedy and his brother Robert remains perennially intriguing decades after their deaths. Not close as children, they were brought together through politics. Mahoney's nuanced portrait of the brothers' relationship chronicles its evolution, its mutual dependencies, and the wide-ranging effect that the actions of the brothers' father, Joe, had on Jack's and Bobby's political lives. Mahoney delves deeply into the relationship between Joe Kennedy and the Mob, offering proof that Joe used the underworld to help buy the presidency for his son, who then made Robert the country's chief crime buster. It is this sense of working at cross-purposes, later exacerbated when anti-Castro Cubans (with their own Mob dealings) enter the mix, that casts such shadows over the brothers' story. The theory that the Mob, Cubans, and the CIA were involved in JFK's assassination is not new, but it remains unproven and mired in contradictions. Despite the clarity of Mahoney's writing in other areas, he is unable to make this crucial element less murky. The book is perhaps at its best in the coverage of Bobby's life alone, after Jack's death, as he goes from being his brother's alter ego to a moral warrior in his own right, unafraid of his destiny. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Writing in a steady, almost relentlessly elegiac tone, Mahoney proves that the lives and deaths of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy remain as compelling now as they were throughout the turbulent 1960s. Mahoney, a former JFK scholar at the University of Massachusetts and at the Kennedy Library, examines how Jack and Bobby were shaped by their relationship as brothers and by the legacy of their father, Joe Kennedy. In 44 brief chapters, each a vignette chosen to illuminate how the brothers responded to events not as separate historical actors but as members of a family, Mahoney reveals the anger, even rage, that permeated the Kennedy years (exemplified by the implacable hatred between Bobby and the Mafia and between the Kennedys and Castro). The tumultuous events of the 1960s pass in review as Mahoney contrasts Jack as the cool ironist with Bobby as a vengeful authoritarian who grew, Mahoney contends, into a principled moral crusader. Although he asserts a second gunman took part in the JFK assassination, Mahoney doesn't identify him or definitively endorse any of the competing conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Mahoney offers a vivid fraternal portrait of Jack and Bobby Kennedy as co-participants in the crises of their times, setting in motion forces that would lead to their destruction. Mahoney is an excellent storyteller, but the drums of high drama rumble a bit too persistently through the book as he portrays the brothers as figures out of a Greek tragedy brought both high and low by the force of their character. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

To Mahoney, a former Arizona government official and scholar at the Kennedy library, John and Robert Kennedy are best remembered as fallen leaders who became tragic heroes in the manner of Greek drama. This is not a joint biography but rather a lucid investigation of the devotion between the brothers and their loyalty to Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch. Unlike Seymour Hersh's The Dark Side of Camelot (Little, Brown, 1997), Sons & Brothers portrays the Kennedys not just as philanderers-in-chief but as effective leaders who jeopardized their careers and possibly their lives through dealings with the Mafia, anti-Castro Cubans, and rogue elements of the CIA. Mahoney also movingly describes a distraught Robert Kennedy's transformation into the moral hero of forgotten America after JFK's death. He does not explore the complex relationships among the Kennedys to the extent that James Hilty does in his masterly Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector (LJ 4/15/98), but Mahoney's measured, controversial account of the Kennedys as politicians and icons is recommended for public libraries.ÄKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Crusades: 1951-1959p. 3
The Campaign: 1960p. 41
Ordeal: 1961p. 89
Triumph: 1962p. 143
Rendezvous: 1963p. 223
Bobby Alone: 1964-1968p. 299
Epiloguep. 375
Notesp. 379
Indexp. 425