Cover image for Sons of Camelot : the fate of an American dynasty
Sons of Camelot : the fate of an American dynasty
Leamer, Laurence.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, 2004.
Physical Description:
xii, 638 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E843 .L44 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From the renowned biographer and national bestselling author of The Kennedy Women and The Kennedy Men comes the third volume in the epic multigenerational history of America's first family.

Sons of Camelot is the compelling story of the Kennedy sons and grandsons in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is the most intimate biography ever written about the Kennedys, with the cooperation of family and friends at a moment when they are ready to talk with insight and depth about their lives. Among the many stunning portraits in the book is the definitive account of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s life, including interviews with his ten closest friends, none of whom has ever talked to an author before.

Based on five years of rigorous research and unprecedented cooperation from the five surviving sons of Robert Kennedy, the four Shriver sons, Maria Shriver, and other Kennedys, Sons of Camelot is not only the most authoritative account, it is by far the most revealing book ever written about these lives. Falling far short of the great ambitions their patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, envisioned for his family, the lives of his youthful progeny are instead characterized by overwhelming drama full of exalted aspirations, notable achievements, and the most spectacular mishaps, excesses, and tragedies. Yet among them are those whose remarkable accomplishments have led to better lives for all Americans and for others around the world.

Heartbreaking and inspiring, Sons of Camelot is a spellbinding history of individuals and a family, a journey of character through time told by a brilliant, masterful writer.

Author Notes

Laurence Leamer was born in Chicago on Ocober 30, 1941. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Kennedy Women, and Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2015 his non-fiction book The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963, was listed on the Nrew York Times bestseller list.

Leamer is a former Ford Fellow in International Development at the University of Oregon and a former International Fellow at Columbia University. He is regarded as an expert on the Kennedy family. Leamer was on the staff at Newsweek, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Playboy, and many other publications.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

He has written about show-business celebrities including Ingrid Bergman andohnny Carson, but Leamer has built his career around theennedys. His two joint biographies--ennedy Women (1994) and ennedy Men (2001)--remain among the most readable works on the ever-growingennedy shelves. Here he deals with the grandsons ofoeennedy--men who have had more than their share of difficulties wearing the family mantle. Three of the grandsons have died violently--Johnennedyr., of course, is the best known--and many of them have struggled with alcohol and drugs. It is clear, as Leamer tells their stories, that the research he has done for previous books--and, just as important, the contacts he has made over the years--gives his work an insider status rarely found in theennedy oeuvre. There are interviews here with some of the principals, including Robertennedyr., and although Leamer did not speak toFKr., many of his close friends did, including CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour. Yet, as Leamer notes in his afterword, he did not barter away his objectivity in exchange for access to intimates. For instance, he makes it a point to note the inherent dishonesty evident in the eulogies of Michaelennedy, who had an affair with his baby-sitter before dying in an accident on the ski slopes.ennedy watchers, who continue to be legion, will find this a fascinating chapter in the never-ending story. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Picking up where his previous two bestsellers about the Kennedys left off, Leamer traces the clan's supposed downward spiral in the 40 years since John F. Kennedy's assassination. Early chapters concentrate on JFK's surviving brothers, but after Bobby's death and Ted's drive off the bridge at Chappaquiddick, the book eagerly delves into the sordid stories of the next generation. The title describes the book's focus exactly; though readers slog through detailed accounts of Robert Jr.'s environmental activism, no mention is made, for instance, of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's legal scholarship (and there will apparently be no Daughters of Camelot). The women's absence leaves more room to describe how messed up the men were. Leamer dwells endlessly on addiction and self-destructive behavior, invoking sometimes dubious psychological theories about generational dynamics and genetic predispositions (does it matter if the Kennedys carry D4Dr, the "novelty-seeking" gene?). As one might expect, John Jr. disproportionately dominates the second half of the story. The tale, touching glancingly on matters covered in Edward Klein's recent expos?, is buttressed by interviews with several close friends who have never spoken about John Jr. for attribution before, though one wonders if even they could have the embarrassingly intimate familiarity with his sex life that Leamer professes. The prose is workmanlike, with occasional slips into mawkishness, but nobody will read this book for its style, and Leamer has wisely loaded it with more than enough scandal to satisfy audience expectations. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Joy Harris. 150,000 first printing. (Mar. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With this look at the next generation of Kennedy men, Leamer continues his examination of an influential American family (see also The Kennedy Women and The Kennedy Men). He focuses on 12 of the 17 grandsons of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy-the sons of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy as well as those of Eunice Shriver, Pat Lawford, and Jean Smith-following them from their faltering adolescence into adulthood, when they became congressmen, environmental attorneys, energy entrepreneurs, publishers, and nonprofit organization executives. As the patriarch and surrogate father figure, Ted Kennedy plays a significant role in the saga. Leamer is balanced and fair, giving equal treatment to both success stories and scandals. For background, he conducted numerous interviews with the sons, their wives, close friends, and co-workers; he also consulted news sources, presidential libraries, personal papers, and authoritative writings. The engaging final product reveals the complex and dynamic relationships among the offspring as well as the personalities of the individual men, especially John F. Kennedy Jr. Recommended for all libraries, especially those that own Leamer's earlier works. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Sons of Camelot The Fate of an American Dynasty Chapter One A Soldier's Salute On his third birthday, John F. Kennedy Jr. stood holding his mother's hand as the caisson pulled by six gray horses rolled by, bearing the body of his father. It was a cold day, and John was wearing shorts and a cloth coat. His mother, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, whispered to her son, and John saluted his father. This was not a little boy making a stab at a military greeting, but a young actor performing a soldier's salute. Practically everyone in America who viewed the funeral of President John F. Kennedy on television or saw the picture in the newspapers felt a poignant identity with the fatherless child. It was an indelible image, forever frozen in that moment. After they buried the president on November 25, 1963, the Kennedys returned to the White House to celebrate John's birthday. The party was a masquerade of joyousness within the somber patterns of this day. It was both a retreat into the safe harbor of family and an assertion that they would go on as they always had. Seated at the table with John were many of the same energetic children who the summer before had clambered onto the president's electric cart at the Kennedy summer estate on Cape Cod. Robert Francis Kennedy and his wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy, were there with their seven children. Alongside them were Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford's daughter, Sydney Maleia. Several of these children were old enough to know that a terrible event had occurred. Bobby's eight-year-old son David was a boy of immense sensitivity. When he had been picked up by one of his father's aides from parochial school only minutes after his uncle's death, he presumably had no way to know what had transpired in Dallas, but somehow he had figured it out. "Jack's hurt," he said, after dialing numbers on his toy phone. "Why did somebody shoot him?" Senator Edward Moore Kennedy had been presiding over the Senate when he learned that his brother had been shot in Dallas. His first reaction was to worry about the safety of his wife, Joan Bennett Kennedy. He had driven back to his home in Georgetown, running traffic lights and honking other vehicles out of his way. He then flew up to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, to tell his father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, that the president had been assassinated, but he broke into sobs before entering the room and his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, gave Joe the news. Ted returned immediately to Washington, where this evening he stood at the birthday party next to his brother Bobby. Ted managed to keep up a facade of good cheer in front of the children, but his surviving brother wore a gray mask of mourning. Bobby had been the president's alter ego and protector. He could finish his brother's sentences and complete a task that Jack signaled with no more than a nod or a gesture. He had loved his brother so intensely and served him so well that within the administration it was hard to tell where one man ended and the other began. Now Jack was dead. That was grief enough to buckle the knees of most men, but that was only the beginning of Bobby's agonies. He was the attorney general of the United States, and John F. Kennedy had died on his watch. Bobby may have feared that his responsibility went even further, that the man or men who murdered the president -- be they CIA agents, Cuban exiles, mobsters, or a strange lone man enraged at the attack on Castro's Cuba -- had been egged on by a policy that the attorney general himself had instituted. When Jack died, Bobby's immediate reaction was to try to discover who might have killed his brother, first looking within his own government. Then he protected the president's secrets by locking up his papers and files. Bobby's grief was sharpened further by the fact that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was now president. Bobby considered Johnson a vulgar usurper who, he believed, would turn away from his brother's principles and ideals. One of Bobby's first acts after his brother's assassination was to write a letter to his eldest son, reminding eleven-year-old Joseph Patrick Kennedy II of the obligations of his name. "You are the oldest of all the male grandchildren," he wrote. "You have a special and particular responsibility now which I know you will fulfill. Remember all the things that Jack started -- be kind to others that are less fortunate than we -- and love our country." Young Joe was the oldest of all the Kennedy grandchildren, and if it was not burden enough to be faced with the violent death of his beloved uncle, he now was being given another, even heavier load to lift. Bobby sent the letter to Joe, but the message was meant for all his sons and nephews. More than anything else, Jack willed to his brothers, son, and nephews a treasure chest of promise, golden nuggets of what might have been and what might yet be. Just as the forty-six-year-old leader would be forever young, his administration would be forever unfulfilled. Historians would endlessly debate the qualities of distinction he had shown in the Oval Office, but he would stand high in the minds of his fellow citizens, remembered by most Americans as one of the greatest of presidents. As they attempted to fulfill the mandate that Jack had left them, Bobby and Ted had an immense capital of goodwill and feeling unlike anything an American political family had known before. Americans had worn the black crepe of mourning for Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, but they did not seek to elevate their heirs or to see their presidencies as part of an ongoing family endeavor in which a brother or a son might rightfully assume that same mantle of high power. Sons of Camelot The Fate of an American Dynasty . Copyright © by Laurence Leamer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Sons of Camelot: The Fate of an American Dynasty by Laurence Leamer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1. A Soldier's Salutep. 1
2. Sheep Without a Shepherdp. 10
3. Games of Powerp. 17
4. The Senators Kennedyp. 26
5. Peaks and Valleysp. 40
6. A Brother's Challengep. 49
7. War in a Distant Climep. 61
8. Standing in the Rubiconp. 72
9. A Race Against Himselfp. 77
10. Journey's Endp. 88
11. Ports of Callp. 103
12. Ted's Wayp. 117
13. The Road Not Takenp. 123
14. Boys' Livesp. 133
15. Sailing Beyond the Sunsetp. 142
16. Running Freep. 151
17. A Clearing in the Futurep. 158
18. Outcastsp. 174
19. The Shriver Tablep. 183
20. John's Songp. 193
21. Keeping the Faithp. 205
22. Bobby's Gamesp. 216
23. A Life to Be Stepped Aroundp. 226
24. The Games of Menp. 234
25. Left Out in the Coldp. 251
26. Joe Jones in New Havenp. 265
27. John at Brownp. 280
28. An Actor's Lifep. 290
29. Saving Gracep. 303
30. Peter Pan on Rollerbladesp. 313
31. Jungle Wastep. 331
32. A Man Apartp. 341
33. Good Fridayp. 347
34. Love, Loyalty, and Moneyp. 360
35. Team Playp. 373
36. Best Buddiesp. 380
37. Adrenaline Addicts Anonymousp. 390
38. Michael's Wayp. 397
39. A Child of the Universep. 409
40. Games Kennedys Playp. 422
41. Humbert Humbertp. 437
42. A Tattered Bannerp. 448
43. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet George"p. 456
44. A Father and Sonp. 468
45. John's Best Shotp. 476
46. Poster Boys for Bad Behaviorp. 487
47. Clinton and the Kennedysp. 495
48. A Life of Choicesp. 503
49. Night Flightp. 518
50. Beguiled and Broken Heartsp. 535
51. Life Lessonsp. 541
52. Times of Testingp. 552
53. Ripples of Hopep. 566
Source Abbreviationsp. 571
Notesp. 575
Bibliographyp. 611
Acknowledgmentsp. 615
Indexp. 621