The Viking Press Book That Upset Jackie Kennedy Shows Her Dedication To Family In 'The Kennedys – After Camelot'
Everyone knows the story of President John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. Most people have probably even seen the images and video that captured the horrific moment when JFK was shot and killed while riding in a car, sitting next to his wife, Jackie. Few of us can imagine how Jackie was able to move forward after such a nightmarish event, but we can see it play out on the new Sunday night Reelz miniseries The Kennedys – After Camelot. It makes it all the more understandable why she would want to avoid reliving that traumatic day ever again. Unfortunately during the time after JFK's assassination, when she took a position as a book editor for Viking Press, one book hit a little too close to home. So, what Viking Press book upset Jackie Kennedy enough to resign from her post as editor?
The book in question was "Shall We Tell The President?" from author, Jeffrey Archer. The fictional plot of the book is a world where Edward Kennedy, Jackie's brother-in-law from her marriage to JFK, was President of the United States and an attempt is made to assassinate him. I mean, I don't think there is any one among us that could blame Jackie for wanting to run for the hills away from that kind of story.
Viking Press' decision to publish this particular book resulted in Jackie abruptly resigning from her job with the company. According to the Washington Post, Viking's president, Thomas Guinzburg claimed he had discussed the book with Jackie prior to publication and that she'd allegedly had "a generous and understanding response." In a statement, according to WP, he said:
"My own affection for the Kennedy family and the extremely effective and valued contribution which Mrs. Onassis has made to Viking over the past two years would obviously have been an overriding factor in the final decision to publish any particular book that might cause her further anguish."
Jackie's spokesperson agreed that the two did speak about the book, but denied that she'd had a positive opinion. "She didn't tell him, 'that sounds like a neat idea,'" her spokesperson Nancy Tuckerman said, according to WP.
Of course, nothing having to do with the Kennedy family is ever simple. The main issue seemed to rest, not on the content of the book, but on the assumption that Jackie's employment at the company translated into endorsement and connection to the publication of the book. When a review was released for the book by New York Times critic John Leonard, he made a very subtle dig at the former first lady. He wrote, “There is a word for such a book. The word is trash. Anybody associated with its publication should be ashamed of herself.” He later confirmed that he was referring to Jackie when he said "herself."
In the Washington Post article, Jeffrey Archer, the book's author, also commented on the situation saying that he was worried the whole controversy would have people buying his book for the wrong reasons. He claimed that he wasn't interested in "cheap publicity" or using a national tragedy to draw people into inflate his book sales.
As for Jackie, her public statement was clear, concise and completely understandable. It read, according to WP, as such:
"Last spring, when told of the book, I tried to separate my lives as a Viking employee and a Kennedy relative. But this fall, when it was suggested that I had had something to do with acquiring the book, and that I was not distressed by its publication, I felt I had to resign."
Whatever actually transpired before Jackie's resignation from Viking Press, it is completely understandable why she would not want to be associated with a novel about a Kennedy assassination. Also, at the end of the day, that's not a very creative plot for a book, if you ask me.