Bestselling author and attorney Robert K. Tanenbaum held the audience spellbound Saturday at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest, relaying personal anecdotes from his professional career, which included serving on a committee investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Tanenbaum’s presentation was as intriguing as one of his many novels and works of nonfiction about his life and career. The author spoke much as he writes, in a meandering fashion with numerous tangential plot lines, the introduction of multiple characters, and plenty of colorful anecdotes sprinkled throughout, but ultimately all coming back to a central plot line — the search for truth and ultimately justice.
Unfortunately, the biggest case he was involved in did not end with a finding of truth or justice served, and Tanenbaum has been a regular for years on news shows and cited in numerous articles about the improper handling of the investigation into JFK’s assassination.
As the former chief deputy counsel for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, he and the chief counsel, Richard Sprague, resigned over the inability of the committee to gain access to material and witnesses to conduct a true investigation of Kennedy’s death.
Both former trial lawyers, “We were trying to investigate like we would any other murder case,” he said, but added it was not possible to do so. He cited examples of evidence that disappeared, a CIA agent providing false testimony, and numerous other examples of improprieties which led him to believe that the “search for truth” in the case was going nowhere.
The end result was a report on the committee’s findings which Tanenbaum said was contradicted by witness statements and which was not representative of the evidence presented.
When asked “whodunit,” Tanenbaum answered that there was no evidence linking President Lyndon Johnson, Cuban President Fidel Castro, or organized crime to the president’s murder. However, he said there is evidence to support the theory that “rogue elements in the CIA,” upset by Kennedy’s handling of the Bay of Pigs, had something to do with the events in Dallas in November 1963.
Providing vivid details about the shooting, the “magic one-bullet” theory, the initial medical assistance provided in Dallas and the subsequent autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Tanenbaum was able to hold the audience enthralled for nearly two hours before reluctantly having to end his presentation as the Mystery Writers Fest had a packed schedule of events for the remainder of the day.
Tanenbaum is the author of 27 novels and three works of nonfiction, and was one of several authors who appeared at the Fest to provide advice for current and aspiring writers, including Tim Hallinan, Lisa Black, Don Bruns, Heather Graham and Jim Born.
The three-day event, which began Friday, is coordinated by Shirrel Rhoades and a cadre of individuals, all interested in helping writers further their careers and hone their craft with advice, panel discussions and demonstrations.
For more information about the event or to make plans for next year, visit mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.