It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. His choice: John F. Kennedy.
It’s a surprising selection. At twenty-two, Jack Kennedy is the attractive but unpromising second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain (and occasional political adversary). But when Jack decides to travel through Europe to gather research for his Harvard senior thesis, Roosevelt takes the opportunity to use him as his personal spy. The president’s goal: to stop the flow of German money that has been flooding the United States to buy the 1940 election—an election that Adolf Hitler intends Roosevelt lose.
In a deft mosaic of fact and fiction, Francine Mathews has written a gripping espionage tale that explores what might have happened when a young Jack Kennedy is let loose in Europe as the world careens toward war. A potent combination of history and storytelling, Jack 1939 is a sexy, entertaining read.
About Francine Mathews
Francine Mathews is the author of more than twenty novels of mystery, history, and suspense. Her historical thriller The Alibi Club was named one of the fifteen best novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and presently lives and works in Colorado.
It’s early 1939. Jack is 21, overshadowed by older brother Joe and racked by an undiagnosed disease, but Roosevelt sees past all that because he intuits that Jack is a nonconformist and risk-taker. The president has decided to run for a third term. What concerns him is a German network steering money to Democratic clubhouses in hopes of electing an isolationist. Jack must find out how it operates; as son of the ambassador to London, he will have all the access he needs. The premise is different enough from Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America to be workable, and Mathews has carefully researched the period, but her portrait of Jack comes up short. She captures the charming ladies’ man, the romantic hero indifferent to death, but there’s little sign of his questing intelligence; Jack’s initial reason for traveling is to research his Harvard senior thesis (eventually his first book, Why England Slept). His fellow travelers on the trans-Atlantic crossing include Diana Playfair, an English femme fatale and Fascist sympathizer, and the White Spider, a psychopathic killer working for Gestapo chief Heydrich. We’ve already seen the Spider knife to death his first two victims, a sign that melodramatic cheap thrills will trump geopolitical intrigue. Jack will fall big time for Diana as they crisscross Europe. They will make furious love, but can she be trusted, especially after Heydrich snaps her up? Jack sends Morse code messages to FDR. He’ll be in plenty of tight spots, though there’s usually backup, and he gets to use his Luger. What hurts Jack most is his discovery that his dad is one of the network’s secret donors; their confrontation gets physical. – Kirkus Reviews
Book World: ‘Jack 1939,’ by Francine Mathews, imagines JFK as a WWII spy
The Washington Post Book Review – July 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
I once heard a master of suspense say that the craft was actually quite simple: Take a perfectly normal situation, a trope readers know well, then throw in a wild “what if?” What if your mild-mannered, homebody spouse — so familiar to you — is the midnight stalker in the black balaclava? What if the buttoned-down banker, the one who always takes home the civic awards, is knee deep in sex and depravity? What if your president — he who died martyred and tended to be a wee sickly — was a thrill-seeking spy at a pivotal time in history?
It’s a lesson Francine Mathews seems to have learned well.
Her “Jack 1939” is most assuredly a work of fiction, but it takes skeins of history we all know well — Churchill’s England, Hitler’s Germany, Roosevelt’s White House, the rise of the Kennedy family fortunes — and ravels a hair-raising tale.
In it, John F. Kennedy is young Jack, a junior at Harvard languishing in the Mayo Clinic and eager to board the Queen Mary for a much-needed rest in England. His father, Joe Kennedy, is the ambassador to the Court of St. James; his father’s rival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is angling for a third term; Hitler is busily cooking up a pact with Stalin; Himmler is madly devising the Final Solution; and war is in the air. But Jack is less driven by battle drums than a broken heart. The girl of his dreams has just thrown him over, and he is off to to Europe to stanch the wounds. Maybe even write his Harvard thesis. So far, all this is true. We’re in the comfortable zone of history. [Read the full article...]
QUEEN OF MISFORTUNE
A Lady Jane Grey Novel by Peter Carroll
A Love Story of Shakespearean Dimension!
Queen Of Misfortune is the fictional story of Lady Jane Grey as told by her beloved tutor, John Aylmer. At the time of her execution a stranger is recorded to have assisted her when, blind folded, she lost her way upon the scaffold. Was it the same strange who was also recorded to have visited her when she was imprisoned in the Tower? Little is known of this unfortunate girl who was beheaded for treason in the 16th Century. She was only 16. She is omitted from the list of monarchs but was actually queen for nine days. Author Peter Carroll, in his novel, follows John Aylmer’s close relationship with Jane as her tutor and later, as she grows up, her lover. [More...]
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