A guy can hardly get a JFK expose published anymore.
By Stacy Schnellenbach-Bogle
NOVEMBER 2, 1998: Jim Marrs carries his most recent project in an overstuffed black briefcase. It is an endeavor that has taken him nearly 10 years for the JFK assassination expert to compile. He hasn't found a publisher for it, yet, but there might be a reason for that.
Marrs was a sophomore studying journalism at the University of North Texas on the day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. The assassination itself garnered unprecedented media coverage, and the investigation that followed and the conclusions reached by the Warren Commission revealed major gaffes in the handling of the case and sizable gaps in the logic used to explain them.
It was 1964 and Marrs was soaking in all of it, from the motley crew of suspects and conflicting X-rays and autopsy photos to the eventual "loss" of the presidential brain. That same year, Marrs drove to Dallas to interview Gen. Edwin Walker, formerly one of the myriad of prime suspects in the assassination, who did not believe Oswald acted alone. "He told me the Warren Commission was wrong," Marrs says.
For Marrs, the ensuing years of research, teaching and writing only reinforced what he initially believed to be true about Kennedy's murder, and the media's reluctance to publish the facts as they surfaced is only slightly more galling than the facts themselves. "The basic methods of forensics were violated when Kennedy was autopsied," Marrs says. "Cyril Wecht, who was a former president of the International Association of Pathologists, has said that a wino in any major city in the United States gets a better autopsy than John F. Kennedy did. Newspapers say there's a controversy about the details, but they just won't say what those facts are."
Unlike his colleagues in journalism, Marrs is not shy when it comes to sharing the kind of information that points fingers while naming names. He'll tell you that the lone gunman theory is a crock, and he'll also tell you that Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover were instrumental in burying evidence."This is so big, so bad, so dark and so deep, but we've been in denial since 1963," Marrs says. "We were lied to and everything has just gone downhill since then."
Perhaps. Yet that ride into hell has yielded a motherlode of material for Marrs and anyone else who cares to look for it. In 1976, Marrs was asked to teach a class at UT Arlington on the Kennedy assassination, a job he holds to this day. "As a journalist, my biggest problem was never having enough space to tell everything I know about a subject," Marrs says. "And back then, if you said anything other than 'Oswald did it by himself,' people looked at you hard."
In the mid-'80s, Marrs was working in advertising, but the lure of journalism and another opportunity to tell everything he knew was difficult to pass up. "I realized there was this massive amount of information about the Kennedy assassination that was basically just lying around," Marrs says. "The problem was no one had bothered to pull it all together." A short time later, Marrs decided to do just that. The result was a book called Crossfire.
It was published in November 1989, and by the following March, director Oliver Stone called to inquire about purchasing the rights. Marrs' book, along with Jim Garrison's On the Trail of the Assassins, became the basis for Stone's movie, JFK. Crossfire and other books of that nature enjoyed a renewed popularity after the release of the movie. Now Marrs believes we've cycled back into a period where publishers don't want to publish books about the subject. "They keep telling us no one cares about that anymore," Marrs says.
This is where the project in his briefcase comes in. Oswald's Confession is a cartoon book. Closer inspection reveals a smooth mix of fact and fiction storyline, which Marrs calls "faction," and the combined talents of three local and regional illustrators.
In the early '90s, friend and architect Richard Mosley showed Marrs some ideas for a graphic representation of the assassination. Pictures of New Orleans and Dallas in 1963 as well as diagrams of the shooting which posited where the various gunmen were located around Dealey Plaza were among those that sold Marrs. Artists Mack White and Sandy Madison got involved as Marrs began contributing the information needed for storyline and dialogue. With all four scattered around the state, the project lagged, and Marrs credits film reviewer and friend Michael Price for encouraging them to complete the book. The finishing touches, which contribute to the dark tone of the illustrations, were provided by Price as well.
"I'd been encouraging Jim to get that published for years," Price said this week. "I said, 'Give me the damn thing and I'll finish it for you. I really believe in the project."
Perhaps the comic book format is giving publishers pause. "The comic book is as valid a storytelling medium as anything else," Price argued. He cited Art Spiegelman's Maus, a comic book retelling of the Holocaust, as one example of how the format can be used to relate serious stories. "It is rare that an artist will use the comic book to tell a serious story, but the potential is there. Sure, comic books have traditionally been used for children's stories and trash, but we don't dismiss filmmaking because Jim Varney made a couple of movies."
So, a comic book it is. "It tells Oswald's story, but it does so in a graphic manner so that you can really get an idea of what it's talking about," Marrs says. "It's really a comprehensive narrative." Oswald's Confession was not intended to replace official documents, but rather to fill in the cracks where vital information was left out. "Everything in here is well documented," Marrs says. "The Warren Commission didn't really lie. Most everything they said was true, but they did fudge on a couple of critical areas. Their biggest sin was omission. There are things they don't tell you."
Marrs says that facts included in the new book are well documented, and that there are only a couple of places in it involving sheer conjecture. "The biggest one involves the notion that Oswald confessed everything to Homicide Captain Will Fritz. There's no record that that happened, but then there's no record period. Though Oswald was held for two days, officials maintain that no notes were taken and nothing was recorded."
Some might castigate Marrs for spending a decade on a project which is based on a "confession" for which there is no record. Others still might question his spending the past 36 years beating that proverbial dead horse of a conspiracy theory by continuing to teach classes and publish books on the subject. Publishers' responses to Oswald's Confession haven't been enthusiastic, although interest has been shown by some well-established websites. None of this bothers Marrs as much as the media's reluctance to dig for and publish the facts. "This isn't history yet," Marrs says.
"There's no statute of limitations on murder. This is still a murder case."
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