Did the Warren Commission know about the man on the grassy knoll? Why did they lie?
January 17, 2013
Caleb Pirtle III
As the world prepares to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, at least everyone is planning a commemorative with the exception of the City of Dallas – Caleb and Linda Pirtle is working with noted author John Crawley to serialize his novel, The Man on the Grassy Knoll. He carefully weaves a fictional tale framed with authentic historical accounts of the events before, during, and after the fatal gunshots rang out in Dealey Plaza. It was my pleasure to interview John about his research into the assassination because, it seems, every day a new piece of information is uncovered. And as intriguing as it may be, these hidden or forgotten scraps of data reveal that John’s novel may be closer to the truth than anything previously published as a scholarly and historical work.
Q. What purpose did the famed Warren Commission Report serve, and what role did it play in the concept of your novel?
Crawley: The Warren Commission Report wasn’t supposed to prove who killed Kennedy. Its goal was to assure a nation that they were safe from outside attacks or from sabotage within. It was, at best, a whitewash of the facts.
So, armed with this skepticism, I set out to build a case for what might have happened. Fictional, to be sure, but based on facts and on times and on probability, not just possibility. I had everything I needed, but I was missing a suspect, so I invented one in the form of Raul Salazar.
Q: Have you ever been challenged on your approach to how the day unfolded and how your facts are played out in your story?
Crawley: Not once. And I have had some very knowledgeable assassination history buffs pour over my novel. Not one has said, wait this couldn’t have possibly happened. Not one. Now that’s not to say that I have written history – non-fictional history. It is not, nor was it meant to be. It is a novel. Pure and simple. But its goal was to get us all to look and see how our foreign policy is conducted: how we recruit those who do our nefarious bidding for us, how we train them and deploy them, and how sometimes they return to bite us back.
Was there a Raul Salazar? I have no idea. But, deep in my heart of hearts, I know this: Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Someone else was there that day. Maybe more than one other. Maybe there was a Raul Salazar. Maybe he was from Mexico and was trained by the CIA. Maybe he did infiltrate the Castro regime. I do not know.
However, I do know this. Oswald did not shoot the President of the United States alone. No way. No how. He wasn’t fast enough to make the three shots from where they came in the School Book Depository Building.
But I also think we will never know what happened that day. Not the whole truth, anyway. So my novel is but one attempt to get people to open their minds and think of what could have happened, how it could have happened, and why it did happen. And like I said, the novel’s real mission is to show how we attract those who do our dark ops work for us.
Q: Have you gotten any push back from authorities in Dallas about the promotion of your book or the film during this time period?
Crawley: Not as of yet. But it is still early. I warned the director that he might find getting city permits to film in certain areas quite difficult since the city wants to sanitize the history of the event. But so far there has been no conspiracy to stop us or to slow us down.
Q: Why, of all the assassinations and assassination attempts, does the Kennedy one hold so many conspiracy theories and have so many shadows around it?
Crawley: Good question. I believe first because of the cover-up by the Warren Commission. Secondly, there were just a lot of unanswered questions about the circumstances at Dealey Plaza that day. There had been a huge “hate” campaign aimed at Kennedy, not unlike the kind we have recently seen toward President Obama. With Kennedy, however, the “hate” was perhaps even more overt. Ads ran in the Dallas Morning News calling the President a “Traitor.” In huge bold letters: TRAITOR! That extreme versus the huge popularity of the young charismatic President made the event such a major historic event.
People were captured by the moment, captured in the moment, and many found (and still find) it hard to believe that one strange, crazy soul took it upon himself to bring down a sitting American President the way he did. Others have shot at Presidents. But usually they are calculating and get close for a handshake or go through a receiving line or hide in a darkened theater. But to get a job in a building where months later a parade with the President was going to sweep beneath, to pluck out a high-powered rifle, and shoot through the trees at a moving target is a tad bit hard to swallow. Not acting alone. Not having been placed there carefully.
When it comes to this assassination, I will always be a skeptic of the “official report.” Sorry. That’s just me. And I suppose the way I tried working it out of my system was by writing this book. Only in so doing, I cemented in my head and heart the belief that we were lied to about the shooting.
Q: The Man On The Grassy Knoll isn’t a very long book.
Crawley: I timed the book as I read it aloud. It felt like the right length for an interview with a man who was short of breath and short on time to live. Plus, if the novel had been any longer, I am afraid I would have started getting back into that bad trap of adding dates, times, places, names, and all kinds of stuff that an interview would never have. Frankly, the book didn’t need it. If the novel had gotten any longer, I’m afraid it would have become boring again.
Q: Even the format of the book adds to the feel that it is a real and authentic piece of history that has just surfaced.
Crawley: That was done on purpose. The whole package is to make you buy into the fact that Raul is a real, living, breathing character talking to you through a tape machine. I have had friends of my kids, in college – not that familiar with the events of the those days like you and I are – read the book and then come to me and ask how come they had never read this in their history books. I had to remind them – IT IS A NOVEL! It is not reality. It is only meant to simulate reality. That’s how convincing it can be.
Q: Where did you get the idea to write such a fascinating concept?
Crawley: From working on a screenplay of another book and trying to compress time, I needed to interview witnesses of a crime. My interviews with them allowed me to develop a novel not unlike a screenplay and eliminate those long passages of a novel. And also, the idea came from Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. I needed to get readerz into a place that allowed them to think reality was what they were reading. History, if you will. Suspend belief for a moment and enter the myth from the direction I wanted them to, allowing them to change their perceptions.
Q: And that it does so very well.
Crawley: Thank you.
Q: One final question. Will you write further on this matter?
Crawley: Not on my own. I might add a pen to someone else’s work or an opinion. But my job with the assassination is finished. I have said my piece. And I must confess that I am pleased with the way it came out– all except one glaring mistake in the book that I missed in the editing process.
Q: And that is?
Crawley: Buy the book and see if you can find it. Very few have.
The Man on the Grassy Knoll will be available starting next week at Venture Gallery as a serial novel. This is the second in a series of novels published in serial style by John Crawley and Caleb and Linda Pirtle.