Robert Kennedy has been viewed as hero and villain -- as the "Good Bobby" who, as his brother Ted eulogized him, "saw wrong and tried to right it,...saw suffering and tried to heal it" -- or as the "Bad Bobby" of countless conspiracy theories, the ruthless and manipulative bully who plotted with the Mafia to kill Castro and lusted after Marilyn Monroe. Evan Thomas's achievement is to realize RFK as a human being, to bring to life an extraordinarily complex man who was at once kind and cruel, devious and honest, fearful and brave.
Thomas had unusual access to his subject's life. He is the first biographer since Arthur Schlesinger to see RFK's private papers, and he interviewed all of Kennedy's closest aides and advisers, many of whom were forthcoming in ways that they had not been before.
The portrait that emerges is unvarnished but sympathetic, fair-minded and always readable. It is packed with new detail about Kennedy's early life and his behind-the-scenes machinations: his involvement in a cheating incident in prep school; his first attempt at romance; and his many back-channel political operations -- with new revelations about the 1960 and 1968 presidential campaigns, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his long struggles with J. Edgar Hoover and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom were subtly and not-so-subtly trying to blackmail the Kennedys.
In a clear and fast-paced narrative, Thomas cuts through the mythology to reveal a character who, though he died young just as he was reaching for ultimate power, remains one of the century's most fascinating men.