Rebbeca Camhi has created a tour de force with her latest book Deadly Legacy. A work of fiction cleverly interwoven with the events surrounding the greatest mystery of the twentieth century, the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. This is a subject that has been covered in hundreds of books, and everyone has their own theory about it. About the only aspect that everyone agrees on is that the actual events do not match the official version, there is no doubt in my mind that the American people were snowed by the administration. The question is, was it to mollify an angry nation, or was there a more sinister purpose? Rebbeca has her own fictional account of how it might have happened, and the reasons behind it.

I had the opportunity to chat with her about Deadly Legacy.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in West Virginia into a family with a strong coal mining heritage. My family moved to Marietta, Ohio, when I was seventeen. I graduated from Marietta College with a B.A. in English in 1974. The following year I moved to Buffalo, New York, where I met my husband, Alan. In 1978, I received an MLS from SUNY at Buffalo and I have worked as a school librarian since. I began writing in 1984 with the publication of two short stories. Since then, I have had numerous poems published here in the U.S. as well as in the UK. Some of these poems have been recorded and a few have won awards. In 2001, my first novel, Deepwater Mountain: A Novel of West Virginia was published. I then began work on Deadly Legacy.

Where did the idea for Deadly Legacy from?

I read a book about all the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK’s assassination about ten years ago and became intrigued with the idea of a conspiracy and how it might have occurred. When I saw Oliver Stone’s film, “JFK”, I began thinking that the Senator Long character played by Walter Matthau may have been onto something when he told Kevin Costner that to solve the assassination, he would have to look for the best shots in the country and find out which ones were in Dallas on November 22nd.

I am no JFK expert, but I have read a number of books on the subject, and I have to say that you have done a great job of including a lot of factual detail and obviously you know your subject. Are you a JFK researcher?

Yes, ever since I became interested in the conspiracy theories out there. Plus as a college student, I campaigned on campus for Bobby Kennedy when he was running for president. After his death, I began collecting books about both Kennedy’s.

How long did it take to bring Deadly Legacy to market?

How do you type a chuckle? The first publisher interested in the book – a small press in the Midwest – had the manuscript for eighteen months and never brought it to print. Exasperated, I demanded the manuscript back and started searching again so it was well over two years.

Most authors base their characters on personal experience and people they have met. Are you Bonnie?

Again, a chuckle. Yes and no. Bonnie was an English teacher which was what I started out to be. She was from the same area of West Virginia and taught at the high school I actually attended. And she came from a coal mining background. That’s where the similarities end. My own family was very close and 180 degrees from Bonnie’s family environment. Friends have asked me if the book was ever made into a film what actress I would want to see in Bonnie’s role and I would say definitely Jody Foster.

And is Tibb based on a real person? Because if he is, I never want to meet him!

I had a great-uncle named Tibb but he was devoted to his family, absolutely nothing like the monster I wrote about.

Deadly Legacy has been out for a couple of months, what sort of feedback are you getting?

Very positive. Friends and family are overjoyed with it.

What is your next project going to be and when should we be looking out for it?

My next work in progress is actually a children’s poetry book. However, I do have my next novel in mind. Again, it will be a mystery, this time involving a serial killer. Since I can only write in the evenings and on weekends, I would think it will be a while before you see it on the book shelves.

A technical question for you. From a writing standpoint it is near perfect. Did you use a professional editor?

My husband, a high school English teacher, will be ever so happy to hear that! He is my first and only editor, often offering suggestions/questions which help me with revisions as well. I guess I’m very lucky to have an “in-house editor”, huh?

A fun question for you. What is the question that you wished I had asked? and what is your answer?

I guess it would be something like, “People always recall exactly where they were when JFK was shot so where were you?”

That day — just like the day Bobby was shot and 9/11 — is a day I will never forget. It was the day before my fourteenth birthday and I was looking forward to the party I was having the next day. Even though the assassination came over the news around 1:00 PM, it was never announced in our school. I was boarding the bus to go home at 2:30 when a kid who had been sent to the principal’s office called out, “Hey, did you hear someone shot JFK?” He was always making wisecracks so no one paid attention to him. It was only when I got home that I found out that he was right. It was like the world had turned upside down. We were plunged into shock and grief. We cancelled my party and I spent the weekend in front of the TV with my parents watching all the news. I recall the scene when Bobby Kennedy met the plane carrying JFK’s body back to Washington, when Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, and I will never be able to erase the memory of the riderless horse in the funeral cortege and the utterly stricken look on Jackie Kennedy’s face beneath that black veil. Those two images, more than anything else, brought home all too eloquently what we had lost.

I want to thank you for taking time to talk with me, and I am sure that I speak for my readers when I say, great book, and we wish you great success with it.

Simon Barrett

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