Correction to This Article
In the article, one reference to the Warren Commission called it the Warner Commission.

Nov. 22, 1963

Holland has a publisher, payment and even an award for his work in progress, "A Need to Know: Inside the Warren Commission."
Holland has a publisher, payment and even an award for his work in progress, "A Need to Know: Inside the Warren Commission." (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
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By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Max Holland, who appears to be coherent, is in his book-lined study, just off the kitchen in his house in Silver Spring. He's going over the Zapruder film. Again. And again. And . . .

Birds are chirping outside. The sun is out. Inside, it's dark, quiet among the filing cabinets.

He's been at work on his book about the Warner Commission investigation into President Kennedy's assassination for 12 years.

For. Twelve. Years.

And right here -- in just the fifth paragraph! -- you already have the overwhelming desire to take him by the collar and shout: Max!!! Buddy!!! SNAP OUT OF IT!!! Abort, abort! Entire human beings have disappeared in Dealey Plaza!! It's the Bermuda Triangle of pop culture! But he's saying, "Now, you see right here . . . "

He's pointing to Secret Service agents on the screen.

"I don't want to overwhelm you . . ."

This is a short story about American paranoia. It is slightly scary. It is about how even good writers and responsible people can fall into the rabbit hole of Washington research -- a tumble that leads you down, down, down to the Elm Street of the mind, below the Texas School Book Depository and in front of the grassy knoll, a few minutes past noon, in a world where it is always Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963.

And Holland, 57, isn't even a conspiracy theorist babbling about the CIA and Castro! He says Lee Harvey Oswald did it and did it alone! His goal, he says, is to heal our national paranoia about Kennedy's murder, to lay to rest the lingering belief that there was some sort of conspiracy (which most Americans believe), and to have this traumatic event finally settled in the national id. He wants people to understand that Oliver Stone's "JFK" actively misstated events, that Don DeLillo's "Libra," which has shooters on the grassy knoll, was a good novel but only that.

A former writer for the Nation, he has already won the prestigious J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, worth a nifty $45,000, for his book, "A Need to Know: Inside the Warren Commission." That was way back in 2001. He's gotten another $131,000 in book advances. His publisher is Knopf, one of the most respected in the business. His research is so prodigious that it has already birthed two other books, both about tape recordings from the Johnson White House that deal with the Kennedy killing.

This leads you to believe that he's not going to show you that the limo driver actually turned and fired the fatal third shot into Kennedy (as one popular video on YouTube has it). So, maybe against your better judgment, you lean over, and look really hard at the Zapruder film unspooling on his screen . . . and the Secret Service guys in the second car are reacting to something just as the film starts.

See the heads turn? Now, if you calculate that "mediated nervous reaction," and the car's position, and the memories of several witnesses and the speed of the film at 18.3 frames per second, and remember 4.9 seconds elapsed between the second and third shots . . . then you get the revelation that Oswald's first shot, the one that missed, took place before the Zapruder film.

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