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The Irish Brotherhood

John F. Kennedy, His Inner Circle, and the Improbable Rise to the Presidency

List Price: $17.95

March 8, 2016 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 364 Pages | ISBN 9781619027053
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"Rather than trying to add information, Helen O’Donnell… brings new life to a well-trod story by recounting it in a fresh way in The Irish Brotherhood…" —Washington Post

The Irish Brotherhood is the history of Jack Kennedy’s original political inner circle. Led by Bobby Kennedy, Kenny O’Donnell, Larry O’Brien, and Dave Powers, they were tough minded, Irish-Catholic guys who were joined together by a common ambition to see Jack Kennedy through to the White House. War veterans who were young, ambitious, and wanted their country back. Jack Kennedy was their man, their leader. No matter that he was Irish, Catholic, and his “Old Man” had made as many enemies as friends – Jack had ambition, brains, a special charisma. To win the White House would be a victory not only for Jack Kennedy, but for the downtrodden. They collectively decided that if the political powers would not let them in willingly then they would kick the door down. At the center of the story is Kenny O’Donnell, Jack Kennedy’s tough talking, no-bullshit, top political aide. Jack recognized he needed Kenny’s blue collar political genius, and Kenny recognized something special in Jack.

The Irish Brotherhood describes what it was like to be inside the Kennedy inner circle. With Bobby, who was determined to make his own mark apart from his famous family, his life-long struggle, never won, never lost. With Joe, as Kenny and Larry prove to him that their outsider approach was going to work after Jack’s crushing victory in ’58, which sets the stage for the Presidential campaign to come. This book is a missing piece of the story of the improbable rise to power of John F. Kennedy and further fills out the picture of the man revealing that Jack Kennedy was at heart a politician. He enjoyed the rough and tumble and despite his personal issues, or perhaps because of them, he became determined to succeed beyond anybody’s expectations. It is intriguing an indelible portrait of the son, brother, friend, Congressman, Senator and President.

HELEN O’DONNELL is the daughter of John F. Kennedy’s top-gun political aide, Kenneth P. O’Donnell. Ms. O’Donnell is the author of A Common Good: The Friendship of Robert F. Kennedy and Kenneth P. O’Donnell. She also worked with Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball on his 2012 book Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. She lives in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

KENNETH “KENNY” O’DONNELL, SR was a war hero and a graduate of Harvard University where he played football with Robert F. Kennedy. Through his relationship with Bobby, he became Jack Kennedy’s top political aide during the 1950s. In 1960, he worked hand in glove with Jack and Bobby as they designed and drove the Kennedy Machine to victory.


“This lively account… will appeal to a wide range of audiences; general readers will relish the flowing, fast-paced anecdotes and informed readers and scholars will value insights into pre­social media mid-20th-century politics.” —Library Journal

“Swollen with a daughter’s pride but also full of gripping detail.” —Kirkus

“Helen O’Donnell looks at John F. Kennedy and The Irish Brotherhood that aided his rise to the presidency.” —Vanity Fair

“In the age of Barack Obama, it’s easy to forget what a big deal it was for an Irish Catholic to be elected president. This intimate portrait of JFK’s inner circle during his senate and presidential races draws on the tape-recorded recollections of top adviser Kenny O’Donnell.” —Newsday

“Rather than trying to add information, Helen O’Donnell… brings new life to a well-trod story by recounting it in a fresh way in The Irish Brotherhood… She’s dug up a wonderful trove of tape-recorded interviews her father did with NBC White House correspondent Sander Vanocur. O’Donnell uses them not so much to shed light on what happened in Kennedy’s early career and the runup to his election as president as to render an intimate, novelistic sense of what it was like to be there. Through dialogue and anecdotes, the re-creates the heady experience of a band of unknowns electing the first Catholic president.” —Washington Post

“[The Irish Brotherhood] is not for those seeking another JFK biography. It is, instead, a fascinating look into the pioneering roles of media handlers, whose existence today is taken for granted in political campaigns. Their ploys, their struggles and their overring dedication to Kennedy made new men of O’Donnell, O’Brien, Bobby and their associates, as they moved every political boulder they could to facilitate the path JFK had chosen.” —Worcester Telegram & Gazette

“Helen O’Donnell produces an intimate, complex look at the years leading up to J.F.K.’s presidency, a span covering 1946-1961… Though mainly channeling her father’s experiences, O’Donnell presents them in an accessible, engaging manner; the figures portrayed are full-fledged characters, and the story unfolds like a political drama.” —Publishers Weekly

“O’Donnell restores a missing piece to the story of John F. Kennedy, namely his original political inner circle: tough-minded Irish-Catholic men united by the ambition to see Kennedy through to the White House.” —Publishers Weekly Spring 2015 Announcements

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