Twenty-Two: 14 September 1971
Deciding how to end Who Killed Kennedy was always a problem. Even when the Kennedy assassination was adopted as the setting for the book's finale, finding a credible way to weave that into the narrative was challenging. To be honest, I don't believe I succeeded. This chapter is the awkward transition from a British conspiracy involving UNIT to the murder of a US president nearly a decade earlier.
Stevens gets a message to call the Doctor, who rattles off a bunch of technobabble and sends the journalist back through time to prevent a plan hatched by the Master involving Private Cleary. 'You can't expect me to actually believe any of what you're saying,' Stevens says repeatedly. I was once given a list of terms coined by science fiction writers about recurring clichés of the genre, called something like the Turkey City Lexicon. Among these clichés is characters who mouth the thoughts of the writers; often without the author realising it is happening. The phenomenon is known as 'Signal From Fred' and in this chapter Stevens keeps trying to give me a Signal From Fred. Alas, I wasn't paying attention. Such is life.
During the phone conversation the Doctor says Dodo died before her time. Looking back on Who Killed Kennedy now, if the Kennedy element had not been included, then the Doctor's line of dialogue might have provided another ending. Stevens could have used the Time Ring to travel back to Dodo's murder and saved her. Cleary would have been present and perhaps even the Master. During early discussions for Who Killed Kennedy, Virgin editor Rebecca 'Bex' Levene and I batted around many ideas for how to finish the book. Among them was explaining how the Delgado Master had to regenerate into another incarnation. All that could have been worked around the attempt to murder Dodo. At least it would have kept the finale of the book within its own milieu, rather than suddenly jerking the reader across the Atlantic to Dallas of 1963.
The Master's plot involving JFK is pretty hard to fathom. Does he want the president killed? Or is he trying to pervert the course of history by averting JFK's assassination? I got into the same sort of muddle in The Domino Effect, an Eight Doctor novel I wrote that was published in 2003. I didn't believe my own ending and, as a result, the book comes unstuck at the finish - just when it should be coming together. As a writer you always hope to progress, to learn from your mistakes. But some mistakes keep coming back to haunt you...
The Doctor ponders out loud whether free will is or isn't an illusion - a reference back to Inferno, if I recall correctly.