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December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

by Laurence Leamer

Did JFK have leukemia? Was he addicted to amphetamines? Learner, who wrote The Kennedy Women, suggests the answer to both is yes but doesn’t have definitive proof. They’re the most thought-provoking details in what is otherwise familiar Kennedy fare: skirt chasing, social climbing and, depending on your perspective, unshakable confidence or appalling arrogance. Leamer mines previously unpublished letters JFK sent to the mistress, Gunilla Von Post, he met in Europe just before his wedding (he wrote her that he wanted to sail the Mediterranean “with you as crew”). But Leamer’s view of the Kennedys’ rise is nothing new: Thank (or blame) the determination of patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy. (Morrow, $35)

Bottom Line: Plenty of dish, mostly warmed-over

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