Ken Follett shares his memory of the assassination of JFK

26 February 2015

By Pan Macmillan

We've launched an exciting memory-sharing project around Edge of Eternity, and we want to know what YOU were doing when events such the fall of the Berlin Wall, Watergate and the inauguration of President Obama took place. Share your memory at wherewereyouthen.com.

There was very little rock-and-roll on British radio in 1963. The BBC thought pop music was show tunes and Frank Sinatra. We kids listened to Radio Luxembourg. The reception was terrible, but it was all we had.

I was listening to “Lux” at about eight o’clock in the evening on 22 November, my kid sister’s tenth birthday. My father was out, probably at a prayer meeting. My mother and grandmother were in the front room, where the fire was (we did not have central heating then, nor did anyone we knew). 

My mother would not permit pop music in her presence, so I was in the back room of our three-bedroom house in the north London suburb of Harrow. We called this room the lounge. It was used mainly when we had visitors, and otherwise unheated. My parents were puritans, but they had recently weakened—under pressure from their children—and bought a radiogram, a big walnut cabinet on splayed legs, housing a record player and a wireless set. I was willing to put up with the November cold in order to hear the Beatles.

The programme was interrupted by a news flash. President Kennedy had been shot in a place called Dallas. I was not very interested in politics, at the age of fourteen, but this was shocking even to me. I went to the front room and relayed the news.

Of course, my grandmother asked: “Is he dead?” And I did not know.

Edge of Eternity