On 28th May, 1968, the acclaimed English novelist Beryl Bainbridge embarked on a three-week road trip that would span the breadth of the United States—a 5,000-mile voyage carefully planned by her American friend, Harold, who had vowed to guide her through the nation’s most remarkable landmarks. A week into their exploration, while temporarily crossing into Canada in Harold’s VW camper van, they were jolted by the piercing news that broke across the radio: U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy had been shot in the wake of his speech at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. Bainbridge, deeply affected by the incident, immediately recorded it in her diary. Tragically, 26 hours later, Robert F. Kennedy succumbed to his injuries, marking another grim milestone in American history, five years after the assassination of his elder brother, John F. Kennedy.
The Diary Entry
June 5th 2.20 Just crossed into Canada. News comes over car radio that they’ve shot Robert Kennedy, right thru the brain. Condition critical. Feel sick. Hearty bluff man in tourist information centre—’What? Oh yes they shot Bobby. Now where did you want to go, Sir?’
[On the next page, Bainbridge had written down the words of a news reporter who was on the scene…]
Newscast. ‘My God, my God they can’t have. They’ve shot Senator Kennedy. Get him, get him. The assassin is standing right in front of me at this moment. He’s still pointing the gun. Get that gun. Get that gun. His hand’s frozen. Break his thumb if you have to. Get that gun.
Get that gun. This is terrible, Senator Kennedy is on the floor, shot in the head. Someone else is shot too. Now they’ve got the gun. Keep back. Keep back. Hold him. Don’t lets have another Oswald for God’s sake—not another Oswald. Hold him.’
This entry is reprinted in Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means, an excellent biography of Beryl Bainbridge written by Brendan King and published by Bloomsbury in 2016.
Although the words differ, you can hear what appears to be the same news reporter at the end of this three minute clip on YouTube, which for some reason I’m unable to embed here.
When she died in 2010, Beryl Bainbridge was working on The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress, a novel inspired by her 1968 road trip and Kennedy’s assassination. It was posthumously published.