Picks and Pans Review: An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

updated 05/26/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Robert Dallek

Let's get right to the juicy part: Yes, Kennedy's womanizing makes Bill Clinton's dalliances seem merely naughty by comparison. But Kennedy's epic conquests were tied to an acute sense of mortality, concludes biographer Dallek, who writes that JFK was far more promiscuous with drugs. Revealing previously undisclosed medical information, Dallek details the chronic bone, glandular and abdominal diseases that hospitalized Kennedy for months at a stretch and led to excruciating pain, for which he took an almost Elvis-sized array of steroids, amphetamines, Phenobarbital and coals-to-Newcastle quantities of testosterone.

Neither debunking nor further mythologizing, Dallek fashions a balanced but fast-paced tale of sex and power that scribes from Shakespeare to Susann would have killed for. (Little, Brown, $30)

BOTTOM LINE: Camelot confidential shines

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