America in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was a simpler place, and in many ways, 1963 was a wonderful year. In the year I was born, you could get a burger for under a buck and the coffee and pie at the local diner came with friendly conversation, free of charge. Dallas still had streetcars and two newspapers, and drive-in movie theaters were full on summer weekends.

Nostalgia sometimes gives us amnesia, though, and the times had another side. Restroom facilities had three doors: men, women and “colored,” with colored often referring to a place to squat out back, and a man could beat his wife on the street unfettered – she was after all “his” wife.

In Stephen King’s new novel, entitled 11/22/63, high school English teacher Jake Epping is introduced to time travel by Al, a dying friend. Through a rabbit hole in Al’s restaurant pantry, Jake can step into sunny 1958. Al implores Jake to do what the ailing Al cannot: stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Al argues that, without JFK’s death, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King would also have been spared assassination and the country would have avoided much internal strife and violence. Without LBJ as president, he says, the U.S. would have pulled back from Vietnam, and thousands of young American soldiers would have gone on to happy, productive work and family lives.

Time travel stories aren’t new, but King introduces a few interesting twists. Jake finds that the past literally fights against change, and as he sets out to alter outcomes large and small, the most historically influential events (the Kennedy killing being a biggie) are the ones that offer the most resistance.

Jake also discovers that each time he returns to 1958, time “resets” and starts again, which gives Jake a chance to “undo” whatever bad results he’s caused. Problem is, whatever good results he’s worked so hard for evaporate, too. Changing one thing affects another, he learns, and unexpected consequences are around every corner.

Whether or not you fall into the lone gunman or conspiracy theorist camp, if you live in Dallas you are likely to enjoy reading this story laced with Kennedy/Oswald history. King visited Dallas to research it, spending time at the Sixth Floor Museum and the Texas School Book Depository, in addition to many other Dallas sites. Warning: he still isn’t wild about Big D. Sometime in 2012, we may even catch site of film crews downtown. That’s when Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme is set to begin directing the movie version.