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To Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball on MSNBC, President Kennedy has long been both an avatar and a puzzle, a beacon and a conundrum. Whenever he spotted Kennedy’s name, he stopped to read. Whenever he met someone who had known the President, he asked to hear their story. Years in the making, Matthews has now woven those firsthand encounters with JFK into a remarkable new portrait, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero ($27.50).