Ms. McMillan said she remembered Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the president’s sister, asking her at a Washington dinner party, “Why did Oswald hate my brother so?” To which she replied: “He didn’t. Oswald liked him. And he liked Jackie, too.”
But Ms. McMillan revealed Mr. Oswald as a confused, self-tutored Marxist who had soured on the American government’s aggressive prosecution of the Rosenberg atom spy ring and its lax enforcement of civil rights, and on capitalism’s exploitation of workers like his mother.
Ms. McMillan later told The Christian Science Monitor that while Mr. Oswald never mentioned Kennedy in that 1959 interview, he indicated that he had no qualms about resorting to murder as a political weapon. “From our conversation,” she added, “I could see that he was a man capable of a whole lot.”
In addition to writing “Marina and Lee,” Ms. McMillan translated “Twenty Letters to a Friend” (1967), a memoir by Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s daughter, who had defected to the United States, and wrote “The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Birth of the Modern Arms Race” (2005), about the scientist behind the atomic bomb who was falsely labeled a Soviet spy during the Red Scare of the 1950s.
“Priscilla combined the best traits of an investigative reporter, a scholar and an inquisitive citizen, pursuing exhaustive research and doing her best to be fair to all parties,” said Mark Kramer, director of the Cold War Studies Project at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, where Ms. McMillan was an associate.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists, said that in the 1990s, “Priscilla helped inspire and support efforts to accelerate the declassification of Cold War U.S. government records.” He added, “She was a wonderfully generous colleague who was always ready to share her own findings and to support other authors and students in their research.”
In Ms. McMillan’s later years, her home in Cambridge, near Harvard, became something of a hostel for wayward students and scholars, a literary and political salon in the European tradition and a base for her campaigns on behalf of Soviet dissidents and other causes.