Monday, February 18, 2013

Book review - Killing Lincoln.

Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's 294 page book Killing Lincoln has not always received the warmest reception from critics. After reading the book I am inclined to think some of the criticisms leveled have more to do with O'Reilly's political commentary than the content of the book. While the book is easy reading, I could only find a couple of historical facts to take issue with.

Starting six weeks before the assassination, the book moves through the planning of the killing to the aftermath. Along the way various conspirators move in and out of the plan. Some of them come in with full awareness of what is going on, others have only the faintest of ideas. After the killing the main conspirators scatter. A huge dragnet sweeps the eastern seaboard hauling in hundreds of suspects, some of whom were actually implicated in the crime. John Wilkes Booth and four others will pay with their lives. Others will never even be fingered until long after their natural deaths.

This isn't a history book written for scholars or those interested in heavily footnoted works. There is a short bibliography and an index at the back of the book but they only provide the barest documentation. What the book does do is bring the killing of Abraham Lincoln to life. It doesn't take but a page or two before the reader becomes deeply engrossed in the tale. As historical figures leap from the page and the conspiracy unfolds, it becomes harder and harder to put down the book.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy receives much more interest than that of Lincoln. This is due in large part to the JFK assassination being so vivid in the national conscience. I have often thought if the death of Lincoln was presented in a way that made it equally vivid it would be just as compelling. Whether or not you have read much history, once you open Killing Lincoln, you will find the account as fascinating as any involving a grassy knoll.

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