Good Reads
4:35 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Good Read: 'Killing Lincoln'

 

Killing Lincoln
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

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Product Description:

The anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America’s Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln’s generous terms for Robert E. Lee’s surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln’s dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased. In the midst of the patriotic celebrations in Washington D.C., John Wilkes Booth—charismatic ladies’ man and impenitent racist—murders Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. A furious manhunt ensues and Booth immediately becomes the country’s most wanted fugitive. Lafayette C. Baker, a smart but shifty New York detective and former Union spy, unravels the string of clues leading to Booth, while federal forces track his accomplices. The thrilling chase ends in a fiery shootout and a series of court-ordered executions—including that of the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, Mary Surratt. Featuring some of history’s most remarkable figures, vivid detail, and page-turning action, Killing Lincoln is history that reads like a thriller.

Kate Lochte says:

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law hesitated in recommending Killing Lincoln to me because Bill O’Reilly co-wrote it. They thought that since I work at an NPR station and enjoy listening to it that I wouldn’t read anything by Mr. O’Reilly of Fox News.

But I am on a Civil War reading jag – about to dive into Volume 2 of Shelby Foote’s Trilogy. I heard Steve Innskeep’s interview with O’Reilly and quite frankly, wish I could do another one and ask him all the questions I have now about how one goes about co-writing like this.

Last December descendants of John Wilkes Booth agreed to exhume his remains for DNA sampling to see if it matches vertebrae taken from Booth’s body and saved in a medical museum in Washington, not on public view. In the Afterword of Killing Lincoln, this is among the tantalizing questions asked: Why has there been no subsequent reveal of the test results?

Why did nothing happen to the Presidential guard assigned to watch the box at the Ford Theatre who left his post and was drinking in the tavern next door when Booth shot Abraham Lincoln?

Whatever happened to 18 pages of John Wilkes Booth’s writings after the assassination that were seized after Booth’s death and given over to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for safe-keeping? Stanton never could not explain the missing pages. Why did Secretary Stanton hire a discredited private eye to engage the search for Booth after the assassination?

You can hear Bill O’Reilly’s voice in the narrative style – calling attention to GOOD and EVIL, exhortative, excited, and precise. There’ve been some complaints about the fact-checking of the book and it’s not foot-noted, thank goodness! The Afterward gives a fine list of books and sources which the authors consulted. Killing Lincoln is a quick read and scenes like the surrender at Appomatox come alive visually. I really enjoyed it.