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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Unabridged, 7 hr. 49 min.
Macmillan Audio
Bill O’Reilly (Narrator)
September 27, 2011
★★★★☆

Genre: Non-Fiction, President

Source: Received for Review from Publisher as part of Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program
"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.”
I have never been a person who enjoyed reading about the Civil War or really imagined reading a book about Lincoln, however when I saw this audiobook I figured that I would take a chance on it. I didn’t know what to expect going into reading it – it is co-authored by Bill O’Reilly and I know that he is known for his impassioned political commentary and I’m not typically his biggest fan. I was quite surprised by how well written this book was and even more so by how much I enjoyed it.

The book, although a work of non-fiction, reads like a thriller (a style of writing that I do enjoy). While sticking to the facts of what happened in the 14 days prior to Lincoln’s assassination and the roundup of the suspects afterward the narrative style sucks you in. There is not a moment where it feels like you are reading a stuffy, dry history text. This would be a great book for someone who doesn’t read history because of the tendency to be tedious. I really didn’t want to put the book down.

All of the well known historical characters come to vivid life in the pages of this book. They become real – not just historical caricatures of good and bad. Through the writing you “get” why John Wilkes Booth did what he did, you feel the resignation of Lincoln that he will at some point be assassinated, and you get the general frenzy of Unionists and Confederates as the great Civil War draws to a close. Booth and Lincoln are given fair treatments in this book. Contrary to my concerns, the political views of the author/narrator do not affect the text.

The only part that I thought was a little overdone was the portion of the book dedicated to the last few days of the Civil War and the movements of Generals Grant and Lee. This constituted approximately ¼ of the book and I felt like it took away from the “killing Lincoln” feel. I understand that it was used to set up what was to come, but maybe a little less would have ultimately been more. It still kept me riveted though.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book. If you are unfamiliar with the time period and want something to whet your appetite this would be the book. From that point you can delve into deeper, heavier fare.

★★★★½☆
 
The book is narrated by the author, Bill O’Reilly, who I thought was an excellent choice for narrator. His tone of voice lent to the feel of the thriller as well as to a news commentary of the days. It sort of felt like you were hearing an account of what happened. He had great pacing and enunciation which really contributed to the overall feel.

This is Bill O’Reilly’s first historical non-fiction work. You can visit his website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the book before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book or this audio sample? You can also watch this interview with George Stephanopoulos where O’Reilly talks about the book
 

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

2 comments:

  1. Heather, I just read that this book is so riddled with factual errors that Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C., which of course is where Lincoln was shot and is also a designated National Park, even though it is indoors, will not stock the book in its gift shop/bookstore because of all the inaccuracies contained in it. If I can find the link to all of the factual errors contained within the text, I'll post it, so readers can see that this is for real.

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  2. Leslie - I have heard too that there are some errors - but from what I was hearing they weren't egregious. I'm not defending the book however I think for someone new to the period it would at least be enough to get them into looking more up. I hadn't heard the bit about the Ford's Theatre gift shop fiasco.

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