Thursday, March 7, 2013

Killing Lincoln - The shocking assassination that changed America forever

I've read several reviews on this book. Most of the negative reviews seemed to be politically motivated and aimed at the main author Bill O'Reilly rather than at the actual content of the book. One of the negative criticism actually motivated me to purchase and read the book. It claimed that the book lacked in historical dryness (my word), it lamented that it was not readacted as a documentary but as a Novel. it went into detail asking how Bill O'Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard, knew that a slight breeze brushed Wilkes Booths Face right before he pulled the trigger and how they knew about his state of mind and emotions at that moment. What historical fact did they base such detailed description of what took place... Note from me, I just put the book down an hour ago and do not recall such details as the breeze gently brushing Wilkes cheek. That reader had an amazing memory for inocuous and useless details in the story but somehow seemed to forget about the great work it took to piece together all the reports and testimonies and accounts available through public and private records. It took a great deal of time, hard work and talent to take all those bits and pieces of factual info and weave it into a story interesting enough to be read with pleasure by anyone, remain fluid in its narration while remaining historically true and keep a solid construct allowing for the detailed hour by hour accounting of the events.

I had to laugh for a while. That critic made the highest compliment to the authors inadvertently. There has been countless books written about the civil war and the events that lead to and succeeded the Killing of President Lincoln. Most are dreary laundry lists of dated events, and emotionnally sanitized accounts of what transpired by listing testimonials and inserting here and there excerpts from Memoirs and biographies of the illustrious people present at that time. Needless to say that, unless you are writing a paper for college on that subject, those are boring reads to anyone even someone as passionate about history as I am. So that particular critic, was exactly what I needed to know about the book to convince me that it must be an interesting read. I went on to purchase it that very same day and it has been a great read.

The romantic licence that O'Reilly and Dugard took is no less necessary to keep the reader, not only interested but to really give him the sensation that he is taking a glimpse back in time and personnally witnessing the historical events in person. It is very much like the sensation one has when watching a great movie, particularly one based on true historical events. Such a movie was recently made on this very subject of Lincoln's life, played by the acclaimed actor Daniel Day Lewis. I am now interested in watching that movie and compare my notes on it from those I took in my mind from the book of O'Reilly/Dugart.

It truly is a great and passionate read, I only put it down reluctantly, each chapter frames a very specific point in history and in the steps that lead to the assassination. The historical purity is preserved as much as possible, when rumors are used it is clearly stated that it is rumors only and specifies that not proof has been advanced to subtantiate those rumors. If you are a reader like me, you read everything in the book from the notes to readers and prologue, to the epilogue and other notes. All are very pertinent to the histroy buff, as it gives us more details about what happened to some of the characters in the story in the days and years following the dreadful events.

Great strory telling, I am recommending it to my 13 year-old son who will soon be studying the US civil war in his social studies classes. It is an easy read even for teenagers. I urge everyone to read this book for what it is: the greatest tale of historical events that puts a real presctive on Lincoln's assassination.