Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: 'Killing Lincoln,' by Bill O'Reilly

Reading biographies can be tedious, but 'Killing Lincoln' read like a thriller. O'Reilly built the backstory, then took the reader through the metamorphosis of John Wilkes Booth, from actor to infamous assassin. Starting with the waning battles of the Civil War, we learned of Lincoln's struggle to unite a country. What can he do with the South; convict Lee of treason, of war crimes? How could the South's state legislatures convene, with the same people who voted for secession in the first place? And how could he help to reignite the economy of the country after the high cost of the war, with over a billion dollars in war debt? Meanwhile Booth formulated a plan to eliminate Lincoln, which he believed would inspire the South to rise up once again and fight for their rights. And not just killing Lincoln, but Booth conspired with his cronies to eliminate the Vice-President, the Secretary of State and General Grant, a feat that would turn the North to anarchy.
While I liked the way it read like a thriller and the bibliography indicated that O'Reilly did his homework, he wrote what people thought a couple of times, which seemed like crossing over from biography to fiction. The book kept the readers' interest from the start, looking at the assassination and it's repercussions from multiple viewpoints. The Afterword wrapped up many of the characters' lives in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination. However, O'Reilly reprinted articles that bogged down the reading, as they were written in the nineteenth century when readers had more of an attention span than today. The one weakness of the book was at the end and before the afterward, where O'Reilly inserted 'A Note To Readers,' where he promised the book to be true and shocking. In the spirit of 'show don't tell,' I don't need the author to to tell me it's going to be a great read. It was, but I prefer to figure it out for myself.
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