Reviews for Killing Lincoln : The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

Cable-news talking head O'Reilly (Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama, 2010, etc.) and historian Dugard (To Be a Runner, 2011, etc.) serve up a sensational, true-crime account of one of the most shocking murders in American history.

In this fast-paced narrative history, the authors recount the weeks leading up to and immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They pick up the historical thread in the waning moments of the Civil War, as two bedraggled armies attempted to outmaneuver and outlast one another. A reflective and anxious Lincoln was near the battlefront, conferring with General Grant and waiting for the fall of Richmond that would signal the last phase of the war. Meanwhile, a disgruntled Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, traveled around Washington, D.C., and its environs fomenting unrest among his co-conspirators. In response to the fall of the Confederacy, Booth transformed the group's longstanding kidnapping plan into a vengeful and flamboyant plot to assassinate Lincoln and several key Cabinet members. The authors profess to be writing history that reads like a thriller, and their account of Lincoln's assassination makes ample use of tricks like cliffhanger endings, hypothetical psychological insights and fictional dialogue. Yet such narrative propulsions seem hardly necessary when chronicling the rapid-fire succession of major events that occurred during those fateful weeks: several of the bloodiest battles of an already brutal war, the surrender of the Confederacy, tumultuous celebrations in the North and the Good Friday assassination of a leader who was both beloved and despised. This moment in history is already dramatic, thrilling and shocking; applying the "thriller" motif delivers on the subtitle's description of a "shocking assassination" but fails to elucidate how the authors believe this event "changed America forever."

An entertaining tale that neither adds to the vast bulk of Lincoln scholarship nor challenges the established theories of Booth's plot and the subsequent trial of the conspirators. Readers seeking a consequential thriller-like portrayal of the assassination should turn to James L. Swanson's Manhunt (2005).


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Library Journal Reviews 2011 May #2

The anchor of The O'Reilly Factorjoins with best-selling history author Dugard to reconstruct Lincoln's assassination and its aftermath. Interesting choice for O'Reilly, who at least has a B.A. in history; his star power will generate demand.

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Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1

O'Reilly, the popular and controversial cable news commentator, teams here with Dugard (Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone) to cover Lincoln's assassination in a simple and morally unambiguous style. They offer no new insights into the death of Lincoln, just a sensationalist retelling of a familiar story. In pages filled with conjecture about the mental states of the protagonists, the authors succinctly describe the closing battles of the Civil War, the assassination, and its aftermath. They frequently speculate on conspiracy theories that involved secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton in the assassination plot, but they never make accusations except to say his behavior was "suspicious." It will be interesting to see whether fans of O'Reilly's television show will flock to his first foray into history the way they have to his books on contemporary issues. VERDICT Written from an unapologetically northern perspective, this book is not for academics but may appeal to readers who enjoy fast-paced, conjectural popular history. It includes an appendix reprinting the Harper's Weekly account of the assassination written soon after. [See Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]--Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary Lib., Oviedo, FL

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #3

Political commentator O'Reilly and coauthor Dugard (Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingston) take on the "most spectacular assassination conspiracy in the history of man" in the form of a thriller in this rendition of Lincoln's murder. Ponderous foreshadowing and innuendo produce a tedious read, even as they enable the authors to resurrect a theory that secretary of war Stanton was involved in the conspiracy to kill the president, vice-president, and secretary of state. They concede the contention has been "repudiated and dismissed by the vast majority of trained historians," and yet allude to it frequently. Inaccuracies (e.g., ignoring a 2010 study of King Tut's mummy showing he died of disease, not assassination) and anachronisms (e.g., referring to Grant's "photograph" in newspapers although until the 1880s only engravings were possible) mar the account. Well-documented and equally riveting histories are available for readers interested in Lincoln's assassination; this one shows how spin can be inserted into a supposedly "no spin American story." B&w photos and maps. (Oct.)

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