Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: Killing Lincoln

By Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

As Bill O’Reilly is a polarizing media figure, I feel I must preface this review.  I do not have cable I am therefore not a regular viewer of The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, though I have seen the show from time to time.  I am a Democrat and I disagree with most of what I know about Mr. O’Reilly’s political views.  That being said, this review is based solely on Mr. O’Reilly’s book and not on my disagreement with his political views.  Secondly this is a review of the audio-book which I listened to over the space of a week and a half during my short commute to and from work, therefore I did not have the ability to make any notes.

Bill O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard, set out to write a political thriller about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  I would love to know more about Mr. Dugard’s participation in the creation of this work, but in whatever aspect he played in its writing. Mr. O’Reilly overshadows his co-author even on the book cover Mr. Dugard’s name appears in a greatly reduced size than that of Mr. O’Reilly’s.

Unfortunately, “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever” is as a sensationalized version of the Lincoln assassination as its title implies.    The book poorly researched and is filled with historical innuendo, half-truths and lies.  It is even more shocking when you realize that Mr. O’Reilly graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history in from Marist College in 1971 and taught a high school history class for two years.  Which leads me to ask, how could this book get things so wrong?  It is laughable at best to call this book good history. 

For a book about the Lincoln assassination I found it rather odd that the first third of the book should have nothing at all to do with the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, but instead concentrates on the military operations in Virginia during the closing days of the war, which is interesting background information, but had nothing to do with the conspiracy plot.

Among errors of note are the authors’ claims that Abraham Lincoln appointed Edwin M. Stanton as United States Attorney General before appointing him as Secretary of War (he was appointed Attorney General during the Buchanan administration), and that Mary Surratt’s face was disfigured while being forced to where a hood during her imprisonment on the USS Montauk (she was never forced to wear a hood and was never confined on the Montauk).  These are but two examples, but the most disturbing is the allegation that Edwin M. Stanton was somehow involved in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln.

O’Reilly and Dugard have chosen to write their book in present tense, attempting to present their version of the Lincoln Assassination as a political thriller, which is fine, but the tense shift when quoting from historical sources makes their narrative awkward sounding.

The audio version of the book is read by none other than Mr. O’Reilly himself, and much as he does on his Fox News show his tones and inflections, imply the audio equivalent of a smirk or a raised eyebrow.

“Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever,” is nothing less than pure hype, and is neither worth the paper it is printed on nor the CD’s that its audio files were burned on.  If you wish to read or listen to this book, do your checking account a favor and do not waste your money by buying it, if you must, check it out from the library instead.

Book: ISBN 978-0805093070, Henry Holt and Co., © 2011, Hardcover, 336 pages. $28.00

Audiobook: ISBN 978-1427213129, Macmillan Audio, © 2011, Unabridged, 6 Audio CD’s. $29.99

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