“The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever”
The praise heaped upon Killing Lincoln since even before its publication has all been well-deserved. This thrilling, detailed account of the events that led up to, engulfed, and followed America’s first presidential assassination will truly hook any reader fortunate enough to grab a copy. Having just finished it, I plan to pick up O’Reilly’s next installment in his “Killing” series, Killing Kennedy. But for now, I’d simply like to share a few brief thoughts about Lincoln.
That “Part One: Total War” focused so intensely on the final stages the American Civil War pleased me, for I have very little knowledge of that season of history. I’m a Midwesterner; I haven’t visited those bloody battlefields out East; and I couldn’t name a single ancestor who had any part in the Great Tragedy. But picking up on the emotions that charged early 1865 America’s atmosphere took me right to the streets of Washington D.C., with its endless parties and secretive schemes. Learning, too, of Lincoln’s attitude of post-war grace toward the Rebels gave me a new sense of respect for the man, for a kindly “lay down your arms and go home” doesn’t seem to be an offer often made to enemies at arms.
The characters that schemed to kill Washington’s elite that April are well-defined in Lincoln, and one might think that, due to all the intimate details of their comings and goings, he’s reading a work of masterful fiction. But alas, these villains of history were all too real, their sentiments of hatred, sorrow, and fear as genuine as anyone’s. Witnessing the slow, mental deterioration of Mary Lincoln was heartbreaking, though I am thankful especially for Lincoln‘s “Afterward,” which sketches her final end, as it does the later years of nearly every character in the book.
This first installment in Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series will find a secure place on my bookshelf, and it will eventually become assigned reading for my own kids. As the authors state in their Epilogue, “the tragedy that befell Lincoln should be known by every American….America is a great country, but like every other nation on earth it is influenced by evil. John Wilkes Booth epitomizes the evil that can harm us, even as President Lincoln represents the good that can make us stronger” (295).