Over the past several years, I’ve really enjoyed the Killing series by journalist and former history teacher, Bill O’Reilly. His style has been to follow the minute-by-minute details of an assassination or assassination attempt, and surrounding those details with years of background information. He’s covered such figures as Kennedy, Reagan, and Lincoln (as well as their assailants), and he’s turned me into a fan of the history book once more. While I’ve never even heard of his television series, Legends and Lies, I felt intrigued enough from his other offerings to give The Patriots book a shot. It wasn’t until I was a few pages in that I realized that he didn’t actually write this particular book, but I persisted with it anyways.
The accounts carefully selected for Patriots contain fantastic (and hopefully accurate) history, and they evidence the wealth of research that characterizes O’Reilly’s other works. Still, I felt that David Fisher’s writing style gripped me less than has the O’Reilly-Dugard writing team. Something was missing, though it’s hard to peg what, for there were several times when I lost my place in the book and had to really rack my brain to try and figure out where I had been reading last. That’s never a good sign, and it makes me question whether or not I’ll try another of Fisher’s works.
Despite these issues, I found several sections especially enthralling. First was the Benedict Arnold chapter. Who hasn’t heard of America’s most famous traitor? But who among that “no one” understands the processes this man experienced before finally selling out to the British? Arnold apparently suffered a series of blows to his pride and events that he interpreted as gross disrespect for his commitment to the American cause, and it was in response to these that he finally turned to someone who would show him a little respect. Knowing this context helps me to better understand his reasoning for becoming a turncoat, though of course nothing could ever justify that decision.
The second section that I found extraordinarily fascinating was the process of determining the rules for the new representative democracy that was being formed on our soil. I’d likely never pick up a history book that details this whole mess of meetings, chapter-by-chapter—large states trying to out-argue the small, etc.—so to learn it all as boiled down into a single chapter was like a jolt of education for me. It was a mini “US History for Idiots” and I loved it. The drafting of the first constitution might sound like very dry reading to most, and yet the information is actually quite important for Americans to understand, if but a little. Realizing the sacrifice and brainpower that went into the forming of this more perfect union is really quite breathtaking, and every American adult should be willing to give it an hour’s time to learn.
I enjoyed the history this book had to offer, though I’m sure I would have enjoyed even more so the video documentary. If I ever come across this or its sister series, The Real West, I’ll likely opt for them over these books again.