Monday, November 24, 2014

Lincoln's Last Days

Lincoln's Last Days:
The Shocking Assassination
that Changed America Forever

Bill O'Reilly
2.5 / 5

Published 2012

First Sentence
"Abraham Lincoln, the man with six weeks to live, is anxious."
Publisher's Description:
Lincoln’s Last Days is a gripping account of one of the most dramatic nights in American history—of how one gunshot changed the country forever. Adapted from Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling historical thriller, Killing Lincoln, this book will have young readers—and grown-ups too—hooked on history.

In the spring of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln travels through Washington, D.C., after finally winning America’s bloody Civil War. In the midst of celebrations, Lincoln is assassinated at Ford’s Theatre by a famous actor named John Wilkes Booth. What follows is a thrilling chase, ending with a fiery shoot-out and swift justice for the perpetrators.

With an unforgettable cast of characters, page-turning action, vivid detail, and art on every spread, Lincoln’s Last Days is history that reads like a thriller. This is a very special book, irresistible on its own or as a compelling companion to Killing Lincoln.
Dear Reader,

I would never have chosen this book off a shelf, because I'm decidedly NOT a fan of the author. However, this is not going to be a review of the author, I promise. I received a free copy of this audiobook as a handout at a library conference a few years back, and since it is so short, I figured it was a great listen to follow my last tome of an audiobook. And I was right - this was a very quick read, although I was disappointed when I realized that a large part of what really made this book was supposed to be the illustrations. It's already a shortened version of Killing Lincoln, aimed at an audience of kids. I don't think it translates nearly as well into audio form. Although! Any poor outcome from the transition from page to CD was mitigated by the amazing reading voice of Grandpa Gilmore - I mean, Edward Herrmann. That man has such a great voice. It was perfect for such a grave piece; it lent real weight to the story.

In any case, I did learn a lot more about Lincoln's assassination than I ever knew before; gaining knowledge is something I always enjoy. I had no idea how long Lincoln lived after he was shot; I guess I'd always imagined he had just died immediately, as it was a gunshot wound to the head! Also, you always only hear about John Wilkes Booth, and I do NOT recall being told in elementary school that Lincoln's death was only a small part of a larger assassination (orignally kidnapping!) plot. Granted, that probably wouldn't have been easy to explain in elementary school, but still. I had no idea so many other people were involved; I'd always thought Booth was a crazed, passionate lone gunman who acted spontaneously. But there was a lot of planning and coordinating that went into the plot, and ultimately there were many who were involved and who were convicted for the parts they played.

My favorite parts of the book were actually probably the ones which discussed the botched assassinations of other dignitaries, including the Secretary of State and VP. If those plans had succeeded, we would have ended up with President Foster (from my home state of CT!). Crazy to think about! The only other president pro tem who has gotten that close to the presidential seat that quickly would have been the man who served under Johnson when he was impeached in 1868 (because Johnson had no VP). But they REALLY didn't want that guy - they pardoned Johnson instead!

And for a side note: according to Wikipedia, there have been only 3 heads of the Senate who have become vice president through the line of succession, and from there only one became president (Tyler, after the death of Harrison).

Anyway, I digress - I tend to fall down the rabbit hold of interesting stories when I read nonfiction. I will try to finish this up shortly, but here's a link to more on John Wilkes Booth. (I've always hated how that assassins and evildoers are remembered, which is what they want: fame, immortality. And yet I can't help but be fascinated by this man's history.)

I would recommend reading this short book if you feel you are as unfamiliar with the Lincoln assassination plot as I was prior to this. It's worth knowing more about, especially if you like to geek out over history stuff. However, it's not terribly well written (even Ed Herrmann couldn't save that aspect of it). But you'll pick up a lot of info, which may lead you (if you're anything like me) to want to dig further.


Lincoln's Last Days

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