2,348 of 2,881 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2011
As someone who has studied Lincoln and books on the assassination since I was about 8 (that would be, sigh, about 50 years), I figured I'd give O'Reilly's book a try, assuming that since he had written it so shortly after some great Lincoln books (Abraham Lincoln: A Life, by Michael Burlingame; Blood on the Moon by Edward Steers) that there must be something unique about it. Unfortunately, I came away not really seeing what the new approach was. While it is supposedly written like a thriller, I find it to be prone to abbreviation and errors as noted by one of the one-star reviewers here (i.e. talking about the Oval Office, which was not built when Lincoln was president, but in 1909 when Taft was president, and a gross misrepresentation of how Mary Surratt was treated -- she NEVER wore a hood while imprisoned, and she was NEVER on the "Montauk", etc.). Throwing in a long-discredited conspiracy theory supposedly linking Secretary of War Edwin Stanton into the mix was completely unnecessary, unless the idea was to give readers already convinced that JFK was assassinated by space aliens something new to obsess over. A list of errors written by the Assistant Superintendent of the Ford's Theatre Historical Site, by no means complete, but enough for the NPS Eastern National bookstore at Ford's Theatre to avoid selling this book, may easily be found on the internet (I will be glad to give you the link if you can't find it). The Theatre gift shop IS selling it, but not the National Park Service store, due to inaccuracies. You will see many reviews here (five-star ones) stating that "this book was not written for historians." Does that mean that lousy research is just fine for the unwashed masses? Wouldn't the casual reader be served much better by reading information, whether or not it's entertaining -- and yes, it's an entertaining and easy read -- that had been verified by research? I just cannot understand the mindset of "it wasn't written for historians, so errors are just fine, as long as it gets people to read about history." Baloney.
What O'Reilly has going for him is a built-in audience who went out in droves to buy this book because he talked about it every day on The O'Reilly Factor. I watch him casually, and I figured, "Why not? One more book to add to my Lincoln collection (which is fairly large after fifty years)." As you should be able to see, my purchase of this book is verified at Amazon, and, in fact, I preordered it because the mention on the O'Reilly Factor got my interest. Unfortunately, it won't be up in the top tier of my Lincoln assassination material. It's OK for the casual reader who wants to learn something about the Lincoln assassination. It's too hurried and flies through things that need to be dealt with in a less perfunctory manner, I think. As O'Reilly notes in his show that Abraham Lincoln was the "gold standard" for the Presidency, I will say here that, for the "gold standard" of books written on the Lincoln assassination, no better work can be found than the book "Blood on the Moon," by Edward Steers -- you can see it here at Amazon at Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln). If you only have one book on this subject, the Steers book is the book to have. If you just want to be up on the latest O'Reilly books, then get this one. It's not horrible, but it tells the reader nothing new, and oftentimes it tells the reader much LESS than he/she needs to know, and, as noted, sometimes incorrectly.
So, in summary, it was just OK, which is why I gave it an average rating. A few minor errors wouldn't have dropped it below four stars, but for a Lincoln researcher it would be considered a young person's primer. For someone seriously interested in the subject, get the Steers book and pass this one by. Just because O'Reilly has a multi-million person audience to whom he can hawk his wares, it doesn't mean it's great work. I hope people are not writing off an honest review because they think I'm picking on O'Reilly. The only POSSIBLE reason that this book took off so fast on the bestseller lists is because it was publicized on the O'Reilly Factor, not because it was so much better than any of the other books written about the Lincoln assassination. There has been much back-and-forth about this for some time. Dishonest people who didn't read the book but hate O'Reilly gave it one-star reviews without ever opening it. O'Reilly fans have an attack of the vapors at anything less than a five-star review. The purpose of this review was to inform, not to express ideology. I stand by this review. If you don't like it, that's fine, but don't attack me simply because you're sticking up for Bill O'Reilly (a futile wish, apparently). Again -- I watch The O'Reilly Factor. I am also a Lincoln scholar. Take this review at face value.
45 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
I was given this book as a gift. It was okay but nothing special. I wrote a paper on Lincoln's assassination in high school years ago, so I had reasonable background knowledge. Based on that, I guess not much new has surfaced in the past fifty years.
The pending DNA comparison of Booth's vertebrae and that of relatives is one new development, however. I think it is highly unlikely that Booth was not killed as recorded in history. There are always a lot more conspiracy theories than there are conspiracies.
Some of the details in the book were quite interesting and made events seem more vivid. The book does not contain footnotes, so it was impossible to tell whether these were real or just filler added for the story.
The book contains several typos. I have seen this in other new books recently. With spell-check and all the other electronic tools available today it would seem there would be no such errors. This speaks poorly of modern publishers and the publishing process.
At the time of my review, 88% of the 2758 reviews are either 5 stars or 1 and about equally split between these. I have not read any of the other reviews but it is obvious something else is going on here, probably because of the author's background. I find Amazon reviews very useful for evaluating products before purchase. It is a shame to see people attempt to use them as a political tool rather than their intended purpose.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2012
I was goaded into reading Bill O'Reilly's book about the Lincoln assassination by friends and by the hype on O'Reilly's TV show --- which I have not deigned to watch since suppertime on election night. O'Reilly and his writer are no David McCullough, no David Halberstam, no Joseph Ellis. When it comes to cobbling together a story from a nearly limitless supply of potential elements, O'Reilly and his writer do not venture into the same ballpark with the quality writers of history and biography.
By contrast, the book actually includes an 1865 article from Harpers (in the Appendix) recounting the assassination. It was as if O'Reilly wanted to shout out to us: "Yes, I do know what better writing looks like; and this is an example for you to compare."
O'Reilly says that his book is written like a thriller. I missed that entirely.
Yes, I know, O'Reilly was once a school teacher; perhaps he should reconsider floating that to us as a bragging point.
Apparently, O'Reilly is upset with how much of history has been re-written and/or expunged from the history texts used in today's government schools. And on that one point I share the enthusiasm that students be encouraged to break free from the text book tyranny.
The stark absence of scholarly style suggests to me that O'Reilly may have been targeting a junior high audience. And, I understand that a "special illustrated" version was so quickly released that junior high must have been part of the author's original vision for this work.
Along with scholarly style comes scholarly method: there is some hint that some of the details are fabricated for this telling: yes, "made up." Since I read this one on my Kindle, I didn't make notes in the margins to refer back to. Actually, this is a great book for the Kindle --- since the book itself wouldn't lend much stature to your library shelves.
O'Reilly did not claim to have actually written this book, but he does want to take credit for bringing together the parts of the story he wanted to tell; he refers to this as "doing the research." The other part of doing the research was scheduling vacation visits to the various historical sites: that's what we mean today by "research."
What about the history and the new insights? Well, there were no sweeping insights for me; but I was on the lookout for a new perspective or even an new aspect from which to view the major conflicts at play. But alas, I didn't find anything new or insightful -- unless you count the implication that General Grant was henpecked by his wife, Julia. I want corroboration before I accept even that as historically correct.
The stunning slaughter that was the Civil War is mostly lost on students today. O'Reilly does offer up a picture of full-speed slaughtering, right up to the very end of the war. An interested junior high student could then look into the issue further in other works.
I noticed on 12.15.2012 that O'Reilly's companion book, "Killing Kennedy," was #2 on CSPAN's bestseller list; a Pulitzer Prize winning author was #3; and "Killing Lincoln" was #4. This may or may not be an indictment on the reading discrimination of Americans, but it does seem to scream out that these books are being pumped out for some quick cash since O'Reilly has a rich advertising pulpit from which to promote his wares
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2012
When I was 16-17 I read Carl Sandburg's Lincoln. This is not in the same class at all. Sometimes I thought I was reading a book aimed at elementary school kids.
A lot of the time it seemed O'Reilly's name was just on the cover....a ghost write.
I did learn a couple of things I had not known before.......
But over all this was a weak effort...............it could....should have been so much better.
Such a wonderful subject; Lincoln deserved more.
You are now in The No Spin Zone......
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2013
The facts of war are here inside this Killing Lincoln novel; geography, weaponry, combat details, Generals in charge, written speeches etc., basically-people, places and things. As far as dialog and interactions between Lincoln and wife Mary Todd, Lincoln and Grant, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, Booth and Lucy Hale, Booth and his conspiracy cronies is - all conjecture; inference or judgment based on inconclusive and unknown friendships and cohorts; guesswork, opinions or conclusions based on guesswork about life and exchanges of dialog between people and times during the Civil War. Thus, it was superfluously entertaining.
I understand that Killing Lincoln is not an exact historical depiction of dialog, and it was not written for that purpose, and recreating some of the effects of the physical and emotional impacts of Civil War, combined with the hatred, fear and all-encompassing effects of racial inequality, and slavery and human degradation of that time, this work revealed to me just how cold-blooded humans can be toward each other, relishing the effects of racism, religion, education and wealth.
Bill O'Reilly concludes that this co-written historical novel is in the thriller genre. I think he took excessive license to declare that, mostly because of the overwhelming use of conjecture that shouldn't be included in non-fiction, thereby making Killing Lincoln a theoretical representation as a standout among thousands of works of historical Civil War fiction.
Killing Lincoln was an informational read, however much scuttlebutt and assumption filled the pages. In the back of the book is a re-creation of Harper's Weekly story dated April 29, 1865, "The Murder of the President," if the book only comprised that story, I'd have enjoyed the report as a legitimate historically accurate depiction of that time, and not one of Bill O'Reilly's personal money making machines. Of course, a personal money making machine has always characterized our culture, and I'm all for that, too. ㋡㋡㋡
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2013
We've been listening to "Killing Lincoln", and it has just about killed us! Every time the reader reads "cavalry", he says "calvary", and it is so distracting that it really takes away from what would otherwise be an enjoyable read. And it isn't just once or twic; when he is talking about a battle, he says over and over again how the "calvary" behaved. Aargh! How could whoever edits the audio recording let that go through? How would Bill O'Reilly not pull the recording from the market?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
Great history chronicling the last days of President Lincoln's life along with his killer and co-conspirator's lives. The book opens with a description of the last few battles of the Civil War, both army's movements and Lee's surrender. At the end of the book, the major characters final years are portrayed. Overly dramatic throughout, and pretentious at times, but very thorough in covering most aspects of the assassination. I could have done without graphic descriptions of Lincoln's head wound and resulting death throes thereafter (I can't see a relevance to the assassination). Many reviewers downgrade the book for minor errors and sophomoric writing, but James Michener made a lot of money with this style (he called it historical FICTION, however). This book was written as a fast entertaining read and accomplishes that goal. A serious student of history won't learn anything new, but for new readers of Lincoln's biography it is very entertaining.
My biggest problem with the book is the old silly theory that Secretary of War Stanton MAY have been involved, along with his friend Lafayette Baker (Booth's tracker), and many others. With only suppositions to go on and no footnotes to back them up, the authors go way out on a limb in describing that particular theory. As Secretary of War, Stanton worked himself to death for the Union. When he saw Lincoln lying dead he stated that Lincoln was the finest administrator he had ever seen. Stanton was a genius and super-patriot, he had no desire to be president, he wanted to be appointed to Supreme Court, which he got just before he died. Stanton does not deserve any accusations of intrigue at all.
After reading `Blood on the Moon' by Edward Steers Jr., I have to conclude that it is a much better researched and written book with SO much more information than this Dugard/O'Reilly book. If you want to find out about all the conspiracies on Lincoln's life, so many facts skipped by Dugard/O'Reilly, and most important: debunking of ridiculous theories like the one involving Stanton, then `Blood on the Moon' is my choice.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2013
I've now read both Killing Lincoln and Manhunt by James L. Swanson. Manhunt hard far more detail and was more suspenseful. And, Manhunt seemed to be better researched. Swanson took the time to tell the story. O'Reilly seemed to be in a hurry.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Plays a bit fast and loose with the facts. This book might be described as well written fictionalizes history with a personal perspective. A great deal of conjecture on the part of the author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2012
Another reviewer commented that people either love or either hate the book. I think it has to do with how you approach it. If you are a serious historian looking for scholarly historical interpretation of what happened in the fifteen days before Lincoln was assassinated, you're not going to like the book. If you read it to get a general sense of what happened, are okay with some inaccuracies and enjoy a good thriller, then you'll like it. I have a degree in history, emphasis in Civil War. I stopped reading in the second or third chapter when the author said, "Nothing scares Lincoln more..." without citing any supporting documentation. I just came back to the book and reading it like a thriller, I enjoyed it a lot.