Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy Used
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Book is used, fast shipping and great customer service.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan Hardcover – March 15, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

See all 16 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$5.70 $0.01

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description

For the first time, a minute-by-minute account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

On March 30, 1981, President Reagan walked out of a hotel in Washington, D.C., and was shot by a would-be assassin. For years, few people knew the truth about how close the president came to dying, and no one has ever written a detailed narrative of that harrowing day. Now, drawing on exclusive new interviews, Del Quentin Wilber tells the electrifying story of a moment when the nation faced a terrifying crisis. With cinematic clarity, we see the Secret Service agent whose fast reflexes saved the president's life; the brilliant surgeons who operated on Reagan as he was losing half his blood; and the small group of White House officials frantically trying to determine whether the country was under attack. Most especially, we encounter the man code-named Rawhide, a leader of uncommon grace who inspired affection and awe in everyone who worked with him.

Ronald Reagan was the only serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. In Rawhide Down, the story of that perilous day—a day of chaos, crisis, prayer, heroism, and hope—is brought to life as never before.

Amazon Exclusive: Bill O'Reilly Reviews Rawhide Down

For more than 13 years, Bill O'Reilly has presided over The O'Reilly Factor on the FOX News Channel. He is the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Killing Lincoln: The Assassination that Changed America Forever (available September 27).

Rawhide Down is enthralling because of the tremendous detail that Del Quentin Wilber provides to the reader. We learn about President Ronald Reagan's daily habits, his grooming, his demeanor on the job, as well as how he reacted after being shot. We also see how the would-be assassin, John Hinckley, conducted himself in the days leading up to the shooting.

This is fascinating stuff and, as a history buff, I couldn't get enough of it. Most Americans have nearly forgotten that Mr. Reagan was on the verge of death after being shot by the unstable Hinckley, and the drama of how the president's life was saved is intense.

This book is a page-turner from beginning to end and I believe you will learn a lot about an event that came razor-close to changing America forever and certainly altered the presidency of Mr. Reagan. Rich in detail with reporting I have never heard before, Rawhide Down rewards the reader on just about every page. Trust me on this.


"Newly revealing… Mr. Wilber reconstructs an episode much more serious and dire than it has been made to seem. The courage of the president, the delicacy of the situation faced by his doctors and the sloppiness of security measures are all given new attention… A fast-paced book that captures many points of view."—The New York Times (one of Janet Maslin’s Recommended Books for 2011)

"The chapters that detail the assassination attempt and its immediate aftermath read like a thriller. In clear prose, we learn that Reagan was far closer to death than was previously thought."—David Baldacci, The Washington Post

"A page-turner from beginning to end… You will learn a lot about an event that came razor-close to changing America forever."—Bill O’Reilly, author of the forthcoming Killing Lincoln: The Assassination that Changed America Forever

"A harrowing story, more so than it seemed at the time, and Wilber, a reporter for the Washington Post, has tracked down virtually everyone who had anything to do with protecting the President or with saving his life at the hospital."—The New Yorker

"In this eye-opening book of solid journalism, we learn just how close Ronald Reagan, code-named 'Rawhide' by the Secret Service, came to being the president with the second shortest time in office."—Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"With a reporter's eye for detail and a screenwriter's talent for the cinematic, he invests such immediacy in Rawhide Down that the reader is thrust back 30 years in time."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"A tense, riveting account of that day."— Dallas Morning News

"Detailed and dramatic… Mr. Wilber, a Washington Post crime reporter who writes clear, crisp prose, fleshes out his gripping narrative with a number of well-told side stories."—The Washington Times

"A riveting minute-by-minute account of the shooting and reveals that Reagan came closer to death than the public knew."—New York Post

"This intensely researched account yields an almost moment-by-moment account of the crisis."—New York Daily News

"A fast-paced read that draws well-crafted characters and gives a vivid sense of the history that brought the story’s heroes and Hinckley together that day."—The Washingtonian

"Gripping … A fascinating glimpse of a pivotal moment in history."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"This mesmerizing rendition of the event can be read in one sitting, as Wilber’s accuracy and craft provoke rapt interest."—Booklist

"Del Quentin Wilber has written a compelling and multi-layered examination of the near-assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. As a biographer of Reagan who was at the Washington Hilton Hotel that fateful day, I was fascinated by Wilber’s meticulous reconstruction. He properly credits the valor and judgment of the Secret Service agents who saved Reagan’s life but also analyzes the security deficiencies that made the assassination attempt possible. Wilber reminds us of how close we were to losing Reagan little more than two months into his presidency. His detailed and readable accounts of the surgeries performed on Reagan and Press Secretary James Brady are of particular historical value."—Lou Cannon, author of President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

"Rawhide Down is full of spectacular, original reporting."—Bob Woodward

"The 96 months of Ronald Reagan’s presidency changed the nation and the world. Del Quentin Wilber’s gripping account of the ‘near assassination’ of the 40th president shows how close the country—and the world—came to missing more than 93 of those months."—George F. Will

"Rawhide Down is a stunning work. Del Quentin Wilber, with the world-class reporting skills he honed on the police beat and a fine sense of narrative, has taken a story we thought we knew and rendered it wholly fresh, vibrant, and revealing."—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080509346X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093469
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

Soon after Del Quentin Wilber got his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 1997, he stumbled on his first big story: a massive fish kill in the waterways of Maryland's Eastern Shore. Living out of a suitcase and writing in drab motel rooms for days on end, Wilber tromped along muddy shorelines, reeked of dead fish, watched fellow reporters become sick with inexplicable illnesses--and immediately knew that there was no other job he'd rather be doing.

A recovering former collegiate baseball player, Wilber joined the staff of The Baltimore Sun after landing one of the Sun's prestigious two-year internships. Before long, he was given a full-time position covering crime in a suburban bureau, and in 2001 the paper's editors tapped him to cover crime in the city. His reporting on wrongdoing by Baltimore's police chief led to the chief's conviction on corruption charges and a stint in federal prison. In 2002, Wilber led the paper's coverage of the D.C. sniper shootings, which later was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wilber's work as a police reporter received national recognition when he won the Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting in 2004

Wilber joined the staff of the Washington Post in 2004 as the D.C. police reporter. He soon gained the trust of the police department's top officers as well as numerous cops on the street, which ultimately allowed him to gain unusual access to the inner workings of the department. In numerous stories for the Post, Wilber explored the life of police officers and detectives as they investigated homicides and tried to solve cold cases, car thefts and burglaries.

In 2006, he became the paper's national aviation writer. Long fascinated by airplanes and aviation, Wilber covered plane crashes, flight delays, and aviation safety and security issues. To better understand the industry, he also became a licensed private pilot. After being promoted by the paper to cover the federal courts, he chronicled the trial of former Senator Ted Stevens and wrote about the complicated issues surrounding the detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He got the idea to write Rawhide Down shortly after attending a hearing for John W. Hinckley Jr. and being handed the would-be assassin's gun by an FBI agent who kept it in his drawer.

As a boy in Massachusetts, Wilber became obsessed with the Boston Red Sox, in part because his grandfather, Del Wilber, played for the Red Sox as a back-up catcher in the 1950s. He later moved with his family to Northern Virginia and attended Georgetown Preparatory School. He now lives in the Washington area with his wife, NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan, and their two sons, Quentin and Ryan.

Wilber is often asked why he uses his middle name in his byline, and the simple answer is that he's proud of it. The name goes back four generations to his great-grandfather's decision to give his son that middle name in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt's youngest child, who died in World War I while serving as a fighter pilot. Wilber, a history buff who often watches documentaries while simultaneously reading a nonfiction book, couldn't resist carrying on the tradition with his own son.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is both an informative book and a very entertaining one.

The action is very engaging as we learn what was going on in the hospital room with Reagan's doctor's and nurses, what was going on in the White House (for example, what lead to A. Haig telling the world that HE was in charge), what was happening with the shooter, and what was going on with the Secret Service and the FBI.

The author is extremely good at making all the people involved seem like real people that we get to know instead of just stale characters in history. He is also excellent at describing the scene to the point that the reader can feel they are there. Reading this book is like watching a movie--only better.

Though the book starts a bit slow as it leads the reader up to the shooting, the author then kicks into high gear and keeps the reader reading on and on and on until the end. After the mild start, once I moved on into the book, I didn't want to put it down.

Some who may not be impressed with Reagan may be a bit annoyed that the author obviously holds Reagan in high regard, but even they should come away impressed with the author's insight into history.

I gave this book a 5-star rating because it was so enjoyable to read and I learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know. Also, I am not sure how it could be written any better.

This is a very well-written book that not only entertains but gives a wonderful view of history. I am impressed. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this part of history, whether or not they like Reagan.

Well done.
3 Comments 76 of 81 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By Nelly on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Absolutely riveting -- I can't think of a better word to describe this book. I almost never give 5 stars in a book review, but here it is.

I got it to give to my dad, and I just opened the cover to glance over it...and the first page just sucked me in. I seriously didn't want to stop reading it (and I am EASILY bored). It reads like a gripping novel -- of course, everyone knows how it turns out, but it doesn't stop you from feeling the suspense of it all (kind of like the movie "Apollo 13"). I have such enormous respect for Reagan as an individual now (and I'm a Democrat!) ;-)

Amazing details of the events on and surrounding the day of the shooting -- the author really did his homework. He also did a great job of (presumably) editing out any NON-interesting details, as the book (besides the 53 pages of notes and sources at the end) is a nice, readable 229 pages. My pet peeve is non-fiction authors who don't know what to leave out.

I can't imagine that anyone interested in hearing more about Reagan's attempted assassination would not find this a great read. I didn't even think that I was interested in the topic at ALL, and I loved this book.
1 Comment 53 of 57 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Just like with previous generations, people will always remember where they were when first hearing the news that President Reagan had been shot - I was in grade school, and it was a tough day for all of us.

Del Quentin Wilber has recreated that fateful day for all readers - those too young to remember and those who did indeed live through the event. Wilber's book is a very detailed recounting of that entire day - mostly about Reagan and the activities surrounding him, but also some of the activities about the man that shot the President.

Wilber has mined many sources to obtain the detail for this work, and his efforts pay off nicely. The book is written with a journalist's flare, and covers every topic from what Reagan did in the morning before his speech at the Hilton through the surgery following the attack and Reagan's quick recovery.

The reader is drawn into the book with the feeling as if s/he was actually there - everything from the sights and sounds to details about the cold-blooded thought process of John Hinckley, who claimed he was just trying to impress actress Jodie Foster when he set out to assassinate the President of the United States.

This is a great book about that fateful day, and well worth reading - whether you want to relive years gone by or if it's a new subject - you won't be disappointed in Wilber's account.
1 Comment 34 of 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. I read many modern history books and books about federal law enforcement, which is why i chose this book to read.

The author did those topics justice, but what I found most interesting and unusual about this book was the way he explained every medical procedure so clearly. I hope he will write more books where he describes important medical procedures in such clear and understandable detail because he did such a good job with it.

Another fascinating part of this book was the author's access to and use of tapes made by Richard Allen in the (real) Situation Room at the White House on the day Pres. Reagan was shot. We all remember Alexander Haig's public statement about being "in charge", but to read word for word the back story and learn that Haig's colleagues in the cabinet were rolling their eyes at him, much like the world was, lets us all be flies on the wall.

One small suggestion for future editions: As i was reading the Situation Room stuff, I realized that the author was using real quotes (which seemed curious and made me wonder if the room was bugged); it wasn't until pages later [and then again at the end of the book] that he explained that Allen had taped the events of that day. I suggest that in the next edition the taping be explained when the first quotes appear.

It also annoyed me (& perhaps this is generational) that the author tried to make the identity of the girl in the photos in Hinckley's wallet a mystery when we all know, or at least i think we all know, that they were of Jodie Foster. So I found that literary device kind of insulting to my intelligence.
Read more ›
1 Comment 16 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: biography books, andrew jackson biography, u.s. presidents