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My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry That Led to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln Paperback – Bargain Price, May 31, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This account of the fraternal conflict between Edwin Booth-one of the most acclaimed Shakespearean actors of his era-and his less successful brother John Wilkes, who would soon achieve another, far darker brand of immortality for his own dramatic act, is read by John Bedford Lloyd, whose placid tone belies an undertone of menace. His reading is solid but uninspired-a surprising tone for a book that is itself about the lives of two singular dramatists. The audiobook also offers an introduction read by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who good-naturedly, if slightly awkwardly, pays tribute to the quality of Titone's scholarship. A Free Press hardcover. (Oct.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

If one chooses to do so, one could probably discover a complex of personal demons that supposedly motivated every lone political assassin. So Oswald was acting out his frustration over his failures as a husband and political activist. Sirhan Sirhan was seeking relief from loneliness rather than striking a blow for Palestine. And so on and so on to the point of absurd psychobabble. Yet, given the limitations inherent in such efforts, this is actually a very well-done examination of the trials and tribulations of a remarkable family. The family patriarch, Junius, was a heralded Shakespearean actor, an alcoholic, and an often emotionally abusive parent. His favored son, Edwin, was generally regarded as the greatest American actor of the nineteenth century. Then there was poor John—desperate for his father’s approval, intensely jealous of his brother, and frustrated by his reputation as a mediocre performer. Titone does a fine job of contrasting the personalities and even the acting styles of the brothers. Her portrait of Edwin as a decent man haunted by his brother’s act is often moving. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005Q5P2CK
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Fink on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a lot of books about the Booths, and I have to say, this is one of the best. I love this book. Hats off to Nora Titone; she has really done her work. Nora has masterfully researched and unearthed clues about the complex inner workings and circumstances that led two brothers along opposite paths during the time of America's greatest upheaval. One brother, whose allegiance was with the north, a supporter of President Abraham Lincoln and became the foremost actor of his time; the other whose allegiance was with the south to the point of obsession, struggled as an actor and assassinated the President, branding the Booth name forever in infamy.

In My Thoughts Be Bloody, the fascinating cast of characters who helped shape Edwin and John Wilkes' drives and ambitions are thoughtfully explored, beginning with their turbulent tragedian father, Junius Brutus Booth. This is the story of a family in turmoil, and it reads like a novel. Why did the two brothers compete with each other to the point of becoming bitter rivals leading to disaster? I believe this book persuasively answers that question and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Booths, the Civil War, American history, or just a great story.
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Format: Hardcover
"My Thoughts Be Bloody", whose title is taken from a line in Shakespeare's "Hamlet", is an absolutely fascinating examination of the lives of an American acting dynasty. The Booths - father, three sons, son- and daughter-in-law - comprised the most influential, yet notorious, family of thespians in 19th century America. Nora Titone has mined hundreds of sources to chronicle the multiple rises and falls of this historic clan in surprising detail. It reads in part like one of the classic tragedies for which the Booth men were famous, and in part like one of the overdrawn melodramas of the age. In an America still small enough that nearly all citizens of note circulated within a relatively small universe, Edwin and John Wilkes Booth contested each other for favor, wealth and social standing. The interrelationships between the players on this stage are entirely engrossing. And as John's fortunes falter while Edwin's star rises, Titone leads us step-by-step to the well-known climax - and the less-familiar final curtain.
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Format: Hardcover
The Lincoln bicentennial generated literally hundreds of new books, and, in the end, very few genuine surprises. The surprise here is that the relationship of the two famous Booth brothers is such an obvious subject, yet we knew so little about it. Think of this: A third-rate actor who is the brother of possibly the world's most famous actor stages an episode literally out of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." How did this come about? It turns out that their father, too, was a famous actor, but his messy family life on two continents was guaranteed to promote insecurity on top of sibling rivalry. Nora Titone makes great progress with her subject, and I highly recommend this book, but, in the end, questions of motivation can only be somewhat speculative.
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Format: Hardcover
Nora Titone has written a wonderfully readable biography of a family, and of one, mad, act. The "family", is the Booth family and the "act", of course, was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.

British actor Junius Brutus Booth fled London with his common-law wife, Mary Ann Holmes in the early 1830's for the United States, where his fame preceded him. He took to the life of the itinerant actor, all up and down the eastern seaboard, presenting the Shakespeare villains to theatre audiences who appreciated his acting. While Junius was on the road, Mary Ann was home, birthing and raising ten children in relative poverty. Of the four sons who reached adulthood, three were actors. Two, Junius Jr and John Wilkes were middling at best and were never overly successful, while son Edwin became the foremost actor and producer of his generation. Junius Sr died early, leaving Edwin, who had long accompanied his father on the road as an aide (mainly to try to keep him sober enough to take the stage) to claim the Booth mantle. And seize it he did, a true acting talent.

As with any family, fissures appear as personalities begin to show themselves. Having received the lion share of the acting talent, Edwin was not above belittling his brothers while supporting the family monetarily. For oldest brother "June", his mediocrity didn't seem to bother him; he made a living and a life for himself. However, younger brother John Wilkes had inherited his father's looks without inheriting his talent, and he was on the edges of the acting profession. He resented Edwin his success, without knowing or acknowledging the long years of preparation Edwin had put in while his father's understudy.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read quite a bit about brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. However, Nora Titone's My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy is the most well written and comprehensive book yet to be written about the actor-brothers.

Any book about Edwin and John Wilkes Booth must begin with their father. Junius Brutus Booth was one of the best Shakespearian actors in Britain, and his life had more high-drama than any play in which he starred. In 1821, he left behind a wife and young son to travel to America with his pregnant mistress. He settled down on a farm in Maryland, where he and mistress, Mary Ann Holmes, produced ten children. Junius took to drink, which made him erratic and undependable when touring. With so many children to care for, Mary Ann sent 12-year-old Edwin to serve as caretaker for his father. At the same time, Edwin learned his father's craft from the master. By the time Edwin was 17, he replaced his father playing Richard III and the torch was passed.

Meanwhile, while Edwin was on the road, John Wilkes remained at home where he was pampered and spoiled by his mother. As a teenager, John Wilkes made the decision to become an actor. Although he had no formal training, he had rugged good looks. Edwin was well established as an actor by this time, so he set the ground rules for his younger brother. "Edwin split the map of the United States in two, practically along the Mason-Dixon Line as it turned out, though his intentions had everything to do with business and not politics. Each brother, Edwin said, would claim one region in which to practice his profession, with the understanding that neither would cross into the other's territory.
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