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Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan Hardcover – March 15, 2011
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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
Top customer reviews
Del Quentin Wilber’s book informed me about things regarding this attempt on Reagan’s life and his presidency that I did not know. I remember the attempt on his life but I had no idea how close we came to losing him until reading this book. Also, I was shocked to see how close that attempt was to the assassination of J.F.K. I recalled that James Brady was forever changed by the bullet that struck his brain, however, Rawhide Down goes into details about his injuries and how that evolved into the controversial Brady Bill. Reagan was transformative as a president but it didn’t occur to me how much public goodwill he earned as a result of this horrible day in his life and in the life of the nation.
Reagan’s demeanor in the hours, days and weeks after he was shot surprised, pleased and inspired a nation that was relieved that they did not lose yet another president to an assassin’s bullet. It is quite likely, as Wilber recounts in his book, that Reagan wouldn’t have been as successful or as popular as he was if it weren’t for Hinkley’s actions. I guess it could be said, what Hinkley meant for evil, God used it for good in Reagan’s presidency.
Speaking of God, both Reagan and the Secret Service agent in charge that day felt that God had a purpose. Read what Reagan thought that purpose was and how he sought to change the world thereby. Also, read how an agent found renewed purpose for his life after retirement borne out of this life-transforming experience.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in politics or history. Whether the reader likes Reagan, loathes him or even has a grudging respect for him, this book is a good read. I trust each one who reads it will be grateful that Reagan is not remembered as yet another president lost to an assassin.
Wilber writes that the near assassination "gave the American people an indelible image of Reagan's character--it revealed his superb temperament, his extraordinary ability to project the qualities of a true leader and his remarkable grace under pressure."
Wilber offers an excellent portrait of the troubled 25-year-old Hinckley, who was called an "emotional enigma." Hinckley expected to die in a hail of bullets from the Secret Service.
Secret Service agent Jerry Parr's quick decision to push Reagan into the limo and the decision to take Reagan, who they didn't know was wounded at the time, to George Washington Hospital instead of the White House, probably saved the President's life.
Reagan, 70, was having trouble breathing, but insisted upon walking into the emergency department. It took a while for the doctors to discover that he had been shot in the back, five inches below his armpit. He had a collapsed lung and his chest cavity was filling with blood. There was no time to lose. He was closer to death than most people realized.
Thirty minutes after arriving in the emergency department, Reagan, who was in or near shock and had lost a significant amount of blood, was taken to the operating room, where he underwent a three-hour operation.
Wilber captures the chaos at George Washington Hospital as press secretary James Brady and Secret Service agent Tom McCarthy were also being treated for gun shot wounds. He also describes the surgeons and the medical procedures in an easy-to-understand manner.
Reagan's humor, faith, kindness and sensitivity to others were evident during this ordeal.
After surviving the near assassination, Wilber writes that Reagan became a "mythic figure."
Although Wilber did extensive research for the book, interviewing 125 people and reviewing medical records, he never lets the details overwhelm the story. He strikes an impressive balance between the details and storytelling. His writing keeps the story from becoming dry history.
If you want to experience a "you were there" feeling, this is a book I would highly recommend.
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