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Customer Review

on March 13, 2006
Manhunt is a gripping, engrossing history. But it is not just an action story. What I found most compelling was how James Swanson used original documents such as letters, court testimony and first-hand accounts to reconstruct not only what happened in those 12 days in April, but what the major players were saying to each other and even what they were thinking. What results is not merely a study of an important event of American history, but of human nature. We see the conspirators not as the calculating villains that a fictional movie might portray assassins to be, but as fallible humans who often acted in irrational, self-destructive ways that no fiction writer would dare make up (like Seward's assassin, while carrying out his plan with brutal and cold precision, suddenly exclaiming "I'm mad, I'm mad"). We see Booth himself, who starts off so brilliant and cool, slowly unravel as his nerves are strained by the tiring flight and his ego shattered by the nation's swift denunciation of his assassination. Swanson also shows how Booth's pride and deep racism led him to do things that jeopardized his flight and helped lead to his undoing. A monumental accomplishment. Bravo!
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