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Customer Review

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.
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