Thursday, March 27, 2014

386 (2014 #14). Killing Lincoln

by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

My dad read this book and enjoyed it and gave it to me to read when I asked him about it.  Let me be clear up front that I am neither a fan nor a foe of Bill O'Reilly, so my opinion of the book is not colored by politics.  It does bother me, however, when a book gets a lot of extra attention simply because an author is famous mostly in arenas other than authorship, or expertise in a particular subject.

Like another so-called nonfiction book I read recently that's been read more frequently since a movie loosely based on it became popular (Philomena), my gripe with this book is that it's marketed as nonfiction, when once again the author(s) speculate about the characters' thoughts and motivations, yet have no cited sources backing them up.

The book has a number of (mostly minor) inaccuracies, which again would be more forgivable if the book wasn't marketed as nonfiction.  It IS possible to write good, enthralling narrative nonfiction grounded in facts that are detailed in end notes - Erik Larson is a master.

That being said - the book was a quick, easy read.  I actually preferred Part One of the book (called "Total War"), which in 83 pages describes, in an understandable form, the last few maneuverings and skirmishes by Generals Grant and Lee in the first nine days of April, 1865, just before Lee's surrender.

O'Reilly himself says in an author's note at the beginning that "this book is written as a thriller."  Had it been marketed the same way, it would perhaps be less controversial.  A desired outcome of reading this book would be using it as a starting point to learn more facts about Lincoln's assassination and its aftermath.  That's what good historical fiction often inspires one to do.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my dad.]

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