book reviews

Book Review: Killing Lincoln

Killing Lincoln: The Assassination that Changed America ForeverKilling Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

by Bill O’Reilly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note to Readers: This is part of my Amazon Vine Voice reviews. Coupling ‘history’ with ‘Bill O’Reilly’ unleashed a tidal wave of reader feedback. Check out my thoughts at the end of this  review.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Bill O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard’s wonderful book Killing Lincoln. This is a sensational book written as a contemporary thriller and takes full use of this technique to avoid being a dull regurgitation of dates,facts and figures. This book is a thoroughly researched and documented effort to accurately describe the shocking and horrifying murder of perhaps America’s greatest President.

I must confess my knowledge of the Civil War era is extremely limited (embarrassingly so) and suspect I am not alone. Perhaps we can beseech Mr. O’Reilly to include the list of books that he found germane to the completion of this terrific work and share it with his loyal audio readers on his website (as he does in the print book). I would like to read much more about this critical juncture/time in American history.

The book starts with an overview of the Northern and Southern armies, their maneuver tactics and their respective strategies to prevail. There are wonderfully insightful looks at Lincoln near the battlefields his relationship with Grant and his overwhelming desire to hold and preserve the Union. The strength of the Northern armies eventually forces key Southern cities (Richmond) to succumb and simultaneously surround General Lee forcing him to the unthinkable, the surrender of his army.

Further, it tracks John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators as they initially start with plans to kidnap Lincoln, which would have been remarkably easy given the lax security surrounding him, to assassination. It ends with a touching description of Lincoln’s final days after being shot and the capture and killing John Wilkes Booth. Bill’s attempt to get into the minds and hearts of the key characters makes for a compelling read and a real page-turner. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

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As is my practice in my Amazon Vine activities, I didn’t look at comments before writing this review. I read the book, drew my conclusions and posted my thoughts.

Then, I checked comments.

Wow! This excellent read got an average ‘three star’–much lower than my ‘five star’. I dove into the comments to find out why. A few too many readers  started like this:

I like Bill O’Reilly very much.

As a faithful buyer of all O’Reilly’s stuff…

I bought this book for my wife, who is a big O’Reilly fan.

…and many seemed to be reviewing the author Bill O’Reilly (not his co-author Martin Dugard) rather than the book. They picked at everything from his writing style to the historic facts to calling the writing ‘boring… tedious, slow moving and ponderous.’ O’Reilly employed the now-common non-fiction writing style–called creative non-fiction–of adding drama, climaxes and other elements of fiction to heighten the reading experience. I’m not a fan of that in history books, but I thought the story overcame the negatives of this approach.

My take-away from this experience is a real-life example of why we as authors can’t take the reviews that appear on Amazon seriously. I’m not denigrating those who post them at all–they are readers taking the time to share their opinions–just reminding my fellow authors to not pull the razor out when you get a bad comment. Most of these are biased by the writer’s experiences–not the objective analysis we authors might hope for.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Killing Lincoln

  1. This one looks right up my street too – love all things history, especially war history. The Civil War stories are fascinating. I visited Gettysburg for the first time over Columbus Day weekend – breathtaking.

    • I went to Gettysburg once years ago. I’d love to go again. The history that was made there is seminal. It’s hard to imagine such bravery and self-sacrifice from ordinary people.

  2. Jacqui, I’m a new follower of your blog, and happy to know that you review books as well. I’m a voracious reader, and always looking for someone who can point to a book that is worthy of my time. So many books, so little time!

    That said, as a published author, I disagree with your statement that authors are seeking an “objective analysis” from readers – I think authors benefit from all reader reactions, good and bad. It’s true that a lot of people use comments to unleash the critic within them, but that’s great for us writers – never before did we have such direct access to our audience! As the dust from the Internet storm settles, I have faith that the comments will mature.

    As far as not taking Amazon reviews seriously – well, that’s a personal choice, but your brush is all-tarnishing. Surely some are worth taking seriously?

    • You’ve made a good point. As you say, all feedback is valuable, but some comments come with baggage that other readers don’t always understand or agree with. As an author, I appreciate reading how my thoughts came across to others. As a reader, not the same. If someone is anti-war, their thoughts on the Civil War will be different from those of a Civil War buff.

      I apologize if I sounded dismissive of Amazon reviews. Not true. I agonize every time I get a three star. It’s enough to ruin my day. I wish I could be more dismissive.

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