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Thread: Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

  1. #1

    Default Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

    This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows I'm kinda interested in the Civil War, so imagine my excitement when someone got me a copy as a present! Within 20% (it is the ebook edition ) excitement turned to dismay and disappointment. O'Reilly seems to go out of his way to get little details wrong, details that can be fact-checked with Google. He describes the assassination derringer as a "brass pistol;" it's not brass at all. Phillip Barton Key didn't shoot anyone in Washington; he himself was shot to death by Dan Sickles. And what does that have to do with the assassination, anyway? If I could get by the inaccurate details, I still had to contend with the dreadful writing style. In a pulp western that I'd bought to relieve the boredom of a trip I could find it excusable, but the purple prose was dreadful for a history. The photos are Library of Congress shots we've all seen thousands of times, I suspect included because they were cheap. He trots out conspiracy theories without really developing them. How was Stanton involved? "He was involved. Film at 11. Next up..." The book is also subtitled "The Shocking Assassination that Changed America." By the end of the book I'd expect some analysis to support this thesis, but there is none. Lincoln is dead and buried, the conspirators tried and hanged, that's that and the book ends. It added up to a disturbing disappointment. Mostly, with the ridiculous tone and intrusive innaccuracies, it felt like reading a bad reenactment. There was some period stuff, and some period feel, but in the end it just didn't hold up. Sigh, at least I didn't have to clean a musket or sleep on the ground as part of the experience. I didn't feel bad when I deleted it from my Kindle, though. I just wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. You can get more accurate information almost anywhere and the writing style just doesn't make it a compelling enough read to get by the mistakes.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Western Pennsylvania
    Posts
    353

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    Remember he hosted "Inside Edition" back in the 80's....
    Peter Kappas, reenactor
    63rd PVI Co. C
    Freedom, PA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Stroudsburg, Pa.
    Posts
    1,229

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    "Bill Reilly is like a bad reenactment."
    You may have just turned the phrase of the decade.
    Bill Watson
    I write about history for people who regret not being there when it happened.

    Books
    Brother William's War, Illustrated, about a Southerner's war
    The Ludlam Legacy, Illustrated, about a young Yankee orphan's war.
    Seize the Day! A best-practices guide to wringing more satisfaction from your Civil War weekend
    The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting: An introduction for those who want to try it out

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Stroudsburg, Pa.
    Posts
    1,229

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    Seriously, this is what you get in a celebrity book. From agents to publishers to retailers, content matters less than the ability to sell it simply because it has a famous name as the author. Facts don't matter; plausibility doesn't matter; nothing matters except Bill Reilly's name, same as putting Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis or Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie in a movie, people go see it. Newt Gingrich does the same historic writing thing, but he at least has decent ghost writers who can follow tried and true formulas for historic fiction.
    Bill Watson
    I write about history for people who regret not being there when it happened.

    Books
    Brother William's War, Illustrated, about a Southerner's war
    The Ludlam Legacy, Illustrated, about a young Yankee orphan's war.
    Seize the Day! A best-practices guide to wringing more satisfaction from your Civil War weekend
    The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting: An introduction for those who want to try it out

  5. #5

    Default

    I actually found Gingrich to be an enjoyable read. Many of the fictional movements he sends commands on make plausible sense. I can accept what he did because it is fiction, alternative history. The O'Reilly book is supposed to be a straight up history and is just a mess from beginning to end. I wish he had given the Licoln assassination more treatment in how it "changed America." That part of the work was particularly weak. On the whole, I found the Time/Life volume to be more informative and enjoyable to read.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    10

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    This "book" was given to me as a X-mas gift. I threw it away.

    Matt

  7. #7

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    Sadly, this book makes "The Lincoln Conspiracy" look scholarly. It even gets mentioned, and not in a dismissive manner, toward the end!
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    4

    Default A good book requires serious research

    I have not read Killing Lincoln, but after reading reviews that made me believe O'Reilly did not have all his researchers do their homework, I decided to not waste my time or give him my hard earned money. I have read a number of books on Lincoln (who is not my favorite president) including Tried BY War by James McPherson, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and American Brutus "John Wilkes Booth and The Lincoln Conspiracies". If someone wants to read a excellent book on the conspiracies and details that lead up to the assassination of Lincoln I would highly recommend American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman. I also took a tour that started at the Surratt house and included the Ford theater, Dr. Mudd's home, and followed the complete escape path of Booth up to the place where he was killed by Sgt. Boston Corbett. The tour was about ten hours and guided by Mr. Kauffman, and was one of the most enjoyable informative tours I have ever taken. Mr. Kauffman is a expert on Lincoln, and it would have been smart on O'Reillys part if he had paid Mr. Kauffman to have been his ghost writer, at least his fact would have been correct. Better yet if Bill had only taken the tour he would have been better equipped to make a stab at American History.

  9. #9

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    A lot of the errors are of the sort that a fact-checker could correct, which made them more egregious. Several of them were in passages I would consider to be "flavor" or "color:" unnecessary for the flow of the history, but the fact that they were incorrect made them stand out like a stainless steel canteen. I could have found the purple prose amusing if the facts had been right. Since you haven't read it, once more I recommend that you leave that record unblemished.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

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