Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Look Review "Manhunt"

“Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer”

It was a tough decision for this week’s book review. Should it be a book about love to celebrate Valentines Day or a book about murder to celebrate Presidents Day? I went with the murder book since it was a much better read. “Manhunt” by James Swanson is an excellent choice to educate and entertain. Hollywood is bound to take this version of events and make it into a blockbuster and I will be lining up at the theater to see it.

On April 14, 1865 John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln. The story of his horrifying deed and incredible escape has intrigued history students for generations. Booth was an accomplished actor from a well-known family. He was handsome, well-to-do and charismatic. He was also convinced that Lincoln was a dangerous leader who must be removed. Booth was able to persuade his associates to join him in a conspiracy to kill not only President Lincoln, but Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. It was a heinous plot that almost succeeded.

The fall of Richmond only months earlier provoked these sons of the South to action. After failing to kidnap Lincoln, Booth plotted the murders with the finesse of a playwright. He convinces friends to become murderers and other minor characters to aid him as he escapes through Confederate territory. It is an American tragedy.

If Booth had not broken his leg during his dramatic leap to flee Ford Theater, he might have escaped with the aid of sympathetic Southerners. As his route brings him to the infamous Dr. Mudd, fate intervenes. Booth and fellow fugitive David Herold are next harbored by Thomas A. Jones, a former Secret Service veteran and Confederate spy. We are almost convinced that they can escape if their luck continues. It doesn’t of course and Booth is shot in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia by Sergeant Boston Corbett. The other conspirators are hung July 7, 1865.

I particularly enjoyed the epilogue which lists the fates of all the characters. Not every one involved reaps their just reward, but it satisfies our curiosity to read the ending for these historical figures. “Manhunt” is a true crime drama providing fascinating details about the12-day chase to capture John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln. Whether you are a civil war history buff or just read for entertainment, you will really enjoy reading this well-written description of one of the most daring exploits in American history.

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