InCity Times book review

Killing Lincoln

By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

I watch Bill O’Reilly almost every night. O’Reilly is the host of “The Factor” one of Fox TV’s most popular shows. He is an egomaniac who uses his show as an extension of his personality. O’Reilly also displays an affection for big words, which he then clings to like a toy.

Politically speaking, O’Reilly can best be described as a right Irish Catholic militant. If you want to know what kind of mentality produced the IRA, picture several hundred Bill O’Reillys growing up in a society which discriminated against them, denied them opportunity, and ridiculed their religion. O’Reilly’s TV show sometimes resembles a group of bomb throwers, using words instead of explosives. Rarely do we get such a display of the primitive bog Irish psyche.

But sometimes O’Reilly gets an issue right, which I why I watch his entertaining show. It’s also a good way to get in one hour the conservative take on America. I like watching Chris Matthews and then Bill O’Reilly, getting two sharply contrasting points of view.

Comprehensible writing

One of the products O’Reilly has been promoting on his show is the book he co-authored “Killing Lincoln.” I never felt motivated to read “Killing Lincoln,” because I thought O’Reilly would use the book to display his intellectual erudition (The word “erudition” is the type O’Reilly likes to use on “The Factor.” “Erudition” means knowledge derived from reading books.)

Also, this writer does not like reading about the American Civil War. I never understood the obsession some Americans have about the civil war. It was a tragic event, with Americans killing each other by the hundreds of thousands. It must have been a terrible thing to live through. The romanticization of the antebellum south, a society based on slavery, seemed appalling.

Then my sister Sharon, a retired high school principal in Houston, Texas, called me up one day to recommend “Killing Lincoln.” Sharon is the family liberal, educated at Anna Maria before joining the Peace Corps.
I saw “Killing Lincoln” on the display rack in the Worcester Library a few days later and grabbed it.

I literally could not put this book down. There was none of the multi-syllable nonsense one expected from O’Reilly. It is written in clear concise English understandable to any reader, no matter what their level of education.

What makes this book so comprehensible is the way it is organized. The chapters are short, sometimes only a single page. They allow the reader to absorb a factor in the overall story, digest its meaning, and then move on. Instead of wedging a thick stack of photographs into the middle of the book, O’Reilly incorporated them into the narrative, allowing the viewer to use the pictures to visualize the participants acting in the unfolding tale.

Gem of a book

The story picks up near the end of the civil war, as union forces try to surround the remnants of Robert E. Lee’s “Army of Northern Virginia”, as it attempts to escape to the Carolinas and take refuge in the Appalachian Mountains, which it would use as a base to wage guerrilla war against the north. With all the attention grabbing drama of a high-speed action thriller, the narrative builds to a climax as Lincoln’s assassins prepare, carry out, and try to escape after the actual assassination.

Like many other prominent Americans who were died violent deaths (the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X), many suspicions and myths have grown up about a conspiracy to murder Lincoln by members of the union government. These are much like the conspiracy theories that the CIA murdered John F. Kennedy. O’Reilly does not go beyond the historical record, but he does record strange happenings involving members of the federal government, without saying outright that it was a conspiracy.

“Killing Lincoln” is a gem of a book. It’s how history should be written – fast paced, easy to absorb, and fun to read.

Leave a Reply