Thursday, June 23, 2011
Manhunt, by James L. Swanson
This is the story of the 12 day manhunt to capture John Wilkes Booth. Not the most interesting writing style, but very clear and informative. Swanson describes but does not fall prey to Booth's charisma, and portrays him as a delusional egotist who makes a number of bumbling errors. The descriptions of the assassinations of Lincoln and Seward, and the night that follows, are the highlights of the book—Swanson gives a real sense of the mood and place. One thing that was fascinating was how aware everyone present seemed to be of their place in history. At every major event from the assassination in Ford's Theater to the killing of Booth, onlookers are grabbing bits of bloody cloth, locks of hair, coins in a pocket—anything historically significant that they can get their hands on. Did anyone see that movie The Conspirator that came out this year? I haven't seen it, but it is about this kind of junk.