2007: 16. American Brutus

“Good Friday had never been a well-attended night at the theater, but on that evening the city of Washington was in a partying mood.”

American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracy, Michael W. Kauffman

Another book bought at a National Park, this time at Ford’s Theater. I must say that I am getting a big kick out of this new scheme of buying books at NPS stores. Not only does it feed right into my acquisitive instincts, but I am I reading a bunch of non-fiction, which is always a boon. This book is a well-written snapshot of the Lincoln assassination – a history of Booth, his conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, and what happened after the job was done – his escape, the manhunt and trial. It is a fascinating story –we all know that Lincoln was shot, but I knew little about the actual assassination, beyond what Stephen Sondheim has told me (“Johnny Booth was a headstrong feller’/Even he believed the things he said/Some called him noble, some said yeller’/What he was was off his head.”).* Kauffman, who is “one of the foremost Lincoln assassination authorities,” posits pretty convincingly that Booth was a master conspirator, who wove a web of lies that was thick enough that no one but him really knew what was going on. A really enjoyable book – Kauffman is a good enough writer and historian that it is a shame that his area of expertise is so narrow – I’d like to read another book by him.

Recommend for: People who are interested in American history; fans of Sonheim’s Assassins and Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation; people who live in D.C. and enjoy realizing how close history is (like, after Booth shot Lincoln he ran down the alley, past what is now Cowgirl Creamery and headed out of town).

*I did know a lot about Lincoln’s funeral, thanks to my college thesis on mourning in the post-Civil War North.


Date/Place Completed: 02/05/07, D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction, U.S. President's Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017