Yep, I get suckered in every now and then. I run across a new release in the book store and/or hear the author of that book on C-Span and, despite the fact that the book will be available used or as a remainder in one of the many used book stores I frequent within 6 months, I lay out the cash. More often than not, this happens in the case of a book on Lincoln. And also more often than not, the book goes unread. But every once in a while I pick one up that I know I’ll read, and these are usually in that peculiar subset of the Assassination.
The other day I bought My Thoughts Be Bloody, touted as The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that Led to an American Tragedy. I heard the author, Nora Titone, on C-Span: she does one of those presentations where you’re pretty sure every word has been scripted out (in contrast to my own presentations, where with the exception of quotations I speak off a very general outline). There have been at least two other books published over the past 18 years that specifically examine the relationship between the Booth brothers, and Michael Kauffman’s American Brutus also spends some time on it. Regardless, Titone’s is the story of how Wilkes was affected by the very strained relationship he had with his older, more talented, more respected, and more powerful brother Edwin. I’ll read this once I finish the difficult to finish West Pointers and the Civil War (the title is misleading and it lacks focus and structure, but there’s a lot of good stuff in it).
Titone’s book has a shiny silver color, not unlike that of another new Lincoln book, Bloody Crimes by James Swanson. This combines the stories of Lincoln’s funeral procession back to Springfield with the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis. Swanson appears to be taking a page from Stephen Ambrose’s playbook by blending a story he has already written (the funeral train was a big part of Swanson’s previous work, Manhunt – which also had a shiny silver cover) with another story that just happened to be going on at the same time. I guess that’s a good gig if you can get it. I hope that the covers are the only similarity between Titone’s book and Swanson’s – I read Manhunt and, while it’s very well written, there’s not much there there. Know what I mean?