Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lincoln's Assassin Comes to Life, Hour by Hour, in `Manhunt'

Lincoln's Assassin Comes to Life, Hour by Hour, in `Manhunt'

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The night Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater in Washington, actress Laura Keene made a strange request: She asked to cradle the president's head in her lap.

She didn't volunteer for this macabre Pieta to offer succor. She wanted a souvenir. As Keene held Lincoln's blasted skull, ``tiny bits of gray matter oozed onto the cream silk fabric'' of her dress, writes James L. Swanson in his riveting ``Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer'' (Morrow, 448 pages, $26.95).

Keene wasn't alone in her blood lust. The next morning, an embalmer drained Lincoln's blood and poured it into glass jars, where it was ``sacredly preserved,'' the author notes in this hour-by-hour chronicle of the assassination and subsequent search for the killer, John Wilkes Booth.

Swanson's previous book, ``Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution,'' presented a groundbreaking collection of more than 300 photos and documents from the case. ``Manhunt'' weaves that raw material into a narrative dramatic enough to be optioned for a film with Harrison Ford as Col. Everton Conger, the Civil War cavalryman who led the search for Booth.

Black Silk Lining

Thousands of books and articles have been written about the assassination of Lincoln and the hunt for Booth, including Michael Kauffman's exhaustive ``American Brutus.'' Yet none quite matches Swanson's wealth of detail, right down to the Brooks Brothers frock coat Lincoln wore the night he was shot. Embossed in the black silk lining was an American eagle, a shield of stars and strips and the motto ``One Country, One Destiny.''

Five days before the assassination, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered. Washington was in rapture. Booth was outraged. A renowned actor and Confederate sympathizer, Booth scorned what he saw as Lincoln's ideas of ``nigger suffrage.'' He called together three men who had earlier conspired with him on a foiled plot to kidnap Lincoln. They were Lewis Powell, David Herold and George Atzerodt.

On the morning of April 14, 1865, Booth dropped by Ford's Theater, where he learned that Lincoln would be attending a performance that night of ``Our American Cousin.'' With only eight hours to go before the performance, the conspirators set in motion a plan for simultaneous assassinations of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.

Confederate Sympathizers

Only Booth succeeded. Atzerodt couldn't get up the nerve to kill Johnson. When Powell attacked Seward at his home, he met strong resistance, his pistol misfired and he fled. Herold, who was holding Powell's getaway horse, also bolted.

Later that night, Herold met Booth outside Washington. They stuck together for the next dozen days, on the run through the woods of Maryland and Virginia, aided by Confederate sympathizers.

The most infamous of these was Samuel Mudd, the doctor who bound Booth's tibia, broken when the actor leapt from Lincoln's theater box to the stage during his escape. Others brought supplies, including newspapers so Booth could read reviews of his ``performance assassination,'' as Swanson calls it.

Powell and Atzerodt were rooted out within a week. Booth and Herold evaded capture until April 26, 1865, when a tip led Conger and a Union Calvary regiment to a tobacco shed on a farm near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered. Booth challenged all 26 soldiers to duel and was inadvertently shot to death by an excitable young soldier named Boston Corbett.

Determined to keep Booth from becoming a folk hero, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had the corpse photographed and hidden. Stanton also made a spectacle of the hangings of Booth's co-conspirators. Even so, sightings of Booth were reported across the country, as they are today with Elvis Presley.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Dwarf, Jackie O., Gordon Liddy: Preview of February Books

A Dwarf, Jackie O., Gordon Liddy: Preview of February Books

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- February, traditionally a slow month in publishing, still has big names in the lineup. Here is our selection of nonfiction and fiction.


``Confessions of a Wall Street Analyst: A True Story of Inside Information and Corruption in the Stock Market,'' by Daniel Reingold (HarperCollins): The author's memoir of 14 years as the top telecommunications analyst at Salomon Smith Barney isn't terribly dishy, but it does offer a career blueprint for aspiring Wall Streeters on how to win influential friends and make even more influential enemies.

``Crunchy Cons,'' by Rob Dreher (Crown): The subtitle says it all ``How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of counterculture conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party).'' This guy isn't kidding, either.

``Fight Back: Tackling Terrorism, Liddy Style,'' by G. Gordon Liddy (St. Martins): In an odd amalgam of practical advice and conservative cant, Liddy explains everything from how explosives work to what the White House can do to protect itself from a violent mob. His last two books were bestsellers, and there's a strong suspicion that this one might be as well.

``Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy,'' by Bruce Bartlett (Doubleday): The former Reagan White House staffer attacks Bush II for his short- term political opportunism that has led to ``finger-in-the-wind'' economic leadership that has bankrupted the Republican party of its political capital.

``Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four,'' by John Feinstein (Little, Brown): If there were a race to write the fastest book, Feinstein would have the competition lapped. Here's a guy who can compose a pair of pretty-good fly-on-the-wall sports books a year. This one, his latest since October's ``Next Man Up,'' covers the climax of the 65-team Division I NCAA men's basketball tournament.

``Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness,'' by Erik Reece (Riverhead): This Kentucky professor's expose on ``radical strip mining'' in Appalachia proves that a man can move a mountain. The book offers a detailed account of how miners removed the top of a mountain, leaving its residents -- deer, fox and songbirds -- nowhere to live.

``Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer,'' by James L. Swanson (Harper Collins): This thrilling hour-by-hour chronicle of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth has more gore than an entire season of ``CSI'' and a surfeit of detail about Booth's co-conspirators. Harrison Ford has signed on to star in the film.

``Mouthpiece: A Life in -- and Sometimes Just Outside -- the Law,'' by Edward Hayes (Broadway): This autobiography by the colorful and opinionated New York City criminal attorney, who would have been comfortable in the cast of ``Guys and Dolls,'' has enough anecdotes for a dozen episodes of ``Law and Order.''

``Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways,'' by Alan M. Dershowitz (Norton): The leftist Harvard law professor weighs in on why a foreign policy based on ``shoot first, ask questions later'' may be doing more harm than good. This book is the second in the ``Issues of Our Times'' series edited by fellow Harvardian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

``The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell,'' by Mark Kurlansky (Ballantine): Kurlansky hit it big with his books ``Cod'' and ``Salt'' and hopes to work the same mojo with this history of the Big Apple from 1626, when Peter Minuit bought the oyster beds off Ellis Island, to the 1920s, when the beds were finally ruined by pollution.

``The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel,'' by Stephen Leeb and Glen Strathy (Warner): The authors argue that the U.S. economy is standing on the precipice of the biggest crisis in its history and being pushed from behind as China and India rapidly expand. A few savvy Americans will be able to take advantage.

``The Judgment of Paris,'' by Ross King (Walker): The third volume of narrative art history from the bestselling author of ``Brunelleschi's Dome,'' takes on an even more esoteric topic: the Paris art scene, 1863-74, when Manet, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Cezanne and others challenged the establishment with their radical visions.

``The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi,'' by William J. Broad (Penguin): A historical investigation into the temple practices that led ancient Greeks to believe the Oracle of Delphi could communicate with the gods. Broad, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, reveals that the Oracle was probably high on hallucinogenic fumes emanating from the temple floor.

``War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to al- Qaeda,'' by Jonathan Tucker (Pantheon): Tucker, an arms-control expert, explains that armies haven't shied away from using nerve agents when they felt they were expedient -- and there's a lot more of the deadly stuff out there in nefarious hands than you might think.


``Cleaver,'' by Tim Parks (Harvill Secker): Our eponymous protagonist is a larger-than-life newsman. Overweight and overwrought, he flees his successful career and a tangled domestic situation in search of solitude, traveling all the way to the Tyrolean Mountains before realizing that he can't escape himself.

``In the Company of the Courtesan,'' by Sarah Dunant (Random House): The British author's follow-up to the bestselling ``Birth of Venus'' features a courtesan named Fiammetta Bianchini who escapes the sack of Rome in 1527 with a stomach full of jewels and flees to Venice with her dwarf. Yes, her dwarf. Who knew the 16th century was so kinky?

``Kept,'' by D.J. Taylor (Chatto & Windus): A labyrinthine Victorian mystery by the award-winning biographer of Orwell and Thackeray. Sweeping from the Scottish highlands to the East Anglian fens and London's underworld, it promises madness, greed and obsession. There's even a train robbery.

``Lapham Rising,'' by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco): The venerable magazine editorialist and TV commentator satirizes the development of Long Island's exclusive Hamptons area, as a reclusive writer and his talking dog try to take revenge on a multimillionaire whose new mega-home has ruined their idyll.

``Strivers Row,'' by Kevin Baker (HarperCollins): The conclusion of Baker's ``City of Fire'' trilogy about key moments in the history of New York City -- previous volumes were ``Dreamland'' and ``Paradise Alley'' -- takes place in World War II Harlem and stars Malcolm Little, the man who soon transforms himself into Malcolm X.

``The Amalgamation Polka,'' by Stephen Wright (Knopf): It has been 12 years since Wright's ``Going Native'' was hailed as a postmodern masterpiece. This new novel, about a Civil War-era abolitionist, treats the period as high farce and the war as grotesque picaresque. Love it or hate it, the novel is guaranteed to get the bookish chattering classes talking once again.

``The Brief History of the Dead,'' by Kevin Brockmeier (Pantheon): Brockmeier writes cutting-edge speculative fiction, sci-fi for the smart set. In his best book yet, a deadly virus has wiped out life on Earth and the dead gather in ``The City,'' where they subsist on the memories of the living, such as Laura, an Antarctic wildlife researcher. It's weird and quite wonderful.

``The Dublin Saga: The Rebels of Ireland,'' by Edward Rutherfurd (Doubleday): Rutherfurd concludes his two-volume fictional treatment of the history of Ireland with a novel that covers the period from 1534, as the English finally conquered the island, to 1922, when Ireland secured its independence. At 896 pages, the book averages a year every two pages.

``The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,'' by Ruth Francisco (St. Martin's): A fictional look into the secretive life of the former First Lady and her love affairs with the rich and powerful. Some men are soft and tender, others are simply brutes. It's pure fiction, but a potentially successful formula. We suggest Francisco take on Princess Diana as her next subject.