Recent Reading: Manhunt, the 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

Just finished reading: Manhunt, the 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, by James Swanson. As a dramatized compilation of historical accounts, Manhunt is excellently done, giving us a matter-of-fact chronological narrative of the assassination of Lincoln, the flight of John Wilkes Booth, and his various accomplices and adversasries along the way.

As literature, however, Manhunt does not get as high a mark. To its credit, the language is pithy and straightforward, very readable, but his prose occasionally goes on topically awkward, nonlinear rambles. There are also a few instances of his using the past tense for in-story flashbacks which I think should more correctly be rendered in the past perfect, and at least twice I noticed that he lapsed into the present tense, confusing characters’ thoughts or dialogue with the flow of the story.

All in all, Manhunt is an easy read which I would recommend to anyone interested in American history but still unacquainted with the specifics of Booth and the Lincoln assassination. I wouldn’t rank it as a pulse-pounding page turner, but that’s a good thing in my view, as the story suffers little unnecessary embellishment added to its written and oral sources. The wrap-up chapter at the end provides an informative synthesis of the places of Booth and Lincoln in history, and the eventual fates of those connected to them.

Further reading: Laura Keene, the actress at Ford’s Theater who cradled Lincoln’s bleeding head in her lap after he was shot; Boston Corbett, the more-than-slightly-bonkers self-castrated Union Soldier who shot John Wilkes Booth; a summary of Booth’s escape route from NPS.

Now seems an apropos time to post this photo of a Civil War banner at Harper’s Ferry: