Book Review: It’s a history mystery on John Wilkes Booth

13 05 2013

Title:  John Wilkes Booth: Beyond the Grave (Preorder at Amazon)16291644

Author: W. C. Jameson

Genre:  Biography, History, Criminals and Outlaws

Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing

Available:  July 16, 2013

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

The history books tell us the story of the escape of John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln – how he left the DC area, sought medical help in Maryland, crossed the Potomac River and was discovered and shot at a Virginia Farm by a Union soldier.  But is that what really happened?  The author walks us through the “official” government report version, and then points out the discrepancies from eye witnesses and physical evidence.  He also addresses the many Booth sightings that followed and points out the ones that may have more credibility than others.

People who follow my reviews already know that I’ve been studying the Civil War with my children this year, so I was quite fortunate to receive a copy of this book to read at this time.  I had read about the “official” version of the events following the shooting at Ford’s theater.  I even saw a documentary on the History Channel.  But I had also heard that Booth escaped and lived for many years afterwards.  I was curious to see what the author would come up with.
As it turns out, he lays out a scenario that may seem statistically unlikely (my husband’s thoughts), but in light of the background details provided – it makes more sense than the government version once the details are flushed out.  In consideration of things happening in our country today – events where our government is telling us half truths, it’s important to see how history can be written for us rather than the truth being told.  It seems in the years following Lincoln’s death, it was widely believed that Booth escaped, yet today it has crossed over into “urban legend” rather than historical fact or even unsolved mystery, despite contradictions in the documented details.

I like that the author also added a variety of the “Booth Sitings” instead of just the ones that he believes are true.

I probably would give it a 4.5 rather than a 5 star.  Despite the extensive bibliography, a few footnotes and quotes would have added more weight to the story.  It’s one thing to reference what a report says vs. quoting what a report actually reads.  It’s not the type of work that needs bulk annotation, but a few direct references wouldn’t have hurt.

Recommend to: History lovers.  People who have heard of this mystery, but have read about the details.

Note:  I was provided a copy by the publisher for review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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