I’ve read a lot of books on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. One of the first was this little tome, The Day Lincoln Was Shot by Jim Bishop. The title is a bit of a misnomer in that it covers much more than the actual day Lincoln was shot, as detailed in a section entitled The Days Before. The rest of the book is divided into chapters by the time of day. This is Bishop’s pattern and one that he repeats in his books, The Day Christ Died and The Day Kennedy Was Shot.
This is a riveting, fast paced account of the Lincoln assassination. While, unlike later treatments of the assassination, Bishop does not delve deeply into the personality of John Wilkes Booth. Neither does he gloss over such—it’s a good blend of inspection and narrative that keep the pages turning.
Recently Bill O’Reilly has gained fame with this books on the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. Unlike O’Reilly, Bishop will never be accused of fabricating “facts” or bending the truth. Bishop’s writing is unvarnished, concise and clear. For those looking for a good read on this assassination, Bishop’s book is an excellent choice.
Other volumes on the assassination in my library include:
- Manhunt by James Swanson (his book on the Kennedy assassination, End of Days is also excellent;
- American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman, delves deeply into the personality of John Wilkes Booth and associated conspiracies;
- Twenty Days by Dorothy Kunhardt is more of a coffee-table picture book that covers the twenty days between the assassination and Lincoln’s burial. While a good book, the author does try to prove that Booth and his conspirators were all present at Lincoln’s Second Inauguration—Booth was there, the others? Doubtful.
- Stealing Lincoln’s Body by Thomas Craughwell, while not on the assassination is a fascinating study on the handling and mishandling of Lincoln’s corpse.
On some subjects, it’s hard to beat older classics. Though written in 1955, the subject of the Lincoln assassination has not been more deftly handled than by Jim Bishop.