Saturday, September 06, 2008

Book Review: "Lincoln's Assassins"

Assassinations don't really make good fodder for coffee table books. But James Swanson and Daniel Weinberg give it the old college try with Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution (William Morrow, 2006). More than 250 images from the aftermath of the assassination are included here: photographic portraits of the assassins, printed materials showing the diffusion of the news about Lincoln's death, the capture, trial and execution of the conspirators, plus artifacts from the period. Among other previously-unpublished material, Alexander Gardner's haunting photographs from the execution are published in their entirety and in the correct order for the first time, the authors claim.

The photos are preceded by a short narrative introduction to the events which followed the assassination; that includes long excerpts from contemporary newspaper accounts which recount in full graphic detail the deaths by hanging of the eight conspirators.

Macabre doesn't even begin to describe this book, but it is well designed and described. It will be of interest to the serious Lincoln assassination buff.