Renowned commentator Bill O’Reilly talked to Peter Boyer about his upcoming book on the Lincoln assassination.
“In this time when we’re struggling for leadership—and whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you know that we are struggling with leadership in America—we need to go back to a guy like Abraham Lincoln and understand what made him great,” O’Reilly says.
If you’re going to understand what made Lincoln great, the assassination is the place to start. Something about the way he slumped forward in that chair was eminently statesmanlike.
O’Reilly, now 62, says Americans are ill equipped to make wise decisions (“History in the public-school system now? Forget it”) in choosing their leaders, and that a dose of Lincoln—“the gold standard of leadership”—may help. But he has not gone suddenly egghead. Killing Lincoln is not a work of original scholarship or of breakthrough insight; it is meant to be a page-turner, modeled after the thrillers of John Grisham. “That’s the kind of books I like,” he says.
Good. The last things I want in a history book are original scholarship and breakthrough insight. If I want to learn something, I can always watch Ancient Aliens.
He mostly succeeds in that regard, in the sense that if Grisham wrote a novel about April 1865—a tiny span densely packed with history, from Appomattox to the Lincoln assassination and the hunting down of John Wilkes Booth—it might well read like Killing Lincoln. O’Reilly and Dugard collaborated on the project via email and telephone and wrote it in six months. If it sells, O’Reilly says, he plans a series of such books.
I’d say six months sounds like an adequate amount of time to write a book on the Lincoln assassination. All my previous concerns about this book have melted away, like marshmallow Peeps in the noonday sun.