The Lincoln Assassination: Crime and Punishment, Myth and Memory

By Harold Holzer; Craig L. Symonds et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

Writing History in a Vacuum
The Lincoln Assassination

Thomas R. Turner

EVERYBODY LOVES A GOOD MURDER MYSTERY. WALK INTO A Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore and one will find the mystery-book section one of the largest. The continuing popularity of television's “Law and Order,” its various spin-offs and derivatives, and the “CSI” series attests to this fascination with murder. At one level presidential assassinations are just other murders to be solved, usually surrounded by tales of deceit and betrayal and loaded with provocative questions: Was the vice president involved; did other members of the president's administration betray him; did the assassin escape punishment, living the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, expecting at any moment that he might be discovered and vengeance carried out? Or in John Wilkes Booth's case, allegedly accosting unwary travelers in such mundane places as Granbury, Texas, and Enid, Oklahoma; or more exotic locales like the South Seas, his guilty conscience causing him to confess who he was and what he had done?1 Who would not be eagerly drawn to such tales, reading every new book that appears and devouring every theory,

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