Fortune's Fool

Fortune's Fool : The Life of John Wilkes Booth

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With a single shot from a pistol small enough to conceal in his hand, John Wilkes Booth catapulted into history on the night of April 14, 1865, just as he hoped. But his murder of President Abraham Lincoln - one of the most familiar events in American history - brought Booth infamy, not the acclaim he sought. Booth was remarkably different from other presidential assassins. Admired as an actor well before the tragedy at Ford's Theatre, the handsome and likeable twenty six year old was billed as "the youngest star in the world." Lincoln was among the thousands who applauded his performances. Wealth, fame, and popularity came to Booth, but they meant little compared to the turbulent actor's passion to help the South win its independence. When the war went badly for the Confederacy, he abandoned acting and plotted to abduct Lincoln and take him south as a prisoner. Booth stalked Lincoln relentlessly during the last winter of the war, only to fail time and again to capture him. As the Confederacy collapsed in April, 1865, Booth decided that the only way he could revive the South and punish the North for the war would be to murder Lincoln - whatever the cost to himself or others.
How could someone so gifted and admired-someone with so much to lose-commit a crime that stunned and infuriated the nation? The first biography of Booth ever written, Fortune's Fool answers that question. Its cradle-to-grave portrait of one of America's most remarkable personalities sets it apart from other books on the Lincoln assassination. The result of a quarter-century of research into government archives, historical libraries, and family records, it brings to life the exceptionally talented and troubling individual who committed the most consequential murder in American history.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 165.1 x 236.22 x 38.1mm | 905g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195054121
  • 9780195054125
  • 1,074,143

Review quote

Fortune's Fool is so deeply researched and persuasively argued that it should stand as the standard portrait for years...Readers will know how this story ended, but Mr. Alford's recounting of Booth's flight and the Army's manhunt is a tour de force of sustained drama, never losing its breakneck pace and offering startling revelations. * Harold Holzer, The Wall Street Journal * The 'first full-length biography' of Abraham Lincoln's assassin offers much nuance and complexity to the killer ... Alford sifts through the more balanced, credible sources of those who knew Booth before the assassination to flesh out a surprisingly engaging portrait of the brilliant young actor and deeply riven sympathizer to the Southern cause ... Alford paints some intriguing shades of gray in this elucidating portrait. * KIRKUS REVIEWS *
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About Terry Alford

Terry Alford is Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College. He is the author of Prince Among Slaves (OUP), which was made into a PBS documentary in 2007. He is a founding board member of the Abraham Lincoln Institute of Washington, D.C., and a nationally recognized authority on John Wilkes Booth. He has appeared on "20/20," ABC News, the History Channel, the Discovery Network, and PBS. He has been an historical consultant on a number of films and
documentaries, most recently Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln."
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Table of contents

Introduction ; Chapter 1 "Kiss My Bumbelbee" ; Chapter 2 The Muffin ; Chapter 3 Lions and Foxes ; Chapter 4 The Union As It Was ; Chapter 5 Shining in the Rough ; Chapter 6 Life's Fitful Fever ; Chapter 7 A Band of Brothers ; Chapter 8 The Fiery Furnace ; Chapter 9 Come Weal or Woe ; Chapter 10 This One Mad Act ; Chapter 11 Exit Booth ; Chapter 12 The Last Ditch ; Epilogue A Green and Narrow Bed ; Notes on Sources ; Acknowledgments ; Index
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Rating details

123 ratings
4.1 out of 5 stars
5 35% (43)
4 45% (55)
3 16% (20)
2 4% (5)
1 0% (0)
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