Thursday, March 29, 2018

Booknotes: Fortune's Fool

New Arrival:
Fortune's Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth by Terry Alford (Oxford UP, 2018).

This is the 2018 paperback reissue of Terry Alford's Fortune's Fool, which was originally published by Oxford University Press in hardcover in 2015. Well received, the Booth biography was a multi-award winner and was also chosen Smithsonian magazine's "Best Book" of that year.

Fortune's Fool "provides the first comprehensive look at the life of an enigmatic figure whose life has been overshadowed by his final, infamous act. Tracing Booth's story from his uncertain childhood in Maryland, characterized by a difficult relationship with his famous actor father, to his successful acting career on stages across the country, Alford offers a nuanced picture of Booth as a public figure, performer, and deeply troubled man. Despite the fame and success that attended Booth's career--he was billed at one point as "the youngest star in the world"--he found himself consumed by the Confederate cause and the desire to help the South win its independence."

"Based on original research into government archives, historical libraries, and family records," the book "reveals the tormented path that led Booth to conclude, as the Confederacy collapsed in April 1865, that the only way to revive the South and punish the North for the war would be to murder Lincoln--whatever the cost to himself or others." I can't say that I'm familiar with the range of candidates for best Booth bio, but this one appears to be highly placed by those that are.

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