Lincoln's Final Hours (Canavan)

Lincoln's Final Hours:  Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America's Greatest President
Kathryn Canavan, 2015
University Press of Kentucky
248 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780813166087

When John Wilkes Booth fired his derringer point blank into President Lincoln's head, he set in motion a series of consequences that would upend the lives of ordinary Americans for generations to come.

Lincoln's Final Hours tells the stories of the ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary evening in American history, an evening that would tilt the rest of their lives.

The intended consequences of Booth's split-second action included a fortuitous marriage, a public death outside Smithsonian Castle and a high-society murder that rocked Albany, N.Y.

Author Bio
Birth—November 15, 1949
Where—Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Education—B.S., Murray State University
Fellowship—National Health Journalism, University of Southern California, Annenberg School
Currently—lives in Wilmington, Delaware

At 65, Kathryn Canavan is a first-time author.

It is natural that she write about the Lincoln assassination, the most consequential crime in American history, because Canavan started her journalism career as a crime reporter.

She eventually worked as reporter or editor in four states, but left the full-time newsroom to serve as a caregiver for her terminally ill parents.

Her freelance writing has been published in USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer and Prevention magazine. She was named a National Health Journalism Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism in 2011. Her fellowship project, "No Child Allowed Outside," chronicled the health effects of gun violence on young children.

To get a story, Canavan has reported at gunpoint, lived with the Moonies, negotiated with a killer, joined Tug McGraw in the Phillies dugout and spent weeks in archives.

Canavan began researching the unintended consequences of the Lincoln assassination in 2009.

She is a former dinosaur docent at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and former long-time volunteer with Cub Pack 506, the nation’s first Cub Scout pack exclusively for boys living in shelters or on the streets. (From the author.)

Visit the author's website.

Book Reviews
While Lincoln’s assassination has been covered in numerous books and articles, Canavan offers a fresh look at the subject. Her use of sources goes well beyond that which most scholars have used, and she writes with a flair not often found in historical works.
Edward Steers, Jr., author of Blood on the Moon and The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence

Just when you thought there wasn’t anything new to say about Abe Lincoln’s assassination, along comes Ms. Canavan to reveal elements of the saga that will startle and enthrall even the most hard-core of Lincoln aficionados, including what must rank as the single most petty act by any one individual in the history of America—but I’ll save that for the book.
Erik Larson, bestselling author of Devil in the White City, In the Garden of the Beasts, and Dead Wake

By the words spilled upon these pages the author has magically allowed us to walk with Lincoln on his last day toward the nightmare that enveloped the world in April 1865.
Joan Chaconas, historian at the Surratt House Museum

While there have been thousands of books written about Lincoln's assassination, Lincoln's Final Hours is a welcome addition to a crowded field. Fast-paced, dramatic and exciting, the reader will be hard pressed to put it down. The author, with her exquisite writing, has ensured this.
Frank J. Williams, founding chair of The Lincoln Forum

Canavan has performed excellent research in winnowing out myriad human interest details on all of the characters involved, from Booth himself, to photographer Julius Ulke taking an eloquent image of the blood-soaked death bed just minutes after Lincoln’s body was removed. The result is a fast-paced, moving, yet authoritative account of the people caught up in the fallout of Booth’s mad act.
History Book Club review - William C. Davis, author of Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour

Discussion Questions
1. Recall what 9-11 was like for Americans who lived through it. Imagine what assassination night was like for ordinary Washingtonians who heard snippets of news on the street corners and were without benefit of internet, television or even radio.

2. Was Mary Lincoln reviled because she had a sharp wit, was a spot-on mimic and had a better education than even most wealthy men of her time?

3. Mary Todd Lincoln's family was a microcosm of the nation as a whole. The Todds lost three sons and a beloved son-in-law in the first four years of the Civil War, and, days after Gen. Lee surrendered, they lost a second son-in-law, this one at Ford's Theatre. The war killed more than 750,000 American soldiers—North and South. How do you think President Lincoln was feeling the last week of his life, after he had finally led the country back together?

4. John Wilkes Booth's father, Shakespearean actor Junius Booth, had two families, a legal one in London and another wife and 10 children in Maryland. Booth was a youngster when his father's first wife found out about his other family, traveled to America and berated Booth and his mother in public places. It is said the Booth was a kind and joyous boy until that happened. Then he became vindictive, earned a reputation as having a hair-trigger temper, and even beat his own younger brother until his face was unrecognizable. Could bullying by the first Mrs. Booth really change the trajectory of a young boy's life?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)

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