It has been awhile since I've really sat down and listened to an audiobook. I used to listen to them a great deal: when I was driving, working on projects, and even sometimes when I was reading! I learned to love them from my dad, who uses them when his eye strain is too bad but like me, he can't stand not 'reading' a book. It didn't take me long to realize that what I look for in an audiobook is a narrator who performs if not an outright dramatic performance with multiple people. When I read a book, each character has a voice and I literally have a movie going on in my head (maybe why I loved Jasper Fforde's 'engine' for reading books) and so they are rarely boring for me. But someone's monotone can completely ruin a book for me, so I tend to be careful which books I listen to rather then read. I'd had this on my TBR list since basically it came out but I never quite got around to it. Even after finding out my dad, my source for Civil War books, had read it and thought it not bad, I never seemed to actually take that step. So when I found out that I could check out ebooks and audiobooks from my library on OverDrive, I quickly searched for something to test the software on. And came up with this. Once I started it, I was very glad I ended up listening to it rather then reading it.
Whatever you stance on Bill O'Reilly, he is a man with a passion for history. That means a lot to me, particularly with the current education system doing everything in its power to kill any interest or passion for the past. So I love so called 'popular history', books writing not for Historians with 12 degrees but rather the people who want to understand where they come from and why events happened the way they did. As you can imagine, I really like Ken Burns and David McCullough.
So having Mr O'Reilly read his own book was genius. His voice, when he's not raising his voice (I can't stand people yelling at me, I don't care what side of the political fence you're on), is easy to listen to and his interest and passion for this subject rings with every syllable. From his voice, you can tell when something is intriguing, funny, sad, or horrific. Listening him discuss the last battle before Appomattox, something I'd not heard in such detail, was painful not just because of what was related but how he clearly felt about the death and destruction wrought.
The structure of the book works well too. Detailing the last few days and hours leading up to the assassination, followed by the immediate results, catches the reader up in the whirlwind of the time; the highs and lows the country as a whole faced during the turbulent ending to a tumultuous time. Of the the better parts was the occasional countdown to The Hour. It was not overused but just enough to remind you that one man was heading to his death and one to infamy and destruction.
My main reason for not giving this the full five stars was that I like me some footnotes and sources. I don't know if the book has them (though I plan to check that out very soon) but I think even popular histories need footnotes and sources. If you don't want to use them, fine; but they should be there for those of us who like to know the writer did their homework.
As for some reviews issues with his 'conspiracy' talk, I have to say I don't really agree with the negative remarks. I think he may have mentioned it one too many times for my sake but there are some interesting inconsistencies that will never be answered but none the less point to some less then above board dealings with the whole event. I understand the people in charge wanted this over as soon as possible and I can even see 'hiding/destroying' things perhaps in a sense of respect and friendship for Lincoln (such as Stanton confiscating and almost destroying every copy of the one picture we have of Lincoln lying in state). However, there is no denying that some of the unanswered questions are superstitious at best and I think it is a good thing to make people realize that even events we know to be true might not be entirely as clear cut as one might think. There is always evidence that might be found. New sources are being found all the time.
All in all, I recommend giving this a try. I certainly recommend the audiobook, as I felt I was listening to him talk to me one on one about something he clearly cares a great deal about.