Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fatal Bullet, the Assassination of President James A. Garfield

By Rick Geary

Rick Geary’s new book The Fatal Bullet The Assassination of President James A. Garfield explores an important event in American history in an unusual yet effective manner.

To summarize: the nation, which in recent times had dealt with the horrors of President Lincoln’s assassination, was once again shaken to its core the summer of 1881. On Saturday, July 2 in the near empty waiting room of a train depot, the twentieth U.S. President, Republican James Abraham Garfield was shot in the back. It would take a grueling two months before the President would succumb to his injury.

The assassin, one Charles Guiteau, was quickly apprehended. He announced that he bore no ill-will toward the President but that his death was a “political necessity.” During his trial Guiteau defended himself proclaiming to be an agent of deity. He would go on to state that the President’s physicians should bear the burden of his death. He reasoned this because of the fact that they had decided the wound the President had suffered was not, in fact fatal and that he would soon recover. Guiteau was convicted of the assassination by a jury and was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882.

What sets Geary’s book apart from other historical works is that it was written as a graphic novel. With illustration reminiscent of a comic book, Geary’s book sets out to explore the Garfield assassination as well as to take a closer look at the events leading up to this significant point in the two men’s lives.  Geary examines certain similarities in both lives. Some of these included are in regards to their home regions, the fact that both were the youngest in their family, both considered clergy as a career and that both were drawn to the law and politics.

Robert Frost wrote of two roads that diverged in the wood. This would certainly be applicable to the life paths taken by Garfield and Guiteau. While their lives bore some resemblances they each took different paths. Garfield had a “happy prosperous life” with a strong marriage and a “reputation for honesty, loyalty and fair dealing.” Guiteau, on the other hand, took the “downward path” with a bitter and brief marriage and a reputation as a “cheat, charltan and hum-bug.”

Geary’s book is very interesting and unique. To take a piece of history put it in comic form and stay true to the serious nature of the event is quite the feat. This book will appeal to those young adults and teens who may otherwise have little or no interest in history. Teachers would do well to include this book in their curriculum.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

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