Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Fatal Bullet:: The Assassination of President James A. Garfield by Rick Geary (1999)

Yet another friend (the always awesome St. Murse) recently lent me yet another entry in Rick Geary's Treasury of Victorian Murder series, The Fatal Bullet: A True Account of the Assassination, Lingering Pain, Death, and Burial of James A. Garfield, Twentieth President of the United States. Also Including the Inglorious Life and Career of the Despised Assassin Guiteau (1999). Whew.

Much like The Borden Tragedy, Geary gives his reader a straightforward account of Guiteau's attack on Garfield, along with a description of what happened in their lives that brought them to that fatal point. Mixed in with the recitation of facts are Geary's amazing and detailed drawings and anecdotal asides that bring personality and a certain amount of sympathy to everyone involved.

In his delusions of grandeur, religious aspirations, and functional craziness, Guiteau is an extremely plausible and familiar type. As an archivist, I've read through correspondence to public figures (both historic and modern) that could have come straight from Guiteau's hand. He is mostly a pitiful figure, the only scariness about him comes from his actually acting on his idea of killing the president.

If you have any interest at all in Garfield, presidential assassinations, crazy dudes, or perfectly wonderful drawings, then The Fatal Bullet is the book for you.

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