My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy
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My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy

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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  495 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The scene of John Wilkes Booth shooting Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre is among the most vivid and indelible images in American history. The literal story of what happened on April 14, 1865, is familiar: Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, a lunatic enraged by the Union victory and the prospect of black citizenship. Yet who Booth really was—besides...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Free Press (first published 2010)
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Confederates in the Attic by Tony HorwitzMy Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora TitoneTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinFateful Choices by Ian KershawThe Constitution of the United States of America by James Madison
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Julie
Jan 04, 2012 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: even if you don't consider yourself a civil war buff
The author, Nora Titone, grabbed me from the very first paragraph, in which she describes how Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, battles a blizzard to give a speech at a gala feast that would be attended by Mark Twain and hundreds of the leading figures of 1892. The honoree of the night would be an actor named Booth, an actor with strong ties to President Lincoln, probably the best-known actor of his day. No, not John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Father Abraham, but rather, his b...more
Sharon
Imagine hearing that one of the Baldwin Brothers or one of Martin Sheen's sons had just shot the President? That was the reaction of the public the day after Lincoln was murdered. There was no scrounging around looking for information on some obscure lone gunman like the media has been forced to do in these modern times. The theater going public of the day recognized the name of John Wilkes Booth immediately. He was the son of Junius Brutus Booth, one of first American theatrical 'stars' and bro...more
Dan G
Started out great, with a wealth of info about 19th century America and theatre world of that time. Nora Titone builds up this fantastic rivalry between the brothers Booth, with John Wilkes coming out on the bottom each time. Then, in the final chapter, it ends in a disappointing way. After all the chapters going into the rivalry and how it may have built up to JW's shooting of Lincoln, it reports the assassination itself, presumably the climactic part of the book, in a hurried, impersonal way....more
Cheryl
Most of us have been taught that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. And most of us know little else about the assassin other than the fact that he had been an actor. This book delves into the life of John Wilkes Booth. Ms.Titone’s meticulous, documented research traces the history of the Booth family, and provides little known information about the motives behind Booth’s desire to assassinate the President. This thought provoking, historical family drama reads like a novel! I...more
Jane
Those Booth boys really learned their ABCs: alcoholism, bigamy, child abuse, depression, egotism, ferocity, gambling, hotheadedness, infamy, jealousy, knuckleheadedness, lowhanded behavior, megalomania, narcissism, over-reaching, pettiness, ruthlessness, STDs, truculence, underhandedness, wild mood swings, xenophobia, and I leave q and z for you to discover. Alice Miller once wrote a book about how childhood trauma can produce either a Picasso or a Stalin. She should have looked at this family:...more
Rebecca
I really, really liked reading this book. It combined everything I like in a nonfiction history: a new angle on a subject that I was already interested in this case (in this case, the book offers a new take on John Wilkes Booth's motivations behind the assassination of Lincoln), and a look into a world that was previously obscured to me (in this case, the world of 19th century American theater).

Titone's fascinating thesis is that it was the stage rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes that led t...more
Heidi
I was very much intrigued by the title and checked this book out of the library excited for a good fascinating argument on the motives of John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Lincoln. I was disappointed. She over reached with her premise and I was left confused by her title. Yes, there was a bitter rivalry between the two brothers, this is undeniable. However, I saw little connection in JWB's confederate fanaticism to his feelings about his brother. She did not develop this point to my satisfact...more
Eric Kibler
Titone does a great job at telling a true story about Shakespearean actors which in itself would be a worthy subject for one of the Bard's plays. She deconstructs the sibling rivalry between John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin. Edwin was the DeNiro of his day, both in looks and in his influential and realistic style of acting. John Wilkes was a ham-handed hack as an actor, although he had the matinee-idol good looks and and skill at stage combat that made him a lesser star.

Of course, aiding...more
Louise
This highly readable work is a major accomplishment for any writer, especially a first time author. The book is well planned and paced. It starts with a description of Edwin Booth's life in as a leader in society in 1892. Then, the family story begins in a straight chronology starting with 1821 with Junius Brutus Booth to a smooth transition to the next generation of Edwin and John Wilkes. This is a powerful story on its own, and Nora Titone's skills as a researcher and writer bring it to full f...more
Dolly
This book give us pause to consider the actual possible reasons for John Wilkes Booth perpetrating the ultimate crime of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. She shows the possiblity of sibling rivalry and the relatively early loss of the father that John so much admired, and the possible psychological effects both of these issues could have had on John. Titone also helps us learn about the Booth family, and not just John Wilkes. For example, she informs us of how Edwin Booth was by f...more
Dana
Informative, but unfocused. Titone doesn't leave the reader feeling like she proved her thesis. Too many pages spent on "supporting characters" like Julia Ward Howe and Laura Keane and all the Booth family members, and not enough on JWB. I see how she was sort of trying to make it like a play, with all these people in bit parts playing crucial roles as witnesses to the title characters' tragic lives. But that was not so well executed that it did not seem like a distraction. I have to say, though...more
LAPL Reads
The uniquely American melodramatic saga of the theatrical Booth family has been told before, but historian Nora Titone focuses on the rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth as the catalyst for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Raised on an isolated farm in the wilds of Maryland, John Wilkes grew up with a steady diet of the blood and thunder melodramas of the time, while his older brother Edwin saw more of the world, toiling as dresser and keeper to his father, the celebrated, troubled a...more
Rachel
wonderful, hated for this book to end
Edy Gies
It took me around three years to finish this book. The time it took me to complete this may imply that I didn't like the book, but really it was something I savored slowly and completely. (There were some logistical reasons as well, but anyway. . .)This is a thoroughly researched and well developed plot and story line. I have read many books about Lincoln and Booth and the assignation, and although each adds a little more depth to my knowledge of the events, this work seemed full of live and new...more
Jeffrey Williams
After reading three other books on the Lincoln Assassination all in succession, this one was quite different. While the others focus more on John Wilkes Booth and the assassination, this one is a biography of the Booth family. While J.W.B. died before anybody could fully understand motive, and the remaining Booth family members refused to discuss this in public, Titone does an amazing job with her meticulous research and presentation of the facts. This book ends where the others begin.

Understand...more
Nanette Bulebosh
Lincoln's assassination might have been avoided had John Wilkes Booth gotten along better with his siblings, especially his more successful and famous big brother, Edwin. This is simplifying Titone's thesis somewhat, but she does try to persuade us that the bitter, decades-long rivalry between John and Edwin played a part in John's horrific decision to kill the president in 1865. So did the Booth Brothers' actor father, who was more talented than either of them (at least until alcohol got the be...more
Nancy
This was a long book to listen to - 18 discs! - but it held my interest over the weeks that I've been listening to it in the car. While I've read quite a few books about Lincoln and the Civil War, this book came at that subject from a fresh angle, that of the Booth family. And it covers a lot of territory before even getting to the Big Event that we all associate with someone named Booth. The author begins with Junius Brutus Booth, a successful British actor who, in the 1820s, flees his homeland...more
Ann
This is an overwritten but fascinating book. Stephen Sondheim postulated years ago in Assassins that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln because of his rivalry with his megastar brother Edwin and "a string of bad reviews." Nora Titone pulls together as astounding wealth of details from social, military, geopolitical, and cultural history, as well as the personal history of the amazing Booth family, to explore this theory. But she badly needed a more active editor. I disliked her habit of reintroducin...more
Camden Drash
After watching an interview of Nora Titone on Charlie Rose I knew immediately I had to read this book. If it wasn't 12am on a Tuesday night in my hotel room in New York City at the time I would have ran out and bought it instantly. This book delivered just as I knew it would. The energy of Titone as she spoke about the story of the Booth family definitely sparked my interested being someone who never reads books of history. People never speak of the fame John Wilkes' older brother Edwin had in t...more
Burt
This is a terrific multi-biographical work of the entire Booth family albeit the focus of the work is obviously on the brothers - Edwin and John Wilkes. The author has done extensive, if not exhaustive research on her subject as indicated by the lengthy section of end notes and bibliograhy - a very scholarly book indeed. I was a bit disappointed at the end of the book, however, by the seeming lack of attention to John Wilkes' activities in the last couple of months leading up to his asassination...more
Julie Failla Earhart
Family dysfunction, not the Lincoln assassination, is at the core of Titone’s well-researched look into the Booth family psyche. Starting with patriarch, Junius Brutus Booth, the infamous Shakespearean actor and raging alcoholic, readers can begin to understand the often-abusive influences on the brothers Booth.

Edwin was forced to accompany his father, making sure he appeared on stage nightly, at twelve-years-old. He learned from his father everything that made him the biggest star of the Civil...more
kathryn
Really fantastic. I was enthralled with the Booth family story. JW Booth would today have been lumped with other self-aggrandizing sociopaths who kill people for no reason and then blame the victim. Maybe he was back then as well, but wow, someone shoudl have had an intervention or something.

anyhow, enough about JWB, but on to Edwin. the author described his (and his father's) INCREDIBLE fame quite well. I got the picture and was impressed to consider that level of fame in a time with no twitter...more
TheWhistler
An interesting book. However the book really doesn't get to the author's theory that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln because he sought the fame his brother Edwin had until half way through the book. The rest of the book is really a history of the Booth family from England, until after the assassination. If you want details of the assassination plot itself you will have to look elsewhere. Although there is no doubt that Edwin was, as was his father, the foremost actor in America during his...more
Jerry Delaney
Do we need to read more about the Lincoln assassination? Clearly I do, as I learned a lot from this book. This is a history of the Booth family, Junius and Mary Ann Booth and their large brood of children. More specifically it is about two sons who entered the family business of acting, Edwin and John Wilkes. Edwin became the most noted actor of the age, incredibly wealthy and a friend of the political and social giants of his time (even after the assassination). What was new to me was how poorl...more
Dan Earley
This book is fascinating. Spanning near 50 years of the Booth family, Titone weaves her historical narrative with as much interest and suspense as decent work of fiction. It was easy to pick this book up and hard to put it down. I wanted to know more!

The lone criticism of the book is that John Wilkes never specifically stated that competition from his much successful brother was in any way a motivation of the assassination of Lincoln. After the read however, it would be difficult to argue that a...more
John
The author has done an amazing job delving into the psychology of the brother's Booth. It's difficult not to feel sorry for John W., left behind while his older brother learned stagecraft at the hands of a master –– their father Edwin. Titone does an impressive job providing a sense of time and place. Despite its readability and impressively handled narrative this is clearly a work of scholarship. Just check out the notes, sources and author's details about the various libraries and museums she...more
Michael Terpstra
"Warfare, for the Browns, was as much of a family business as acting was for the Booths. When John Brown, using the alias of 'Mr. Smith,' began moving his regiment into position to strike in the summer of 1859, five of his children - two girls and three young men - came with him. ... 'Mr. Smith' signed the lease on a three-story farmhouse, with attic, in Sandy Hook, Maryland. The spot was five miles distant from the hiding place for Brown's accomplices." p.202
An odd congruence of history that tw...more
Nick
I was reluctant to read this biography of the Booth family, but quickly became fascinated by the back story of republican (small "r") idealism, class barriers, family fortunes and sibling rivalry. Who knew, for example, that John Wilkes Booth speculated in the oil fields of Pennsylvania and, after that failed, used his investments as a cover for his work on behalf of the Confederacy? or that his older brother was the most famous actor of the nineteenth century?

So, why only three stars? I felt ch...more
Cassandra
This was my dad's favorite book of 2012, and although I don't read a ton of history books, his description sold me on this one. I found it interesting the whole way through; though it was of course like watching 'Titanic' - you want the outcome to be different.

If you ever want to be grateful living in the 21st century, read a book about the 19th. I love the idea of everyone writing letters and keeping journals, but the thought of being essentially constantly pregnant with ten successive childre...more
David
The research on this subject was very, very well done. An interesting thesis that the murder of Abraham Lincoln was an extension of brotherly rivalry.
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Has anyone read this book? 7 26 Jun 18, 2013 03:20PM  
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My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry That Led to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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