James L. Swanson

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

  • 25-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 14 chapter summaries and 4 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer who specializes in literary analysis
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Chasing Lincoln’s Killer Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 25-page guide for “Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” by James Swanson includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 14 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 10 important quotes, discussion questions, and timeline of assassination.

Plot Summary

James L. Swanson is an author whose previously written books include Manhunt, a book about the hunt for Lincoln’s killer. There is not really any new information in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer; however, the book is useful for those hoping for a rapid-fire, abridged version of the narrative of the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth. Also, those who only know the roles of Booth and Dr. Samuel Mudd in the plot will learn a lot and may be particularly surprised by the breadth and complexity of events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Many people, for instance, might think Booth acted alone, and in a relatively unpremeditated manner. In reality, this was not Booth’s first plan to assassinate the president; nor was he acting alone. The assassination of the president was imagined by Booth and his fellow conspirators as a sweeping plot to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. The plan itself was not well-conceived, and the conspirators’ ultimate aim of reviving Southern military operations was foolish in light of their lack of affiliation with the Confederacy. They merely managed partial success by killing Lincoln and wounding William Seward, and their plot failed to spark any sort of resurgent rebellion.

Swanson’s storytelling is brisk and to the point. He writes much like a journalist. In keeping with this method, he provides a somewhat muted account that does not seek to identify heroes and villains. It places the story and those involved in it in the context of realistic, often mundane motives. For example, he notes greed on the part of many of those who pursued Booth and his allies. He also demonstrates that some of those involved in aiding Booth, such as Mudd, were in many ways merely unlucky figures.

Additionally, Booth is portrayed as an actor, his chosen vocation. To Swanson, this vocation is inextricably linked to his deed. The desire for fame, and for dramatic deeds, led Booth to have the courage to perpetrate a deed that many others perhaps would have liked to commit but could not due to their grounding in a realistic way of thinking.

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