American Gothic: The Story of America's Legendary Theatrical Family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth

Gene A. Smith, Author
Gene A. Smith, Author Simon & Schuster $22.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-76713-6
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-0-671-87301-1
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Exemplary scholarship and deep feelings shape this portrait of the Booth family, a worthy successor to the author's Lee and Grant and his other well-received historical biographies. As events unfold against a wonderfully detailed evocation of the 19th century, Junius Brutus thrills audiences with his portrayals of Shakespeare's King Lear and Richard III, despite his notorious madness. His equally gifted sons were totally different from their father and each other. A great actor, Edwin could barely utter a word offstage; he was painfully depressed and afraid he too might lose his mind. John Wilkes seems to have been sane: a handsome man beloved by women, gregarious, popular, as admired as Edwin in certain roles. When Robert E. Lee surrendered, however, John's commitment to the Southern cause turned his thoughts to revenge, culminating in his assassination of President Lincoln. In vivid detail Smith reveals the murder's dreadful impact on the Booths and numerous others, mostly innocent victims of a tragedy Shakespeare might have written. Illustrations not seen by PW. First serial to American Heritage; Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection. (Sept.)
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