Assassination Vacation

book coverIn Assassination Vacation, humor writer and history buff Sarah Vowell, perhaps better known as the voice of Violet in The Incredibles, takes readers on a non-fictional tour of the historical sites associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.

Sure, we all know that Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.. But how many of us know that four conspirators were locked up in a fort in the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles off the coast of Key West? It was news to me. Of course I knew that Garfield was not just a lasagna-loving cartoon cat, but also an assassinated president. But I had no idea that he spent two months recuperating from the shooting before he eventually died in New Jersey.

Oddly enough, this book on presidential assassinations feels complete, even without President John F. Kennedy’s fateful day in Dallas. (I bet Vowell could write an entire book on that assassination alone.) Vowell prefers to focus on the 19th century politics and presidents in order to draw parallels to and critiques of the early 21st century political climate. Vowell is a harsh critic of George W. Bush, and her analysis may offend some readers.

Overall, what might be an otherwise dull, dry history tome is instead a humorous, rambling romp through American history and politics. You’ll laugh a lot as you cruise from one obscure historical site to another with cheeky Vowell as your guide.


Abraham Vampire

You’re joking, right?

Abraham Lincoln, a vampire hunter?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterWhen I heard about this novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I laughed because I thought it was a joke. The cover shows a very stately President Lincoln looking a little left of the camera, the tip of an ax peeking over his right shoulder.  Flip the book over and you’ll see blood splatters and a vampire’s head held behind Lincoln’s back.

I put the book on hold for myself before seeing the cover because the title was so fantastic. I thought I was in for a humorous 350 pages. And parts of it were funny. Darkly humorous. But as I read on, I began to see how the book could be read as a piece of literature. Vampire hunting aside, the book gives a good history lesson for Civil War and history buffs alike. I began to see how our  16th president  could be this fierce vampire hunter, wielding an ax and flinging stakes like he was born to it. And in fact, according to Grahame-Smith, he was born to be a vampire hunter. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the novel goes into how the future of America—throughout the Civil War and beyond—relies on Lincoln remaining a vampire hunter. 

Older Abraham Lincoln, 1860s

Photo Source: Iowa Digital Library

My vision of Abraham Lincoln had always been from the photographs of him: a long and lean man with a face full of sorrows, sometimes a beard, which a little girl had advised him to grow because the ladies like “whiskers,” see-through eyes so light in color they look like sea glass.  I saw him as a man weighted down by the loss of two sons, bouts of intense melancholy and the looming Civil War.

Told through both third person narrative and journal entries kept by Lincoln from a young age, this book moves quickly. Even though it’s fiction, it could have gone in an entirely different direction. Lincoln as vampire hunter could have been goofy fun. Instead, the story is a serious one. Lincoln comes across as a warrior, one step ahead of the monsters that would overwhelm the country.

Fast-paced and compelling, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is my choice for a few hours escapism.


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