Friday, April 16, 2010

The Fatal Bullet:The Assassination of President James A. Garfield

The Fatal Bullet tells two parallel stories, one of James Garfield, the last US president to be born in a log cabin, and the other of Charles Guiteau, the attorney and charlatan who assassinated him. Garfield's tale is one of success, with him becoming an accomplished professor and president at Hiram College, a major general of the Union Army, senator from Ohio, and eventually president of the USA. Guiteau grew up abused and largely friendless, spent time living in interesting marital situations in the Oneida Community in upstate New York, and was publicly disgraced for his sexual indiscretions and shady business practices.

Still, Guiteau retained the idea that he was born for greatness and a grand political appointment. He pursued Garfield for an extended period of time, asking for the consulship of Vienna or Paris, but continually found himself put off and ignored. Finally, he hatched a plan to kill the president and also heal what had been a fractured Republican party. Although Guiteau did shoot Garfield, his death was not immediate. A lingering infection that resulted from the wound and several mistreatments, including one by Alexander Graham Bell, lead to Garfield's death.

Rick Geary, an artist and graphic novelist who has been working for decades on a variety of publications and genres, wrote and drew this book. He provides great detail, including hand-drawn maps, medical diagrams, and well-researched facts into the narrative. The black and white art is crisp and clean, and it delineates the parallel tales to great effect.

The Fatal Bullet is part of Geary's A Treasury of Victorian Murder series published by NBM. This series has been largely well received, and the praise for this volume is consistent with his past efforts, as seen by the responses at Goodreads. Individual reviewers such as R.R. Doister have called it "great comic book reading" and wondered why they didn't have history books like this when they were in school.

A short preview is available here from the publisher.

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