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Extended Audio Sample American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, by Michael W. Kauffman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (707 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michael W. Kauffman Narrator: Nelson Runger Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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It is a tale as familiar as our history primers: A deranged actor, John Wilkes Booth, killed Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, escaped on foot, and eluded capture for twelve days until he met his fiery end in a Virginia tobacco barn. In the national hysteria that followed, eight others were arrested and tried; four of those were executed, four imprisoned. Therein lie all the classic elements of a great thriller. But the untold tale is even more fascinating.

Now, in American Brutus, Michael W. Kauffman, one of the foremost Lincoln assassination authorities, takes familiar history to a deeper level, offering an unprecedented, authoritative account of the Lincoln murder conspiracy. Working from a staggering array of archival sources and new research, Kauffman sheds new light on the background and motives of John Wilkes Booth, the mechanics of his plot to topple the Union government, and the trials and fates of the conspirators.

Piece by piece, Kauffman explains and corrects common misperceptions and analyzes the political motivation behind Booth’s plan to unseat Lincoln, in whom the assassin saw a treacherous autocrat, “an American Caesar.” In preparing his study, Kauffman spared no effort getting at the truth: He even lived in Booth’s house, and re-created key parts of Booth’s escape. Thanks to Kauffman’s discoveries, readers will have a new understanding of this defining event in our nation’s history, and they will come to see how public sentiment about Booth at the time of the assassination and ever since has made an accurate account of his actions and motives next to impossible until now.

There has been an overwhelming body of literature on the Lincoln assassination, much of it incomplete and oftentimes contradictory. In American Brutus, Kauffman finally makes sense of an incident whose causes and effects reverberate to this day. Provocative, absorbing, utterly cogent, at times controversial, this will become the definitive text on a watershed event in American history.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Surprising…Yields a vital, fascinating glimpse of American history at its most turbulent, and…transports the reader viscerally back to those frantic, uncertain times.” New York Times
  • “[American Brutus should] settle all the arguments that have raged for nearly a century and a half about Lincoln’s assassin and his cadre of pathetic lunatics and misfits. Kauffman had done incredibly detailed research and is able to trace Booth’s movements almost minute by minute. We know how the story ends, but he still manages to keep the reader in suspense.”

    Washington Post

  • American Brutus is several unlikely combinations rolled into one: a meticulous history with propulsive narrative power, a fresh take on one of the most examined events in American history, and the eminently rational and convincing product of a raging obsession.”


  • “Convincing…Uncovers the swirling emotions that turned a young actor from a ‘captivating person,’ ‘lover of nature,’ and ‘gentle poet’ into a killer.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “A beautifully written, exhaustive, and well-reasoned assessment of John Wilkes Booth and the murder of America’s sixteenth president…Kauffman puts a new spin on well-worn data, adding a riveting reinterpretation that paints Booth as a ruthless player of complex games: a darkly brilliant manipulator of people, not all of whom realized what they were a part of until after Lincoln lay dead.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “By the point that Booth and accomplices escape easily from a Washington supposedly under martial law, the reader will gasp at the abundance of villains and the extent of their crimes. History as page-turner: a fascinating inquest.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A 2005 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Renee | 2/6/2014

    " I loved this book. A great exploration into Booth, his life, and his motivations for the Lincoln assassination. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Dawn | 1/20/2014

    " This was a required reading for my Freshman English after returning to college after a 15 year hiatus. I was a bit ashamed I didn't know more on this topic; however, the professor and the book really opened my eyes. Both required unorthodox thinking; so much so that it sparked an interest in writing & teaching the skill. I hope to join the ranks of both accomplished men (the professor & the author). "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Michelle Hudgins | 1/20/2014

    " This book was amazing. I was completely impressed by the author's writing style and the exhaustive amount of time and energy that went into his research. Kauffman's ability to set so many of these events in context really added color to my reading experience. I stepped away with more knowledge of the assassination plot itself and all of the major people involved (the facts), but also learned so much more about the politics and culture in the DC/MD/VA area during that time. The word "complex" doesn't even begin to describe it. I would recommend this book to anyone, and I'm sad that I have to return it to the library today. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Anita | 1/17/2014

    " Pretty good, a little slow at first with all the details. I did learn a few things, but I think you have to be a history, assassination or Lincoln aficionado to really get into it. "

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About the Author

Michael W. Kauffman is a political historian and graduate of the University of Virginia who has studied the Lincoln assassination for more than thirty years. He has appeared on A&E, the History Channel, C-SPAN, and the Learning Channel, and was called to testify as an expert witness in the 1995 Booth exhumation hearings. He lives in southern Maryland.