Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lincoln Owned Slaves?

Two Book Reviews:


"Did Lincoln Own Slaves and Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln"
by Gerald J. Prokopowicz


Dead of Night
By J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas

"Did Lincoln Own Slaves and Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln"
by Gerald J. Prokopowicz
(Pantheon, $24.95)

Review by Larry Cox

Without a doubt, Abraham Lincoln is arguably the most famous, revered and discussed U.S. president. Even though hundreds of books have been written about the great man, fascination about our nation's 16th president has continued unabated.
Gerald J. Prokopowicz served for nine years as the Lincoln Scholar at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind. He holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard. During his tenure at the Lincoln Museum, he was asked thousands of questions about the former president. Some of the more interesting ones have made their way into his new book.
According to Prokopowicz, many of the questions asked were stimulating, provocative and perceptive. For example, did Lincoln own slaves? Did he have any bad habits? Was he a great public speaker, and did he write his own speeches? Many of the questions asked were based on legend, myth or misconception.
In reality, Lincoln loved dirty jokes; when postmaster, he carried letters around in his hat; he was not the founder of the Republican Party; and he practiced law even though he never took a bar exam.
"Did Lincoln Own Slaves" is published in a question-and-answer format and organized chronologically, beginning with "The Boy Lincoln" and moving through his life in politics up to the presidency, the Civil War and Emancipation, to his assassination and finally, his legacy. Prokopowicz supports his answers with an authoritative bibliography.
Although this won't be the last book written about Lincoln, it'll certainly be one of the most entertaining for readers. The surprises found on almost every page should delight anyone even remotely interested in our national history.

Dead of Night
By J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
(Jove/Penguin, $7.99)

Review by Ealish Waddell

"Dead of Night" is an anthology of four stories by four bestselling authors, all loosely linked by a dash of the paranormal in their plots. The stories vary widely in tone and theme, from crime to historical romance to family drama, a dip into the varieties of the paranormal romance for readers unfamilar with the genre.
The first story is by mystery stalwart J.D. Robb, aka romance novelist Nora Roberts (a provenance which grabs up a good third of the cover). Set in the futuristic New York City of Robb's popular "In Death" series, "Eternity in Death" details a gritty female cop's encounter with a slippery, seductive killer who may or may not be a vampire. The story draws heavily on the "In Death" backstory, and the supernatural elements here are more subtle than in the other stories, but casual readers will enjoy drawing their own conclusions to the mystery.
The second and third tales, "Amy and the Earl's Amazing Adventure" and "Timeless," are straight-up romance -- albeit with a squeeze of time travel, first to Regency England and then to the highlands of medieval Scotland. Both are traditional historical romance settings complete with typical romance trappings (lots of "lairds" and frock coats and frantic embraces), but the characters are charming and the romances pleasantly satisfying.
The final tale, "On the Fringe," begins like a simple tale of domestic drama, but ups the ante with the addition of a magic carpet with the ability to transport its rider into an alternate reality. Perhaps the most complex tale of the four, it is also the most unpredictable, making the reader think a little to figure out what just happened.
All in all, the four stories are perfect low-key reads for those who like their romance spiced with just a hint of magic.

Books reviewed are available or can be ordered at Happy Bookseller and Five Points Book Store. Local Matters!

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