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Book Review: Killing Reagan

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Nicole Tracy | Literary Columnist

In Killing Reagan: The Violent
Assault that Changed
a Presidency, authors Bill
O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
take the reader through the
life and times of President
Ronald Reagan, as well as
his would be assassin, John
Hinckley, Jr.
The book is summed up
as such by the dust jacket:
“Just two months into his
presidency, Ronald Reagan
lay near death after
a gunman’s bullet came
within inches of his heart.
His recovery was nothing
short of remarkable — or so
it seemed. But Reagan was
grievously injured, forcing
him to encounter a challenge
that few men ever face.
Could he silently overcome
his traumatic experience
while at the same time carrying
out the duties of the
most powerful man in the
world?
Told in the same riveting
fashion as Killing Lincoln,
Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus,
and Killing Patton, Killing
Reagan reaches back to
the golden days of Hollywood,
where Reagan found
both fame and heartbreak,
up through the years in the
California governor’s mansion,
and finally to the White
House, where he presided
over boom years and the fall
of the Iron Curtain. But it was
John Hinckley Jr.’s attack on
him that precipitated President
Reagan’s most heroic
actions. In Killing Reagan,
O’Reilly and Dugard take
readers behind the scenes,
creating an unforgettable
portrait of a great man operating
in violent times.”
Riveting is not necessarily
the word to use to
describe this book. It was
not what one could call a
bad read, it just did not have
the same immersive quality
that the other “Killing” stories
have had,that made you
feel you were there, actively
watching the events play out
as they happened. Killing
Reagan felt like it was missing
something in that regard.
One of the key points of
the “Killing” series has been
the assassination/murder of
the subject. Reagan, as all
know, did not die during the
attempt on his life. It was a
strange departure from the
other books, and made the
book almost feel like it was
sensationalizing the downfall
that Reagan supposedly
took after the assassination
attempt.
O’Reilly and Dugard paint
a portrait of Reagan as suffering
from mental problems
well before his official diagnosis
of Alzheimers, and
portray Nancy Reagan as the
mastermind behind the last
few years of his Presidency.
This has been a cause of
controversy surrounding
the book.
An entire chapter is essentially
devoted to a biography
of Richard Nixon’s
time in the White House.
One would think that would
be more fitting in a later
“Killing Nixon” story from
O’Reilly and Dugard, instead
of here. You also get the
entire story about Ted Kennedy
and Mary Jo Kopchne
on Chappaquiddick Island.
The authors could have just
been filling in the gaps in history
for completeness, but it
seemed rather unnecessary
in a story about Reagan.
Overall, this is by far the
least enjoyable of the “Killing”
series.
Killing Reagan is available
at the Howard County Public
Library. Copies are limited,
so ask at the front desk to be
placed on a waiting list for it
if it is unavailable.