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Book reviews for "Bishop,_James_Alonzo" sorted by average review score:

Fdr's Last Year, April 1944-April 1945
Published in Paperback by Pocket Books (September, 1975)
Authors: James Alonzo Bishop and Jim Bishop
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A Compassionate Biography
Professional historians might slight Jim Bishop's work -- "The Day Christ Died;" "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" -- as "popularizations." So they are. Not much new in either of these: just good writing and empathy. There is a role for these qualities, one would think, even in the footnoted world of the professional.

"FDR's Last Year" lacks footnotes too. Its biblography is barely up to undergraduate term paper standards. It is, without doubt, beautifully written. So far, so good. But, it is more than just a facile rehash of research done by others. It is a moving account of a great human and historical tragedy -- the physical and mental deterioration of the god-like FDR at what should have been his moment of historic triumph.

By the spring of '44, when the book opens, President Roosevelt was already on borrowed time. There was a world of difference between the buoyant and vigorous champion of 1933 (or, even, 1943) and the increasingly depressed, distracted, and enervated Chief Executive of the late war years. Bishop does not dance around any of this -- but he does not succomb, either, to the harsher portraiture that has been drawn of a senile and naive FDR about to be taken to the cleaners by the Russians.

Some of what the tired president did during his waning months defies rational analysis. What was the purpose of his quixotic meetings with three middle eastern kings on his way back from Yalta? What made him think they would be interested in his hare-brained schemes to "make the desert bloom?" Was his meglomania simply in control here?

Yet, Bishop keeps his focus on the main event: FDR's self-destroying mission to create a postwar world that would not self-destruct into war as had the post-Versailles world. For this, his inspiration was his own political mentor -- Woodrow Wilson. While Churchill and Stalin reveled in their own species of cynicism, the tired and dispirited FDR, well-aware he was dying, held to a vision of a world organization that might offer humanity something better than realpolitik.

Roosevelt sacrificed himself to this vision. Burned himself out in pursuit of it. Churchill was interested only in British imperialism and FDR saw him for what he was -- a hopeless reactionary brought to power by a temporary crisis. Stalin was -- well, Stalin was the one man who had as much blood on his hands as Hitler. Of the "Big Three," only FDR tried to rise above chauvinism toward a broader, more humane future.

This broad view of humanity is exemplified by FDR's contempt for imperialism and his determination not to allow the French back into Indo-China. It is a sobering thought that had he been spared, the Viet Nam War need never have been fought.

Bishop gives a compassionate account of FDR's covert romance with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. The dying man, and the aging widow, found inestimable comfort in one another's company. It was too late in the day for both of them. The time for happiness was past. But, they clung to one another as the darkness closed about them.

This is a story about a dying god. A self-immolation in pursuit of an ideal. The impossibly handsome and charming FDR, the most politcally astute chief executive in our history, fading away into nascent senility and physical decreptitude. One is reminded of the last scene of "All Quiet In the Western Front," where the soon-to-die soldier played by Lew Ayres reaches out for a beautiful butterfly in No Man's Land in a last attempt to seize beauty out of death.

This is a marvelous book. Parts of it, such as the embalming of FDR's body, are almost too painful to read. Bishop brings an empathy, pathos, and compassion to his subject that is altogether absent from nearly all "professional" works of history. It is a moving and deeply illuminating work.

outstanding work of history
As a former educator and one who has worked for the State Department in our nation's capitol, I found FDR'S LAST YEAR not only to be enjoyable reading but one of the most profoundly written books of history I have ever come across. It was so detailed and I saw FDR for the first time to be thoroughly human.The fact that I discovered this book to be out of print, surprised and disappointed me, to say the least.

After I finished, I felt that I had not only lived in the White House that last year, but worked closley with the former President. Love him or hate him, FDR'S LAST YEAR is a must read for all those interested in the history and politics of this country.

The Day Lincoln Was Shot
Published in Paperback by Harpercollins Juvenile Books (June, 1964)
Authors: James Alonzo Bishop and Jim Bishop
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The Tragic Day
This novel helps with the understanding of the events that led up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Unknown to him adn his family it started off as a regular day and ended as one of the most tragic days in the history of the United States.

This book takes the reader through the minds and plans of conspirators and helps with the reasoning behind the assassinaton. For example, taking the president as a hostage to try and get what the Confederate states wanted out of the war.

On the day of the assassination, President Lincoln had received notice from the people who were to accompany him to the play that they would not be coming. As a faithful president, he still attended the play to show his support, not knowing that it would cause his death. This book also helped to show the arguements that Lincoln went through with Mary Todd about pubilc appearences and even going to Ford's Theater that night.

Taking and hour by hour look at Lincoln's life helps to familiarize the reader with Lincoln and his family and his usual daily tasks. It helps show Lincoln as the man that he is instead of just the president.

Pulp Fact
THE DAY LINCOLN WAS SHOT should be required reading for anyone with an interest in American History. The sheer amount of detail here is invaluable. Historian Jim Bishop has gone to the original newspaper accounts, court documents and government records to get at the indisputable facts. Contradictory reports have been reconciled, confusing motivations and events have been plainly explained, and the result is a book brimming with information but which is still easy enough for us laymen to read.

The format of the material will be familiar to any fan of the television show "24". Like that piece of modern drama, the book is laid out so that each chapter is devoted to a single hour. The result is a slow, detailed progression through the day that pushes up the tension as the fatal hour approaches. The book begins at 7 a.m. on the morning of April 14th, 1865, continues through the actual assassination during the 10 o'clock hour and then concludes with the death of Lincoln at 7:22 a.m. the following morning. Of course, the similarities between this account and the much-hyped television series are purely structural - the story isn't fictitious, and we already know the ending.

Two chapters interrupt this narrative. One that gives a background into the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and another that gives us a brief history of the conspiracy. This book doesn't try to give more than a short summary on those two topics, so readers interested in those subjects should also find other material. This book is primarily concerned with getting across the actual events of the day rather than trying to put every single fact into a historical perspective. It reads like an extremely detailed journal told from an omniscient observer.

One thing I didn't like was Bishop's tendency to write the factual events in an overly dramatic style. We're treated to people's inner thoughts, their facial expressions, occasional over-dramatic language, and other items that couldn't possibly be known to the author. To be fair, Bishop does acknowledge in the introduction that he does take certain liberties of that type in the name, presumably, of dramatic license. The only problem I had with this approach is that the fourteenth of April 1895 is already one of the most gripping and shocking days in American history. There really wasn't any need to make the action more exciting. More often than not, these little pieces of intrusion annoyed me, though this wasn't nearly enough to distract from the hard facts of the event.

Prior to reading THE DAY LINCOLN WAS SHOT, my knowledge of the mechanics behind the assassination was sadly deficient. This book has provided me with a lot of information behind the events of that day as well as firing up my interest in U.S. Civil War history. I hope that future books that I read on this subject are as organized and as lucid as this one.

Haunting recreation of a fateful day
This is a tremendous book. It tries to faithfully re-create what occured on April 14, 1865. It gives background of the previous couple days. On the day of the assassination, Lincoln holds a cabinet meeting, the contents of which are related in the book. Lincoln's mind seemed to be telling him he was doomed. He had dreams about his death, and accepted the inevitable. JW Booth's planning of the evil acts, which included an brutal attack on Seward and his family as well as an aborted effort against Andrew Johnson, is gone into with fascinating detail. Highly recommended for history, Civil War and Lincoln buffs.

A Day in the Life of President Kennedy.
Published in Hardcover by Random House (February, 1964)
Author: James Alonzo, Bishop
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Good, but not a gem of history
This is a highly interesting book, although it presents the President as a guy that just goes from swimming to sitting in bed all the time. It's probably not entirely accurate, but is still a good one.

A Great Book
I read this book when I was in Junior High. I still remember it after all this time. I think I must have read it at least five times. It is my most favorite of all Kennedy books because it is about his life on a day to day basis as a real person. I highly recommend this. It would be great to do one of these on President GW Bush.

The Day Kennedy Was Shot
Published in Hardcover by Funk & Wagnalls Co (June, 1972)
Author: James Alonzo, Bishop
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Biased account of the Kennedy assassination
This book isn't as accurate as The Day Lincoln Was Shot. Jim Bishop, is accurate for most of the events that took place on November 22, 1963, except the facts about Lee Harvey Oswald. His statements about Oswald waiting for Kennedy on the 6th floor of the School Book Depository is flying in the face of all the eyewitnesses. No one saw Oswald on the 6th floor. He was seen on the 2nd floor five minutes before and 90 seconds after the assassination. Many people ran to the Grassy Knoll and not the School Book Depository after the assassination.

Bishop's statements about Oswald's mother trying to cash in on her son's death is wrong. She proclaimed her son's innocence to the day she died. If you watch the films of Oswald's funeral service, she's crying. Bishop tries to make you believe that she was a bad woman who raised a bad son.

If you want to find out the facts of the Kennedy assassination, this book isn't the one for you. It condemns a man who was "just a patsy", as he said the day before he himself was murdered.

Compelling Details
This is a compelling book for assassination buffs such as myself, full of rich detail. I have lived in Fort Worth and Dallas, where Kennedy spent his last day, and the torrent of detail that spills out of this narrative animates the sites which I have visited so many times. There is this terrible mounting suspense as the main characters chitchat because you know what is going to happen. When Jack turns to Jackie and tells her to take her sunglasses off as they cross Turtle Creek in Dallas, a spot I've driven across many times, you fairly want to jump up and shout, "SCREW THE GLASSES! STOP THE CAR AND GET OUT! THERE'S A MAN WITH A RIFLE AROUND THE CORNER WHO IS GOING TO KILL YOU!" But they keep on going and there is no stopping them from driving on or you from reading through to the bitter end.

What separates Bishop's account of the day from Manchester's account of the day is the Kennedy family's support of Manchester and their lack of support of Bishop. Consequently, Bishop is more apt to relate events that would be buffed out of any account edited by the Kennedys. You get much more of a raw look at the events. For example, Kennedy viciously chews out an Air Force general because the weather forecast was wrong, leading Jackie to dress too warmly in her pink wool outfit. The Kennedys would have edited out this petty bullying.

Bishop also has a good feel for Oswald's mother, Marquerite, and Jack Ruby, both of whom were flaky to the point of insanity. Bishop could have delved a little deeper into Marquerite, a thoroughly annoying character. Once you understand Marquerite, you see where the madness began with Lee Harvey. Bishop also gives good insight into Jack Ruby, a major flake, by simply following him around as he weasels his way into the local action at fires, radio stations, and police stations with packages of sandwiches.

My only criticism is that Bishop did not pay as careful attention to getting the details correct as I would have liked. For example, he calls a KC-135 aircraft that flew a fragment of Kennedy's skull from Fort Worth to DC a "K-135." He says that the gun that Jack Ruby used to shoot Oswald was chrome plated. I've seen it on display in Dallas. It has a dull black finish like most handguns.

However, even with those types of errors, this is the second best book on JFK's assassination, right behind Gerald Posner's account. I could not put it down. It pulled me along until I finished and then I wished it had gone on further.

"I Was There"--But Jim Bishop Took Me Back
Jim Bishop is an outstanding writer and his format using hours of the day (i.e., 7:00 am, 8:00 am, etc.) took you to where everyone was at that time--Lee, JFK, the FBI Agent responsibile for Oswald, Jackie, the football, Ruby, etc,. His research was in-depth and made you never question its validity. I lived in Dallas when this event took place, but was too young to know what was happening. Jim Bishop took back to Dallas on that day and gave me more than I ever expected to receive from the book. This book will make you feel like a history buff. His excellent writing ability led me to purchase another of his books--"The Day Lincoln was Shot"--This one is "Ditto".

The Birth of the United States
Published in Hardcover by Galahad Books (March, 1979)
Author: James Alonzo, Bishop
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The Day Christ Was Born
Published in Paperback by HarperCollins (paper) (October, 1989)
Authors: Jim Bishop and James Alonzo Bishop
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The Day Christ Was Born: A Reverential Reconstruction.
Published in Hardcover by HarperCollins (January, 1960)
Author: James Alonzo, Bishop
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