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My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth | [Nora Titone, Doris Kearns Goodwin (introduction and notes)]

My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth

My Thoughts Be Bloody, a sweeping family saga, revives an extraordinary figure whose name has been missing, until now, from the story of President Lincoln's death. Edwin Booth, John Wilkes's older brother by four years, was in his day the biggest star of the American stage. Without an account of Edwin Booth, author Nora Titone argues, the real story of Lincoln's assassin has never been told.
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Publisher's Summary

My Thoughts Be Bloody, a sweeping family saga, revives an extraordinary figure whose name has been missing, until now, from the story of President Lincoln's death. Edwin Booth, John Wilkes's older brother by four years, was in his day the biggest star of the American stage. He won his celebrity at the precocious age of 19, before the Civil War began, when John Wilkes was a schoolboy. Without an account of Edwin Booth, author Nora Titone argues, the real story of Lincoln's assassin has never been told. Using an array of private letters, diaries, and reminiscences of the Booth family, Titone has uncovered a hidden history that reveals the reasons why John Wilkes Booth became this country's most notorious assassin.

The details of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln have been well documented elsewhere. My Thoughts Be Bloody tells a new story, one that explains for the first time why Lincoln's assassin decided to conspire against the president in the first place, and sets that decision in the context of a bitterly divided family—and nation. By the end of this riveting journey, listeners will see Abraham Lincoln's death less as the result of the war between the North and South and more as the climax of a dark struggle between two brothers who never wore the uniform of soldiers, except on stage.

©2010 Nora Titone (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio

What the Critics Say

"Titone's account paints a colorful panorama of 19th-century theatrical life, with its endless drunken touring through frontier backwaters and showbiz pratfalls. Neither deep nor tragic, her John Wilkes is oddly convincing: the first of the grandiose hollow men in America's cast of assassins." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (91 )
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  •  
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 11-30-10
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 11-30-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    This is a wonderful, totally absorbing biography of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Nora Titone has an almost magical ability to create a sense of place and time as she follows the Booth brothers from their family farm to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. It really is about both brothers, and the look at 19th-century American theater fully justifies the dual focus: how is it possible that Edwin Booth (and their father Junius Brutus Booth -- not to mention their resourceful mother!) has been overlooked for so long? There is plenty of time as well in this generous narrative to develop a number of figures peripheral to the main story, like Julia Ward Howe and her husband "Chev" (short for "Chevalier"); John Brown; and a number of theatrical colleagues and managers.

    John B. Lloyd provides a clear, well-paced reading. My only regret is that Titone leaves the description of the actual conspiracy to kill Lincoln to others; but reading this makes it clear what direction John Wilkes Booth was headed in, and why. I loved it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Lincoln, the Civil War, the American theater, or the 19th century in general.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Chicago, IL, United States 11-16-10
    David Chicago, IL, United States 11-16-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Gripping psychological drama."


    The author's wonderfully descriptive language and the sweeping epic quality of this book make it a perfect audio read. You'll really feel transported back to the era. Not just the Civil War, but steamboats, the Gold Rush, a time when Baltimore was the 3rd largest city in America, and much more.

    And then there's the adultery, alcoholism, an immigration story, sibling rivalry... so much interesting information and drama! I don't read a lot of history -- tending to view it as a little dry -- but this story really is smart and gripping. Hard to turn off! The fascinating details of the lives of the Booth family of actors read like a Shakespearean tragedy themselves. The title of the book comes from a line in Hamlet, and this story will be fascinating to anyone who's interested in the history of theater, too. It is so much richer than a mere assassination tale.


    Narrator is also great. You can tell when he's quoting things by the way he changes his inflection, which I appreciate since the author clearly did an enormous amount of research and includes a lot of direct quotes. Pace, tone, etc. are all good. No annoying verbal habits to spoil the tale, and I don't get tired of his voice. And at 19+ hours, it's a great deal. Highly recommended.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug Columbus, NC, United States 01-23-11
    Doug Columbus, NC, United States 01-23-11 Member Since 2004

    Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.

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    "A new take on the assassination of Lincoln"

    Titone's thesis is that JW Booth wanted fame so badly that he murdered the president to secure a place in history. JW had failed in his efforts to be an actor, whereas his father and older brother had excelled in dramatic acting, becoming two of the best and most acclaimed actors in US history prior to the age of cinema. JW had also failed in business....and pretty much everything else, except for charming the ladies owing to his exceptional good looks and physique. But conquering women did not compensate for his failure to equal his father and brother on the stage, so JW acted the most dramatic role any actor ever played: he shot the president in view of a few hundred theater goers, jumped on the stage in front of them, and deliberately made a bold statement to the crowd (reported variously) even as the smoke was hanging in the air in the presidential box and Mary Lincoln was screaming. Then he strode off stage deliberately (not with a broken leg as has been mistakenly reported) and jumped on a horse and rode into history.

    Titone does an excellent job supporting her thesis. The story she tells of JW's father and brother and other family members is detailed and quite interesting. She also documents JW's collaboration with Rebel agents in the last year of the war, and she details the escape and capture of JW, which resulted in his being fatally shot by an army sargeant who had such finely tuned religious sensibilities that he had castrated himself to defend against being tempted by loose women.

    What a story!

    The narrator does an excellent job interpreting this highly dramatic tale.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Newhall, CA, United States 03-13-11
    Carolyn Newhall, CA, United States 03-13-11
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    "Not Bad For A First Book However . . ."

    This was a new and interesting presentation of the story of the Booth family. I can't say I appreciate the way blame for J.W.B. seemed to be laid at Edwin's door as though he were the only person who molded the assassin's character or lack thereof.
    The single most bothersome thing about this book was the repetitiveness of facts already presented. There were multiple instances, presented multiple times -- one wonders where the editor was.
    I was gobsmacked that the fact that Edwin saved the life of Robert Lincoln wasn't mentioned.
    The only reason I decided to write this review was there seemed to be only 4 and 5 star reviews with no mention of the repetitiveness and I feel it weakened the book.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruby Dartz New York, NY, United States 03-29-13
    Ruby Dartz New York, NY, United States 03-29-13

    Tell us about yourself!

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    "You thought you knew the story? Guess Again"
    Where does My Thoughts Be Bloody rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of my top 3 audible books of all times.


    What did you like best about this story?

    As a stage technician on a Broadway show, I was fascinated by descriptions of stage craft in the 1800's. Everyone, even now, thinks how glamorous show business is. This gives a long hard look behind those velvet curtains. What a struggle it really was just the logistics of getting from one town to another.


    What about John B. Lloyd’s performance did you like?

    Excellent performance by John B. Lloyd. Very easy on the ears.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Think you know the story of Lincoln's assassin? You don't know 1/2 of the drama.


    Any additional comments?

    1/3 of the book is about the father of John Wilkes and Edwin Booth. You cannot begin to understand the motivation of the brothers without understanding their nutty as a fruitcake father Junius Brutus Booth, a genius, a vegetarian, a drunk and a wife beater. They don't make them like that anymore.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Hanover, IN, United States 03-15-11
    Mark Hanover, IN, United States 03-15-11 Member Since 2010

    Markus

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    "It's okay"

    It's a great idea for a book, contrasting the lives of the two brothers. But the same idea was used by Giblin in "Good Brother, Bad Brother," and I preferred his method. Titone has some odd writing habits that should have been corrected by an editor. She repeats the same information over and over again, as if assuming a senile reader who must be constantly reminded who the characters are. It gets tedious. This happens, as a book is written in stages, but it's the editor's job to notice these redundancies and edit them out. Titone also makes some glaring mistakes in her statements of theatre history. It makes anyone with knowledge in this area distrust her other statements. In all, it's a good and important story, but the book is just rather gracelessly written and the research seems suspect.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Lyter Kempton, PA 10-26-13
    L. Lyter Kempton, PA 10-26-13 Member Since 2010

    Runner, Commuter, Dietitian with a passion for U.S. History.

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    "Sibling Rivalry Meets the Civil War"

    Much more than a biography of Lincoln's killer. A panorama of mid-19th century America through the lives of the famous, brilliant but flawed acting family, the Booths. In the 1820's, Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth flees his wife and baby in England for a new life in America with his mistress, a Covet Garden flower seller. Hidden away in the Maryland woods, she bears him ten children while Junius works as a travelling actor, alternately earning and drinking away the family's fortunes. The results resonate through history to the present day.

    Nora Titone presents previously researched facts in an engaging style that reads like a novel, or a Shakespearean tragedy. As noted by other reviewers, the book slows down towards its inevitable conclusion and Lincoln's assassination. I believe this is because facts become thin, and the book is, above all, a historical record. History will probably never reveal precisely what John Wilke's interactions with his Confederate handlers were and what Wilkes initiated based upon his own whims. To attempt to discern to what degree subsequent events resulted from sibling rivalry versus Confederate sympathies is simply impossible. The author cannot explore John Wilke's deepest motivations. They are forever lost to history. What John Wilkes did during the winter and early spring of 1864-1865 is still a mystery and forever eclipsed by his calamitous actions on April 14, 1865. Play acting, demonstrating passionate Confederate sympathies, or simply seething with jealousy, John Wilkes forever upstaged the rest of his acting family.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emmy Hartwick ALEXANDER, NY, United States 09-27-12
    Emmy Hartwick ALEXANDER, NY, United States 09-27-12 Member Since 2011

    I listen to audiobooks while I sew, quilt, knit, make greeting cards, make mini scrapbook journals, work in the kitchen and iron clothes.

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    "Still listening, but compelled to review it . . ."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book to a friend. It is informative, interesting, well written, well narrated.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of My Thoughts Be Bloody?

    I am still listening, but the most memorable moments so far are the facts about the Booth family and the society in which they lived.


    What about John B. Lloyd’s performance did you like?

    I liked John B. Lloyd's voice, pacing, tone and inflection. He is one of my favorite audio book narrators.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    What is most moving so far, is how the events in a person's life can change the world.


    Any additional comments?

    I am really enjoying this book. I find I learn about history much better by listening to audio books about certain time periods, than I ever did in the classroom. I enjoy learning about the mid and late 1800's, especially about the Civil War, by listening to audio books.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria Chicago, IL, United States 07-26-12
    Maria Chicago, IL, United States 07-26-12 Member Since 2010

    The Q :While I drive, on public transportation, when there is a need to tune everyone out and transport myself to another place, another time...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One son's action does not define a family."
    Would you listen to My Thoughts Be Bloody again? Why?

    Of all the books I have listened to and read, this is one of the few I would re-read or listen to again! This was my first Audible book (had done books on tape, CD, but not via Audible) and it got me hooked, if all books could be this good, this interesting, this captivating.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of My Thoughts Be Bloody?

    The are so many! The description of the lifestyles - the highs and lows, the life at Tudor Hall, the tour of the Western USA during the Gold Rush of Junius and Edwin, the description of them traveling tough turrain. The romance between Edwin Booth and Laura Keene (the actress staring in Our American Cousin the night Lincoln was shot, and craddled his head), the taunting of Junius Booth's abandoned wife and Mary Ann Holmes. Just the unique and non-comformist information the reader learned.

    Nora Titone brings the reader along to comprehend the talent of Junius and Edwin as actors - not just saying they were talented, but providing an understanding of the theatre of the time - the the thespian standards, and expectation of that periords audience. It was eye-opening and so fascinating.

    Nora Titone brings to life one of the most fascinating families. I have to say, the handling of John Wilkes Booth was just excellently balanced. You get an understanding of him, what some of his motivations could have been, his childhood, relationships with brothers, mother, father. Yet, this is not his story, his does not dominate. Here is the family's story.




    What about John B. Lloyd’s performance did you like?

    It was steady and easy to identify the characters without overdramatic inflections.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book made me think the Booth family would be a well-known American family even if John Wilkes Booth did not assissinate President Lincoln. It would have been a great American saga instead of a tragic one; a family whose name will always be associated with one of the most notorious moments in American history.


    Any additional comments?

    The listener will not walk away unsatisfied.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly Austin, TX, United States 04-26-11
    Kelly Austin, TX, United States 04-26-11
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    "Worth your credit"

    I knew very little about the Booths when starting this book. It is a very interesting story with a lot of information. If you already know some history about this tale I can't guarantee that you'll hang onto every word like I did. Also with so many hours of audio you definitely get your moneys worth. I have recommended this audiobook to many of my friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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