Synopses & Reviews
Union cavalryman Boston Corbett became a national celebrity after killing John Wilkes Booth, but as details of his odd personality became known, he also became the object of derision. Over time, he was largely forgotten to history, a minor character in the final act of Booth’s tumultuous life. And yet Corbett led a fascinating life of his own, a tragic saga that weaved through the monumental events of nineteenth-century America.
Corbett was an English immigrant and devout Christian who long struggled not only with poverty but also with mental illness, which was likely caused by the mercury he used in his job as a silk hat finisher. He was one of the first volunteers to join the US Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, a path that would in time land him in the notorious Andersonville prison camp. Eventually released, he ended up in the squadron that cornered Lincoln’s assassin in a Virginia barn. After the war, he headed west as a homesteader to the plains of Kansas, where his shaky mental health led to his undoing.
The Madman and the Assassin is the first full-length biography of Boston Corbett, a man thrust into the spotlight during a national news event and into an unwelcome transformation from anonymity to fame, and back to obscurity.
"Scott Martelle has the rare ability to bring alive a patch of history from several hundred years ago as skillfully as he does a present-day Detroiter in his living room. This is an extraordinary riches-to-rags story that raises big questions for national policy." —Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
“A curious portrait of a celebrity nonentity caught up in the throes of history.” —Kirkus
"History buffs will enjoy this fast-paced, well-told addition to the literature on Lincoln and the Civil War.” —Library Journal
“With the journalist’s eye for a telling detail, a historian’s ability to unearth an untold tale, and a writer’s keen sense of drama, Scott Martelle renders a fascinating portrait of one of the oddest figures to walk across the pages of Civil War history. To the reader’s good fortune, Martelle separates myth from the man and provides a sympathetic, engaging, and authentic portrait of the soldier who killed one of America’s most famous assassins.” —James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer and The Rose Man of Sing Sing
“A fascinating look at Boston Corbett, an eccentric who appears at one of the critical junctures in American history. Scott Martelle deftly brings Corbett’s nineteenth-century world back to life in his compelling tale of murder and madness.” —Julia Flynn Siler, author of The House of Mondavi and Lost Kingdom
“Perhaps Martelle’s biggest contribution to Lincoln lore is his detailed examination of Corbett’s post-Booth life.” —Cannonball!!
“Mr. Martelle has done an admirable job of researching Corbett’s life. Serious students of the Civil War may be happy to learn more about the obscure oddball who killed the assassin.” —The Wall Street Journal
At its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit's status as epicenter of the American auto industry made it a vibrant, populous, commercial hub—and then the bottom fell out. Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America's great cities and one of the nation's greatest urban failures. This authoritative yet accessible narrative seeks to explain how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from nearly two million residents in 1950 to less than 715,000 some six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deeply ingrained racism. Drawing from U.S. Census data and including profiles of individuals who embody the recent struggles and hopes of the city, this book chronicles the evolution of what a modern city once was and what it has become.
As thoroughly examined as the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth have been, virtually no attention has been paid to the life of the Union cavalryman who killed Booth, an odd character named Boston Corbett. The killing of Booth made Corbett an instant celebrity whose peculiarities made him the object of fascination and derision. Corbett was an English immigrant, a hatter by trade, who was likely poisoned by the mercury then used in the manufacturing process. A devout Christian, he castrated himself so that his sexual urges would not distract him from serving God. He was one of the first volunteers to join the US Army in the first days of the Civil War, a path that would in time land him in the notorious Andersonville prison camp, and eventually in the squadron that cornered Booth in a Virginia barn. The Madman and the Assassin is the first full-length biography of Boston Corbett, a man who was something of a prototypical modern American, thrust into the spotlight during a national news event—an unwelcome transformation from anonymity to celebrity.
About the Author
Scott Martelle is a professional journalist who has written for the Detroit News, the Los Angeles Times, and the Rochester Times-Union. His previous books include Blood Passion and The Fear Within. He lives in Irvine, California.