The Judges of the Secret Court: A Novel About John Wilkes Booth (New York Review Books Classics)

The Judges of the Secret Court: A Novel About John Wilkes Booth (New York Review Books Classics)

David Stacton

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1590174526

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

David Stacton’s The Judges of The Secret Court is a long-lost triumph of American fiction as well as one of the finest books ever written about the Civil War. Stacton’s gripping and atmospheric story revolves around the brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, members of a famous theatrical family. Edwin is a great actor, himself a Hamlet-like character whose performance as Hamlet will make him an international sensation. Wilkes is a blustering mediocrity on stage who is determined, however, to be an actor in history, and whose assassination of Abraham Lincoln will change America. Stacton’s novel about how the roles we play become, for better or for worse, the lives we lead, takes us back to the day of the assassination, immersing us in the farrago of bombast that fills Wilkes’s head while following his footsteps up to the fatal encounter at Ford’s Theatre. The political maneuvering around Lincoln’s deathbed and Wilkes’s desperate flight and ignominious capture then set the stage for a political show trial that will condemn not only the guilty but the—at least relatively—innocent. For as Edwin Booth broods helplessly many years later, and as Lincoln, whose tragic death and wisdom overshadow this tale, also knew, “We are all accessories before or after some fact. . . . We are all guilty of being ourselves.”

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Kentucky and Kansas, and other lands of the unregenerate baboon. Sumner had also, had he but realized it, the face of a baboon, even in grief, but it was the face of a baboon trained to wear clothes. That is what he meant by the proper forms. And for that matter, what is grief? It does not touch us, and yet when we assume it it is real. It is the assumption, then, that is real. So much for forms. In the front room Mrs. Lincoln screamed. That was most unfortunate. Stanton had work to do. He was

terrible thing one’s own body could be. He felt it would eat him up, if once he was so unwary as to lose consciousness. On the ground before him was the nibbled wreck of a small pine cone. He concentrated on that. When he looked up, Jones was standing in front of him. Jones did not ask how he felt. He merely handed over a blanket, a bottle of whisky, a packet of food, and the newspapers. There was no telling how long he had been standing there. Hungry though he was for food, Booth was hungrier

his meals at a boarding-house. Sometimes he forgot to eat, but he never forgot to drink. When finally cornered, he was having dinner at Mrs. Scott’s boarding-house. The other guests sat as far away from him as they could, for they all knew the police had been after him, so clearly he must be guilty, and guilt can be contagious. They wanted no part of him. He knew that, but since he had felt very hungry, he had sat with them anyway. When the officers arrived, he stood up and blinked at them. Of

gave him his prayer book, his legs went out from under him, and the detectives had to support him to the carriage. He had been flung into Carroll Prison. That terrified him. He was willing to say all he knew to get out again. But the detectives who examined him about that vile woman told him that unless he could remember more than he had so far, he would be hanged. So he had remembered more. Stanton had thought that perhaps he might. His statement got fuller and longer. At first he had tried to

woman of her age, a little prim perhaps, no longer young, but still not old, should have her gentility interrupted by the realities of a world which contained only failure, a little music, and the clamourings of tradesmen. This afternoon she would have to drive all the way to the Maryland Shore in a rented gig, which was not cheap, to try for the last time to raise money long owed her. She hated to do such things, or to see Surrattsville for what it was, a depressing small bar and wayside tavern,

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