A New York Times–bestselling author’s “lively” account of a family of famous actors—who became notorious after the assassination of President Lincoln (The New Yorker).
Junius Booth and his sons, Edwin and John Wilkes, were nineteenth-century America’s most famous theatrical family. Yet the Booth name is forever etched in the history books for one terrible reason: the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
In American Gothic, bestselling historian Gene Smith vividly chronicles the triumphs, scandals, and tragedies of this infamous family. The preeminent English tragedian of his day, Junius Booth was a madman and an alcoholic who abandoned his wife and young son to move to America and start a new family. His son Edwin became the most renowned Shakespearean actor in America, famously playing Hamlet for one hundred consecutive nights, but he suffered from depression and a crippling fear of inheriting his father’s insanity.
Blessed with extraordinary good looks and a gregarious nature, John Wilkes Booth seemed destined for spectacular fame and fortune. However, his sympathy for the Confederate cause unleashed a dangerous instability that brought permanent disgrace to his family and forever changed the course of American history.
Richly detailed and emotionally insightful, American Gothic is a “ripping good tale” that brings to life the true story behind a family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions (The New York Times).