Is there a doctor in the house? If so, don’t let him near the patient.
That’s the essence of the story surrounding the 1881 assassination of President James Garfield, who had been in office for roughly three months when he was felled by an assassin’s bullet. The bullet to Garfield’s back wasn’t the major problem, Garfield’s doctors were.
Their sloppy handling of their patient — they were still skeptical of the concept of germs — led to massive infections that finished the assassin’s work and caused Garfield’s agonizing death many weeks later.
Things didn't work out well for Garfield, but Candice Millard's book “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of President” is just what the doctor ordered.
A little-known president because of his short tenure, Garfield was born in desperate poverty but acquired an education and then careers as a professor, university president, Civil War general, member of Congress and, to his chagrin, president.
An accomplished and admirable man, Garfield never aspired to the presidency before becoming the choice of a bitterly deadlocked Republican convention in 1880. He was the compromise choice of rival party factions — the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds.
This story is loaded with interesting characters, including telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, assassin Charles Guiteau, Vice President Chester Arthur and a variety of ambitious politicians like Roscoe Conkling and James Blaine.
Giteau, who was quite mad, had a long and strange history as a marginal con man, lawyer and evangelist who decided to pursue a career in politics. After Garfield’s election, he solicited appointment as a diplomat to Paris, hanging around the White House and State Department to press his request personally on Garfield and Secretary of State Blaine.
Guiteau eventually concluded the best way to win his appointment was to kill Garfield, figuring that Garfield successor Arthur would give him the post Garfield wouldn’t. Hey, I said he was crazy. My recommendation, however, is right on the money.
Previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club on be found on my web log at news-gazette.com.
Here are previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[-] “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides.
[-] “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris.
[-] “A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord.
[-] “April 1865: The Month That Saved America” by Jay Winik.
[-] “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand.
[-] “Lindbergh” by A. Scott Berg.
[-] “The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963” by Laurence Leamer.
[-] “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case” by Sam Roberts.
[-] “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy.
[-] “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich.
[-] “Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World” by Steve Neal.
[-] “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone” by Martin Dugard.
[-] “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors” by Doug Stanton.
[-] “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.” by Bryan Burrough.
[-] “Flags of our Fathers,” by James Bradley.
[-] “Cary Grant: A Biography” by Marc Elliot.
[-] “Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager” by Buzz Bissinger.
[-] “Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York” by Kenneth Ackerman.
[-] “They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967” by David Maraniss.
[-] “Flashman” (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink” by David Margolick.
[-] “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] “Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” by Selwyn Raab.
[-] “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.” by John Taylor.
[-] “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies” by Michael Kauffman.
[[-] “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright.
[- ) “A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports” by Brad Snyder.
[-] “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam.
[-] “Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle
[-] “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan.
[-] “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case” by James Neff.
[-] “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House” by John Harris.
[–] “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith
(-) “The Unlikely Spy” (a novel) by Daniel Silva.
(-) “Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre
(-) “The Interpretation of Murder” (a novel) by Jed Rubenfeld
(-) “The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country” by Laton McCartney.
(-) “The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changes Their Lives Forever”
by Joe Layden.
(-) “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL” by Mark Bowden.
(-) “Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family” by Joaquin “Jack” Garcia.
(-) “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
(-) “Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” by Neal Bascomb
(—) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Goodwin.
(—) “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph Ellis.
(—) “Clemente” by David Maraniss
(—) “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963” by Robert Dallek
(-) “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler.
(-) “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman
(—) “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly (mystery novel).
(-) “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi
(—) “Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.” by Edward Jay Epstein
(—) “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” by Michael MacCambridge
(-) “Billy Boyle” (fiction) by James Benn
(-) “The Ghost War” (fiction) by Alex Berenson
(-) “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard