Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield
It was a campaign from hell, coming at a time when politics consisted of fierce power stuggles in a country struggling to emerge from the shadow of Civil War.
James Garfield’s 1880 dark horse nomination after the longest-ever Republican nominating convention, his victory in the closest-ever popular vote for president, his struggle against bitterly feuding factions once elected, and the public’s response to its climax of violence produced one of the most dramatic presidential odysseys of the Gilded Age. This journey through political backrooms casts familiar Civil War figures like Ulysses S. Grant and Winfield Scott Hancock in unfamiliar roles as politicos alongside feuding machine bosses like Roscoe Conkling, James G. Blaine, and back-room wire-puller Chester Alan Arthur, Garfield ’s unlikely vice-presidential running mate. The era’s decency is seen contrasted against sharp partisanship, hauntingly familiar to modern America. But in this case it exploded in the pistol shots of assassin Charles Guiteau, the weak-minded patronage seeker eager to replace the elected Commander-in-Chief with one of his own choosing.
Reviews of Dark Horse
Review by Michael Kenney, Boston Globe, July 2003.
Review by William Anthony, Washington Times, July 2003
Review by William Wunder on Suite101.Com, April 2009.
“[This] story has it all, and, in the telling, it has suspense, humor and insight…. Tom Clancy couldn’t make up an assassin like [Guiteau]. An obscure part of the national past comes into the light, brilliantly.”
—Palm Beach Post
“Were it not for [ Garfield ’s] assassination, Dark Horse would stand as a fine addition to the Theodore White H. White ‘The Making of the President’ Genre.”
“Ackerman relates with gusto and fizz the story of Garfield ’s unanticipated nomination, his election by a whisker, the travails of his few months in office, and his assassination.”
Interviews on Dark Horse
Interview on C-SPAN Booknotes, July 2003
Interview with NPR's "All Things Considered," July 2003
C-SPAN's History on Book TV, July 2003