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Julius Caesar’s assassination may have been patricide. His last words were not "Et tu Brute," as Shakespeare suggests, but "kai su teknon"–Greek for "You too, my child." These words were particularly appropriate when one considers the rumors that surrounded Brutus’s paternity (see BRUTUS).
Perhaps the most unusual weapon ever used in an assassination attempt was the "infernal machine." The device was composed of twenty-five rifles that could be fired simultaneously by a single trigger. Ironically, the would-be assassin’s intended victim walked away unhurt, while most of those crowded around him did not (see FIESCHI).
When a hunchbacked dwarf fired a shot at Queen Victoria, London police arrested every hunchbacked dwarf in the capital until they found the right one (see BEAN).
Rigoberto López not only shot and killed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza but also anonymously won a newspaper contest for the best poem eulogizing the dead leader (see LÓPEZ).
President Andrew Jackson survived two attempted assassinations on the same day. When his hapless attacker’s pistol misfired, he drew a second pistol–which also misfired. Jackson beat the man with his cane until help arrived (see LAWRENCE).
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There have been hundreds of books on famous assassinations, but nearly all have focused on the victims rather than the assassins themselves. Until now, there has never been a single source for the life stories of assassins throughout history: the infamous and the overlooked, the madmen and the zealots, the incompetent and the ruthlessly efficient, those who failed and those who succeeded in their dark tasks. The Book of Assassins is an enlightening and entertaining reference book for true-crime fans, historians, and anyone interested in those who committed–or attempted to commit–some of the world’s most heinous crimes.
We all know the names Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth. But who remembers Max Hödel, considered the least successful assassin in history? What wealthy aristocrat killed Rasputin and lived on until 1967? How many different people attempted to assassinate Hitler–or Queen Victoria? Which modern world leader holds the record for surviving assassins’ plots–and who were the plotters? How did Renaissance noblewoman Caterina Sforza attempt to infect a pope with the plague?
With answers to these questions and more, The Book of Assassins is packed with interesting trivia and little-known facts, as well as an alphabetical index of victims. In an engaging essay, author George Fetherling explains the five types of assassins–power seekers (Cesare Borgia), mercenaries (Bulgarian hitman Vlada the Chauffeur), ideologues (Gavrilo Princip), celebrity stalkers (Mark David Chapman), and revenge-seekers (Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol)–that have appeared throughout history.
Insightful, well-researched, and highly readable, The Book of Assassins is not only a compendium of crimes but also an absorbing chronicle of the obscure and notorious characters who have irrevocably altered the course of human events, often in ways they never intended.About the Author:
GEORGE FETHERLING is the author of fifty books. A former literary editor at the Toronto Star and a regular columnist and book reviewer, Mr. Fetherling lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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