Author : Del Quentin Wilber
Genre : Historical Non-Fiction
Number of pages : 320
Year published : 2010
Rating : 5 stars (out of 5)
I discovered “Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan” by listening to an interview with the author on a Philadelphia radio station last summer. Del Quentin Wilber seemed so into history, especially of past assassinations, that I knew I had to read this book. The story behind the book’s writing is an interesting one. Originally trained in journalism, Wilber works as a reporter in Washington D.C. for the Washington Post. During a meeting with the Director of the FBI, he was asked to write the book by none other than the Director himself. The Director told Wilber the story of how close the former president had actually come to dying, asserting that the country needed to be told of the chaos that ensued. In the interview that I heard, Wilber seemed very passionate about his work and had interviewed almost every person involved in that day, including Nancy Reagan. Through interviews with the Secret Service, the first respondents on the medical staff, hotel staff, and family and friends of those hurt in the shootings, the author paints a picture of the Reagan assassination attempt that is both complete and unique.
I honestly think anyone would like this book. As a science major/pre-medical student, I particularly found the description of the care and surgeries that Ronald Reagan endured fascinating. The president was actually two centimeters and 30 minutes away from dying, and the author proves it. One of the most well-researched parts of the book was the actions of the government following the shooting. The descriptions of the generals, secretaries, and members of Congress who got together and made the necessary decisions during the president’s recovery was incredible. I never really had an interest in the vestige of authority in the case of a presidential absence, but after reading this book, I have a much better understanding of the president’s “safety system” as well as the presidential power and scope of profession. On a scarier note, the book does lend some merit to the theory that the government does not tell us all. Wilber definitely points out the fact that throughout the assassination ordeal, people in charge of news releases and media coverage made sure to portray the president as strong and resilient, despite the fact that his lungs collapsed twice and he was sedated with a breathing tube.
Finally, I understand that when it comes to the leaders of our country, there is always an element of politics involved. However, this book does a great job of presenting a steady, non-partisan view of the Reagan presidency and staying true to its description as an account of the assassination itself. Whether you are a fan of the Reagan era or not, this book represents a great historical view of one of the most important assassination attempts in American history.
Review by Chris McLaughlin, A&S '13