A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011
A Richmond Times Dispatch Top Book for 2011
A minute-by-minute account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary
On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was just seventy days into his first term of office when John Hinckley Jr. opened fire outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, wounding the president, press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent, and a D.C. police officer. For years, few people knew the truth about how close the president came to dying, and no one has ever written a detailed narrative of that harrowing day. Now, drawing on exclusive new interviews and never-before-seen documents, photos, and videos, Del Quentin Wilber tells the electrifying story of a moment when the nation faced a terrifying crisis that it had experienced less than twenty years before, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
With cinematic clarity, we see Secret Service agent Jerry Parr, whose fast reflexes saved the president's life; the brilliant surgeons who operated on Reagan as he was losing half his blood; and the small group of White House officials frantically trying to determine whether the country was under attack. Most especially, we encounter the man code-named "Rawhide," a leader of uncommon grace who inspired affection and awe in everyone who worked with him.
Ronald Reagan was the only serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.* Rawhide Down is the first true record of the day and events that literally shaped Reagan's presidency and sealed his image in the modern American political firmament.
*There have been many assassination attempts on U.S. presidents, four of which were successful: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. President Theodore Roosevelt was injured in an assassination attempt after leaving office.
Wilber's gripping minute-by-minute account of the day that president Reagan (codename Rawhide) was shot reveals the major players in the drama, including the president's doctors, his would-be assassin, Secret Service agents, White House staffers, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and Nancy Reagan. The first time author, a reporter for The Washington Post, writes with particular empathy for the stunned, shaken doctors and nurses who made a massive effort to overcome the challenges of locating the bullet, repairing the lung, and fighting debilitating blood loss as the 70-year-old president's life hung in the balance. Wilber explains what it's like to be in the Secret Service, the characteristics of the presidential limousine and its "foam bladder-style fuel tank that was designed to reduce the risk of an explosion," and the great urgency surrounding the attempted assassination: "they sped toward the FBI's field office, the agents knew there was only one way to find out quickly whether their suspect had acted alone. They would have to get him to crack." At the same time, advisors and staff engaged in power skirmishes and grandstanding. The author draws from a multitude of notes and sources, offering a fascinating glimpse of a pivotal moment in history. Photos.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The author does a terrific job telling this momentous historical event in an easy to read way. Seems to tie all events together seamlessly. So many real heroes. Great read.
Even though I lived through the time this event happened and knew how the story would end, I was riveted by the authors ability to tell a story. Many interesting details and facts I never knew. This was a quick fun read.
I was always a Reagan fan, but even more so now! Written very well. Like reading fiction yet it was a true story. You have got to read it!