In Killing the Rising Sun, the sixth book in his best-selling history series, Bill O’Reilly once again brings a fresh angle to a well-known chapter of history. The end of World War II in the Pacific and the dropping of the first atomic bomb is familiar to most Americans, but looking past the sides of history we’re all familiar with is O’Reilly’s specialty. In each book in his Killing series he mines fascinating new insights from some of the most famous events in our country’s history. He then takes a clear, novelistic approach that makes each book much more than just a history lesson. Here are six reasons O’Reilly, along with writing partner Martin Dugard, keeps scoring hits with his history.
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He Never Talks Down (see: Killing the Rising Sun)
In his most recent book in the series, out this week, O’Reilly casts in the role of titular victim the Empire of Japan, instead of a historical figure, exploring the final days of the war, when Japan seemed destined to fight a brutal, bloody last stand that would cost millions of lives. As General Douglas MacArthur planned the invasion of the country, the Manhattan Project was finishing work on what would become the biggest game-changer in terms of geopolitics and warfare ever: the Atomic Bomb. When FDR died in office, his Vice President Harry Truman suddenly found himself forced to make the most fateful decision of the war: invade Japan and pay the butcher’s bill, or drop the bomb and change the world. O’Reilly perfectly balances informing his readers without patronizing them, even when it comes to such a well-documented moment in time.
His Books Read Like Thrillers (see Killing Lincoln)
In O’Reilly’s first outing with Dugard, they take the innovative approach of recounting one of the most famous assassinations in history as if it were a modern-day spy thriller. Re-exploring the conspiracy theory that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was involved in a plot to kill the President allows O’Reilly to view the facts of history through a new lens; it doesn’t matter if the conspiracy holds up, because it leads O’Reilly—and through him, the reader—to take a fresh, objective look at the familiar story of Lincoln’s demise, resulting in an incredible read that’s as entertaining as it is informative and thought-provoking.
He Clearly Enjoys History (see Killing Kennedy)
In his second outing, O’Reilly tackled the other most famous Presidential assassination with the shooting of John F. Kennedy, and once again an unusual approach makes this a must-read for any history buff. O’Reilly explores the three years of the Kennedy administration with a loose, gossipy tone that’s nonetheless backed up by facts and research, allowing him to almost turn Kennedy into a literary character. This lets us see the man and how he evolved into a world leader, only to be tragically cut down just as he was coming into his own as a politician, a president, and a thinker. O’Reilly’s love of history is contagious, making reading about even one of the lowest moment in America’s story a fascinating ride.
He’s Unapologetic (see Killing Jesus)
O’Reilly never shies away from potentially disturbing or controversial subjects or opinions. In Killing Jesus he cleverly recasts the life and death of Jesus as a political story, arguing that Jesus was killed as much for his protests against Rome and his disruption of “business as usual” in ancient corrupt circles of influence as he was for his religious teachings and claims to being the Son of God. Which isn’t to say O’Reilly denies Jesus’ divinity or questions his faith; rather, the approach once again allows O’Reilly to shake off the usual and the expected when it comes to historical studies of Jesus and present a wholly new and original examination of the circumstances of his death.
He’s Got a Nose for Mysteries (see Killing Patton)
O’Reilly has a skill for reminding us of historical moments that might not be in every history book. For example, George Patton was one of the most brilliant generals in U.S. history, but he died under what some believe were suspicious circumstances. O’Reilly takes a controversial and sideways approach to his history, exploring the possibility that Patton’s resistance to postwar politics caused his death, and brings to light several well-researched incidents and encounters in support of his theory.
He’s Unafraid (see Killing Reagan)
In many ways, Ronald Reagan has never really left us—politics aside, the impression he made on both the Republican Party and the American imagination remains as potent and powerful as ever. He remains a conservative icon and one of the most beloved political figures of the 20th century, making it a risky move to even hint he might have experienced frailties or weakness. But Killing Reagan combines rock-solid historical research with an intriguing question: what psychological impact did Reagan’s near-assassination have on the president, as both a man and as Commander in Chief?