Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review - Assassination of Governor Boggs

I just finished reading "The Assassination of Governor Boggs" by Rod Miller. I was asked to review this by my publicist friend, Tristi Pinkston who will link to this post over on her virtual book tour page. I took a peek at what some of the other reviewers there had to say about the book and was interested to see an interview with the author among them.

This book presents an interesting blend of genres, offering up historical fiction from a mystery/detective approach with some of the style of a western gunslinger tale thrown in for good measure.

The book is a fascinating read. It serves up a fictional character, one Calvin Pogue who works for the renowned Pinkerton detective agency from Chicago who has been assigned to investigate a cold case: the very real failed assassination attempt of Lilburn Boggs, who served as the the sixth Governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840.
In real life, the culprit who shot Governor Boggs in Independence, MO in May of 1942 was never apprehended, although there was rampant speculation that the crime may have been committed by one Orrin Porter Rockwell, a faithful defender of Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and a major character throughout this book.

Governor Boggs was involved in many different issues and events of his day, but is perhaps best remembered as the one who issued the "Mormon Extermination Order"

From Wikipedia: Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the "Mormon Extermination Order"[1] (alt. exterminating order)[2] in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. The directive was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the so-called "Mormon War" of 1838. Insisting that the Mormons had committed "open and avowed defiance of the laws", and had "made war upon the people of this State," Boggs precipitously directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description."

To this day there are many LDS people who hear the name Lilburn Boggs and think of him as a monster who was the cause of the suffering and death by starvation of many who had to flee their homes following the order. So it is no small wonder that at the time he was shot the bad feelings between Boggs and the Mormon people would lead to speculation about motive for the crime.

In this book the investigation into the shooting of Boggs that very nearly did take his life occurs 20 years after the fact. Upon the death of Governor Boggs, his family hires the Pinkerton Detective Agency to determine once and for all who shot Lilburn all those years ago. They are aware that the statute of limitations on attempted murder had long since passed so it is not a matter of bringing the assailant to justice. They do, however, have a deep desire to put the matter to rest once and for all by knowing who was responsible.

Pogue travels by stagecoach and train to various locations (Independence, MO, Navoo, IL and Salt Lake City, UT and the California gold lands) to interview every person he can find who might be able to shed some light on those long past events. Some of the characters we meet through these interviews are

Sam Brannon

Jacob Wright Harlan

Emma Smith

One of the primary voices in each chapter in that of Porter Rockwell himself, the man who many believed was the shooter.

There is much about this book I liked very much. It's a strong narrative that held my interest. I especially felt a connection with the detective, Calvin Pogue, and loved the detail of his ever vigilant lookout for all manner of toy horses in every town he visited that he would mail with loving letters to his young daughter back in Chicago.

I had read in some of the other reviews for the story that there would be a dramatic "suprise ending", but I NEVER saw coming what actually unfolded.

What made me squirm a bit as I was reading was the whole issue of "historical fiction". Unlike some of that genre, this book has absolutely no footnotes or end pages that detail sources for the historical part to allow the reader to sort it out cleanly from the fiction part. So there were several points where I was left simply wondering "Did that really happen??" That was uncomfortably unsettling for me.

I LOVE reading fiction. I also enjoy reading history. Generally speaking, however, I like to know which is which.

Still, even with that caveat, I can heartily recommend this book. It's a worthy read. Now I'll be off to do a bit more research of my own to see what I can learn about some of these characters.

You can purchase this book at Deseret Book or on

1 comment:

Rod Miller said...

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful reviews, especially for all the links--I'm sure your readers will find them helpful. I'm glad you enjoyed THE ASSASSINATION OF GOVERNOR BOGGS. :Rod Miller

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