Faber & Faber, £12.99
Book review: Age of Assassins, By Michael Newton
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Friday 04 October 2013
From Lincoln to Lennon, Newton's history of "the decline of the Western assassin" also serves as a shrewd meditation on violence and its allure.
He traces a long curve down from the idealism, however fanatical, of Nihilists or nationalists to the celebrity-fixated killers for whom hunting stellar targets meant "murder wrapped in fame".
For all its insight, plus sleek narrative as despots, generals or presidents fall, great moral weariness overhangs the book. With the assassin's cult, "not just madness but idiocy itself intrudes into history".
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