Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017: Dedicated Issue: Bill O'Reilly's History Series


Henry Holt & Company: Bill O'Relly Publishing Program

Editors' Note

Books & Authors

'History That's Enjoyable to Read'

Writing about history in a way that readers can enjoy was a goal of Bill O'Reilly's since he was a high school teacher in the early 1970s. With the Killing series, which began with Killing Lincoln in 2011 and has continued with Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus and more (see more about each title in the following article), he has obviously met his goal: The series--which he says "allows me to roam across the past telling stories about the world"--and related titles has more than 17 million copies in print across all formats; the books are so successful that the Killing titles don't appear in paperback for an average of four years after hardcover publication and they garner spots on a range of general and bookstore bestseller lists. Readers are drawn to the "provocative" books, O'Reilly says, because "they inform and they're entertaining."

New titles in the Killing series appear each year, and O'Reilly and his co-writer Martin Dugard know what's coming up at several years in advance. The first titles have focused on a particular person, but the most recent, Killing the Rising Sun, changed tack a bit. Steve Rubin, president and publisher of Holt, calls it "a wonderfully vibrant, alive page turner without a single subject that moves a lot of characters around gracefully."

The next Killing book appears in September and will have a broad subject too. But as is customary with the Killing books, its title and subject won't be announced until close to pub date. This is, in part, the price of success: O'Reilly explains that "there are pirates who will steal ideas. That happened with Killing Jesus."

As Rubin notes, there is a kind of cascade effect when new O'Reilly titles come up. "Every time he releases a new book, it replenishes the backlist": sales of the Killing backlist often jump significantly compared to the week before publication of the new title.

Best known as host of The O'Reilly Factor and the leading news anchor on Fox News, O'Reilly finds time in his busy schedule to plan and write his books. Co-writer Martin Dugard does most of the research, and O'Reilly writes based on what he finds. "We block out time and write a certain amount of words each week," O'Reilly says, calling Dugard "a real pro with little ego and a tremendous interest in history. I'm the storyteller, and thankfully we work very well together. We're totally in sync."

Research is often a challenge because "we want to discover new information and tell stories folks haven't heard," O'Reilly continues. For that reason, Killing Jesus was the most difficult book to write. "We combed Roman and Jewish history to confirm Gospel stories," he says. "Sometimes we could not confirm legend so we left things out. It was very laborious research."

O'Reilly is also closely involved with Holt, and says the publisher is "tremendous. They support and market the books very effectively."

For Holt's part, Rubin calls O'Reilly "a publisher's dream in that he is completely strategic, ambitious, focused and decisive. Usually I'll have an answer within three minutes to an e-mail any day of the week. It's wonderful to have an author who's so committed to what he's doing and is so involved. We have the best partner in the world." Rubin, who's worked with O'Reilly on all but a few of the books O'Reilly has published, emphasizes that "we have established a relationship and completely trust and like each other."

O'Reilly, of course, promotes his titles heavily on his show and website. The series have "really strong" sales in the bookstore and library markets, Rubin says. "They have filled a niche" and are, he emphasizes, "the most successful bestselling history series in history."

O'Reilly has also launched related series: Each episode of the Legends & Lies TV series--which premiered on Fox News in April 2015--focuses on a major figure from a historical period, debunking or confirming popular myths about their lives. "It's broader in scope" than the Killing series, O'Reilly says, "but the concept is the same: fun and facts." The first season was about the Wild West; the second about the Revolutionary War. O'Reilly serves as series host and executive producer. After each season, a book written by David Fisher with an introduction by O'Reilly is released (see more about these titles below). The next will focus on the Civil War, which Rubin calls "a great subject for booksellers."

The Killing series has been adapted into the YA Last Days series (see more below), which aims to allow younger readers to enjoy illustrated versions of the historical narratives. The illustrations include a variety of maps, photographs and other images.

O'Reilly also has a non-series book coming out March 28, Old School: Life in the Sane Lane, written with Bruce Feirstein, about the cultural wars over values, his first current affairs book in many years.

Some of the Killing books have been made into TV productions that have appeared on the National Geographic Channel. O'Reilly serves as executive producer, a job he describes as "quality control, but I'm not a meddler." He said Scott Free Productions has created the films in "a splendid fashion."

Still, O'Reilly praises books and the written word and the institutions that support them. "I love reading books with paper pages and browse old bookstores wherever I go." He adds, "Libraries are sacred ground, and I thank all the librarians for keeping the literary tradition. We need you guys!"


Henry Holt & Company: Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Civil War by David Fisher

The Killing, Legends & Lies and Last Days Titles

Bill O'Reilly's Killing series, co-authored with Martin Dugard, looks at famous assassinations, accidents and near-deaths that had pivotal historical consequences:

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever ($9.99, 9781250105219; originally published Sept. 2011). O'Reilly was inspired to write about Lincoln's assassination when he heard about Lafayette C. Baker, a Union spy who helped track down John Wilkes Booth. Baker briefly possessed Booth's diary, which was later released by the government with, Baker claimed, 18 pages missing. This chapter of the assassination story has long stoked conspiracy theories, which have fascinated O'Reilly too. His book recounts the final two weeks of Lincoln's life and the hunt for his assassin. In 2013, the National Geographic Channel aired a docudrama based on Killing Lincoln narrated by Tom Hanks.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot ($28, 9780805096668; Oct. 2012). O'Reilly and Dugard's second "Killing" book narrates the events leading up to President Kennedy's assassination and the aftermath. It features portraits of the wider Cold War; how JFK earned a long list of enemies, including organized crime figuresl and how Lee Harvey Oswald ended up in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The National Geographic Channel also adapted Killing Kennedy into a docudrama in 2013 starring Rob Lowe. The book will be released in paperback on August 29, 2017.

Killing Jesus: A History ($30, 9780805098549; Sept. 2013). This narrative of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, called Jesus of Nazareth in the book, made its debut at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and remained on the list for 52 weeks. It depicts the life of Jesus, shows him as a young revolutionary speaking out against Roman oppression, and looks at the historical forces that prompted his execution. It will be released in paperback on March 17, 2017. National Geographic Channel's 2015 television adaptation broke viewership records set by the previous "Killing" docudramas.

Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General ($30, 9780805096682; Sept. 2014). General George S. Patton led American troops in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of World War II, most famously as head of the Third Army in France and Germany after D-Day. He died in December 1945 from injuries sustained during a car accident. In Killing Patton, O'Reilly and Dugard recount the general's famous battles and bring a conspiratorial tilt to his death. A National Geographic adaptation will air in 2017.

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency ($30, 9781627792417; Sept. 2015). O'Reilly's fifth "Killing" book explores the near-death of Ronald Reagan at the hands of John Hinckley, Jr., who shot the president on March 30, 1981 outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Killing Reagan looks at what lead to the assassination attempt, Reagan's recovery and how it changed the rest of his presidency. On October 16, National Geographic aired an adaptation starring Tim Matheson and Cynthia Nixon as Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan ($30, 9781627790628; Sept. 2016). The latest "Killing" title takes readers through the Pacific Theater of World War II, from the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is perhaps the broadest scope of any O'Reilly book thus far. Killing the Rising Sun has been on the New York Times bestseller list since its release.

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Each episode of the Legends & Lies television series, which premiered on Fox News in April 2015, focuses on a major figure from a given historical period. Bill O'Reilly serves as series host and executive producer. The books that have followed each season, written by David Fisher with an introduction by Bill O'Reilly, are:

Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies: The Real West ($32, 9781627795074; April 2015). This companion to season one of Legends & Lies looks at famous figures of the American West, from bandits like Jesse James to lawmen like Doc Holliday. The book expands the scope of the television show with bonus chapters on Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley.

Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies: The Patriots ($35, 9781627797894; May 2016). Season two of Legends & Lies explored central figures in the American Revolution. In this companion piece, O'Reilly and Fisher expand their look at seminal figures in United States history, from titans like George Washington and John Adams to lesser-known war leaders like the southern guerrilla fighter "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion.

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Bill O'Reilly's Killing series is written for adults, but the Last Days YA adaptations allow younger readers to enjoy the books--and are also heavily illustrated with numerous maps, photographs and other images:

Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever ($12.99, 9780805096750; Sept. 2012), co-authored with Dwight Jon Zimmerman.

Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation ($12.99, 9781250060426; June 2013).

The Last Days of Jesus: His Life and Times ($12.99, 9781250073402; April 2014), illustrated by William Low.

Hitler's Last Days: The Death of the Nazi Regime and the World's Most Notorious Dictator ($19.99, 9781627793964; June 2015), to be released in paperback on June 20, 2017.

The Day the President Was Shot: The Secret Service, the FBI, a Would-Be Killer, and the Attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan ($19.99, 9781627796996; June 2016).


Henry Holt & Company: Old School by Bill O'Reilly and Bruce Feirstein

Henry Holt & Company: The Killing Series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Henry Holt & Company: Legends & Lies by Bill O'Reilly

Henry Holt & Company: Books for Young Readers by Bill O'Reilly

Henry Holt & Company: Old School by Bill O'Reilly and Bruce Feirstein

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