But the other class of errors in O'Reilly's book are much more disturbing. He and his coauthor have made serious errors of fact because, as one reviewer noted, the two authors relied on poor-quality secondary sources in creating their book. This cuts to a fundamental truth about book publishing today: At some point, someone should have told O'Reilly that obsolete secondary sources were inappropriate for a supposedly serious book of history. But no one is willing to stand up for facts in the face of financial gain and fame. We have seen this just recently with another bestseller: a book about history's largest atrocities that relies entirely on secondary sources and media reports and yet is inexplicably the subject of media adulation.
It's just sad. There is a place for popular history that tells interesting stories by building on the work of scholars. But to do so requires two things O'Reilly can't bring himself to do: get the facts right, and give credit to those who did the real work of gathering those facts.
* Correction 11/15/11: The Ford's Theater museum gift shop offers O'Reilly's book. It is the Book Store at the site, subject to National Park Service quality standards, which refused to carry the book.