Murder most foul: Upcoming event at El Dorado Hills bookstore explores link between sex cults and a president’s assassination

Archival painting of Garfield's death.

On March 5, Face in a Book will have Susan Wels discuss her new release ‘Assassin in Utopia’  

In the annals of presidential bloodshed, the felling of Civil War hero James Garfield is perhaps the least-known and little-understood moment that rocked the White House. Author Susan Wels is out to change that with her new tome, An Assassin in Utopia: The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Sex Cult and a President’s Murder. On Sunday, March 5, Face in a Book bookstore will host an event helping Wels explain that story.

When Charles Guiteau, a one-time member of the free-love Oneida Community, assassinated President Garfield in 1881, it shook the nation to its core. Wels, a best-selling author, explores his descent into madness and his stay at the outpost of experimental living in An Assassin in Utopia. So far, book fans have described it as a riveting true-crime account, along with a fascinating look at the people, events, and cultural mores of the time – an era of hucksterism and spectacle, when religious revivals and rumors of end-times flourished.

Wel’s book follows Guiteau as he becomes increasingly obsessed with dreams of power and influence, convincing himself that he engineered Garfield’s ascent to the presidency. Guiteau starts expecting a consulship as a reward. When thwarted, he does the unthinkable, cutting Garfield’s life and presidency tragically short.

According to Face in a Book, An Assassin in Utopia offers readers a page-turning narrative full of surprise and scandal. The New York Times calls it “an undeniable thrill” and The Washington Post deems it “an engrossing account of Victorian-era American eccentricity.”

Wels will speak and sign her book at Face in a Book from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The store is located at 4359 Town Center Boulevard in El Dorado Hills. For more information, call 916-941-9401.

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