My most recent book on James Madison — Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America – examines the often-overlooked Madison’s amazing achievements: his work on the Constitution, writing the Federalist Papers, creating the Bill of Rights, founding America’s first political party, supervising the Louisiana Purchase, and serving as America’s first war president in the War of 1812. He achieved so much because of his gift of working with others — Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, and his wife Dolley —without worrying about who got the credit. That gift made him a unique type of leader. Because of the book, the National Society of Colonial Dames of America presented me the William H. Prescott Award for Excellence in Historical Writing.
I examined Aaron Burr and his Western expedition in American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America. Burr — a charismatic, mysterious figure — almost took the presidency from Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, a story the New York Times was still covering 207 years later. Burr aimed in his Western expedition at many possible outcomes, most of all to rehabilitate his career. Yet it led to a Richmond courtroom where he faced the gallows on treason charges inspired by his nemesis, Jefferson. Emphasizing this book, the Society of the Cincinnati awarded me their History Prize for 2013.
My law practice drew me to my first book, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. While briefing a case to the Supreme Court, I was knocked out by Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention, which overflow with drama, wisdom, and occasional depressing blunders. So I wrote The Summer of 1787. The New York Times liked it, and it hit the Washington Post bestseller list and won the Washington Writing Award for Best Book of 2007.
My defense of a federal judge in a Senate impeachment trial led to Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. After the Civil War, America’s challenges had to heal the wounds left by the war, yet protect four million freed slaves. Andrew Johnson, a stubborn racist, fumbled those daunting challenges. Congress, fiercely led by Thaddeus Stevens, fought to defend the freedmen by driving Johnson from office. The resulting impeachment trial had no winners. The book, which made several bestseller lists, explores long-ignored evidence of bribery in the Senate vote.
In 2013, Kensington Books released my first novel. The Lincoln Deception explores the secrets behind the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy. In 1900, Dr. Jamie Fraser hears a deathbed disclosure from the man who prosecuted the Booth conspirators, then sets off to find the truth about the Lincoln assassination. He’s joined by Speed Cook, the last black man in big league baseball and an assertive “race man.” Fraser and Cook unearth long-neglected facts while pursued by a secret organization aiming to preserve the Lincoln deception. Publishers Weekly called it “an impressive debut novel.”
The Wilson Deception reunites Fraser and Cook at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, trying to free Cook’s son from military injustice and avoid a renewal of the war. Publishers Weekly said of it that “Stewart deftly depicts the mood of an era and the colorful figures who shaped it,” while the Washington Post called it “another terrific Fraser and Cook mystery.”
The Babe Ruth Deception, to be released in December, brings Fraser and Cook back to New York in 1920 and 1921 — the Babe’s first two years with the New York Yankees, when he reinvented baseball with his staggering barrage of home runs, and also the first years of Prohibition and the time of the notorious Black Sox scandal. Our heroes fight against gangsters and bigotry to protect the legendary ballplayer.
As a trial and appellate lawyer for many years, I argued before juries and the U.S. Supreme Court. My writing life began reporting for the Staten Island Advance and included a decade of monthly columns on the Supreme Court for the American Bar Association Journal . Other writings include a short story nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and articles in the Washington Post and its Sunday Magazine, and on the Echoes page of Bloomberg View, History News Network, Military History Quarterly, and American Heritage.
I am president of the Washington Independent Review of Books, which posts new reviews and book-related content daily. Please check it out — www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com.
SHORT FORM BIO, FOR SPEAKER INTRODUCTIONS:
After practicing law for many years, David O. Stewart began to write history. His first book, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, was a Washington Post bestseller and won the Washington Writing Award as Best Book of 2007. Two years later, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, was called “by all means the best account of this troubled episode” by Professor David Donald of Harvard. The Society of the Cincinnati awarded its 2013 History Prize for American Emperor, Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, an examination of Burr’s Western expedition, which shook the nation’s early foundations. The Lincoln Deception, an historical mystery about the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, issued in late August 2013. Bloomberg View called it the best historical novel of the year, while Publishers Weekly said it was an “impressive debut novel.” The Washington Post applauded the sequel, The Wilson Deception, set at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, as ““Another terrific Fraser and Cook mystery [with] a tight, clever finish, worthy of a vintage spy caper or 007’s own playbook.” Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, was released in February, 2015. The Washington Post called it a portrait “rich in empathy and understanding” by “an acknowledged master of narrative history.” In November, David received the William H. Prescott Award for excellence in historical writing from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America and the History Prize of the Society of the Cincinnati. He also is president of the Washington Independent Review of Books, an online book review.
Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, New York City
News from Maryland’s finest public official, Nancy Floreen (also my wife), can be found at http://nancyfloreen.blogspot.com. And updates about the real writing talent in the family can be found at my son’s website, www.matt-stewart.com. Matt Stewart’s novel, The French Revolution, was long-listed for the 2011 Indies Choice awards and was listed as a Best Book of 2010 by the San Francisco Chronicle.