The Lincoln Deception

the lincoln deception

Well, there it is!  The cover of my first novel, which will be released on August 27.   Sink into the crepuscular gaslight of Washington in 1900 as our mismatched heroes struggle to scrape away the myths, misunderstandings and lies surrounding the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, while dodging the powerful secret forces that need to keep the secrets . . . secret.

Exciting?  It sure is to me.  And it’s even available for pre-order at Amazon and Booksense (for independent bookstores)!  So far, some early comments have been very generous –

Pirates Ahoy!

I don’t think these pirates look much like Captain Jack Sparrow, though it might be more entertaining if they did.

Nah, it wouldn’t.

I was blown away by a recent notice from Simon & Schuster, publisher of my three books to date, reporting the number of pirated e-copies of my books that they have bullied off the Internet.

What’s your guess?

The older version of a pirate

If you guessed eleven, you win.

Ten times, someone has posted free access to the text of Impeached, and once someone has posted the same for American EmperorEach time, according to Simon & Schuster, the hateful, disgusting thieves were threatened into taking down the books.  Two websites posted one of my books on four separate occasions apiece.  That doesn’t sound inadvertent, does it?

Reading Madison’s Mail

A partial set of the published volumes of Madison's correspondence -- just the ones I bought secondhand.

A partial set of the published volumes of Madison’s correspondence — only the ones I bought secondhand.

Bulletins from the frontiers of research:

  • When it came to negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, American diplomats James Monroe and Robert Livingston sewed up the deal in a couple of weeks.  When it came to squabbling over credit, the two diplomats spent eighteen months writing backbiting letters to James Madison (Secretary of State) explaining in excrutiating detail how the other guy almost killed the deal and how the letter-writer singlehandedly saved the day.

Was King Richard III really all that bad?

King Richard III of England -- the face of a monster?

King Richard III of England — the face of a monster?

After 500 years, we now know where the bones of King Richard III of England are.  They have been found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, near the site of the Battle of Bosworth where he was slain.

The evil genius of Shakespeare’s history plays, Richard — hunchbacked, vicious, fiendish clever — was the literary ancestor of all those compelling villains who often upstage heroes:  think about Professor Moriarty, Darth Vader, even Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

A True Collector, Part 2

We last left our hero in the Dallas library of Harlan Crow, admiring the paintings of three World War II leaders (Eisenhower, Churchill, and Hitler).  Outside the library, however, lurked even greater wonders:  a collection of gigantic statues of some of the 20th centuries most monstrous dictators, including –

  • Lenin
  • Stalin
  • Mao Tse Tung
  • Chou En-Lai

Some lesser figures are included, as well, such as Bela Kun of Hungary, Nicolae and Madame Ceausescu of Romania, Karl Marx, and Felix Dzerzhinsky.  The Dzerzhinsky is a special plum, as it used to stand in the lobby of the KGB headquarters at Lubyanka Prison, the spiritual home of Vladimir Putin.

A True Collector, part 1

While in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Harlan Crow Library, which is in Mr. Crow’s home.  It was an amazing treat.  After making our way past a couple of Charles Willson Peale portraits, we proceeded into his World War II room (or so I call it).

On one wall, two rather pedestrian landscapes by Dwight Eisenhower, from the honorable paint-by-numbers school.

On a two facing walls were paintings by Winston Churchill, one of which was really quite good (a Mediterranean hill town, somewhat impressionistic).

James Madison, Climate Change Guru?

James Madison was a thoughtful fellow.  Very.  He and his pal Jefferson were amateur scientists, forever corresponding about their observations of natural phenomena or some new wacky theory coming out of those European know-it-alls.  Jefferson usually gets all the credit for being a renaissance man while Madison gets credit for being . . . short.

But Madison had some genuine ideas.  One that has been making the rounds of the blogosphere comes from his post-retirement speech to the agricultural society of Albemarle, Virginia in 1818.  In his (sadly) characteristically indirect, snarled-up and highly-qualified prose, he predicted the problem of climate change.

Nice Words From the Academy

History writers like me (that is, those without doctorates) sometimes develop a bit of a ‘tude about academics who occasionally sneer at our efforts.  An Ivy League type wrote of my first book (and I paraphrase), “I don’t know why they publish books like this.”

Because people like to read them!

In any event, a distinguished historian at the University of Virginia, Peter Onuf, has just published a very generous review of American Emperor in the Journal of American History, which helps shrink the chip on my shoulder.  A couple of excerpts:

The Shadow of Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal and friend

Anyone who writes about Aaron Burr — like me, for example, in American Emperor – has to wrestle with the shadow of Gore Vidal.  Vidal rendered Burr as a marvelous three-dimensional character in his rollicking historical novel with the admirably simple title, Burr. 

I read Vidal’s Burr when it came out in 1973 and ate it up.  It was funny, it was intriguing, and its history was really quite good.  When I set out on my own efforts to write about Aaron Burr, I decided not to re-read the Vidal book; I was afraid that Vidal’s imaginative depiction of Burr would hijack my own imagination, and I would be left to produce a pale imitation of Vidal’s.  If you’ve already read mine, go ahead and read his.  (But not before mine!)

Colonel Burr is going to the National Book Festival

I am very happy to report that I will be talking about Colonel Burr and his Western expedition at the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC.  I’m scheduled for Sunday afternoon, September 23, thought the exact time has not been set.

The festival is a great two-day event which was first organized by Laura Bush when she was First Lady — an unadulterated good that came from the Second Bush Ascendancy!  I’m not only tickled to be invited, but also humbled by the company I will (sort of) be keeping.  Other authors at the event will include T.C. Boyle, Robert Caro, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Friedman, Linda Greenhouse, Tony Horwitz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Thomas Mallon, and Philip Roth (my personal favorite novelist).