A Place in the Present Where History Meets Fiction

Abe’s Advice for Campaigners and Future Presidents

October 21, 2012

Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals, debates, Emancipation Proclamation, Executive Order, Senator Charles Sumner, The Lincoln Letter

The first two debates are over. Tonight, Barack and Mitt throw down again. The campaign is in its third act. And what would Lincoln be thinking about it now? What advice would he give? Here are ten suggestions Lincoln might make.


Keep Your Counsel. Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. Romney should remember this, even when he’s speaking before small audiences of like-minded people. It’s unlikely that Lincoln would ever say anything so damning about the American electorate as Romney did about the 47%. And there were no secret recording devices back then, no electronic gotcha opportunities. Still, Lincoln was careful to say nothing until he was ready to say it. For example, he would never allow anyone else to expound for him on Emancipation until he issued the Proclamation. And he was careful not to say it until the public was ready to hear it. When Senator Sumner urged him to free the slaves of the Fourth of July, 1862, he simply said, “Wait, wait, Senator. Emancipation is a thunderbolt that will keep.” (more…)

A Blog's Title

October 14, 2012

Tags: Back Bay, Boston, Peter Fallon, Evangeline, The Lincoln Letter, Abraham Lincoln, Washington, Washington DC, historical fiction, mystery, Civil War

Thirty-two years ago, I published my first novel. It was called Back Bay. It "starred" a young graduate student in history named Peter Fallon, who meets a girl named Evangeline Carrington and together, they go hunting for a Paul Revere tea set buried beneath the streets of Boston. So... a literal buried treasure yarn, with plenty of buried family secrets, too. But I knew that to sell my novel to the publishers and excite the readers who had never heard of me, it would have to be something more.
So I decided to add another dimension. I would follow the passage of the treasure through time. I would bring its history to life.In parallel chapters, the story of Peter and Evangeline would alternate with historical chapters, so that we would see the way in which past and present affected one another.
It must have worked, because Back Bay became an instant bestseller and people are still reading it. They are stll reading the Peter and Evangeline adventures, too, including the latest, The Lincoln Letter, about the search for Lincoln's diary. In the novel, Washington DC comes to life as both the shiny, sleek city of today and the muddy, intrigue-filled Civil War capital. Two stories reverberate , and we are reminded, yet again, that in American politics and history, in human nature itself, the more things change, the more they stay the same. (more…)