Curiosity Got the Better of Me…

When I saw the book at Barnes and Noble, I thought the idea was totally bananas.  Displayed prominently was the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  When I was younger, I was famous for being a very long-playing record on the subject of our 16th President, particularly the conspiracy to abduct–and eventually assassinate–him.

Yet, I finally yielded to temptation and reserved a copy of the book, a novel–repeat, a novel–written by Seth Grahame-Smith, and dedicated to the proposition that Abraham Lincoln devoted his entire life to avenging the death of his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died in 1818, when he was nine.  (We are told that she did not die of milk sickness, caused by drinking the milk or eating the meat from cows who have grazed on poison snakeroot.  She was killed by a vampire.)  So he was a vampire hunter first, an attorney and politician secondarily.  (Why would a vampire hunter marry an emotional vampire such as Mary Todd is a question I wonder if the book will address.)

The reason I kept repeating that the book is fiction is because the character speaking in the first person in the Introduction has the same name as the author.  The story gets rolling when a mysterious stranger comes to the dollar store in upstate New York where Grahame-Smith works and entrusts him with a bundle that contain ten leather-bound notebooks, the heretofore unknown diaries of Abraham Lincoln.

(Lincoln never kept a journal, although a Union veteran named Milton R. Scott published a book in 1913 called The Supposed Diary of President Lincoln, which covered the years 1854 to 1865.)

The Lincoln bicentennial was last year, and so the market were flooded with books about him, his family, his Cabinet, his mental health, his sexuality, and his conduct of the Civil War.  Although my interest in Lincoln originated in studying the assassination, his mental health has become much more fascinating to me, mainly due to my own bouts with bipolar disorder and remembering my own mother’s insanity.

I should be grateful that this book may trigger some conscientious kid in high school to want to learn more about Lincoln and the Civil War, but at the same time I hope that same kid doesn’t count on this book to be historically accurate–especially since Grahame-Smith doesn’t seem to have written any kind of disclaimer in the book.  (Like I have said about Oliver Stone’s JFK: If I was a history teacher, and one of my students turned in a paper citing it as a reference, I’d have him/her rewrite it.)  I’ve found several historical inaccuracies in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter without even trying to find them, and I could see several naive readers being taken in by some of the Photoshopped pictures of Lincoln in the book.

Oddly enough, I have been to where Lincoln was born (Hodgenville, Kentucky) and where he died (Washington, D.C.), but I have yet to go to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois.  In the days when I could visit Washington a little more leisurely, Ford’s Theatre and the House Where Lincoln Died (across the street) were my must-see places.

A friend and I went to Lincoln City, Indiana to see the graves of Lincoln’s sister (who died in childbirth) and mother.  There was more of an air of authenticity there than at Hodgenville, where the log cabin “where Lincoln was born” was an obvious mock-up, constructed a century after the event.  When Lincoln’s family left there in 1811, the cabin probably was turned into firewood by other pioneers en route elsewhere in the Kentucky wilderness.

The book seems to be an easy read, and I’ll bite my lip whenever I come across historical inaccuracies or blatant errors.  The book would be a true shaggy-dog story if the diaries turn out to have come from Mark Hofmann, the murderer who is the Rembrandt of forgers (including “unknown” poems by Emily Dickinson and an entire cottage industry of fake Mormon currency, doctrinal writings, letters, diaries, and letters).