Stephen L. Carter’s thrilling new novel takes as its starting point an alternate history: President Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Two years later he is charged with overstepping his constitutional authority, both during and after the Civil War, and faces an impeachment trial . . .
Twenty-one-year-old Abigail Canner is a young black woman with a degree from Oberlin, a letter of employment from the law firm that has undertaken Lincoln’s defense, and the iron-strong conviction, learned from her late mother, that “whatever limitations society might place on ordinary negroes, they would never apply to her.” And so Abigail embarks on a life that defies the norms of every stratum of Washington society: working side by side with a white clerk, meeting the great and powerful of the nation, including the president himself. But when Lincoln’s lead counsel is found brutally murdered on the eve of the trial, Abigail is plunged into a treacherous web of intrigue and conspiracy reaching the highest levels of the divided government.
Here is a vividly imagined work of historical fiction that captures the emotional tenor of post–Civil War America, a brilliantly realized courtroom drama that explores the always contentious question of the nature of presidential authority, and a galvanizing story of political suspense.
About Stephen L. Carter
Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University, where he has taught since 1982. He is the author of eight books of nonfiction, writes a column for Bloomberg View, and is a frequent contributor toThe Daily Beast and Newsweek. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is his fifth novel.
Yes, the counterfactuals sometimes threaten to suffocate the real matters here; as Carter, who cheerfully admits to much invention, writes, “None of this was true, but all of it was in the newspapers.” The overriding counterfactuality here concerns a historical chestnut: Honest Abe warred on the Constitution when he suspended habeas corpus and effectively put the Union under a state of martial law. The act earned him the label of tyrant in his time—and in Carter’s pages, with pro-Confederate sympathizers and staunch Unionists alike rising up in protest. As Carter’s tale opens, Lincoln has indeed been assassinated—almost. Shot on Good Friday, he rises from the near-dead on Easter Sunday, Christlike. “Across the country, people cheered,” writes Carter, with much portent. “Those who felt otherwise kept their disappointment to themselves, content to bide their time.” Those numerous disappointed types include more than a few traitors and insurrectionists, some deep within the bowels of a government still riven by the late unpleasantness of the Civil War. But who are the bad guys, and who mere celebrants of the First Amendment? Since Lincoln is alive and well in Carter’s telling, it would be uncivil to ponder the implausibility of his choice of heroine, a young, fearless and brilliant African-American named Abigail Canner, who, fresh from Oberlin, is determined to expose the real engine driving the plot to turn the Great Emancipator out of office—and it’s not all the doing of the juicily bad character called the Lion of Louisiana, either. Fans of secret codes will enjoy watching the mind of Abigail’s legal-eagle sidekick at work, and Abigail herself makes for a grandly entertaining sleuth. – Kirkus Reviews
Stephen Carter’s ‘Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln’: Mystery and alternate history
The Washington Post Book Review – July 3, 2012 (Excerpt)
The battleground of alternate history about the Civil War is so crowded there’s barely room to wield a cavalry sword, let alone a pen. Long before Mr. Lincoln started hunting vampires, we had Harry Turtledove and his army of astute novels; Ward Moore, Harry Harrison and Peter Tsouras have all fought on this field, along with Winston Churchill’s essay “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg” and even James Thurber’s story “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox.”
But rather than shifting the outcome of some crucial battle, try nudging a single bullet. Just an inch. That’s what Stephen L. Carter does in his thoughtful new thriller: Abraham Lincolndidn’t die in the hours after John Wilkes Booth shot him. Oh, the president came close to the grave, to be sure, but then his indomitable will asserted itself. “The damage to his brain appeared less severe than first thought. . . . On Easter Sunday, he rose.”
So begins “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln,” Carter’s fifth novel. The Yale law professor has enlisted real figures before in his best-selling tales of intrigue, but this is his deepest foray into the slippery world of alternate history. With an encyclopedic command of period detail and the courage to alter it whenever he wants, Carter has created an entertaining story rooted in the legal, political and racial conflicts of 19th-century America. [Read the full article...]
Review: ‘The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln’
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – July 15, 2012 (Excerpt)
What if Abraham Lincoln had lived? What would have happened?
Stephen L. Carter’s new novel suggests one answer.
“The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln” recasts tragedy as thriller with the living Lincoln on trial for his political life. A bestselling author (“The Emperor of Ocean Park,” “Jericho’s Fall”), Carter hews to the historical record more than the reader might expect. John Wilkes Booth’s motives and actions and those of his conspirators remain the same. The surgical strike against the Union’s top leadership is intended to serve the Confederate cause. Only the results are changed. Secretary of State William H. Seward is attacked but clings to life (true). Vice President Andrew Johnson is targeted (true) and murdered (not true). And Lincoln hangs on.
“He had been shot on Good Friday,” Carter writes, accurately; “On Easter Sunday, he had risen,” half-accurately.
In the end, surviving turns out to be less of a miracle than a bad career move. Radicals in Lincoln’s own party, led by Thaddeus Stevens, see the president’s failure to punish the South or protect its freed slaves as akin to treason.
“[They] never thought I was the man to fight the war, and now they do not think I am the man to make the peace,” Carter’s Lincoln laments. [Read the full article...]
QUEEN OF MISFORTUNE
A Lady Jane Grey Novel by Peter Carroll
A Love Story of Shakespearean Dimension!
Queen Of Misfortune is the fictional story of Lady Jane Grey as told by her beloved tutor, John Aylmer. At the time of her execution a stranger is recorded to have assisted her when, blind folded, she lost her way upon the scaffold. Was it the same strange who was also recorded to have visited her when she was imprisoned in the Tower? Little is known of this unfortunate girl who was beheaded for treason in the 16th Century. She was only 16. She is omitted from the list of monarchs but was actually queen for nine days. Author Peter Carroll, in his novel, follows John Aylmer’s close relationship with Jane as her tutor and later, as she grows up, her lover. [More...]
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