Why did you wait 20 years before writing your first in-depth work of nonfiction?
I never had a story that was good enough. Sure, I’d used the Lincoln assassination in one of the books, or the secret code Thomas Jefferson used to use when he was President in another. All my thrillers play with arcane and amazing details from history. But a secret plot to kill George Washington? That was something that wasn’t a tiny detail. That was something that needed its own full book.
How did you first hear about this conspiracy?
I found it nearly a decade ago while researching one of my thrillers. In fact, I actually used it back in 2015 in my book The President’s Shadow – it was a quick mention in there, a throwaway detail that talks about the plot against George Washington. But I just couldn’t shake it. I kept going back to the detail and asking, “What else happened? Why doesn’t anyone know this story?” I just wanted to know more.
This is arguably our most famous president and one of the most important eras in American history. What was it like to dig into a piece of history that's so shrouded in mystery?
It was a real life treasure hunt, which is why I decided to work with Josh Mensch, our executive producer from Lost History. From the start, we knew we’d be digging at something that was purposefully kept secret. I remember historian Joseph Ellis telling me: I don’t know if you’ll find anything, but it’ll be a wild search. And every time we found a new detail, it was like we’d unearthed a new detail from George Washington’s life. I don’t think people are prepared for how amazing Washington truly was when someone took a real shot at him.
How much will be new and surprising to armchair historians?
In 1776, an elite group of soldiers were handpicked to serve as George Washington’s bodyguards. He trusted them; relied on them. Unbeknownst to Washington, some of his inner circle had switched sides and were hatching a deadly plot against him, putting his bodyguards to the ultimate test. When the plot was found out, Washington rounded up those responsible, gathered 20,000 troops and bystanders in an open field, and hung one of the main co-conspirators in front of everyone. George Washington brought down the hammer – and yet, few of us have ever seen or heard the story.
What are some of the themes in the book that you think will still very much resonate with audiences today?
This is the story of the secret plot and how it was revealed. It’s a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. And it tells a remarkable and previously untold piece of American history that not only reveals George Washington’s character, but also illuminates the origins of America’s counterintelligence movement that led to the modern day CIA. I’m telling you, you’ve never seen history like this.