Lincoln is one of the most studied figures in American history. How did you discover this conspiracy?
I first heard about the story while researching Lincoln’s actual assassination for the our TV show Decoded, but it wasn’t until we dove into the research that I realized how amazing the story was—about a secret society that plotted to kill Abraham Lincoln right after he was elected (and of course failed). It’s a story few people know—and features the Pinkerton detectives and America’s first female private eye, who helps save the day. Most important, it’s all about the country being divided just before the Civil War—and what good leaders do in that situation—perfectly on point for where our country is today.
What from the book will resonate strongly with audiences today?
This assassination plot takes place at a time where the United States is completely divided on the eve of the Civil War. Each half of the country hates the other. Sound familiar? In The Lincoln Conspiracy, you’ll see that great leaders don’t divide us – they unite us.
How did you do your research?
Our secret weapon is Josh Mensch [Meltzer’s executive producer on Lost History]. Josh is one of the best researchers I’ve ever met, especially when it comes to finding the good stuff—be it the handball game Lincoln was playing before he heard that he’d been elected; or his last-ever visit with his stepmother, who thought at the time that she’d never see Lincoln again (she was right). Josh and I always look for those moments of humanity and Lincoln was a rich subject.
What surprised you the most during the course of researching this story?
When Lincoln gets told that someone’s trying to kill him, it’s clear that he needs to change his schedule. But instead, Lincoln says that he won’t change anything until after he goes to Philadelphia. What’s in Philly? Lincoln is going to Independence Hall to commemorate the birthday of George Washington. At that moment, Lincoln’s life is at risk but he refuses to let that stand in the way of honoring his hero.
What was an important (or unexpected) break in foiling the plot?
The unlikely break in the case comes from the famous Allan Pinkerton, America’s first true private eye. (The term “private eye” literally comes from his logo, which had a giant eye in it.) Pinkerton and his detectives swoop in and tell Abraham Lincoln the truth: a secret society is trying to murder him. Then they do the best thing of all: they fight back.
Who is a little-known character in the book you hope readers enjoy discovering or learning more about?
Kate Warne is my hero. She’s America’s first female private detective – and she’s afraid of nothing. I won’t ruin it, but just wait until you read the scene with her meeting Abraham Lincoln. History has never been as thrilling.
What lasting impression did Abraham Lincoln give you personally?
Let me just say it. In my humble opinion, he’s our best President. In fact, the reason I wanted to write this book is because it’s about more than just a failed plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. This story is about Lincoln’s bravery, his resilience, and, most importantly, his character. You’ll see when you read it: Lincoln is fearless—even when they tell him his life is at risk. And the best part is, it all really happened.