When I first moved to California, I lived in Santa Barbara–a town I had never heard of before relocating to it. It is a nice place, great weather, terrific scenery, and Hollywood stars walking on the streets like all of us nobodies, but after 5 years I decided it was not my kind of town so I moved south to the beautiful little town of Ventura and that is where I have been ever since. I love it so much here, that I will never leave it really. I have it set up so when I die I will be cremated and my ashes will be spread just off the coast so they can slowly wash ashore (thank you Neptune Society).
One thing that I really did like about Santa Barbara was their library. It is a beautiful facility with a large collection of books. Well one day I was there just browsing for nothing in particular when a title caught my eye. It was A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Conspiracy of 1865 written by a man name Louis J. Weichmann. I had never heard of this author and I always thought I knew everything about Lincoln’s assassination so I would have normally passed on this book but the intriguing title enticed be to pick it up and at least read the dust cover. After I did that, I checked the book out, took it home, and read it is just a few days. It is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it to anyone, history buff or not.
I, for one, didn’t know all the intricacies of the plot against Lincoln which included the kidnapping of the President in order to hold him for ransom. When that plot went astray, sadly, John Wilkes Booth took matters into his own hands. I also did not know that there was a mystery woman who often visited Booth in the home of Mary E. Surratt, the mother of conspirator John H. Surratt. This mystery woman has never been identified. There is a lot in the book that I did not know but that is because the revelations in it were divulged by Weichmann–a man who lived in the same house with the conspirators but was not party to it. Louis J. Weichmann was a clerk in the War Department at the outbreak of the Civil War.
Anyway, the mystery of the woman who Weichmann spoke haunted me for years even after I moved so one day I applied the magic “What if…” question to this lady and came up with a wild plot for a story. I call it Saving Abraham and it is available in Angel and the Bear.
The story is a science fiction tale that revolves around a plan to stop the conspiracy and assassination; the idea is dreamed up by a scientist living in Atlanta in the year 2145. The scientist known only as Johnson, and his partner Locke, have invented a machine called the Timatron which can not only let you travel in time, it can also transport you to specific places as well. For his own reasons, Johnson wants to save Abraham Lincoln from Booth’s bullet but he and Locke disagree on what this would do to time. They have a spirited debate on that subject with Johnson finally hooking in Locke’s greed to get him to come around to his way of thinking and help him on his mission. Well, things go terribly awry–in a most personal way–but you will have to read the story and it’s double climax ending to see how badly Johnson miscalculated the power of time.
Along the way to this conclusion, though, you will read a historically accurate tale that I wrote with the aide of Weichmann’s book. The boarding house of Mary E. Surratt, where Johnson takes up residence is where it really was located in 1865, the livery he used, the events of the time, the visitors to the house, etc. are all real people and places described by a man who lived in that time period and with these people. The only part of the story that is truly fictional is the actions of Johnson and Locke.
However, to make these dueling scientist seem more real, I based them on two other men famous for their dueling diatribes. They were based on the movie critics, Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert, both of whom now have sadly passed on. I admired them greatly and was such an avid fan, I could easily see them fitting into the roles I created for them. At one point, Locke even gives Johnson a “thumbs up”.
This story not only shows how I used real people of the past, but real people of my time (Siskel & Ebert were both still with us when I wrote this).
Here are two links to the real people involved:
Louis J. Weichmann http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_J._Weichmann
Siskel & Ebert http://siskelandebert.org/