Author Diana Rubino has a passion for history. She writes biographical novels with no fictional characters. Her latest work is Give Us Liberty, the story of Martha Washington as told by her favorite servant, her slave Oney Judge. Today Diana talks about her passion for Abraham Lincoln. Read more about her and her books at her website and blog. – AP
A Necessary End
Abraham Lincoln has fascinated me since I was eight years old. I don’t know what got me started, but it might’ve been a book which I still have, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, written in 1895. When I was in 3rd grade, in the mid-60’s (which shows how long I’ve been a Lincoln nut), my teacher asked us to bring a book to school from home for Show & Tell. My mother suggested I bring this Lincoln book, which even in 1966 was in bad shape—yellowed, stiffened strips of Scotch tape barely held the covers to the spine.
With the wisdom of an 8-year-old that sadly, all of us outgrow, I demurred, saying, “This old book? She’ll think we’re poor!” My mother corrected me: “No, she’ll think we’re rich. Books like this are rare.” Then she proceeded to tape it up some more. Those 47-year-old Scotch tape fragments adhere to the book’s spine and pages to this day. The teacher, Miss Cohen, was duly impressed.
I still treasure that book to this day, and it’s one of many on my “Lincoln shelf” which holds books about our murdered president, his wife Mary, his assassin John Wilkes Booth and his family, the “Mad Booths of Maryland” and the conspirators who faced the gallows or years of hard labor because Booth, their charismatic leader, sucked these poor impressionable souls into his insane plot.
After writing eight historicals set in England and New York City, I decided to indulge my passion for Lincoln-lore. I began researching in depth about Lincoln’s life, his presidency, his role in the Civil War, and Booth’s plans to first kidnap him, then to assassinate him.
A Necessary End combined two genres I’m passionate about—history and paranormal. I joined The Surratt Society, based in Maryland, and attended their conferences and tours. Through the Surratt Society, I met several Lincoln/Booth/Civil War experts. One lady I’ll never forget meeting is Marjorie “Peg” Page, who by all accounts except definitive DNA testing, is John Wilkes Booth’s great granddaughter.
My trips to Lincoln's home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois, Gettysburg, Ford’s Theater, and the house he died in, Petersen House, brought me close to Mr. Lincoln’s spirit. My travels also acquainted me with Booth’s brother Edwin, the most famous actor of his time, and his unconventional family. A recording of Edwin’s voice reciting Shakespeare on one of Edison’s wax cylinders still exists.
My paranormal experience includes investigations at several haunted homes, restaurants and graveyards. I investigate with a group from Merrimack, NH, led by CC Carole. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve received responses to my questions with my dowsing rods. Wishing I had my recorder with me, I made a ghost laugh at the Jumel Mansion in Harlem, New York City, (see the story and photos on my blog)
Tragically, we’ll never hear Abraham Lincoln’s voice. But his spirit lives on. In my book, which is fiction—but we all know that novels are fictionalized truths—I gave Booth what was coming to him. He got his justice in real life, but in A Necessary End, he also got the paranormal twist he deserves.
And I enjoyed sticking it to him!
I paralleled the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar in this story because in the play, Caesar was known as a tyrant to the Senators, who feared losing their power, as Booth feared losing the Confederacy. Booth always considered Lincoln the tyrant, hence his proclamation, “sic simper tyrannis” (be it ever to tyrants) when he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln.
Caesar’s Senators, Brutus and Cassius among them, conspired to stab Caesar to death on an appointed day. Booth recruited a group of like-minded disciples to aid him in his insane plot, at first to kidnap Lincoln, then to kill him.
By day, Booth was a Confederate spy and courier, taking dangerous missions so that his beloved South could fight the North in the war that tore the nation in two. But in this story, an even darker secret plagues him—he believes he’s the reincarnation of Brutus, the man who slew the tyrant Caesar, and Booth’s destiny in this life is to murder the tyrant who’s ravaged the South—Abraham Lincoln. In obeying the spirit of Brutus, Booth devises a plot to assassinate the tyrant.
I wrote the book as a paranormal instead of a straight historical novel because spirituality was extremely popular in 1865 and all throughout Victorian times. Mary Lincoln was a staunch spiritualist. So stricken with grief after the deaths of her boys Willie and Eddie, she hired mediums such as Nettie Maynard to visit the White House and hold séances in attempts to contact her sons from beyond the grave.
The extent of séances, table-tapping, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and otherworldly activities in this era fit perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. We could never enter Booth’s head, but his insane behavior begs the question: was he truly haunted by a spirit who drove him to his heinous act that changed history forever?
When actor John Wilkes Booth, under the guise of seeking spiritual advice, visits the President's medium to gather information about Lincoln's habits in order to kidnap him, a malevolent spirit begins to haunt and torment him, driving him to the brink of insanity. A mysterious coin also appears out of nowhere, and returns every time Booth tries to discard it. Each return of the bloodthirsty Roman coin brings increasingly terrifying events and eerie hauntings. In the midst of these strange visitations, Booth falls in love with Alice Grey, a beautiful actress who's hired by the government to spy on him. She’s torn between her love for Booth and her duty to protect the President from assassination.