“Civil War Thrill Ride”

by John J. Miller on December 29, 2009

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

Shawn Macomber of the American Spectator interviews me about The First Assassin. Here’s an extract:

TAS: As with all the very best historical thrillers, the meticulous detail and context of The First Assassin serves the narrative, but also left me feeling as if my understanding of the Civil War-era was broadened in subtle-yet-substantial ways.

MILLER: My primary goal was to write a thriller that would entertain readers. But I also wanted to bring the era to life and make 1861 Washington and its environs seem as authentic as possible. So I did a lot of research. This involved regular trips to the Library of Congress, where I hunted down old books and read newspapers on microfilm. Here’s an example: I wanted a few scenes to take place in an edgy, crime-ridden part of Washington. So where was this in 1861? It turns out that it was roughly around the area that today is called Federal Triangle, a few blocks from the White House. This shaped the narrative because it forced me to get several characters to this specific place at a certain time. And since this is a story about a plot to assassinate Lincoln, I had to track the president almost as if I was one of the conspirators. To the best of my knowledge, I always have Lincoln in the spot where he really was on that day, including the climactic scene, which takes place out of doors and in a public place.

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