A gripping historical novel in the bestselling tradition of The Alienist and Time and Again, Booth brings vividly to life a figure who continues to haunt the American imagination--John Wilkes Booth. The story begins as an elderly John Surratt, the only conspirator to escape a hanging sentence for the murder of Abraham Lincoln, is asked by film director D.W. Griffith to recount the harrowing events of his youth during the screenings of Griffith's film Birth of a Nation. The request prompts Surratt to reread his detailed diaries, begun in 1864 when he was first befriended by John Wilkes Booth and was unwittingly enmeshed in Booth's plot to assassinate the President.
Told through a series of flashbacks, the novel both chronicles the young, naive Surratt's tragic coming of age as he belatedly realizes the nature of the plot Booth has sucked him into, and illuminates the motivations, larger-than-life appetites, and appeal of the charismatic and world-famous stage actor. As Surratt delves further into the diaries and transcripts, it is clear the young Surratt has become trapped in Booth's web of seduction and betrayal. Further insight into the assassination plot is revealed in a surprising twist when the genuine diary that Booth left behind, explaining his actions and implicating others around him, falls into Surratt's hands (a Booth diary, with several missing pages, does exist and is on public display at the Ford Theater in Washington).
Compulsively readable, and filled with brilliant period detail--as well as a dozen reproductions of actual photographs of the conspirators and their execution, Booth is a powerful evocation of a dangerous, chaotic, and tragic time in our history, a story that continues to resonate to this day.
About David M. Robertson
David Robertson is the author of two prior biographies, of the slave rebel, Denmark Vesey, and of former U.S. Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, and is the author of a historical novel about John Wilkes Booth. His poetry has appeared in the Sewanee Review and other journals, and he had provided political and literary commentary to ABC News and the Washington Post. He currently is researching the memories of the battle of the Alamo in 1836 and also the lives of Native Americans on the southern frontier in the early nineteenth century. He was educated in Alabama, and lives in Ohio.
"Washington D.C. during the final weeks of the Civil War is perfectly realized...Robertson has authentically assumed not only the voice but also the persona of a real person; it would have been easy for him to vilify Surratt, but instead, in his wisdom, he has imbued Surratt with a compelling ambiguity of character."--Booklist
"Brings to mind two other fiction debuts, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Caleb Carr's The Alienist...but it offers its own potent inducements, notably an immensely compelling subject--the plot to assassinate Lincoln--and a charismatic antihero, John Wilkes Booth...brilliantly capitalizes on the inexorability of historical fact; few readers will put it down as it surges toward the horror of April 14, 1865."--Publishers Weekly
"Riveting in its depiction of time and place...[Robertson's]portrait of wartime Washington in the last days of the Civil War is filled with vivid particulars, and his rendering of the hustling spirit of the town, with almost everyone angling for money or power, seems just right."--Kirkus Reviews
From the Hardcover edition.