Coming June 22, 2012
Coming June 22, 2012
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a trailer for a book before, but this one is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of the Diet Mountain Dew commercial with a shirtless Abe. The book comes out today. I previewed it here, and reviewed it here. I’m thinking a film is likely.
The way I heard the story, in response to complaints of baseball purists that actor Ray Liotta’s portrayal of baseball legend “Shoeless” Joe Jackson batting right and throwing left was in contrast to the fact that he batted left and threw right, Field of Dreams director Ron Shelton quipped, “Did they notice he is currently dead? I guess that’s another mistake we made.” Or words to that effect.
I had to remind myself of that story frequently while reading Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. This book requires the suspension of a whole lot of disbelief. After the vampire-induced death of his mother, Abe devotes himself to the eradication of the creatures from the country. Abe’s father’s inability to repay a debt to his vampire loan shark (the senior Lincoln’s many faults were frequently referred to, as were the positive traits he passed on to his son) is what led to Nancy Hanks’ murder. It turns out that vampires were the movers and shakers, the money-lenders, the men behind the men in 19th century America, though they stretched back all the way to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke settlement. They also played a role in the institution of slavery, striking deals with human slaveholders for prey.
Abe was a self-taught vampire hunter at first, but early on was trained by a friendly bloodsucker. He hunted with crossbow and knives, but his weapon of choice was his trusty axe. Over the years, he enlisted the help of first Jack Armstrong of Clary’s Grove, then friend Joshua Speed, and later Ward Hill Lamon. But none of them could help Abe during what would be his last confrontation with the undead in Ford’s Theater in April, 1865. Or was it his last?
Throughout, Grahame-Smith weaves Abe’s nocturnal hunts in with the “known” history. As you’d expect, much of that “known” history has some unknown facets: was Ann Rutledge the victim of a vampire? Take a wild guess. But here’s where the book disappointed me. Not just the fact that there were inaccuracies, but that the miscues would have been easy enough to correct without affecting the story one iota. For the record, I reviewed an advance reading copy (aka bound galley aka uncorrected proof). The following may be corrected in the book when it is released next week:
There are other hiccups – these just happened to stick with me. But guess what? Vampire’s aren’t real (at least, I think they aren’t). Unless you’re a fourteen-year-old girl, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to you. If you can overlook that minor detail, I think these little mistakes shouldn’t concern you much.
Lots of chatter on the web about the Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter film now in production. I reviewed the Seth Grahame-Smith novel before it was released a while back. In fact, I wrote a few articles on the topic. But just for kicks, go here for all my Vampiric posts – they’ll run backwards from this one.
Sorry to be so late with this. Inside this issue:
Everybody’s mad at Harold Holzer because as we all know Slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War and if it hadn’t ever existed in the first place there still would have been a war because of, ummm, er, ah, TARIFFS – yeah, that’s the ticket!
Well, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hit the shelves day before yesterday. By most accounts it’s a big hit, and may even be made into a movie (unlike some folks, I don’t see Johnny Depp as Abe – maybe John Wilkes Booth). Anyway, seeing the book in Barnes and Noble today reminded me that there’s an, umm, interesting account of the fighting at Bull Run, and what turned the tide for the Confederacy. An enlisted man in a Massachusetts regiment wrote home to his wife after the battle, in a letter residing in the Harvard University Archives (where it “has long been mistaken for a work of epistolary fiction”):
We had [the Confederates] whipped at the start. Blessed with greater numbers, we drove south up Henry House Hill, and into a group of trees at its peak. What a sight to see them scatter like mice! To see our ranks spread half a mile wide! Th hear the cracking of gunpowder from all directions!
“Let us chase them all the way to Georgia!” cried Colonel Hunter, to the delight of the men.
As we neared the top of the hill, the rebels covered their retreat by firing on us. The gun smoke grew so thick that one could scarcely see ten yards into the trees where they hid. From behind this curtain of smoke suddenly came a chorus of wild yells. The voices of twenty or thirty men, growing louder by the moment. “First Ranks! Fix bayonets!” ordered the colonel. As they did, a small band of Confederates emerged from the smoke, running toward us as fast as any men have ever run. Even from a distance, I could see their strange, wild eyes. There was not a rifle, or a pistol, or a sword among them.
Our first ranks began to fire, yet their rifles seemed to have no effect. Melissa, I swear until my grave that I saw bullets strike these men in their chests. In their limbs and faces. Yet they continued to charge as if they had not been hit at all! The rebels smashed into our ranks and tore men apart all in front of my eyes. I do not mean to suggest that they ran them through with bayonets, or fired on them with revolvers. I mean to say that these rebels–these thirty unarmed men–tore one hundred men to pieces with nothing more than their bare hands. I saw arms pulled off. Heads twisted backward. I saw blood pour from the throats and bellies of men gutted by mere fingertips; a boy grasping at the holes where his eyes had been a moment before. A private three yards in front of me had his rifle plucked away. I was close enough to feel his blood on my face as its stock was used to smash his skull in. Close enough to taste his death on my tongue.
Our lines broke. I am not ashamed to say that I dropped my rifle and ran with the others, Melissa. The rebels gave chase, overtaking and savaging men on either side of me as we retreated. Their screams following me down the hill.
Well, there you have it. As if we needed any more proof of the evil that was the so-called Confederacy. Just for fun,though, care to take a stab at the factual accuracy of the account, with the exception of bloodsucking assistance?
Today’s mail brought a package I’ve been eagerly anticipating. About a week ago, Miriam Parker of the Hachette Book Group sent me a note asking if I’d like to review their upcoming (March 2, 2010) release by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (I think the titles are self-explanatory, but if you don’t get it these books are based on the classic works and written in Jane Austen’s style, with macabre twists.) Ms. Parker tried to sell me on the book by telling me that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is supporting the book with author events (see their press release), but I couldn’t say “YES!” to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter fast enough. The collection of essays on Thomas Jefferson’s founding of West Point that I’m currently reading is so dry it would make Gordon Ramsay use the F word, so this is a welcome break. From the inside front cover of my uncorrected proof:
When Abraham Lincoln was nine years old, his mother died from an ailment called the “milk sickness.” Only later did he learn that his mother’s affliction was actually caused by a local vampire, seeking to collect on Abe’s father’s unfortunate debts.
When the truth became known to the young Abraham Lincoln, he wrote in his journal, “Henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become learned in all things—a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose.”
That purpose? Elimination of all vampires.
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for reuniting the North and the South and abolishing slavery in our country, no one has ever understood his valiant fight for what it really was. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than one hundred and forty years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true story of our greatest president for the first time—while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.
Were Jack Armstrong and the Clary’s Grove Boys actually a coven of blood suckers? Was the pathological sluggishness of George McClellan attributable to the fact that he only came out at night? Did Jefferson Davis sleep in a casket (OK, that one’s obvious – just look at the guy!)? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Inside this issue of America’s Civil War:
I was watching an older episode of HBO’s True Blood series in which Bill Compton, aka Vampire Bill, was addressing a historical society. He mentioned that he served during the Civil War (remember, he’s a vampire) in the 28th Louisiana Infantry, formed in 1862 under a Colonel Gray. Later in the episode, he recalled making his way back home to Bon Temps, when he stopped by a cabin in the woods. The female occupant informed Bill, before turning him into a vampire of course, that her husband was a member of the 13th Louisiana and had fought at Shiloh under Colonel Gibson. What’s so cool about this? Well, other than Bill being a vampire and all, it’s historically accurate. The 28th was raised in 1862 under Colonel Gray (keep in mind there were two 28th LA regiments), and the 13th did fight at Shiloh under Colonel Gibson (who I think was actually in command of his brigade there). Nice going, guys! Now, about the yellow trim on Bill’s uniform jacket…