In anticipation of the upcoming film, I just finished reading “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” written by Seth Grahame-Smith and published 2010. There are countless books written about our famed 16th President, and that’s not too shocking since most historians will quickly site him as our #1 greatest leader. I do enjoy historical/political biographies, particularly those that deal with American Presidents. I’ve read several on Lincoln, though nowhere near the 16,000 that are said to exist on him. Regardless, I believe it is safe to assume that NONE of them are like this one!
After seeing the preview for the movie (one of the few bright spots in sitting through BATTLESHIP), I picked up a paperback copy at my local Walmart. I’d be about 200 pages in before finally putting it down as the beginning is fairly riveting – albeit somewhat reminiscent of “Interview with the Vampire.” A young aspiring writer (in this instance, the author himself) is visited by an old vampire who is interested in sharing a story. He hands Grahame some aged journals that turn out to have been written by Abraham Lincoln himself – and currently unavailable at The National Archives.
These journals reveal what the other 16,000 authors managed to miss; that Lincoln was not only a a great President, but one helluva vampire slayer! Grahame is instructed to read the diaries and write a novel based on them (eventually making its way to me at Walmart). The rest of the book is his narrative along with excerpts written by Honest Abe, himself. I must admit that I was taken in and, before reaching the half-way point, began emailing my friends that this was a winner. By the middle of the book, however, my enthusiasm began to wane.
Most all accounts suggest that Lincoln’s life was plagued by tragedy, insecurity, and depression. These issues are traced to the loss of his beloved mother when he was nine, a cold/hard-drinking father (who had witnessed his own dad slaughtered by Indians when he was a boy), and having to abruptly move from one state to another – all promising a physically hard life. Horrific as any of these situations may seem to our modern minds, none were particularly unusual in frontier life during the early 1800’s. According to this book, however, these things were far from natural and had much more sinister back-stories.
In his younger years, Lincoln discovers the existence of vampires and, having suffered their cruelty, vows to destroy them. This eventually puts him into contact with Henry, a vampire with more noble intentions than his compadres, and the same vamp who will visit the author many years later. Henry teaches him how to do battle with his own kind and, while the gangly Lincoln sure ain’t no “Buffy,” he manages to be pretty effective against the forces of darkness.
These parts of the book were entertaining and, though I don’t claim to be an historian, Lincoln’s narratives do seem pretty believable. Not surprisingly, however, when Lincoln’s political life takes off, his slaying slows down and the book seems to gravitate into an overview of what you could read in any other Lincoln biography with slight nods to vampires here and there. In my opinion, it interrupted the entire flow of the story and I almost wished that it would have ended after he married Mary Todd.
I was most appalled by the book’s “twist” ending, and while I would love to write exactly why it irked me in detail, I don’t want to spoil anything for those planning on reading this or seeing the film.
As a side note, I will say that the issue of slavery is dealt with and Grahame offers a more macabre explanation for America’s “original sin.”
It has always been man’s nature to create “monsters” in dealing with the darker aspects of humanity and the things in which we fear or do not understand. It would appear that our modern/politically correct minds can no longer fathom the idea that our relatively young country based on “Freedom” once indulged in such an obscene practice as chaining a man due to the color of his skin and forcing them into servitude. Perhaps this paradigm shift shows, in many ways, the lasting effect of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy…even if he actually wasn’t killing vampires.