I’ve been a Civil War and Lincoln buff 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 titled The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, written in 1895. When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher asked us to bring in a book from home, for a show & tell. My mother suggested I bring this Lincoln book, which even in 1966 was in rough 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:
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 tape fragments adhere to the book’s spine and pages to this day. My teacher, Miss Cohen, was duly impressed. I treasure that book, 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.
In 2017 I wrote A NECESSARY END, a romance thriller about Booth’s plot to kill President Lincoln, with a touch of the paranormal. My new historical novel, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, features John Surratt, a loyal Southerner embroiled in Booth’s plot. As Booth and his other cohorts meet in the Washington D.C. boarding house of Mary, John’s mother, John begins to struggle with a dilemma that soon tears him apart emotionally: should he avenge the South as a hero, or back out as a coward to avoid an unforgiveable sin?
Mary Surratt was hanged as one of the conspirators, although no one will ever know the degree of her involvement. It was in her house where Booth and his crew met to hatch their plot. Her son John is a footnote to history, but he also was one of Booth’s most trusted followers.
John may have joined Booth out of need for approval and recognition as a war hero, which he never got from his alcoholic father. As Booth’s cohort, he took dangerous risks for his beloved South. But as Booth’s plan to abduct Lincoln changed to assassination, a mystery arises—was John Surratt there in Washington to assist Booth in the murder, or was he in New York? No one knows for sure, as witnesses claim to have seen him in both places. We do know that he agreed to carry out Booth’s order to shoot General Grant, but backed out at the last minute. We will never know why, but this story explores the possibilities—did he have an attack of conscience, of cowardice, or did he just promise to obey Booth, without any intention to carry out the deed?
We witness the inner workings of John Surratt’s mind—and his heart—tormenting him, tearing him apart. His dilemma—whether to carry out this deed for his love of the South, or back out and be branded a coward, but live free from sin—consumed his thoughts, prayers and dreams throughout this part of his life.
He never achieved his wish of being a famous war hero. He’s a rather obscure historical figure. But this isn’t about the failed efforts of a would-be hero; it’s the story of an emotionally torn young man devoted to his beloved country. On one level, avenging the South was a noble deed. But deep down, his fear of God’s wrath prevailed.
We see how a backwoods Maryland boy comes of age during the Civil War, starting out as a courier, and becomes embroiled in one of the most notorious plots in American history. Students and adults will learn the more intricate details of the Booth plots, from the point of view of one of his most faithful followers.
I write about folks through history who shook things up. My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my books: Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. My urban fantasy romance FAKIN’ IT won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, do yoga, devour books, and live the dream on Cape Cod.
Visit me at www.dianarubino.com, www.DianaRubinoAuthor.blogspot.com,
https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor or on Twitter @DianaLRubino.