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Post Abraham Lincoln, True Crime Writer
Created by John Eipper on 09/03/19 4:00 AM

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Abraham Lincoln, True Crime Writer (Enrique Torner, USA, 09/03/19 4:00 am)

This semester I'm teaching a course on mystery and suspense fiction, and, among the texts included in the anthology I compiled, is one I was wondering if you are acquainted with, since there are so many historians among the WAIS family: "The Trailor Murder Mystery" (1846), by Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln based this short story on a true case that took place in 1841, the same year Edgar Allan Poe published "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the first detective story ever written. Abraham Lincoln had been the defending lawyer in the case of the Trailor brothers, who were accused of murder.

Lincoln admired Poe, and based his story on Poe's. As Poe's "The Mystery of Marie Roget," Lincoln's is also a true crime story. Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe had very close birth dates (Poe was born on January 19, 1809; Abraham Lincoln, on February 12, 1809), and they both suffered horrible deaths. Poe's cause of death is still a mystery, as shown by the following "History" article, originally published on October 26, 2015:


In case you haven't read it, here is Lincoln's story: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/abraham-lincoln-true-crime-writer-7794088/


JE comments:  I thought I was versed in Lincoln history, but I never knew of this delightful piece of writing.  Great discovery, Enrique!

In this narrative you can pick up Lincoln's distinct voice, marked by an absolute clarity of expression, despite the complexity of the syntax.  "While it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted, whether a stranger affair ever really occurred."  (Young Abe was also very fond of adverbs.)

I am also struck by the novelty of the true crime genre in 1841.  Lincoln may have been a backwoods lawyer, but he kept up with the trends.

Tell us more about the course, Enrique.  I'm confident your students are enjoying it immensely.

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