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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 14, 2012 5:45am-6:45am EDT

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live is steven carter, and he is
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the author among many other books of this one, his most recent, "the impeachment of abraham lincoln: a novel." professor carter, what are -- there are two premises in here that i want to get to that are historically inaccurate. number one, abraham lincoln survives the assassination attempt and abraham lincoln is impeached. where did you come up with this? >> guest: i'll start by making clear in spite of the title, i'm a lincoln fan. this is not an argument on behalf of lincoln's impeachment, not a brief, but just a novel. as a lincoln fan and interested in power and history, it's a question that suggested itself. what if lincoln had survived, and what if, and my telling of political enemies, and he had many, including had his own party, 1865, they were looking
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for a way to get him out of the way, what if they tried to do the impeachment process? i built a courtroom drama/murder mystery around that. >> host: when did it occur to you it's a fun thing to do? >> guest: i don't know. i remember back in college, history major, undergraduate, and shadowing after class one day what if lincoln survived? over the years, people speculated about that, it's in the history books as well, but the story, where the assassination fails i should say, i don't know when it came to me. once it came to me, i had to write it. >> host: now, you're a law professor at yale as well; correct? >> guest: yeah. >> host: the courtroom drama part, did that come easy to you? >> guest: well, i don't know, for me, no novel's refuel easy to write, but it is true, this fit into the interests of the scholar. i write about presidential power and war power and lincoln over
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the years, and so taking those questions, those ideas, putting them to fiction, if you think about it, lincoln did things in the civil war that raised interesting questions like extend the writ of habeas corpus, luck up journalists critical of the war and rejected the military's court marshall. my notion was what if the impeachment process be used for political reasons, nevertheless dredge up things done in the war as a way to get him out of the way. >> now, from a historically accurate point of view, how much political pressure was abraham lincoln under in early 1865? >> you know, lincoln was thee most talented politician, i believe, who ever inhabited -- well, not the oval office, but the presidential office at the time. he had to balance competing factions of his own party. he had to run the civil war while trying to maintain his own
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presidency. all throughout the presidency, there were other members of the party who put it simply, better men than he, better morally and other ways, and ought to hold the job instead. as late as march 1865, lincoln's political foes are still trying to figure out a way to reduce his power, somehow take charge of the administration because they viewed lincoln as a man who just shouldn't be wielding the power he was. >> another thing i want to get out before we -- before you leave us, who is his attorney? who defends him? >> there's a lot of novels about lincoln told from the point of view of an insider, someone in the white house, someone of power. i wanted to tell the stories from the eyes of an outsider so the protagonist is a young black woman named abigail cantor, 21 years old, and shemented to be a lawyer at a time when there was no female lawyers in america,
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only seven lawyers overall, and she ended up with a job as a minor clerk at the law firm that defended lincoln in the novel. i wanted an outsider's perspective to look at lincoln through the eyes of someone who was black and yet outside the court orders of power and figging hard to get in. >> his corically accurate, six or seven black lawyers in america in 1865? >> historically accurate. there's no full members of the bar, i have to be careful, in the late 1870s. they did legal duties, but the small number of black lawyers was interesting. at the time, there was not money to be made. there were black lawyers, black doctors, and what's overlooked, one of the most admired and plausible professions in the 1860s was being a pharmacist.
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being a pharmacist was lucrative and republicked more than a doctor, for example, and there was a handful of black pharmacists as well. >> host: stephen, homing books have you -- how many books have you written? >> i think i published eight or nine non-fiction books, losing track, and this is the fifth novel. i just like writing. >> host: are you teaching this semester at yale? >> i'm still a full time law professor. since i started writing novels, most of which sold well, people asked if i would stop teaching. i love being a law professor. that's my job. writing novels is a kind of hobby. it's something i do to get a break from the other things that i do, and as long as people keep reading them, i'll do that too. >> when you first wrote your novel, why? what got you over the first hump? >> i always had characters floating in the head whose stories i wanted to tell as though they were crying out in there to let them out, and even
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today when i write a novel, before itch a plot out line, i have characters in mind, people whose story i would like to tell, usually people who showed up in an earlier novel of mine, a minor character, and then i elevate to someone else with a story. the novels are one way or another, thrillers or mystery, and i put people in od situations and write them out of them. >> we're not giving away the ending. >> good. >> we'll make people read it, but given the title, it's safe to say he was impeached by the house of representatives. >> that is correct. it's important, as i suppose most viewers remember, that the house impeaches, which is like an indictment, the senate then holds a trial. the first half of the book involves the impeachment, the second half, a trial itself, a courtroom thriller built around what the impeachment trial, had will been one, would have been. i write it as a fan of lincoln, not a foe.


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