And you thought Abraham Lincoln went to war to save the Union from collapse and free the slaves. Apparently not. The Civil War was fought to save the Union from VAMPIRES and to deny them a steady supply of slaves as a dietary staple. (Clearly the vamps were way ahead of their time in knowing all people's blood is created equal.)
We know this fiction-is-stranger-than-truth history because of the most fortunate discovery of Lincoln's long-lost journal, which was undoubtedly found in The Priory of Sion mailbox next to videos of the Loch Ness monster and Sasquatch.
In this chronicle, we follow Lincoln's life-long slaughter fest that begins at age 12 as a result of his mother being killed by one of the toothy un-dead. Ditto his grandfather, his first lady-friend Ann Rutledge, son Willie and his old debating bud, Stephen Douglas - all dead and drained by the black-eyed beasts. No garlic buds or wooden stakes for our hero. Honest Abe is the Ax Man, chopping off heads, and butchering various male and female blood suckers - all while living the rail splitting, exceptional public life we know from those other historical books. Lincoln was one of the greatest vampire hunters of his age, according to Seth Grahame-Smith, the lucky writer who received this secret journal and turned it into a best-selling mash-up novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Can you imagine the emails between the Grahame-Smith and his publisher, Grand Central Books, on the day his previous confabulation, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, hit No. 3 on The New York Times Best-seller list?
Grand Central: Hey Seth, thumbs up, big guy! Austin and zombies, whoa, knew you had the mojo to make it work.
G-S: Well, remember, I'm the guy who wrote "How to Survive a Horror Movie," "The Spider-Man Handbook" and "The Big Book of Porn."
Grand Central: You d'man, Seth. So listen, we got to jump on this mash-up thing. You got something else bubbling?
G-S: Remember Bennett Cerf's recipe for creating a best seller: 'Lincolns' Doctor's Dog?'
Grand Central: There over 15,000 Lincoln books out there right now. You got something about his dog - a werewolf, a changeling maybe?
G-S: Much better. I got Lincoln and the only thing bigger now than him right now - VAMPIRES!
You have to admit, it's a hard-to-ignore premise especially with Abe and his bloody ax on the cover.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't live up to its imaginative concept. After you experience Abe in chop mode, it all becomes surprisingly routine. He stalks, he kills, he marries. He stalks, he kills, he goes into politics, kills some more, becomes president and is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who, naturally, is a vampire. Plenty of gore but no decisive, sustained jeopardy confronts our hero. It would have been helpful if Grahame-Smith focused on one determined villain as a consistent threat. A hero is only as good as the formidable evildoer he must overcome. Not here.
The Hachette audio edition (10 hrs.) does help to engage the listener, courtesy of Scott Holst's deft handling of pseudo 19th century narration and speech. But it isn't enough propellant to drive this history/fantasy fusion to satisfaction. It could have been a swell mash-up: David McCullough meets Tim Burton. Wait, come-to-think-of-it, Tim Burton has already acquired the movie rights to this book. So there is some hope it'll make a better movie than book.
Grand Central: Seth, way to score, guy. Lincoln and the Vampires just hit No. 5 on The New York Times best seller list!
G.S.: That's great.
Grand Central: So, what else you got brewing in that fertile brain?
G.S.: Well, how about an undead Wizard of Oz story? You know, a nightmare, not a fairly tale, where Dorothy and her posse battle the savage, hungry undead and bring the Munchkins back to life.
Grand Central Uh, sorry, Seth, that's already been done. 'The Undead World of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Complete with Zombies and Monsters" by Ryan C. Thomas.
G.S.: Okay, okay, how about something like 'The Secret Life of Johnny Appleseed?' Was it really just apples he was spreading?