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Abraham Lincoln Reborn As A Vampire Slayer

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Imagine if, among the tired, poor and huddled masses, there was another group of immigrants who yearned to be free in America. Vampires.

Then suppose that, in 19th-century America, the forces of good and evil battled for the soul of the new republic — what we now know as the Civil War. Author Seth Grahame-Smith explores that premise in a new book you can really sink your teeth into.

"The premise of the book is absurd," Grahame-Smith says. "It's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter."

"My goal in writing the book was to add as much real, factual history as possible and weave it in as seamlessly as possible to make people — to actually trick people — into thinking they were reading a real biography in the style of, say, David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin," he tells NPR's Liane Hansen.

Grahame-Smith would like to make it clear that Lincoln never really kept a secret journal about his lifelong battle with the undead. Many other facts in the book, however, are true, starting with the death of his mother when he was 9. In the novel, of course, a vampire killed her.

Thus, young Lincoln swears vengeance against the blood-sucking immortals.

Partnering with him in the fight against the undead is Edgar Allan Poe. The two never met in real life, but Grahame-Smith says that Lincoln was a great admirer of all things gothic. "He could recite The Raven from memory at one point in his life."

In the novel, vampires consider themselves the superiors of humans. Grahame-Smith considers the attitude a perfect pairing with slavery. "I see them as sort of one and the same," he says. "Both creatures, basically slaveholders and vampires, steal lives — take the blood of others — to enrich themselves."

Grahame-Smith's first book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was a publishing sensation. It, too, mixed the undead with the Victorian era. Grahame-Smith says the success spawned a bit of a "mash-up moment in literature," where the supernatural meets the classics, but there's probably not a Great Gatsby Ghost Whisperer or a Wuthering Heights Reloaded in his future.

"I think that I'll always write with a little bit of supernatural," he says, "but the more books I do, the more I want to get into original storytelling and still keep those elements alive."

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