A Friend of Mr. Lincoln: A novel (Hardcover)

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The author of the best-selling The Gates of the Alamo now gives us a galvanizing portrait of Abraham Lincoln during a crucially revealing period of his life, the early Springfield years, when he risked both his sanity and his ethical bearings as he searched for the great destiny he believed to be his.

It is Illinois in the 1830s and 1840s. Abraham Lincoln is a circuit-riding lawyer, a member of the state legislature, a man of almost ungovernable ambition. To his friends he is also a beloved figure, by turns charmingly awkward and mesmerizingly self-possessed—a man of whom they, too, expect big things. Among his friends and political colleagues are Joshua Speed, William Herndon, Stephen Douglas, and many others who have come to the exploding frontier town of Springfield to find their futures.     

It is through another friend, a fictional poet, Cage Weatherby, that we will come to know Lincoln in his twenties and thirties, as a series of formative, surprising incidents unfolds—his service in the Black Hawk War, his participation in a poetry-writing society, a challenge to a duel that begins as a farce but quickly rises to lethal potential . . . Cage both admires and clashes with Lincoln, sometimes questioning his legal ethics and his cautious stance on slavery. But he is by Lincoln’s side as Lincoln slips back and forth between high spirits and soul-hollowing sadness and depression, and as he recovers from a disastrous courtship of one woman to marry the beautiful, capricious, politically savvy Mary Todd. It is Mary who will bring stability to Lincoln’s life, but who will also trigger a conflict that sends the two men on very different paths into the future.

Historically accurate, rich in character, filled with the juice and dreams and raw ambitions of Americans on the make in an early frontier city, A Friend of Mr. Lincoln is a revelatory and moving portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in his young manhood. It is a close-up, involving experience, the sort of vibrant glimpse beneath the veneer of history that only the very best fiction can provide.

About the Author

STEPHEN HARRIGAN is the author of nine previous books, including The New York Times best seller The Gates of the Alamo and Remember Ben Clayton, which among other awards won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians for best historical novel. He is also a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and a screenwriter who has written many movies for television. He lives in Austin, Texas.


Praise For…

"Meticulously researched, gorgeously rendered, A Friend of Mr. Lincoln is a powerful historical novel of friendship, love and ambition.” —Mary Pauline Lowry, Huffington Post
"A tremendous novel . . . Harrigan delivers an insightful envelope into Lincoln’s character development, from roughhousing young man to the astute president preserving the nation.  Here we find Lincoln’s profound sense of morality, integrity, and courage.  He was at once audacious and contrite, powerful and meek, content and morose.” —Charles S. Weinblatt, New York Journal of Books

"Delightful . . . A fictional friend named Cage Weatherby gives readers an up-close glimpse of the rough-hewed country lawyer in Springfield, Ill., who longs to achieve something meaningful. Up to the heartbreaking final sentence, Harrigan renders a gorgeous tale of an improbable, bittersweet journey." —Christian Science Monitor 

"[An] imaginative—though largely faithful to the historical record—account of the future president's early career as a young lawyer, politician and reluctant swain in Springfield in the 1830's and '40's.  Seen through the eyes of a fictional poet, Cage Weatherby, Lincoln emerges as a hyperambitious, socially awkward, sometimes bawdy, occasionally depressed young man whose tragic destiny is still far in the future." —Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune

"Harrigan will fascinate readers with his bits of everyday history . . . We remember Lincoln’s name. And if you read A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, you will remember the book.” —Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A fine work that anyone curious about Lincoln's rough and ready days would enjoy reading." —Conrad Bibens, Houston Chronicle

"A novel of real rewards.   Not least among them is Harrigan's ability to vividly and economically evoke his vanished world. . . . He excels at exploring crucible moments and pays Lincoln, as well as the fictional and historical actors in his early drama, the compliment of keeping his hand off the dimmer switch even in the face of potentially unflattering light." —Laird Hunt,  The New York Times Book Review

"An emotionally rich and exquisitely poignant work of historical fiction that breathes intricate life back into the sixteenth president of the United States. . . . Harrigan masterfully immerses readers in the story, the era, its sensibilities and its characters—both real and imagined—by balancing historical fact with intuitive invention and a language that somehow splits the difference between then and now." —James Endrst, USA Today

"Deftly interweaving fictional and fact-based episodes, Mr. Harrigan sustains a brisk narrative filled with adventure, romance, sex and political high jinks. . . . [He] brings us closer than ever to the  human Abraham Lincoln—struggling, reflective, fundamentally noble and so much more appealing than the pasteboard deity of popular myth." —David S. Reynolds, The Wall Street Journal
"Splendid . . . Quickly engages the reader's imagination with its deep perspective, rich historical authenticity and a lively cast of striving, imperfect humans.   His Lincoln is one of them:  a young man subject to the same torments, infatuations, ambitions, enthusiasms and sexual appetites as other young men." —Joyce Saenz Harris, Dallas Morning News

"An acute and original portrait of Lincoln in the 1830's and 1840's, when our 16th president was still a young backwoods lawyer. . . . A powerful glimpse into what the great man liked to call his 'real life.'   In doing so, he provides us with a rumbling, rambunctious novel, full of its own raw life." —Jerome Charyn,  The Washington Post

"An astute look at the public and private sides of the young Abraham Lincoln and the agonizing struggles he endured trying to reconcile the two . . . In addition to fine personality depictions, readers get a first-hand glimpse of early Illinois politics, a physically dangerous, occasionally bloody endeavor, in this superb historical novel about ethics, morality, and the nature of courage, that feels as vital as today’s news."—Sarah Johnson,  Booklist  starred review

"In the genre of historical fiction, Stephen Harrigan is the gold standard, and here his talents are on fine display.   Read A Friend of Mr. Lincoln and you'll see:   No historical novelist working today beats Harrigan at capturing the nuances of a particular zeitgeist—the idiom, the landscape, the architecture, the mannerisms—and then harnessing his research to a plot of invention so engaging that all a reader can do is keep turning the pages, spellbound." —Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and In the Kingdom of Ice

"Richly drawn . . . In a first-rate rendering, Harrigan shows a young Lincoln in all his moods and temperaments, providing context with vividly detailed historical events." —Library Journal, Starred review

"Harrigan knows his Lincoln and knows how to write. Even when he lets his imagination soar, it is always tethered to the evidence. The result is historical fiction at its very best." —Joseph J. Ellis, author of The Quartet and Founding Brothers

"Presents keen insights into Lincoln's complex personality." —Kirkus Reviews

"Bestselling author Harrigan’s 10th book, after 2011’s Remember Ben Clayton, is superb historical fiction focusing on the period 1832–1861, from Lincoln’s early years as a tireless circuit-riding lawyer and Illinois state legislator to his election as the 16th president. Lincoln’s fictional friend here is Cage Weatherby, a struggling poet who first meets Lincoln on a bloody battleground during the Black Hawk War of 1832. They become unlikely close friends, and Cage soon realizes that Lincoln is “a man who desperately wanted to be better than the world would ever possibly let him be.” Cage knows his friend to be a brilliant lawyer and an astute politician, as well as a homespun raconteur and a neophyte in romance who does not understand women, stumbling from one pratfall to another. The two men are close confidantes, but a surprising murder trial, a stunning development in a courtroom, an astonishing betrayal, and Cage’s painfully emphatic argument that Lincoln should not marry ambitious and vindictive Mary Todd strain their relationship. Still, Harrigan’s standout novel shows the endurance of friendship, and historical fans will find much to savor." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780307700674
ISBN-10: 0307700674
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 432
Language: English