Local author hopes Lincoln novel will pique curiosity

July 29, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - There are more than 40,000 book titles about Abraham Lincoln on alone, but author Bob O'Connor is hoping that what piqued his curiosity to write a Lincoln-related book will be contagious.

O'Connor's historical fiction novel, "The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln," is based on a real person, Ward Hill Lamon, who grew up in what is now Jefferson County, W.Va., and became Lincoln's friend, law partner and bodyguard.

Yet Lamon was not with President Lincoln on that infamous night, April 14, 1865, when he was shot in Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln had sent Lamon to Richmond, Va., to attend a series of meetings regarding reconstruction efforts in the South following the Civil War.


After the assassination, Lamon berated himself over his absence from the theater. He turned to alcohol, gained weight and often felt troubled, O'Connor said.

O'Connor, 62, of Charles Town, learned about Lamon when reading about the history of Berkeley County more than five years ago.

Much of the historical information O'Connor used for the book came from a 1949 doctoral thesis by Lavern Marshall Hamand for which Hamand interviewed Lamon's eldest daughter, Dolly, and cousins. O'Connor also looked at letters written by Lamon that are kept at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Ill.

Lamon was born in Summit Point and grew up in what is now Bunker Hill, said O'Connor, who is assistant director of the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau and tourism director for the City of Charles Town.

This is O'Connor's second book. The first was a historical novel about abolitionist John Brown - "The Perfect Steel Trap: Harpers Ferry 1859," published in 2006.

O'Connor said he prefers writing historical fiction to nonfiction because readers who aren't fanatical about the subject can find nonfiction boring, whereas historical fiction is easier to read and more entertaining.

"The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln," released in May, is available for $13.95 at or The book also is sold at Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Antietam National Battlefield's bookstore, Four Seasons Books in Shepherds-town, W.Va., Patterson's Drug Store in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Book Crossing in Brunswick, Md. It can be ordered through Borders Books in Hagerstown.

O'Connor has a book signing at 5 p.m. today at Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church, 318 Dominion Road, where Lamon and his daughter, Dolly, are buried. O'Connor will give a presentation about the book and there will be a walk to the grave site.

He also will have a book signing at Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.

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