My co-teacher wandered in and saw Lincoln’s Grave Robbers on my desk. He picked it up, “Is this fiction?” and when I replied, “It’s all true,” he looked closer at it. Such is the tale that writer Steve Sheinken digs up and tells in this book, and it is a crime story of stealing the bones of Abe Lincoln that is almost too strange to be true.
The story, from the late 1800s, is of counterfeit operations and jail time, and a noted crime boss who wants his best engraver freed from jail so that he can keep making fake money. The plan is to steal Lincoln’s bones and ransom them back to the government in return for the jailed companion to be set free. Needless to say, things go awry, and Sheinken gives a nice sense of place and history, including old photographs and drawings to bring the reader into the time and place.
I admit: I don’t always like Sheinken’s writing style, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It doesn’t flow for me. But he certainly has an eye for historical stories (Bomb was fascinating, too, although the writing didn’t always work for me there, either) and storytelling presence. I really love how he uses primary documents to help tell his stories, and I suspect lots of teachers could turn to Sheinken’s books as examples of non-fiction writing that packs a literary punch while still remaining fairly true to the historical record.
The crook never did get Lincoln’s body but they certainly tried. In a time when news moved slow, a core group of supporters of Lincoln’s memory remained vigilant and ensured that the physical legacy of Lincoln would be free of a robbery attempt that still baffles the imagination.
Peace (in the bones of history),