The Mind Behind “The President Has Been Shot!”

”By reading. The best authors are always great readers before they become great writers. When I was a child I loved books.” James L. Swanson answered, in an interview with Scholastic. James L. Swanson is a unique, successful author, and very knowledgeable person. His past, relationship with Lincoln, and large variety of books have made him the man he is today.

James L. Swanson was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 12, 1959. His parents enjoyed stories and loved history. Because of this, Swanson grew up in an environment filled with history and entertaining stories of the past. His grandmother had worked at a Chicago newspaper and his grandfather was a policeman from the time of gangsters to the era of Vietnam rioters. Young James would get newspapers and small artifacts and old pictures from his family and everyone that surrounded him. This made Swanson very curious and interested about history and was the beginning of a career in history or writing. James L. Swanson went on to college and graduated with several degrees in history from the University of Chicago. He also graduated from UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) with a degree in law. Swanson has held several positions as a government and think-tank post, which is a group of people who provide economic or political advice in Washington D.C. and on the United States Department of Justice.

Additionally, James L. Swanson had a special relationship with our sixteenth president that started his career in writing. February 12th is not only President Lincoln’s birthday but also Swanson’s birthday. The day James L. Swanson was born, the nurses at the hospital actually joked that his name should be “Little Abe”. Swanson’s parents found this connection to be pretty special, so for Swanson’s birthdays and gifts on holidays, he was given Lincoln memorabilia. At the age of ten, his grandmother got James interested in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. To add on, his parents travelled with him to several historic sites, including Ford’s Theater and Gettysburg. “A boyhood trip to Gettysburg changed my life.” commented Swanson. James Swanson continued to collect artifacts including pictures from the assassination of Lincoln and capture of John Wilkes Booth, newspapers, and many other things from the era of Lincoln and the Civil War.

Finally, James Swanson has been very successful with his writing career and has published many wonderful books. This list of books includes, Manhunt, The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, “The President Has Been Shot!”, Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and Bloody Crimes. Swanson has adapted Manhunt and Bloody Crimes for young readers. Manhunt has been his most successful piece of work yet. It received an Edgar Award for best non-fiction book of the year. In 2006, this best-selling book was one of the top ten books of the year, according to “Entertainment Weekly Magazine”. Also, in 2009, “Newsweek Magazine” named Manhunt one of the best non-fiction books of all time, next to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

James L. Swanson is a wonderful author and he wouldn’t be where he is today without his abilities and experiences he’s been through. Without his past, Swanson wouldn’t be as excited about history as he is. If he didn’t  share his birthday with Lincoln, James wouldn’t have been introduced to our sixteenth president until much later. Without his great writing skills, James Swanson might not be the amazing writer and best-selling author we know him as. Currently, James L. Swanson, is still writing, and additionally is a Lincoln scholar, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and is a part of the Ford’s Theater Society and serves on their advisory council. He is healthy at age fifty-five and resides in Washington D.C.

The Mind Behind "The President Has Been Shot!"