Once a professional magician, Daniel Stashower wears hats both as a narrative historian and as a novelist with remarkable distinction. He is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America: for Teller of Tales—his biography of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle—and for his editing of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters with frequent collaborator Jon Lellenberg. Stashower’s work on Conan Doyle has also secured him the Anthony Award for Best Critical Work and two Agatha Awards for Best Nonfiction, from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and Malice Domestic.
Stashower’s forthcoming narrative history, The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, will be published by Minotaur Books in January 2013 and draws on the author’s lifelong interest in crime history and crime fiction to tell the true story of an 1861 assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln—and the life of the man assigned to the case: America’s first “private eye” Allan Pinkerton.
Daniel Stashower’s previous nonfiction books include The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder and The Boy Genius and the Mogul: The Untold Story of Television. He is also the author of five mystery novels featuring Harry Houdini as a detective, Sherlock Holmes, and an original magician detective based on Stashower’s own performing experience. A recipient of the Raymond Chandler Fulbright Fellowship in Detective and Crime Fiction Writing, Stashower has served as a Visiting Fellow at Oxford’s Wadham College. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, AARP: The Magazine, National Geographic Traveller, and Smithsonian magazine.
Born in Cleveland, Stashower received a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA from Columbia University. He has been a contributing editor for Time-Life Books on series such as The Civil War and Mysteries of the Unknown, is a member of the Society of American Magicians, and has been a member of the Society of Psychical Research. He is also a member of the most famous Sherlockian society, the Baker Street Irregulars, whose invitation-only ranks have included Isaac Asimov and Neil Gaiman.
An inveterate performer, Stashower has given hundreds of talks including large-scale appearances at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, and college appearances at Harvard and Oxford. He has performed at the historic Players Club in New York City and for Mensa, the high IQ society, and once appeared on a panel at the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention as Houdini, attired in straitjacket. He lives with his wife in Bethesda, Maryland.
Read Daniel Stashower's New York Times piece "New York's Black Dahlia"
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SPEECHESLincoln Shall Die in this City
Daniel Stashower relates the race-against-the-clock story of how Allan Pinkerton, America’s first private eye, detected and thwarted a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in 1861, at the start of the Civil War as the President-elect traveled to Washington for his first inauguration. I Have Earned this Right:
Allan Pinkerton and the American Worker The Pinkerton Detective Agency would eventually become notorious as a band of skull-crackers and union-busters, but Stashower tracks Allan Pinkerton’s early commitment to the rights of working men and labor unions, beginning with his involvement with a radical labor movement that brought him under fire—literally—in his native Scotland. For groups with an interest in business and organized labor, Pinkerton’s journey from youthful radical to brutal strike-breaker—often at the behest of America’s robber barons—offers a unique perspective on America’s Gilded Age.Kate Warne, Pink Lady: America’s First Female Private Eye Kate Warne, the 23-year-old widow who persuaded Allan Pinkerton to hire her as America’s first female private eye
in 1856, is a forgotten icon of Women’s Studies. At a time when the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had barely begun, Kate Warne was already in the field, working side by side with male operatives and living the dangerous life of a Pinkerton detective. One investigation found her posing as a fortune-teller, “the only living descendant of Hermes,” to lure secrets from a superstitious suspect; another saw her forging a “useful intimacy” with the wife of a suspected murderer. “A female detective” she told Pinkerton, “may go and worm out secrets in ways that are impossible for male detectives.” She became one of Pinkerton’s most trusted and effective operatives, and played a crucial role in getting Abraham Lincoln safely to Washington. Free in Name; a Slave in Fact: Allan Pinkerton and the Underground Railroad
By day, Allan Pinkerton was America’s top law man; by night he flouted the law—and the nation’s Fugitive Slave Act—as a station master on the legendary “Underground Railroad,” helping runaway slaves make their way north to freedom. This presentation explores Pinkerton’s forgotten work as an abolitionist crusader and his close partnership with the infamous John Brown in the days leading up to Harper’s Ferry. “More than one dark night,” he wrote, “found us working earnestly together in behalf of the fleeing bondsman who was striving for his liberty.” This exciting and little-known chapter of Pinkerton’s storied career will appeal to audiences with a special interest in the Civil War and the abolitionist movement.Who Are Those Guys? The Birth of the Pinkerton Detective Agency
Stashower charts the rise of Allan Pinkerton from a barefoot immigrant to the world’s most famous detective. The story takes him from his first case, in which he outwitted a wily counterfeiter, to his nail-biting effort to save Lincoln’s life in 1861. The discussion will illustrate how Pinkerton and his men (and women) pioneered forensic and investigative techniques that are still in use today, and changed the public’s perception of what it meant to be a lawman. Pinkerton and his agents became legendary for their relentless, single-minded pursuit of criminals, and the dramatic Pinkerton logo—with the motto “We Never Sleep” coiled beneath the image of a stern, unblinking eye—became a potent emblem of vigilance, bringing the phrase “private eye” into the American lexicon.
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Praise for The Hour of Peril
“This account of the little-known Baltimore-based plot to assassinate Lincoln… hurtles across a landscape of conspirators, heroes and politicos in hotel suites, ladies’ parlors and railway depots…. We can be grateful that Old Abe survived the first attempt on his life. And now we have the chance to relish the story of the clever and determined characters who were dedicated to his safety.”
—New York Times Book Review
“The world's most famous private eye saves Abraham Lincoln's life—and perhaps the Union itself? Sounds like fiction, but in Daniel Stashower's riveting new book, it's all true. It's history that reads like a race-against-the-clock thriller.”
“Reads like a first-class detective novel . . . Pinkerton's tireless energy prevented a tragedy that might have destroyed the republic.”
—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom