David O. Stewart decided he needed a “second chapter”, a change in his profession.
“I loved practicing law until I didn’t do it anymore,” he said in an interview ahead of his appearance at the eighth annual Morristown Book Festival on Saturday, October 9 at St. Peter, South Street and Maple Avenue, in Morristown.
The Maryland resident and former Washington lawyer discovered this change and began writing history books and historical fiction.
The book he will discuss at the festival is his latest, “George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father,” which won the History Award from the Society of the Cincinnati, New Jersey.
“We see Washington as a military man with a plantation,” he said, “the mistake is not to see him as a politician.”
Stewart said Washington was not a very good politician to begin with, but got better as he got older.
“We like to complain about politicians, but the problem is bad politicians. When we get a good one it makes a big difference, ”said Stewart.
Stewart may have learned some of this attitude from his wife, Nancy Floreen, who was elected for 16 years in Montgomery County, Md.
Most of Stewart’s protagonists made a better impression on him after some research, he said, even Aaron Burr who turned out to be “less of a monster” than he originally thought. His book “American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America” followed Burr’s Western Expedition of 1806-07 which led to a treason trial.
The only exception was Andrew Johnson who was worse than Stewart thought, but he was kind to his grandchildren. Stewart said he focused on this.
His Johnson book is “Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy” and it developed from his experience defending an impeachment trial in the Senate. The book shows how Johnson compounded the wounds of the Civil War and explains the corruption that kept him in power after an impeachment contest with no winners.
The other story volumes are “Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Made America” and “The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Made the Constitution.”
Madison’s book explores his productive partnerships with Alexander Hamilton, Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Madison’s wife, Dolley. The Constitution Book delves into the grainy compromises and the men who created the document that governs America.
Stewart alternated story writing with historical fiction. The advantage of fiction, he said, is that it doesn’t have to stick to facts that may be impossible to discover.
The first novel is “The Lincoln Deception,” which delves into the murder plot with the fictional Dr. Jamie Fraser and Speed Cook, the last black man to play big-league baseball in the 1880s.
“Professional baseball started in the 1870s and there were black players. Over time, the white players chased the blacks out of the game, ”said Stewart.
“The last black player to be kicked out was Moses Fleetwood ‘Fleet’ Walker, who hung on until the early 1880s and later became a black activist. My character – Speed Cook – is inspired by Fleet Walker and is meant to pay homage to him. “
“The Paris Deception” sends Fraser and Cook to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 for a personal and national race.
The third novel is set in New York. “The Babe Ruth Deception” involves gangsters, prohibition and the Black Sox scandal.
Stewart takes another turn with a trilogy based on his own family history. The books are written and the first, “The New Land”, will be released on November 16. It follows German immigrants to the coast of Maine in 1753. The second book, “The Burning Land”, is set during the time of the Civil War. and is expected to be released in 2022. The third, a WWII saga, “The Resolute Land” is slated for later in 2022.
Stewart began to write long before his books. He was a reporter for his hometown newspaper, The Staten Island Advance, and wrote articles on the Supreme Court for the American Bar Association Journal for a decade.
It has also been published in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and American Heritage, among other publications. He serves on the board of directors of Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and is a past president of the Washington Independent Review of Books.
During his legal career, he practiced constitutional law extensively and also represented white collar criminals and dealt with antitrust cases. He worked for former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell and then argued two cases in the High Court.