Kate Clifford Larson’s The Assassin’s Accomplice did not inspire the Robert Redford-directed film The Conspirator but, looking at the February paperback edition of her book, you would think otherwise. This edition of The Assassin’s Accomplice, which is about the trial that followed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, features cover art from the film along with a burst in the upper-right hand corner calling out the movie, despite the fact that the book is not the basis for film. Nonetheless, the author smartly worked a loose angle she had--she appeared in a documentary associated with the film--to get the tie-in treatment.
Clifford Larson’s book, originally published in 2008 by Basic Books, is a nonfiction account of Mary Surratt, who is one of the main characters in Redford’s film. (Surratt was the sole female conspirator put on trial for Lincoln’s murder and the first woman to be executed by the state.) While Redford’s film diverges wildly from Clifford Larson’s account—the screenplay for the film was initially completed in 1993, well before Assassin’s Accomplice was published—the author was invited to appear in a National Geographic documentary, The Plot to Kill Lincoln: The Conspirator, that was being tied to the release of the feature film.
After Clifford Larson warapped the documentary a historian-friend suggested she get a reel from the feature film, since some of those involved in the documentary also worked on Redford’s project, for her book. Although Clifford Larson doubted she would be able to get anyone from the film company to comply with such a request, she was pleasantly surprised at finally being able to obtain a combination of promotional shots of the stars of the film, James McAvoy and Robin Wright, for her cover art. And, since Basic was already intending to reissue a paperback edition of the book--the 2009 paperback featured some typos--the movie art came in at the perfect moment.
The new edition, with the film art, was published by Basic in late February; a rep for the imprint said the title went to press for an announced 50,000 copies. And as for the leg work Clifford Larson put in to get a Hollywood heartthrob on the cover of her nonfiction book about a largely overlooked figure in American history? “All I did was ask," she said. "It wasn’t that onerous.”