John A. McKinsey | Author

When Kimberly Poole, the owner of a small garden and kitchen shop in Kansas, begins to research her family lineage, she discovers that her family's name had been changed. Meanwhile, in Seattle, a reluctant freelance journalist is assigned a story by his editor regarding the true paternity of Abraham Lincoln. Lots of Google searching and emailing brings these two stories together in 'The Lincoln Secret' (Martin Pearl Publishing; $13.99), in which author John McKinsey conjures a Da Vinci Code–esque historic novel from an ongoing theory about the true origins of America's most revered president.

McKinsey says The Lincoln Secret came about when he stumbled across an out-of-print book called Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction: The True Genesis of a Wonderful Man, published in 1899. It documents an alternate oral history that Lincoln was an illegitimate child actually fathered by one Abraham Enloe. When Nancy Hanks worked on Enloe's farm in North Carolina, the story goes, she became pregnant; she returned to Kentucky in shame, then married Thomas Lincoln, who accepted the child as his own. Interweaving this story into his novel, McKinsey has written a compelling mystery of genealogy, history and personal journey that questions not only the story of Lincoln but the truth of all history. —G.M.

“What’s in a name for those who desire to know about their family roots or heritage? We are in a global society that values our reputations, our good names.


In William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously asks, ‘What’s in a name?’ In John A. McKinsey’s The Lincoln Secret, Kim Poole asks herself the same question and finds out more than she bargained for. The plot thickens in The Lincoln Secret with the discovery of a family tree gone awry. The good hearted researching of the genealogical trail turns into investigative intrigue and is detailed with threatening chases, FBI involvement, a death of a woman once involved in earlier research of Lincoln’s bloodline, and more; all blend to be thought tantalizing storyline.


The challenge faced with The Lincoln Secret, as McKinsey's earlier (2008) work, was a balance between crucial investigative detail (and rightfully so a lot of it) and showing the narrative. The challenge no doubt took on a dilemma: stay with details or veer from a tell style of writing into a show style of narrative, and possibly, by that, change the novel’s fast pace. The Lincoln Secret is refreshing as a raw display of McKinsey’s earlier talent. After all, who would want the then first time novelist, John A. Mckinsey, to leave out one detail when so much about the detail is what Kim Poole’s and Sean Johnson’s future was riding on? Hold on to The Lincoln Secret as a collector’s item; because if McKinsey ever challenges himself to rewrite—splitting The Lincoln Secret into three books in a series that show not only the genealogical intrigue but also show intermeshed past accounts of and from Lincoln’s life and reputation—Abe Lincoln and Mystery buffs alike will have a new favorite author.


The Lincoln Secret evokes readers to challenge their own prejudices about history.”


Salvador SeBasco

Literary Director and host of THE INSIDE VIEW SHOWTM BROADCAST

book critic, on staff with a CNN affiliate station.

January 22, 2011

Barnes & Noble Book Signing Event:

The words stunned her, seemingly jumping from the page she held, hitting her in the face:
Our real family name is Thomas, not Poole.
Feeling confused and angry, Kim read it again. Getting mad at my dead father should be difficult, she thought. Especially when he doted on me most of my life. But here’s a letter from him, essentially from the grave, that he must have known would horribly upset me. Thomas, not Poole? How can that be? Why did he wait to tell me this way?
Kimberly Poole was sitting at the kitchen table in the early morning. She was alone in her house, her daughter, Abigail, having left for school early. The night before, Kim had started to go through a box of notes and documents that her father had left for her. This morning, she was continuing to go through them before she had to leave to open her store. Her father’s death from cancer was more than four months ago and it had taken her this long to finally start attacking the leftover pieces of his life.
She had just found an envelope in the box with her name inscribed on it in large red letters ‘Kimberly Jacob Poole.’ She opened it to find a letter from her father and a very old handwritten note.
Now, stunned, she sat there holding the letter in disbelief. It was short and simple, very much to the point, like her father always had been. She read it again, trying to make some sense of what her father was telling her.
My Daughter,
If you are reading this it can only mean one thing: I have left you. I apologize for what I must now tell you and I only hope you will understand my reasons for what I did.
Our real family name is Thomas, not Poole. It is a secret that I have carried with me since my father’s death and he since his father’s death. It began with your great, great grandfather Jacob. He too told his son our true family name on his deathbed. He also warned him to do nothing with that information because it was too dangerous. He was serious about that. He handed his son, your great grandfather Abraham, this very note that I have enclosed. This note has been handed down from generation to generation. It says to take action when the Enloes come forth. Read it carefully.
I have long thought, certainly by now, that enough time had passed. I never told anyone though, and so now I leave this information in your hands. Please be careful. Jacob must have had very good reasons for his actions and his caution.
It pained me to watch you passionately pursuing our family history, knowing that, as far as the Pooles went you were very much off course. But I could never bring myself to tell you or do something with our family secret.
Please know that having and raising you always has been my proudest achievement. I rest knowing our secret is in the best hands it could be.
Love always,
A very yellowed, creased piece of paper, the edges of it thin and tattered from being stored and handled over the generations, was sitting on the table next to Kim’s shaking and clammy hands.
It read: Wait until the Enloes come forth and then tell our secret of President Lincoln and the War. Look then, and only then, at my words and discover their other meaning. You will know then what to do. Be careful.
The handwriting in the note was broad and flourishing, much grander than the kind of handwriting Kim was used to reading.
It was clearly the note penned by her great, great grandfather Jacob. But the message confused her.
What secret? she thought. And what words?