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Charles Schuyler is a personal assistant to Aaron Burr, the former Revolutionary War hero, vice president under Jefferson, and infamous slayer of Alexander Hamilton. He's also been employed by a group of political operatives in New York journalism circles to dig up evidence that Burr is the "natural father," as the expression goes, of up-and-coming presidential candidate Martin van Buren. Schuyler's journal entries are a wondrous prose picture of Jacksonian society, while an imagined autobiographical account from Burr provides a similar depiction of the nation's origins. Like all of Vidal's historical fiction, Burr has little use for America's received iconography, and draws upon contemporary sources to puncture the legendary reputations of Washington and Jefferson. There are also marvelous cameo appearances from figures like Washington Irving and Davy Crockett, of whom Schuyler notes, "He is considered a delightful figure. I can't think why." (There's also a substantial subplot in which Schuyler falls in love with a prostitute named Helen Jewett; readers may be interested to learn that she is, in fact, a real historical figure). --Ron Hogan [via]