David Stacton (1923–1968) was born Lionel Kingsley Evans in San Francisco. He attended Stanford University before serving in the Civilian Public Service as a conscientious objector during World War II, eventually graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1951. Stacton went to Europe after college and ended up staying, in his words, “because I liked it and because I could not get my books in print in America.” His first novel, Dolores, was published in England in 1954. Among the wide-ranging historical and biographical novels for which he would become best known are On a Balcony, about Nefertiti and Pharaoh Akhenaten; Segaki, set in feudal Japan; A Signal Victory, about the Spanish conquest of the Yucatán; Old Acquaintance, set at a film festival and telling of the loves of a star resembling Marlene Dietrich; and People of the Book, set during the Thirty Years’ War. Under various pseudonyms, Stacton also published Westerns, mass-market murder mysteries, and a soft-core gay novel. Twice the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he also received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1968 he moved to Fredensborg, Denmark, to work on a book to be called Restless Sleep, about Charles II and the diarist Samuel Pepys; ten days later he was found dead in his new home; he was forty-four years old.
Stactons historical recreation of John Wilkes Booths plot to assassinate Lincoln, its execution, and its aftermath (including the trials of the conspirators, Mary Surratt among them) is among the finest books ever written about the Civil War. David Stacton is an original, finely pitched voice in American fiction. —Larry McMurtry