Eric Ogden
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May 04, 2018 at 04:22 PM EDT

Fans are still buzzing about Brad Meltzer for his new, no. 1 New York Times best-seller, but the author is gearing up for the release of another exciting title: The First Conspiracy.

Co-written with Josh Mensch, the book marks Meltzer’s nonfiction debut. It traces “the secret plot against George Washington and the birth of American counterintelligence.” Here’s the official synopsis: “In 1776, an elite group of soldiers were handpicked to serve as George Washington’s bodyguards. Washington trusted them; relied on them. But unbeknownst to Washington, some of them were part of a treasonous plan. In the months leading up to the Revolutionary War, these traitorous soldiers, along with the Governor of New York William Tryon and Mayor David Mathews, launched a deadly plot against the most important member of the military: George Washington himself. This is the story of the secret plot and how it was revealed. It is a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. It also shows just how hard the battle was for George Washington ― and how close America was to losing the Revolutionary War.”

Meltzer and Mensch have revealed the cover for The First Conspiracy exclusively to EW, and Meltzer previewed the book. Check it out below, and pre-order the book ahead of its Jan. 8, 2019 release here.

Flatiron Books

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, why did you wait 20 years before writing your first in-depth work of nonfiction?
BRAD MELTZER: I never had a story that was good enough. Sure, I’d used the Lincoln assassination in one of the books, or the secret code Thomas Jefferson used to use when he was president in another… All my thrillers play with arcane and amazing details from history. But a secret plot to kill George Washington? That was something that wasn’t a tiny detail. That was something that needed its own full book.

How did you first hear about this conspiracy?
MELTZER: I found it nearly a decade ago while researching one of my thrillers. In fact, I actually used it back in 2015 in my book The President’s Shadow; it was a quick mention in there, a throwaway detail that talks about the plot against George Washington. But I just couldn’t shake it. I kept going back to the detail and asking, “What else happened? Why doesn’t anyone know this story?” I just wanted to know more.

This is arguably our most famous president and one of the most important eras in American history, and yet this is a little-known aspect of the Revolutionary War and birth of our nation. What was it like to dig into a piece of history that’s so shrouded in mystery?
MELTZER: It was a real-life treasure hunt, which is why I decided to work with Josh Mensch, our writer and executive producer from Lost History. From the start, we knew we’d be digging at something that was purposefully kept secret. I remember historian Joseph Ellis telling me, “I don’t know if you’ll find anything, but it’ll be a wild search.” And every time we found a new detail, it was like we’d unearthed a new detail from George Washington’s life. I don’t think people are prepared for how amazing Washington truly was when someone took a real shot at him.

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