A nation divided. Panic in the streets. Mounting fears that the troubled republic wouldn’t survive. Though Jonathan Putnam’s Lincoln and Speed novels are set in the tumultuous years that would ultimately lead to the American Civil War, the creator of a forthcoming TV adaptation of the series, “These Honored Dead,” admits that the historical narrative is as timely as ever.
“In the time we’ve been working on it, the themes have become far more relevant than they were when we started,” said series creator and showrunner Michael Bergmann.
“These Honored Dead” is an eight-part one-hour series based on Putnam’s best-selling murder mystery series, which revolves around the real-life friendship between the young lawyer Abraham Lincoln and his lifelong friend and intellectual rival Joshua Speed. Bergmann’s Burgeon & Flourish will be bringing “These Honored Dead” to MIA’s drama series pitching competition, where they’re looking to meet with broadcasters, production houses, talent agencies, management companies, and other potential partners.
The series begins at a pivotal time for both the future president and his nation. “The United States in 1837 was a place…where the institutions that were run by the state were tremendously untrustworthy, and the citizens were always in a kind of agony about whether to support those institutions, or whether not to trust them at all,” said Bergmann.
“This is the world in which an extremely talented but uneducated young man called Abraham Lincoln came to Springfield, Illinois…to try to make his fortune and make his way in the world.”
Putnam’s novels use that tumultuous era as a backdrop for a string of murder cases involving the lawyer Lincoln, providing a glimpse of a man who is “trying to find the path of justice and decency in the middle of this climate of passion and unreliability,” said Bergman.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. “American history is taught as if what has happened is the only thing that could have happened. If you think about this new country…nobody knew whether the democracy would last. Nobody knew whether the states would stay together, and indeed it looked like they weren’t going to,” said Bergmann.
It’s a question that cuts to the heart of American democracy today, he added. “We’re interpreting history…in the light of our current needs. I think people are beginning to realize now that the United States of America is not a foregone conclusion, and it doesn’t have to last forever.”