The latest literary scandal concerns the biography of Ronald Reagan titled "Dutch." Edmund Morris, a distinguished historian, has admitted to having a bad time recording Reagan's life, so he decided to invent a fictitious character--himself--and wrote about all the good times he and Dutch had together.

It has been a lively topic of conversation in literary circles ever since. If Mr. Morris invented himself, how can we be sure he didn't invent the entire book? I must admit I see nothing wrong with what he did. The reason is that I have been working on a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and recently when I hit a stone wall I decided to put myself in the book as one of Abe's dearest friends.

This is where I have gotten so far.

"Abe Lincoln was born next to our log cabin in Kentucky on Feb. 12, 1809, and we became bosom pals soon after. The two of us walked two miles to school every morning and two miles home in the evening just in time to chop down trees. Abe and I studied law and then formed the firm of Buchwald and Lincoln, specializing in civil rights cases.

"Then he fell in love with Mary Todd, a girlfriend I introduced to him.

"In 1856 I urged Lincoln to run for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost, so he decided to run for president, a campaign I can take complete credit for.

"At my urging, Lincoln came out against slavery, and eight Southern states withdrew from the Union.

"Then we had a war between the states, and I served as Lincoln's chief of staff. I also wrote the Gettysburg Address at his request.

"During the conflict I urged Lincoln to forgive the South. Lincoln thought it was a good idea and adopted the Emancipation Proclamation, which I had written to my wife earlier in the war.

"On April 14, 1865, I stopped by the White House and said, 'You folks interested in catching a show at Ford's Theatre?'

" 'What is it?' Abe asked.

" 'It's called "Our American Cousin." It got very good reviews.'

"Lincoln thought it was a good idea."

That is all I've written so far. But Abe's biography makes so much more sense with me as a character in it. The title I've come up with is "Honest Abe and Me--From One Rail-Splitter to Another."

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate