Like many of Vidal's other historical novels, such as Julian or Creation, the book is based on an imaginary memoir. In fact, Vidal did meticulous research of hundreds of documents to come up with his alternative reading of history.
The story is told from the point of view of a fictional illegitimate son of Burr's by the name of Charles Schuyler.
Burr is the first of a series of novels by Vidal in which he follows one family through the history of the United States. The second book in the series, 1876, tells of Schuyler returning to the United States in the year 1876, after having spent forty years in Europe.