Elvis and Nixon

presley nixon 3 chapters

Click on the link above to read the first three chapters. (Note: If you can read these bookcvr3chapters, you already have Adobe Reader on your computer.)

Some backstory on this book:

Many people have asked how I came to write a book about Elvis and Richard Nixon. After all, could two people really be more different? The fact is, Elvis and Nixon had numerous things in common, from their poor upbringings to their conservative politics to their respective falls from grace. But as for how the idea behind Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream actually came about, well, that’s an interesting story.

 

First, a brief note on how my co-author of this title, Marc Hendrickx, and I met. Marc, who lives in Belgium, initially contacted me after reading my articles in Elvis Monthly. He wanted to use parts of a concert review I had done for the magazine in his upcoming bio on Elvis. I agreed, and over the course of time, we realized we had a lot in common, both as Elvis fans and writers. After Marc finished his lengthy bio, he mentioned he had all the White House photos from the Elvis Nixon meeting, but hadn’t used them in his book. He wondered whether the two of us might put together a short photo book on the topic, and include a factual play-by-play of the meeting. I agreed this was a good idea, and set about putting together a short narrative on the topic. Most of that original writing, and some further details, appear in Chapter 8 of this book.

Believing we had what might be a potential blockbuster on our hands (no one had written about this subject yet, let alone put a book out with all the photos), I began contacting some literary agents. To my surprise, their reaction varied from outright laughter (“You can’t be serious!”) to eye rolling (“Oh no, another nutty Elvis fan wants to write a book,”), to admitted skepticism (“Publishers don’t want another Elvis book,”). One agent bucked that trend, said she thought it was a great idea, and would I consider expanding the book to include more of each man’s life story.

My initial reaction to that idea was skeptical, but as I did some basic research, I found that Elvis and Nixon actually had quite a few things in common. Both were dirt poor growing up. Both lost a brother during their childhoods. Critics panned them early in their careers. Neither gave up when the going got tough. Both loved and respected their parents. Each enjoyed some of their highest popularity ratings at the time of their meeting in December 1971. And, sadly, both came crashing to the ground shortly thereafter. All the while, the media hounds blasted away, doing whatever they could to destroy these two men who had succeeded in realizing the American Dream.

I spent some two and a half years researching Nixon heavily. (This was before the internet had taken off, so I had to do it all the old fashioned way: buying books and documentary videos and checking others out from the library. Nixon’s memoir alone is 1100 pages, and I read it all, twice.) I didn’t need to do as much research on Elvis, given how I knew so much about him already, and had Marc’s watchful eyes as an editor. Still, all the facts had to be verified, then everything had to be pulled together in a time line for the book. When I was finished, I contacted the agent mentioned above. She spent a few weeks talking the book up to her friends and coworkers in the business. Unfortunately, their general consensus was the book wouldn’t sell. So, she politely and regretfully declined representation.

I tried other agents again, but none had warmed to the idea, so I began contacting publishers directly. The big ones passed, but a few smaller houses were interested. I convinced Marc to go with McFarland because they were (and remain) a respected academic publisher. I felt confident they wanted the book and would do a good job with it. They didn’t disappoint on the publishing end. They opted for a hardcover edition and spent the extra money on a lavish color cover. As mentioned elsewhere, their marketing didn’t live up to expectations, but most publishers probably don’t unless the author has already made them millions of dollars. So, final word on this, I remain satisfied with the job McFarland did on the initial printing–enough so that I agreed to allow them to reprint the book in November 2015. Hey, you just never know. People might love the movie so much that they will do an Amazon search for a book tie-in and find ours.

As with my other books listed on this blog, you can read the first three chapters for free via the above link. If you like Elvis and are interested in modern American history and/or politics in general, I’m confident you will enjoy this book. And in the process, you just might come away realizing that Nixon wasn’t nearly the monster the media made him out to be.

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3 thoughts on “Elvis and Nixon

  1. I ordered Elvis, Nixon and the American Dream for one of my writing classes, and I was thrilled with that decision for several reasons:

    1. It is an excellent example of a compare-and-contrast writing project held carefully in focus based on the thesis, two major American entities and their manner of attaining “the American Dream.” (Everyone thinks he or she understands the American dream until invited to examine it!)

    2. The book deals with both controversial people and subject. As my students progressed through each chapter, I noted the way they began shedding former concepts about Elvis and Nixon (i.e. dead, boring, inept, bumbling) in their summaries and feeling their way toward new opinions. It was fascinating to watch.

    3. While the author(s) comes from a very neutral, studied point of view, supporting every point or claim with evidence, my student readers demonstrated increasing determination to make up their own minds about Elvis and Nixon, growing as inquisitive and critical thinkers. This is the goal of the well-written compare-and-contrast essay or book. No wonder it is in Harvard library!

    4. By the end of the reading, one student (a former Navy man) proclaimed Nixon one of the finest presidents the nation ever had. This was a 180 degree turn for him. Others expressed differing but equally strong and heartfelt opinions. One student had me get the author’s autograph because she had forgotten to do so!

    5. Connie Kirchberg kindly came into our class to answer questions about her long trek through each man’s life, how she and Mark hit upon their focus, how she became a published author and what that is like. She also showed rare footage of Elvis performing. I noticed several of my female students notably affected. Nothing like a true wade through history! Let’s do it again!

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