The President and the King

Elvis and Nixon: A Novel by Jonathan Lowy

First, I need to tell you what appears at the end of this book, because I discovered it too darn late. The author provides a suggested playlist, which contains one song for each chapter of the book. I wish I’d’ve known! Lots of Elvis, of course, and also plenty of the Doors, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, CCR, and the Stones. OK. So now you know. Check out the playlist first.

This book’s approach is rather similar to the style of Adam Braver’s novel November 22, 1963: a story about real people—one of them the President of the United States—and here, also some fictitious people, over the course of a short period of time—a day or a few.

In this book, we have two wildly well-known paranoids meeting in the Oval Office—President Nixon, who once famously walked on the beach in dress shoes, and “Elvis the Pelvis,” whom the Ed Sullivan Show filmed above the waist only because of those gyrations. It’s one of those “Truth is stranger than fiction” moments. I’d’ve thought this book was pure fiction, except that I had read about this incident: Bud Krogh (on whom I have an enormous crush) writes about the actual event on his web site. (I tell you true: this is a link to check out.)

Lowy fleshes out several secondary characters and weaves their stories throughout the book (including an intriguing story line about a soldier involved in the My Lai massacre), but the part of the book that I liked best were the narrative threads about Elvis and the presidential aide who was to encounter him. (And to think this type of thing was happening in the Oval Office during my formative years. Egads.)