cover image Elvis and Nixon

Elvis and Nixon

Jonathan Lowy, Author Crown Publishers $22.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-609-60818-0

Proving that fact is stranger than fiction, first-time novelist Lowy spins a surreal tale based on the real-life meeting between Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley on December 21, 1970, when Nixon presented Presley with an FBI Special Narcotics Agent badge. Basing his story on White House staff memos and Presley lore, Lowy entwines a devastating expos of the Nixon White House and the sad physical deterioration of the King with an account of the My Lai massacre and the incipient decay of American inner cities. Drugged, bloated and fixated on the pop supremacy of the Beatles, Elvis is convinced that he, like Jesus, is a special agent of God. He sees no reason he can't be an agent for the FBI, too. On December 19, he flees Graceland with an arsenal of guns and drugs, and is allowed on a commercial flight to Washington, D.C., where he hopes to meet with John Finlator, head of the FBI's Bureau of Dangerous Drugs. He spends the next two days flying back and forth between D.C. and L.A. in a drug-induced panic while Colonel Parker, Priscilla Presley and Daddy Vernon try to find him. Meanwhile, the White House is under siege by war protestors after the trial of Lt. William Calley for the massacre at My Lai. Lowy's Elvis hovers just this side of caricature, but is redeemed by a core sweetness. However, the author's contempt for Nixon and his staff is painfully evident--they are presented as automatons of evil. (Feb.) Forecast: Short, punchy chapters, a vibrant '70s-inspired jacket and the bizarre, fact-based storyline could spell dark-horse success for this promising if uneven first effort.