Even after finishing their terms, U.S. presidents remain well-insulated from their fellow Americans. Surrounded by secret service agents, they roam the world, engaged in lucrative speaking tours and hanging out with the world’s elite. But life after the White House wasn’t always like this, as Matthew Algeo writes in Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip due out from Chicago Review Press in May. Truman’s recounts how, less than six months after leaving the White House in 1953, Truman, accompanied only by his wife Bess, embarked in a Chrysler New Yorker on a 19-day, 2,500-mile road trip to the East Coast from Hannibal, Mo., and back home again. All along the way, the couple ate at diners and stopped at motels, surprising the average citizens who came into contact with them.
“It’s one of those events that’s hard to believe no one’s written about,” said Algeo, who lives in Rome with his wife, a foreign service officer. “And as time goes by, people find it hard to believe it could ever have happened.” Algeo’s efforts to rescue Truman’s road trip from historical obscurity didn’t end with retracing Truman’s exact route — dining at the same diners and staying at the same motels when possible; while writing Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure, he is also retracing as closely as he can Truman’s route during his book tour. Beginning May 6 at the Kansas City Public Library, the tour will wend its way through 14 cities in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with the last scheduled stop at Kuhn’s Corner Books in Perkasie, Pa., on June 6. Chicago Review Press publicists are still working on setting up appearances in New York City and in Washington, D.C., before Algeo returns to Rome after July 4.
“This is the kind of book that really lends itself to a book tour, because it’s about a tour,” Algeo said, explaining that at every stop he is going to focus on the section of the book pertaining to that particular community.
Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure has indeed become Matthew Algeo’s excellent adventure, and Chicago Review Press isn’t doing too badly, either. The book, which had an initial print run of 5,000 copies, has already gone back to press for two more print runs totaling an additional 8,000 copies.