In an age when publishers and booksellers are groping for any edge to sell books, it's hard not to be envious of Harold Evans and the denizens of Memphis.

The two joined with a league of local and national celebrities last month in Elvis-land to promote Evans's An American Century (Knopf); the promotion included donating copies of the book to Memphis public schools and libraries, in addition to some private ones.

Thanks to the hospitality of Memphis philanthropists John and Pat Tigrett, some corporate sponsorships and the guidance of publicity mogul Jonathan Marder, a panel was held, tours were given and books were sold.

Max Frankel, whose own memoir, The Times of My Life: And My Life with the Times, has been a success for Random House, sat beside the entertaining and effervescent Stanley Crouch, Nixon intern-turned-scribe Monica Crowley, civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks and Fed Ex chief Fred Smith at the panel, which was moderated by Evans. The Dixon Gallery event attracted Memphis Mayor W.W. Harrington, booksellers such as the Deliberate Literate's Sarah Hull and assorted Memphians.

The panelists presented a wide-ranging discussion that veered from black-Jewish relations to Kosovo, leadership and, of course, the basic issue of why (and whether) this was the American century.

On this last score, some panelists offered standard tropes about equality, tolerance and economic supremacy. Frankel, however, punctured the self-congratulatory balloon by saying, "This was the American century by default, because we managed to avoid the disasters that befell every other country." For his part, Evans practiced a laissez-faire style of moderating. After the event, more than 100 books were sold.

Evans has been a relentless promoter of An American Century (although it was released in October, he continues to give interviews on its behalf). Perhaps his unflagging enthusiasm is partly due to the fact that the book was 12 years in the making; he reportedly included contingencies in his will regarding the book's completion. Evans told PW he's hoping for another sales spike when the gift-giving graduation season rolls around.

Of the trip, Marder concluded: "We achieved publicity, goodwill and special sales."

The King couldn't have put it any better.