The Score: Biography Lessons

This week on The Score, we dip into the archives for conversations with various authors and historians who have written books about famous people. This special dog days of summer episode features lessons in biography.

This week’s episode features interviews about people of consequence with the authors who wrote their stories. From Ayn Rand to Richard Nixon to Ernest Hemingway, we chat with historians and journalists from across the United States.

Eisenhower and Nixon
Let’s start with four biographers who have written about Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

William Hitchcock is the William W. Corcoran Professor of History at the University of Virginia. I spoke to him about his book, The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s, in March 2018.

In 2012, Hitchcock was named the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress’ John W. Kluge Center, an appointment that allowed him to concentrate on the research that resulted in The Age of Eisenhower. The several courses he teaches at UVA include topics like The Cold War, War and Society in the Twentieth Century, Europe since 1945, and Twentieth Century International History, Among his other books are The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present (2004), The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe (2008), and France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy and the Quest for Leadership in Europe, 1944-1954 (1998).

You can follow Professor Hitchcock on Twitter as @WillHitchUVA.

Veteran journalist Evan Thomas has written about Dwight Eisenhower from another angle. His book Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World, explores how the former general prevented nuclear war in the 1950s.

Thomas was an editor and writer at Newsweek for 24 years, writing more than a hundred cover stories, winning more than one National Magazine Award. He is a fellow of the Society of American Historians and has been a teacher at Princeton and Harvard universities. He earned degrees at Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School.

Thomas’ most recent book is First: Sandra Day O’Connor (2019). He also wrote Being Nixon: A Man Divided (2016), John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy (2004), and The Man to See: Edward Bennett Williams Ultimate Insider; Legendary Trial Lawyer (1991), among others.

I spoke to Evan Thomas at the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2013.

Journalist Jeffrey Frank wrote a joint biography of Dwight Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon. Frank’s book is called Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage and I interviewed him in March 2013 at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, where he spoke on a panel with Evan Thomas.

Frank was a senior editor at The New Yorker from 1995 to 2009 and his other books include The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Translation from the Danish (with Diana Krone Frank, 2003), The Columnist (2001), and Bad Publicity: A Novel (2003).

The final member of this foursome is biographer John A. Farrell, who published Richard Nixon: The Life in February 2018. He and I chatted at the Virginia Festival of the Book, where he spoke on a panel with William Hitchcock, a few weeks later. He has also written biographies of lawyer Clarence Darrow and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

Farrell is also an alumnus of the University of Virginia and has worked for newspapers such as the Denver Post and the Boston Globe. You can follow him on Twitter at @jaloysius.

Rand, Paul, Coolidge
In April 2010, I caught up with historian Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. At the time, Burns was teaching at the University of Virginia. She is now an associate professor of history at Stanford University and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

According to her Twitter profile (@profburns), Burns is currently working on a biography of Milton Friedman. In this excerpt from a longer interview, I asked her to explain Ayn Rand’s popularity nearly forty years after her death.

Brian Doherty is a chronicler of the libertarian movement, known for his 2007 book, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. When former Texas Congressman Ron Paul was running for president in 2008 and 2012, Doherty wanted to find out what made Dr. Paul’s supporters tick. The result was Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired. It was published in May 2012, and I spoke to Doherty that same month at the Cato Institute in Washington.

Doherty is on Twitter as @brianmdoherty. He is also the author of This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground (2004 and 2014) and Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle Over the Second Amendment (2009).

Calvin Coolidge is one of the most underrated presidents. He served in a time of peace and prosperity, but he doesn’t often get credit for that.

Amity Shlaes tries to correct misconceptions about Coolidge in her 2013 biography of the thirtieth president. I talked to her at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 2013.

Shlaes is also the author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (2008), The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It (1999), and Germany: The Empire Within (1991). The Forgotten Man is available in Italian and German-language translations.

Shlaes chairs the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and is on Twitter as @AmityShlaes.

Hemingway and Douglass
For a change of pace, we get to talk about cocktails – namely, the cocktails and other drinks that appear in the writings of Ernest Hemingway.

Philip Greene is the author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. We chatted at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March 2014.

You can follow Greene on Twitter at @philipgreene. He has also written A Drinkable Feast: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris (2018) and The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail (2016).

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet historian David Blight, who has written a well-received biography of former slave, abolitionist, diplomat, and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass. A few weeks later, his book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

This is a short excerpt from my conversation with David Blight. You can hear the whole thing on the March 31 episode of The Score.

Next week’s episode will feature a number of historians who have appeared on the show over the past few months, and others who have not been recent guests. Possible segments include Melinda Bates, Christian Caryl, Arthur Herman, Garrett Peck, and Craig Shirley.

We will return to newly recorded interviews later in August or early September. Stay tuned – you never know what you might hear on The Score!

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