Ford, Susan 1957-

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FORD, Susan 1957-


Born July 6, 1957, in Washington, DC; daughter of Gerald R. (Thirty-eighth president of the United States) and Betty Ford; married Chuck Vance (a Secret Service agent; divorced); married Vaden Bales (a lawyer), 1990; children: two daughters, three stepsons. Education: Studied photography with Ansel Adams; attended University of Kansas (studied photojournalism).


Home—Corrales, NM. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Writer, photographer, spokesperson. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month spokesperson in the 1990s; Betty Ford Center, board member.


(With Laura Hayden) Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Laura Hayden) Sharp Focus: A First Daughter Mystery, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Also contributor to Seventeen. Ford's photographs have appeared in Newsweek and Ladies' Home Journal, and other magazines and newspapers through the Associated Press.


Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, turned the years she spent in the White House in the 1970s to good use in two mysteries which are set at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Teaming up with novelist and scriptwriter Laura Hayden, Ford—whose married name is Susan Ford Bales—merged memories of her time in Washington with her early career as a photographer to come up with a behind-the-scenes look at life in the White House that has been compared to the mystery series of other presidential "First Children," such as Margaret Truman and Elliot Roosevelt. Ford in fact began her writing career while still a teenager, writing a column for Seventeen magazine on life in the White House.

It took more than two decades for Ford to return to writing, however, after pursuing a career in photojournalism, and then as spokesperson for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Living in New Mexico, and with one of her two daughters going off to college, Ford decided to finally mine the material she had gathered as a young daughter of the president. Collaborating with Hayden, she published Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery in 2002. In the tale, Elliot Cooper, a widower, becomes president and is accompanied by his twenty-five-year-old aspiring photojournalist daughter Eve Cooper into the White House. Eve moves from Denver to Washington and shares the White House with an aunt, who serves as the stand-in First Lady; her teenage brother, Drew; her father; and assorted Secret Service men. When the White House photographer, Michael Cauffman, finds a body in the Rose Garden during a photo shoot one snowy day, and further discovers a photo on the corpse's body depicting sexual shenanigans in the Lincoln Bedroom, things grow tense at the White House. The corpse—of a man who apparently died of a heart attack—is the twin brother of White House chief usher, Burton O'Connor; the man photographed in an uncompromising position is an advertising executive, Roger Stansfield. This constellation of events could badly compromise the president, for allegations soon arise that the president accepted tobacco lobby money via Stansfield. Thereafter, it is a race against the clock by Eve, her Secret Service contingent, and Cauffman to keep this from turning into a major scandal and ruining her father's first term in office.

Ford's debut as a novelist "offers some pleasant glimpses behind the scenes at the White House," a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted. This same writer also felt, however, that "the underlying mystery defies common sense." A similar view was shared by a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, who felt that Ford got off to a "shaky start" with this mystery, but that the author's "insider knowledge" was put to good use to "provide an authentic view of life in the White House fishbowl." Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, also praised the "insider's view" that Ford provides in her book. Indeed, several parallels exist between Ford and her protagonist: both experienced the "fishbowl" aspect of life in the White House; both are photojournalists; both know the workings of the Secret Service firsthand (Ford's first husband was one of her father's Secret Service agents); and both stood in for an absent mother. In Ford's case, however, it was not death but breast cancer that sidelined her mother. "I had to apologize to my mother," Ford told Carrie Seidman of the Albuquerque Tribune Online. "'Sorry, you're dead. Don't take it personally.'"

Ford continued her collaboration with Hayden on the 2003 addition to the series, Sharp Focus: A First Daughter Mystery. In this outing, Eve takes a glider ride only to learn that moments later another glider has been involved in a fatal crash. This sets her and the Secret Service to wondering if there is someone stalking the president's daughter. Such questions are proven moot once someone starts shooting at Eve. In order to stop the mayhem, Eve must figure out what connection she has to a passenger who died aboard the second glider. A critic for Publishers Weekly found more to like in this second novel, noting that the authors "nicely blend action, suspense, humor and a little romance."



Detroit Free Press, May 8, 2002, review of Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery.

Independent Living, March-April, 1994, Nancy Lee Norman, "A Champion for Women's Health: Susan Ford Bales Is Committed to Promoting the Need for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer," pp. 42-43.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Double Exposure, p. 76.

Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Double Exposure, p. 144.

New York Times, August 6, 1975, William Farrell, "Susan Ford Finds a 'Superneat' Job"; June 6, 1978, Judy Klemesrud, "Susan Ford Tries Life on Her Own."

New York Times Upfront, October 2, 2000, "A Teen in the White House," p. 2S18.

Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002, review of Double Exposure, pp. 55-56; May 12, 2003, review of Sharp Focus: A First Daughter Mystery, p. 47.

USA Today, April 18, 2002, Deirdre Donahue, "A 'First Daughter' Tries Mystery for First Book," p. D4.


AEI Speakers Bureau, (March 23, 2004).

Albuquerque Tribune Online, (August 29, 2003), Carrie Seidman, "First Daughter Has Second Mystery Novel."

Presidents' Children Web site, (March 23, 2004).

St. Martin's Press Web site, (March 23, 2004).*

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Ford, Susan 1957-

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