PERSONAL: Married; wife's name Dawn; children: Alessandra, Zachary.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Crown Publishers, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Elvis and Nixon, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.
The Temple of Music, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Jonathan Lowy is the author of the novels Elvis and Nixon and The Temple of Music. Lowy's debut work, Elvis and Nixon, "is worth reading for its sheer entertainment value," remarked A. J. Anderson in Library Journal. Set in the tumultuous world of music and politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the novel focuses on two of the era's giants of popular culture: burned-out rock-and-roller Elvis Presley and embattled U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. Elvis's star is fading as his physical condition declines and his dependence on a variety of pharmaceuticals increases. Worse, rock 'n' roll fans are paying more attention to upstart groups like the Beatles and less attention to trailblazers like Presley. Fed up and disgusted, Elvis abruptly sets out on what he thinks will be a journey of self-discovery, toting an impressive collection of guns and drugs. He ends up at the White House and, convinced he should be an FBI agent, searches out the head of the FBI's Bureau of Dangerous Drugs. Eventually, Nixon makes him an honorary narcotics agent.
While the King of Rock and Roll considers career options in drug enforcement, Nixon has his presidential plate full in dealing with the political and social fallout from the recent My Lai massacre in Vietnam. As war protesters swarm around the White House, Nixon plots in the Oval Office, looking for ways to undo the public relations damage that My Lai has caused. "Lowy entwines a devastating expose of the Nixon White House and the sad physical deterioration of the King" with the story of My Lai and reports on social and urban decay in American cities, noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. He treats the "capricious egotists" of Presley and Nixon with "consummate skill," Anderson observed. In his "surreal tale," Lowy "orchestrates an amusing romp through the pop culture and politics of the 1970s," commented Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper.
A more conventional work of historical fiction, The Temple of Music presents what a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "a scattered but compelling account" of President William McKinley's assassination by the enigmatic Leon Czolgosz during the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The novel focuses on more than a dozen prominent historical figures from turn-of-the-twentieth-century America. William Randolph Hearst uses the power of his newspaper empire to oppose McKinley and support Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan, while wealthy and eccentric condom magnate Morris Vandeveer experiences the focused anger of anti-vice crusaders such as Anthony Comstock. Emma Goldman, a proto-anarchist, travels throughout the East, rallying the lower classes and those taken advantage of by the Hearsts, Vandeveers, and other tycoons, and ultimately inspires Czolgosz to have his fateful encounter with McKinley. The young Polish immigrant is easily influenced; he is bitter over the preventable death of his mother, who perished because the family could not afford a doctor. Lowy takes care to fill in the background of Czolgosz, reporting on the emotionally devastating events that led him to the desperate act of becoming an assassin.
McKinley and Czolgosz "are real people in Lowy's hands, motivated as much by love and fear as politics or ideology, and often confused" by their own actions and their unwitting role in American history, the Publishers Weekly critic remarked. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Lowy's "superbly imagined characterizations" of McKinley, Czolgosz, and other characters, as well as the book's overall high quality, make it "a high-water mark in the ongoing renaissance of the historical novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Elvis and Nixon, p. 919.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2004, review of The Temple of Music, p. 932.
Library Journal, February 1, 2001, A. J. Anderson, review of Elvis and Nixon, p. 126.
Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2001, review of Elvis and Nixon, p. 67; November 29, 2004, review of The Temple of Music, p. 24.