An Update on My Writing Projects
Every summer since 2011, when I started writing my blog, I have provided an update on my writing projects. Here is my 2021 update.
I have four book projects in various stages of completion. I will discuss each in turn.
Scoundrels: Political Scandals in American History—Volumes 1 & 2
My scandals book started as one writing project, but it has become two.
Faithful readers may recall that for the past two years I have been working on a history of political and sex scandals in American history. I have posted many blogs about the figures who have been embroiled in scandals since the founding of the republic. What readers do not know is that my project expanded far beyond my initial expectations. I had hoped to submit a 90,000-word manuscript to my publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, in June 2020. Instead, I submitted a 150,000-word manuscript in November 2020.
I have done this myself several times in my writing career. I start a project and find that a full discussion of the topic exceeds my original forecast of the page length. This presents a problem for the publisher because it costs more to produce a hefty book. Unless the author is well known, selling a hefty book—at an even heftier price—is difficult. This leaves me, a no-name author, with two options: One, cut the manuscript to the bone, or, two, convince the publisher to produce two volumes.
In this instance, Rowman & Littlefield agreed to publish two volumes. The first volume, titled Scoundrels: Political Scandals in American History, is completed and slated for publication sometime in the first half of 2022. The second volume, tentatively titled Libertines: Sex Scandals in American History, still needs work. I hope to finish that work in August and September 2021. Publication would occur in the second half of 2022, or perhaps early in 2023.
Scoundrels: Political Scandals in American History covers these episodes:
Chapter 1: The Yazoo Land Fraud
Chapter 2: The Aaron Burr Conspiracy
Chapter 3: The Caning of Charles Sumner
Chapter 4: Scandals of the 1870s (Salary Grab/Whiskey Ring/Credit Mobilier)
Chapter 5: Teapot Dome
Chapter 6: William “Wild Bill” Langer
Chapter 7: Spiro Agnew
Chapter 8: Watergate
Chapter 9: Abscam
Chapter 10: The Savings & Loan Crisis
Chapter 11: Iran-Contra
Chapter 12: Jack Abramoff
Chapter 13: 2016 Russian Election Interference
Volume two, Libertines: Sex Scandals in American History, covers these scandals:
Chapter 1: Alexander Hamilton and Maria Reynolds
Chapter 2: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Chapter 3: The Andrew Jackson Scandals (Rachel Jackson and Peggy Eaton)
Chapter 4: Daniel Sickles and Philip Barton Key II
Chapter 5: Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton
Chapter 6: Grover Cleveland’s Illegitimate Son
Chapter 7: Warren G. Harding, Carrie Phillips, and Nan Britton
Chapter 8: Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe
Chapter 9: Gary Hart and Donna Rice
Chapter 10: Bob Packwood
Chapter 11: Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
Chapter 12: Gary Condit and Chandra Levy
Chapter 13: Anthony Weiner
Chapter 14: Donald Trump’s sex scandals
Discriminating readers can see that not every political or sex scandal in American history is covered in these two volumes. The point is well taken. Alas, I had to discus representative scandals and omit several episodes from my account. It would require many volumes to cover every scandal in American history.
“Fulfill Thy Ministry”: Three Episcopal Ministers, Race, and the Civil War Era
As I mentioned in my 2020 update, I am co-authoring a work with my uncle, the late Reverend Loren B. Mead. This statement is slightly inaccurate, though. A retired Episcopal minister, Loren was working on the manuscript when he died on May 5, 2018. He had gathered most of the research, prepared an outline, and written a few pages of general observations and impressions. I am finishing the manuscript based on his direction. Consequently, the plan, organization, research, and direction of the book are Loren’s work, while the prose and execution are mine.
On February 23, 2016, he sent me a letter containing notes and an outline for the book. As he explained in his letter, “I’m going to try to do a new book on three men I call my own Three Musketeers, white men who really stood in the crossing between whites and blacks in the Episcopal Church right after the war.”
Loren viewed these three men as emblematic Episcopal ministers who confronted race during the Civil War and Reconstruction: “These three men…[are] Peter Stevens (celebrated in Charleston as the man who fired on Fort Sumter), Toomer Porter (who helped reestablish education for blacks and whites after the war and whose name is kept in the name of the Porter-Gaud Academy in Charleston today), and William Porcher DuBose (later dean-founder of the seminary at Sewanee, and maybe the only American Episcopal theologian who is sometimes read outside the USA).”
Loren’s research question was relatively simple, even if the answers were not: How did these three Episcopal ministers from South Carolina—each man an ardent supporter of the Confederate States of America—respond to the collapse of the slaveholding republic and the dawn of the Reconstruction era? So many ex-Confederates were unreconstructed rebels who bowed to superior northern military might but refused to accept former slaves—the so-called “freedmen”—as fully human, functioning members of society during the postbellum years.
The three men reacted in different ways. Peter F. Stevens became a tireless champion of the freedmen, spending 35 years of his life ministering to former slaves in the Diocese of South Carolina. Toomer Porter shared Stevens’ insight that former slaves must be welcomed into the church, although he focused on educating young people (creating separate schools for blacks and whites). DuBose forged a different path, embracing the traditional southern perspective that blacks were inferior and must be kept at arm’s length through de jure segregation.
The manuscript is approximately 50% completed, and I don’t yet have a publisher. Ideally, I will finish writing the rough draft by year’s end, find a publisher early in the new year, and have the book published late in 2022 or early in 2023. Stay Tuned.
“A Finer Spirit of Hope and Achievement”: 28 Exemplary American Public Servants
My final book project involves a scholarly examination of leaders in American public administration. During the past decade, I have taught graduate courses in public administration (PA) at both the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. Two of my signature courses have been “Leadership and Ethics in Public Administration” and “The Policy Process.” Within the PA literature in both areas, scholars have discussed the value of “public administration exemplars,” those outstanding men and women who have been effective in fulfilling their formal duties and ethical in leading their organizations. Some famous public administrators are the subjects of standalone books, but to my knowledge, there has never been a single volume that highlights the accomplishments of American public servants who serve as models of excellence in public service. My new book project seeks to fill that niche.
The thesis is that effective public servants (defined as unelected officials who conduct public business working inside a government agency at any level) understand the rules and regulations in their organizations, but they also are not afraid to find creative means of achieving their goals. Sometimes they work through organizational norms and customs, while at other times they bend the rules and seek a broader domain for the agency. Some effective servants have been charismatic individuals who relied on an outsized personality while others have been self-effacing introverts who labored quietly behind the scenes to achieve their goals. Their one commonality is a strong belief in government service and a willingness to employ effective methods for accomplishing their objectives.
These are the 28 figures that will be highlighted in the book:
1. Montgomery Meigs (1816-1892)
2. Charles Dawes (1865-1951)
3. Frances Perkins (1880-1965)
4. Harold Ickes (1874-1952)
5. Leslie Groves (1896-1970)
6. David Lilienthal (1899-1981)
7. Robert Moses (1888-1981)
8. Alice Hamilton (1869-1970)
9. Ralph Bunche (1904-1971)
10. Allen Dulles (1893-1969)
11. Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914-2015)
12. Hyman G. Rickover (1900-1986)
13. Wilbur J. Cohen (1913-1987)
14. Stewart Udall (1920-2010)
15. Robert C. Weaver (1907-1997)
16. David O. “Doc” Cooke (1920-2002)
17. Dwight Ink (1922- )
18. Elliot Richardson (1920-1999)
19. Alan K. “Scotty” Campbell (1924-1998)
20. James A. Baker III (1930- )
21. Alice Rivlin (1931-2019)
22. Elmer Staats (1914-2011)
23. James Webb (1906-1992)
24. George Schultz (1920-2021)
25. Prudence Bushnell (1946- )
26. Constance Berry Newman (1935- )
27. Colin Powell (1937- )
28. Anthony Fauci (1940- )
I am in the early stages of this project. I do not yet have a publisher, and I have not started my research. Accordingly, I am probably 18-24 months away from publication. I will provide an update during my next report, which will be in the summer of 2022.