It's been a bit of a difficult week for me. Unfortunately, I have been swamped with work, family issues, prior commitments, and book publishing obligations, and this has left me no time for writing blog posts this week. Truthfully, it will likely be a couple of weeks before things calm down enough for me to do any substantive writing that I’m not getting paid for. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends to keep up with the volume of obligations, but something has to give. There are only so many hours in the day.
In the meantime, my publisher has asked my for suggestions for titles for my James Dean book. They are looking for something that is resonant and intriguing and somehow incorporates the concept of masculinity without using that word. I have never been any good at titles, and I have no idea what to suggest.
I am delighted to announce that I have partnered with Applause Books to publish my biography of James Dean next year. I am deeply appreciative of the tireless work of my agent, Lee Sobel, in helping to find my book the best possible home, and for the support and enthusiasm of my editor at Applause, Chris Chappell. Publication of the book is the culmination of a years-long journey that began when I happened upon Rebel without a Cause on Turner Classic Movies one day during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and involved the largest and most comprehensive literature and archival research into James Dean’s life and legacy ever conducted. I am so thankful to have found a team that believes in my book and my work and wants to help me share with the world a story that needs to be told.
Note: This article is cross-posted from my Substack because Twitter is limiting links to Substack. I think you'll find the historical content interesting.
Nearly seven decades after James Dean died, I would have thought that everything that could be known about him was known. All but a small handful of people who knew him in life are now dead, and those left alive have had nothing new to say in decades. The magazine and newspaper articles have been raked through many times, and the scraps of archival materials picked clean. Then, to my amazement, Nate D. Sanders Auctions announced the sale later this month of more than 500 pages of James Dean’s business, legal, and personal correspondence and papers from the estate of his New York talent agent, Jane Deacy, who died in 2008. These papers, never before seen, are, frankly, astounding in what they reveal.
Over the last year, my former literary agent sent me outlandish descriptions of the various reasons publishers gave for rejecting my book. Frankly, I always had it in the back of my mind that he was making them up. When publishers told him that in “this political climate” a book about a queer topic was inadvisable, or when an editor claimed that there was no reason to ever mention James Dean’s sexuality again because it had been discussed in 1975, I wondered if this could possibly be serious. Then this week I received the most dispiriting of rejections, one that left me flabbergasted.
This week, I took the difficult step of separating from my literary agent after he was unable to place my book with a publisher and had fallen out of a communication with me since late last year. I did not take this step lightly, but going forward, I realize that I need more aggressive and supportive representation for my manuscript if I am to make a success of it. My now-former agent said, in his parting message, that he surveyed other agents who agreed that publishers are not interested in the “Americana” field and have difficulty seeing a book about celebrity as “serious,” which tells me that my agent was probably not selling my book on its strongest or most relevant points. I have some potential plans and options for moving forward, but in the meantime, I will be taking some time to revise the manuscript to make it the best-documented book about James Dean every written, not least so no one can challenge my conclusions on the facts.
Note: This blog post also appears in this week's weekly newsletter.
British journalist Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse has become a surprise cultural phenomenon since its November 11 release on Netflix. The archaeology-themed series garnered an impressive 24.62 million hours of viewing in its first week of release, landing in the streaming service’s top 10 in 31 countries. It has also sparked unparalleled outrage from archaeologists and journalists, resulting in dozens of think pieces decrying the show’s many false claims and illogical arguments, analyzing its racist implications, and declaring the series everything from “fishy” to the “most dangerous” show on Netflix. “Why has this been allowed?” asked Britain’s The Guardian. The answer to that seemed pretty obvious: Hancock’s son, Sean Hancock, is Netflix’s senior manager for unscripted originals.
Hancock’s show speculates that a crashing comet destroyed Atlantis, or a similar lost civilization, 13,000 years ago in a series of events remembered as the Great Flood. Ancient monuments and wisdom are therefore the legacy of Atlantis’s survivors, not Earth’s diverse peoples and cultures. Explaining all the reasons Hancock is wrong would take a whole book. Fortunately, I’ve written two. Reader, he is wrong...
Read the rest in The New Republic!
I am sure you noticed that I have been quieter than usual this week. That's because a magazine has commissioned me to write an article, so I spent my free time this week working on that project. The good news is that the piece is done and filed. If all goes well, it should run in the coming days, and I will post a link once it does.
As part of the research for the new book I am crafting out of parts of the one that didn’t garner much interest, I have been researching government persecution of queer people in the postwar era. In so doing, I came across a rather dramatic fact that led me down a statistical rabbit-hole as I hunted the source of a seemingly dramatic fact that turned out not be what it seemed.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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