For those who didn't go to hear Rodney King's conversation with Patt Morrison (and wait some time for King to show), the best bet for the same 12:30 p.m. time slot Saturday was an L.A. TImes Festival of Books panel discussion titled "Biography: The American Century."
Moderated by A. Scott Berg, the author of considerable biographies of Max Perkins and Charles A. Lindbergh, panelists included Richard Reeves; Jim Newton, the L.A. Times editor-at-large; and John A. Farrell, author of "Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned," which was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography on Friday night.
Panelists spoke about what inspired them to write biographies. Reeves, who has penned bestselling biographies of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, talked about his most recent book, "Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of the Berlin Airlift" on the American efforts to be get humanitarian relief to the beleaguered city in 1947. He got a laugh when he noted that he took on the assignment because Newton and another biographer had cornered the market on Eisenhower before he could get to that president.
More seriously, Reeves said he took on the airlift as a response to the negative publicity U.S. servicemen received for the horrific photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "I wanted to do something that showed America as I saw it," Reeves said. He thought readers should be reminded that when Berlin was surrounded by more than half a million Soviet troops, American servicemen were mobilized quickstep and flew tons of supplies to the city.