Readers of this blog may know that I rarely promote other history books here, since I'd prefer you to buy my own. And if you already have a copy of Ask Vance, then you should buy half a dozen more.
But sometimes a new history book comes out that strikes my fancy, and so sure, I'll give it a plug here — especially when it's written by my pal, Robert Ferguson, and when it includes a rare photo of the Lauderdale Mansion.
Is it actually the Lauderdale Mansion? Is the story about the reclusive owner (uh, that would be me) correct? Well, I'll let the reader decide.
Ferguson, who served with the Memphis Police Department more than 33 years, has always been fascinated by local history. Years ago, he compiled a nice poster showing the marquees of most of the old movie theatres in town. In 2007, he wrote Elvis: In the Heat of the Night, about the King's friendly relationship with some of Bob's fellow officers.
The new book, Memphis Castles: Former Homes and Stories of Prominent Memphians, takes readers on a tour of more than 100 homes in Memphis. Big names like Elvis and Clarence Saunders are mentioned here, but you won't find their most well-known homes featured. Good grief, if you don't know that Elvis lived at Graceland, or that Saunders built (but never lived in) the Pink Palace, then I can't help you.
Instead, this book features photos and stories about such people as Wink Martindale, Cybill Shepherd, J.C. Levy (of "Dial-a-Smile") fame, dj Dewey Phillips, former Miss America Barbara Jo Walker Hummel, Richard Halliburton, Rufus Thomas, and dozens more.
Ever wondered where Sivad actually lived? Or where Machine Gun Kelly was captured? You'll find those here, too.
I was pleased to see that the one-time home of esteemed colleague Jackson Baker, senior editor and political guru of the Memphis Flyer, is included, along with a very strange story Jackson told about that memorable residence. (I won't give it away here.)
In his introduction, Bob remembers the Sunday drives with his family, where they would hit the roads "to see the homes of the rich, famous, interesting, and notorious. If you missed out on that in the days of yesteryear, perhaps this book will serve your interest and enjoyment."
Bob really did a nice job. Anyone interested in Memphis history should add this book to his or her library. It's currently available for $15.95 at Burke's Book Store, The Booksellers of Laurelwood, the Center for Southern Folklore, and the South Main Street Juggler.