Book Talk, iTunes, Library – Latest Happenings from Adam


As I work feverishly on my next book–how an African American physician led the effort to integrate Major League Baseball’s spring training in Florida–I’ve neglected, with regret, my blog.

Here are the latest happenings:

  • And if you prefer to take it out on loan, have your local library request it. Santa Clara County Library District, for example, made it available, and I was pleased to see it was checked out!
  • Johnson flyerFinally, my father, Professor Emeritus Gerald S. Henig, who taught Civil War and Reconstruction studies for nearly 40 years, is back on the lecture circuit. He’ll be delivering a talk on the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He will focus on “Lincoln’s Successor, Andrew Johnson: States Right’s Advocate or  White Supremacist?”  The talk will be held on Monday, April 13, at 1:00 p.m. at California State University, East Bay, Hayward Campus in the Library. The event is free and open to the public. In case you’re wondering, yes, he ignited my initial interest in African American history.

Roots Remake in the Works, Audiobook Available, & Author Update

Director Allen Hughes

Director Allen Hughes

A little more than a year ago, the History Channel announced it had acquired the film rights to Roots. Until now there has been little development., a popular breaking news site that covers the Hollywood film industry, reported that director Allen Hughes, best known for his 1990s features’ Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, has been hired to direct the remake of the mini-series. Two screenwriters, Mark Rosenthal and Larry Konner (The Sopranos), have been hired to pen the script. The executive producers include Hughes and Mark Wolper, son of David L. Wolper, the producer of the original mini-series. To his credit, Mark produced the TV version of Alex Haley’s Queen & The Gift (which was based on Haley’s 1988 novella, A Different Kind of Christmas).

In case the remake wasn’t enough, there is another Roots-influenced film in the works. Showing Roots, which will star Orange Is The New Blacks Uzo Aduba, is about “a small Southern town in 1977 whose balance is turned upside down when the slavery miniseries Roots hits the airwaves.” This movie is much further ahead in production, with a complete cast and crew in place. Filming is already underway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It will be directed by well-known theater director, Michael Wilson. Showing Roots will be his first feature film. There has been no mention of a release date or whether it will be shown in movie theaters or go straight to television. The movie will feature Cicely Tyson, who played Kunta Kinte’s mother in the original Roots mini-series.

Expect these movies in their marketing campaigns to take full advantage of the approaching 40th anniversary of Roots (2017).

miles davisFor all jazz lovers, there’s a new CD/digital album of Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s final tour together before their split. The four-CD box set features Davis’ classic “Round Midnight” and “So What” among others. Click here for the review.

Author Updates

The audiobook version of Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey is now available in 2iTunes and Amazon’s Audible stores. A little more than two hours in length, veteran narrator Mark Westfield did an excellent job of capturing the tone of this story. If you’re interested in reviewing the book on Amazon or iTunes, please contact me and I’ll send you a free copy.

Earlier this week, my local paper, The Gilroy Dispatch, published an article about my role as a self publish biographer.  Click here for the article.

Meanwhile, Alex Haley’s Roots was  reviewed last month in Publishers Weekly’s BookLife. Here’s a short excerpt:

“Henig tracks the life of Alex Haley after the publication of his path breaking book, Roots, offering a sad reminder of the potential downsides to achieving one’s dreams….[and] recounts the highs and lows of Haley’s life with sympathy, addressing the critiques honestly.”

Recently, I was conducting research for my next book using a Microfilm machine. I’ve used them before and with my father’s assistance, we plowed through two full months of the daily newspaper, New York Post.  Although Google might be quicker and more efficient to search, I admit it’s not nearly as enjoyable as sitting at a library, lining up the film, and scrolling through an old newspaper.

A microfilm machine…and yes, they are still in use.

A microfilm machine…and yes, they are still in use.

Finally, if you’re interested in notification about my next book (and those after), sign-up for my email list. I promise I won’t SPAM you or  send you a million updates (it will only be book-related and given that I write books every two years, rest assured there will be very few emails sent), and I won’t sell or distribute the list to a third party.


MLK, Alex Haley & Playboy’s most memorable interview

To commemorate the annual federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wanted to share a story behind Alex Haley’s Playboy interview of the civil rights leader, which was published exactly 50 years ago this month.

This blog post was originally posted on January 15, 2014. 


MLKDuring the winter of 1964, when the forty-three year-old Alex Haley approached the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for an interview in Playboy, the up-and-coming writer assumed his intended subject would happily oblige.

Having already published articles in Reader’s DigestCosmopolitan, and The Atlantic, and having conducted interviews Miles Davis, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X (all for Playboy), Haley had established himself as one of the nation’s leading African American magazine writers.

If anyone in the media could secure an interview with King, it was Haley, who was praised by the black news publication, Negro Digest, as the “most successful writer we know.”

It seemed like a sure thing.

But, it wasn’t.

When Haley made his first trip to Atlanta, King’s hometown, the Playboy interviewer had realize that he underestimated who he was dealing with.

“[I] never even got to first base; the man was that inaccessible, that committed,” Haley wrote to Alfred Balk, a fellow journalist.

King was always on the move, flying throughout the country to meet with black leaders, politicians, and the masses. As soon as he landed in one city, Haley noted, moments later it seemed King was off to the next.  After another unsuccessful visit to Atlanta, Haley needed a new game plan.

What if he tried catching King at the airport, in between flights?

Gutsy, but that approach didn’t pan out.

It seemed that Haley would have to return  to his editors at Playboy empty-handed. How had he been successful in luring other notable public figures, but not King?

Haley was desperate.

He was aware that the Reverend was somewhat reluctant to be featured in a magazine with nude photographs of women. To compensate, Haley approached one of King’s assistants, Andrew Young, and offered to waive his fee from the interview in the form of a donation to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Although that may have helped his cause, in the end he pursued a different strategy.

Instead of confronting King, the writer decided to contact directly the civil rights leader’s secretary, Miss Dora McDonald.

Miss Dora McDonald is left of MLK and his wife, Coretta.

“I know that Dr. King now is immersed with Atlanta problems,” he wrote McDonald. “Give me even 15 minutes, a half hour, perhaps lunch with him, for a total time of about four hours?”

McDonald couldn’t make any promises, but she recommended that Haley attend a “church barbecue” and “let him see you there and don’t press.”

Haley heeded her advice.

He attended a picnic sponsored by the church, minded his own business, ate off his “paper plate of barbecued chicken,” and waited for an opportunity to be alone with King.  The civil rights leader recognized Haley and knew what he wanted. Haley treaded carefully.

In the course of their conversation, Haley soon realized that King (who was reluctant to admit it)  needed Haley and Playboy as much as they needed him. Getting his message out to the white, middle class audience that Playboy served was vital to sustaining the movement’s momentum.

No-nation-can-suffer-anyHaley finally set the leader straight: “Think what you will about the girls, but you can’t ignore the audience.” (A little more than a year earlier, Haley used a similar line to entice another black leader, Malcolm X,  to submit to an interview as well).

King conceded and eventually sat down with Haley, and gave one of the most memorable Playboy interviews. It was also one of King’s “longest he had ever granted to any publication.”


For only $.99, you can read the entire interview by clicking here.  To read other Playboy interviews conducted by Alex Haley, click here.  


What a Year to be an Indie Author

A year ago I was a nobody in the world of publishing.Book Talk & Autograph Signing in October 2014

I had just unveiled my website, was still unpublished (in the process of fact checking and final edits), contacted scores of reviewers (in hopes they’ll review my manuscript), began listening to the Self Publishing Podcast, published my first review in the San Francisco Book Review, and crafted a semi-effective marketing plan on a shoestring budget for my book’s launch.

0001-46130077-2The ultimate goal, though, wasn’t to become a New York Times best selling author (I’m a little bit more realistic). In short, I wanted to establish myself as a professional author–positiviely reviewed, sell copies of my book that reached beyond friends and family (thank you to them, nevertheless), continue to review books, discover new tricks of the trade (like creating a book cover on 99 Designs), connecting with other authors–which I was fortunate enough to do so, including D.G Kaye, Alysha Kaye, David Wright, and Daniel James Brown, who wrote the mega best-seller Boys in the Boatand, of course, prepare for my next publication.

A year later, I have met and, in many cases, surpassed these objectives.  Without going through a laundry list of accomplishments, here’s a few of the highlights by the numbers:

  • 5,074 – highest overall ranking on Amazon to date (thanks BookSends)
  • 500 books sold
  • 33 published blog posts on my website
  • 28 reviews of my book on Amazon with an average rating of 4.4
  • 14 published book reviews on Amazon, BlogCriticsSan Francisco Book Review, and Tulsa Book Review.
  • 2 podcast interviews that included New Books Network.


Other accomplishments:

And finally, what to expect from me for 2015.

  • The audiobook version of Alex Haley’s Roots


    Audiobook Cover

  • A review of Alex Haley’s Roots in Publisher’s Weekly (not sure when; and no, I didn’t pay for it–remember shoestring budget).
  • And, finally, completion of my next book, Under One Roof. It focuses on a courageous African American physician who led the struggle to overcome segregated housing and other facilities in Florida for Major League Baseball players during annual spring training–publication date: winter 2016 (cross your fingers).

Happy Holidays,



Win an Autograph copy of ‘Alex Haley’s Roots”

blog-hop-51As a participant in this month’s Blog Hop, which is hosted by author Harry Patz and The Book Binder’s Daughter, I am giving away an autographed copy of the paperback edition of Alex Haley’s Roots.

What’s a Blog Hop?  A blog hop is a group of authors or bloggers who all do a giveaway on the same dates and readers can hop from site to site and enter lots of giveaways at once. (Source: The Book Binder’s Daughter)

All you have to do is  fill out this Entry-Form (don’t worry, you won’t be spammed). Giveaway ends on 12/12.

A winner will be selected randomly on 12/ 13 and then notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond.

To potentially win more goodies, check out these other blog hoppers.

Happy Holidays,



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From One Author To Another: Q&A with Michael Rank

The one advantage of being a commuter is I have the opportunity to listen to podcasts on a regular basis. These include, among others, NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “This American Life,” “Self-Publishing Podcast,” and “Creative Penn.”

A few months ago, I began listening to “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” which is geared toward writers who want tips marketing their books on Kobo’s website. Michael Rank’s September 16 interview on “Writing Life” caught my attention.

Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of "History in 5 Minutes Podcast."

Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of “History in 5 Minutes

Not only was I interested in the subject matter, but it was refreshing to listen to a discussion by an indie author – currently working on his Ph.D. at Central European University in Budapest – who is not writing fiction or a “how-to” publication; he’s writing social and cultural history, fully documented. Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of “History in 5 Minutes.”

This is not easy, especially without a publisher providing an advance to supplement the research-related expenses (e.g., travel, copying, archival assistance, etc.).

So, I wanted to know more about Michael Rank, and he agreed to participate in my recently launched Q&A series, “From One Author to Another.”

  1. Most self-published authors are novelists, and, therefore, do not need to cite sources or fact-check the text. With no on-site editorial support, is it more difficult for a non-fiction, research-based author to self-publish? 

    It depends on what you are comfortable with. I am getting a PhD in history so I am used to working with historical sources, bibliographies, textual citations, and Chicago-Style footnoting. Other novelists may dislike that, but they can craft plot lines and do world-building in a way that would be almost impossible for me. Any aspiring writer should do what comes easiest to them. Writing is hard enough. Why make it harder on yourself?

  2. Before you self-published, did you attempt to go through the traditional publishing process? If so, what did you experience? 

    spies espionage and covert operations ebookI was spared the process because my mother wrestled with that industry for three decades before ultimately abandoning it for self-publishing. She wrote over a dozen books and sold hundreds of thousands of copies for her publisher. Did her publisher bother promoting her books? Hardly. Did they gladly keep nearly all her profits? Of course. When I discovered that self-publishing was now a respectable way to work as an author, I jumped in and never went back.

  3. How has your podcast, “History in Five Minutes,” helped you as an author? podcastimage1400x1400

    Podcasting helps me connect with future readers in a way that no other medium can. I tried blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and all that other social media stuff. All of those things are good, but they only hold the attention of a view for a few seconds, if that. But with podcasting I have somebody’s undivided attention for 5-10 minutes. They get to know me. If they like what I have to say, they will probably buy one of my books. I can’t think of a better way to connect with an audience than podcasting.

  4. Your podcast covers an array of subjects–from the Ottoman Empire to modern day Iowa. Which period do you enjoy writing about the most? 

    I like any period of history that is widely misunderstood because I want to explain those misunderstandings. Not because I want to be a boor and correct people, but because these eras reveal lots of hidden treasures. Take the Middle Ages. Everyone assumes that it was a time when toothless, dirt-faced peasants believed in any religious superstition that came along. They were at the mercy of the church, which spent all its time keeping the public illiterate and burning witches. It turns out this view is completely false. Enormous scientific advancement happened in the Middle Ages. Scholars read the Greeks and Romans long before Renaissance thinkers discovered them. Nobody even believed that the earth was flat. But if this “common knowledge” about the Middle Ages is false, why does everybody assume it to be true? These are the sorts of misconceptions I like to debunk.

  5. What is your next book about? 

    It’s called How Iowa Conquered the World: The Story of a Small Farm Small State’s Journey to Global Dominance. The book is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it chronicles the outsized influence that a quaint little farm state of 3 million has had on the world. Iowa saved billions of lives in the 20thcentury, created the global university system, started Silicon Valley, and even standardized the American accent. I figured all those accomplishments were worth a book. But I am from Iowa, so of course I am biased. If it sells well, I am not opposed to writing 49 books for all the other states. Look for How North Dakota Conquered the World at a bookstore near you!

To read more about Michael Rank, visit his website To listen to his podcast, “History in Five Minutes,” click here. Read the previous From One Author to Another Q&A with author Alysha Kaye.

Book Review & Author News

The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro

86524As we embark on the eve of Election Day, it’s an opportunity to reconsider one of the most powerful twentieth century American political figures, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Of all the authors that have written about the controversial thirty-sixth president, no one has come close to doing a more exhaustive job than two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Caro in his epic series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

Caro’s first volume, The Path to Power, focuses on LBJ’s roots and his meteoric rise in Texas politics. A standard book review for this tome would normally be about 2,500 words and rest assured it has been done many times over. I have no desire to rehash what has already been said.

But I wanted to point out a particularly interesting episode, about how a piece of advice from a father to a son may have altered the course of our nation’s history.

In 1937, during the Great Depression, twenty-eight-year-old Lyndon Johnson, who was then overseeing Texas’ National Youth Administration, was in a predicament.

The longtime Congressman in Johnson’s home district, James P. Buchanan, had died unexpectedly.

With a special election schedule, it was presumed that the deceased lawmaker’s widow would announce her intention to run for her husband’s seat. There were few other serious contenders, including Johnson, but all of them immediately backed off once word spread that Mrs. Buchanan was running and would be a lock for the seat.

Author Robert Caro

Author Robert Caro

Since his days in college, Johnson had been positioning himself for an opportunity like this one—working closely with local politicians, making connections with wealthy businessmen in his district, and building up an army of campaign volunteers. But Johnson’s closet political confidantes advised him not to run—he’d lose and might not be able to recover for a while. It looked like his dream of being a member of the House would be, at the very least, postponed.

The day before Mrs. Buchanan was planning to officially announce her candidacy, Johnson visited his father, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., a former state legislator.

The son explained his predicament.

Samuel wasn’t having it and was surprised that his overeager son was acting so docile.

“‘She’s an old woman,’” Samuel told him. ‘“She’s too old for a fight. If she knows she’s going to have a fight, she won’t run. Announce now — before she announces.’”

And so Johnson announced his candidacy and, sure enough, the following day, the widow declared she would not run. All of the prospective candidates, who were on the fence, immediately jumped into the race. In a hard-fought battle, Johnson emerged victorious and that election launched a long and very successful congressional career that would eventually carry him all the way to the White House.

Although Caro’s Path to Power is close to 800 pages, don’t allow the length to dissuade you from reading this masterfully told tale about a man’s obsession for acquiring power.

Author News 

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Minneapolis to meet my wife’s relatives. While there I took the opportunity to connect with my editor, Amy Quale, and her colleague, Dara Beevas, who is the author of Indie Author Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing. We met for breakfast at a local café and chatted for 90 minutes. They will soon be publishing Beyond the Book, a book designed for indie writers. We also spoke about upcoming conferences in the book publishing industry (look for them at PubSmart in Charleston, SC), and

discussed their thriving business, WiseInk, which serves writers (both indie and traditional) from all genres..….Recently, I have hired a narrator to be the voice for the  audiobook version of Alex Haley’s Roots. Release date will be January 2015……Finally, two  weeks ago, I had my first book talk and signing in Walnut Creek, California. More than 60 people attended and I autographed 39 books! All in all, it was an exciting and successful evening. If you are interested in having me speak about Alex Haley, contact me at

Collage of 1st Book Talk