This book is largely based on my accumulated writings about Ronald Reagan, which began in 1965 when he was a prospective candidate for governor of California and I was state capitol correspondent in Sacramento for the San Jose Mercury-News. During the next three decades I wrote more than two thousand articles or columns about Reagan, at first for the San Jose newspaper and then for The Wushington Post, for which I was senior White House correspondent throughout the Reagan presidency. I also wrote three Reagan biographies: Ronnie and Jesse: A Political Odyssey, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969) Reagan, (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1982) and President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991). The latter book, my most extensive, was updated and reissued in 2000 by PublicAffairs, the publisher of Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio. Some passages in this book are taken in slightly revised form from my previous books or articles.
The biographical essay in this book also draws upon some forty formal interviews and numerous informal conversations that I conducted with Reagan as governor, candidate, and president and on his post-presidential comments to Landon Parvin, a former White House speechwriter, in Speaking My Mind, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989) a collection of Reagan speeches. Also useful were Reagan's early autobiography, Where's The Rest of Me? Ronald Reagan Tells His Own Story (New York: Dell, 1965) and his later memoirs, An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). The Public Papers of the Presidents issued by the U.S. Government Printing Office—a full fifteen volumes for the eight years of Reagan's presidency—were an indispensable resource.
In writing about the Illinois social context, Reagan's parents, Reagan's film career, and his experiences with General Electric, I frequently relied on Reagan's America: Innocents at Home (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1985) by Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. Also of benefit was Wills's article, "It's His Party," in the August 11, 1996, issue of The New York Times Magazine. I also consulted The Films of Ronald Reagan (Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1980) by Tony Thomas, the definitive book on Reagan's movie career.
The most valuable guide to the political context of the Reagan era is Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan,