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October 3rd, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Celebrating Valerie Plame’s “Blowback” & Recalling Tumultous Events of a Decade Ago

 

Blowback frontKyle and Ewan and I had a great time last night at the book party for Valerie Plame’s terrific new spy novel Blowback, co-authored with Sarah Lovett. I had picked up a galley of it at BEA last June, and really enjoyed it a lot. I’d been looking forward to the party for some weeks, as in 2003-04 I edited and published The Politics of Truth–A Diplomat’s Memoir: Insider the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity by Valerie’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. It was going to be a treat to see Valerie and Joe last night.

Joe and I had last met up in 2010 when he was part of a New York Times panel that included Nora Ephron, Anna Devere Smith, Roy Blount, Jr., and Garrison Keillor marking the 25th anniversary of the Times’ Op-Ed pages. It was moderated by then Op-Ed page editor David Shipley*, who invited Joe because he judged Joe’s July 6 2003 op-ed  What I Didn’t Find in Africa had been one of the most historically significant columns the newspaper published that decade. It led to the Bush administration’s repeated disclosures that Joe’s wife Valerie Plame was a CIA official and years of flimsy denials that the administration had doctored the intelligence that fueled their false claims about WMDs in Iraq, enabling the unjustified invasion of the country.

Publishing The Politics of Truth was a high-wire act for Joe, for me and for Carroll & Graf that lasted over a year. In July ’03, I heard about it right away when Valerie’s CIA employment was reported by columnist Robert Novak. A few weeks later indie book publicist Barbara Monteiro connected me with Joe. She had earlier worked on the book I did with Whitewater heroine Susan MacDougal. Barbara knew my sense of justice would’ve been offended by what was being done to Valerie, and Joe. He had been writing opinion columns about Bush’s misguided rush to war and was already thinking of writing a book. We quickly made a deal and got to work while the news story swirling around Valerie and Joe grew and grew.

Right off the bat, we were fortunate in that before retiring from the State Dept in 1998, following 25 years in the foreign service, Joe had sat for a full oral history of his career. He had the transcript and used it as an aide-mémoire and the basis of the historical portions of the book, later justifying our use of two subtitles on the front cover and spine! With this foundation, Joe then wrote practically every day and in February ’04 he delivered an excellent 150,000 word manuscript to me. C & G leapt in to action, as colleagues from several departments and I line-edited, copyedited, designed, typeset, indexed, and produced the book on a “crash” production schedule, for planned release only four months later, in what was going to be May ’04, less than a year after Novak’s column. From a marketing and strategic standpoint, it was like riding a tiger.

The toughest part of this as a publishing proposition was that though the story had only gotten bigger over the intervening months–and while we knew we’d be able to book Joe on tons of media–at the same time we wondered and worried:

  • What will be the state of the journalistic investigations and of the federal grand jury hearings looking into the unauthorized disclosure when we publish the book?
  • How can Joe in the book, in his public statements, and we in our press materials take advantage of new developments while still conforming to the latest important news?
  • How could we take advantage of breaking news but not have Joe get too far out on things that were constantly shifting?

Of course, for Valerie and Joe it was more than a publishing proposition, it was their lives. This was a dynamic in publishing a book I had never encountered before, a delicate strategic challenge. I was already a highly-tuned-in-to-news-person, especially after the 2000 presidential election and 9/11, but this tendency became even more pronounced the year I was working every day on Joe’s book. The book sold more than 60,000 copies in hardcover and spent more than a month on the NY Times Bestseller list. I have written about the lessons I learned working on it a number of times on this blog, in such posts as “Hubris”–10 Years Later, Run-up to the Iraq War Still Shadows the Media & the U.S. and On the Imperative of Publishing Whistleblowers.

Last night’s party for Valerie and Sarah Lovett was hosted by director Doug Liman, author Naomi Wolf, and producer Avram Ludwig. Liman had directed the 2010 movies “Fair Game” with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, based on Valerie’s 2006 book, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House and on The Politics of Truth.

We enjoyed meeting the three co-hosts and many of our fellow guests. Among the latter group was one of my favorite suspense writers Lee Child, with whom we happened to ride up in the elevator. About Blowback he’s said: “Great storytelling, real insider authenticity, and above all a fascinating main character in Vanessa Pierson. And maybe those initials are not a coincidence–sometimes fiction can reveal things nonfiction can’t.” The latter part of Child’s blurb–and the reference to “redaction” in my tweet above–are rueful nods to the unfortunate fact that Fair Game was heavily redacted by the Bush-era CIA, and though it had a well-reported Afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen, the blacked-out passages inevitably left readers in the dark in many areas. I’ve included three of Child’s books among my weekly #FridayReads essays, including Worth Dying For, a true corker of a suspense novel, the first of Child’s Jack Reacher books that I read. His latest is  Never Go Back, which I am eager to read. Guest Maggie Topkis–longtime co-proprietor of the NYC mystery bookstore Partners and Crime who nowadays works with Lee Child–told me she thinks it’s his best book yet, which is saying a lot.

I met co-author Sarah Lovett, and told her how much I’d enjoyed reading Blowback. From Blue Rider Press, I congratulated David Rosenthal, Valerie’s publisher, and Executive Editor Sarah Hochman. I was also glad to see the two sides of the recent Penguin Random House merger well represented, with Kent Anderson, a sales rep from Penguin (now Penguin Random House). He had been with Publishers Group West, distributor for Carroll & Graf, when I published The Politics of Truth there in 2004. With Kent, I saw Madeline McIntosh, COO of Random House, a senior executive in the merged company. I liked that she had come to this book party for a key title of a Penguin imprint.   

I was also glad to see book biz pal Will Schwalbe*, who after a distinguished publishing career has made himself in to a successful author most recently with The End of Your Life Book Club, which I wrote about here. Will explained that he and Naomi had been old college classmates, and said how much he’d enjoyed her poetry from those years. Naomi seemed touched by that. Will graciously introduced me to Naomi who asked how I had come to know Joe and Valerie, at which I mentioned The Politics of Truth. She said how glad she was to be able to show special support for Valerie and her new book. Those comments were echoed when a few minutes later she and Doug Liman convened the gathering for toasts and congratulations. Liman gestured toward a nearby portrait of his late father, the prominent lawyer Arthur Liman, a pivotal player in the Iran-Contra scandal, who served as chief counsel to the Senate committee that investigated the Reagan’s administration’s notorious arms-for-hostages conspiracy. The younger Liman cited his father’s example as an inspiration to him in working with dedicated public servants like Valerie and Joe.

After the toasts, I approached Joe once more. As we chatted Ewan took a picture of the two of us. Here it is, along with a few others from last night. It was a fun book party, full of literary highlights that I’ll be savoring for days to come. The three of us were very happy to be a part of the celebration.

If you’re looking for realistic and pacy suspense fiction with a smart and appealing female protagonist, I highly recommend Blowback , the first of a series featuring covert operative Vanessa Pierson. Valerie has done lots of media this week including “Morning Joe” (See video below.) One of Valerie’s next stops is going to be in Washington, DC this Friday night, October 5, when Laura Rozen will be interviewing her at Politics & Prose Bookstore.

*Will Schwalbe’s first book, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better was co-authored with the same David Shipley– Joe Wilson’s Op-Ed editor and moderator of the NY Times panel with Joe, Nora Ephron, etc.

 

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June 28th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

#FridayReads, June 28–Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett’s “Blowback,” & Amy Grace Loyd’s “The Affairs of Others”

Working my way through my BEA piles for this week’s #FridayReads: Blowback by Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett; quite a good, pacy thriller setting an American female operative amid a covert operation to apprehend a villainous underworld puppetmaster  who’s selling clandestine nukes to dangerous international players, and killing off the operative’s sources. Coming out in October from Blue Rider Press, this is Plame’s first novel, after her 2007 Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. That book was heavily redacted by the Bush-era CIA, and though it had a well-reported Afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen, the many blacked-out passages inevitably left readers in the dark. Because I had worked on her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s 2003 book, The Politics of Truth: Insider the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, which with Fair Game had formed the basis of the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn 2009 movie of the same name, I was of course interested to read Valerie’s latest book. I had hoped it would be good, and happily have found that her first thriller, written with Sarah Lovett, has an intriguing plot with lots of surprising twists and great insight in to, and empathy for, the complex and sometimes troubled lives of undercover agents, women and men. No redactions this time around!IMG_0657IMG_0656IMG_0655

Have moved on to read The Affairs of Others, Amy Grace Loyd’s novel of modern manners set in a Brooklyn widow’s apartment house, with fascinating cross-currents among her and her tenants. Elegant and smooth sentence-making, with a plot that I know from the BEA Buzz Editors’ panel presentation on the book is going to soon turn toward the sensual and erotic. Knowing that’s to come, it’s all the more notable for its restraint in the first 70 pages. It’s worth adding that I live in a New York apartment building with lots of strange neighbors, so the subplots and side characters in the book are starkly real. The novel by Loyd, who is the fiction editor of byliner.com, will be out in early September.

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February 18th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; News, Politics & History; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

“Hubris”–10 Years Later, Run-up to the Iraq War Still Shadows the Media & the U.S.

Tonight MSNBC will broadcast “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War,” narrated by Rachel Maddow, based on the 2006 book of the same name by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Coming nearly ten years after the US invaded Iraq, on March 19, 2003, I’ll be watching with great interest.

Politics of TruthI retain vivid recall of how the Bush administration pushed the country, and as much of the world as it could hector along with them, into invading that country. It was a mad, misguided rush, one that I was upset about at the time, and soon after became involved with personally and professionally. In July 2003, after Valerie Plame’s role as a CIA official was revealed in a notorious column by Robert Novak, I contacted Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame’s husband. In the months before the invasion of Iraq, he had become a vocal critic of the rush to war, publishing a number of Op-Ed columns that drew on his experience of twenty-five years as an American diplomat, including his service as the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein before the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991. In my role as an editorial executive with Carroll & Graf Publishers I was referred to Wilson by publishing friend, Barbara Monteiro. I contacted Joe and found he was interested in writing a book that would chronicle his years as an American foreign service officer; more recent events involving his trip to Niger, where he was sent by the CIA to investigate the claim that Iraq had sought yellowcake from that African country; and the unprecedented exposure of his wife’s CIA employment. Joe, as I soon came to know him, agreed to the offer I made, a contract was quickly signed, and he began diligently working on the manuscript.

Fortunately, when Joe retired from the State Department a few years before the war fever he had sat for a series of lengthy interviews with an interlocutor from State–a good custom at the agency–setting his memories down in a proper oral history. He drew on this aide-memoir as he composed the diplomatic memoir that made up about 1/3 of the final manuscript. As for his trip to Niger, the positions he took in opposition to the Bush administration while they were twisting intelligence and co-opting media during he run-up to the war,  and events after the invasion, including the outing of his wife, he had little need of reminders. Joe delivered a very readable manuscript, and with a team of colleagues at Carroll & Graf I edited this draft, and Joe made key revisions to it. Meantime, we also kept a keen eye on breaking developments in the investigation in to how and why Valerie’s CIA employment had become a subject that administration officials felt free to discuss openly with reporters. Getting the manuscript ready for the printer was like aiming an arrow at a moving target.

The launch for the book, The Politics of Truth–A Diplomat’s Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, was in early May 2004, less than a year after Novak’s fateful column. Joe went on the TODAY show, Charlie Rose, and he did a ton of public radio shows. I went with him to many of those interviews, sat in green rooms with him, fancy and plain. It was as cool when he did Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, as when we went to Rockefeller Center one morning before 7 AM, to do TODAY . His most interesting TV appearance was on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” when KO shared with Joe and the audience White House talking points supposedly rebutting the book. These had been sent to virtually all news outlets, including even to programs like Countdown, ones that weren’t having any of the BS from the administration. Olbermann brandished the sheaf of talking points, like a sword. With Joe’s opposition to the war, and most of all the fact he’d been to Niger and vigorously debunked the fraudulent yellowcake claim, Joe had stepped across a tripwire that loosed Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby like a pack of dogs, with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer chasing close behind. None of their talking points refuted Joe’s claims. John Dean gave the book a great review in the New York Times Book Review and it became a national hardcover bestseller in the Times and Publishers Weekly for about six weeks. This was Dean’s opening paragraph:

“THIS is a riveting and all-engaging book. Not only does it provide context to yesterday’s headlines, and perhaps tomorrow’s, about the Iraq war and about our politics of personal destruction, but former Ambassador Joseph Wilson also tells captivating stories from his life as a foreign service officer with a long career fostering the development of African democracies, and gives us a behind-the-scenes blow-by-blow of the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf war. As the top American diplomat in Baghdad, Wilson was responsible for the embassy, its staff and the lives of other Americans in the region – not to mention the freeing of hostages in Kuwait. He goes on to relate his eye-to-eye encounter with the wily sociopath Saddam Hussein; his return home to be greeted as a ‘true American hero’ by President George H. W. Bush; his stint advising America’s top military commander in Europe; and his time as head of the African affairs desk of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, where he assembled the president’s historic trip to Africa while the ”Starr inquisition” into the Monica Lewinsky affair developed. Along the way he fell in love with and married a C.I.A. covert operative – a ”’willowy blonde, resembling a young Grace Kelly.”’

I should add the book was also a plea for Americans to be actively engaged in their citizenship, and to be unafraid if it became necessary to call one’s government to account. In 2010 The Politics of  Truth and Valerie’s 2008 book Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent was Betrayed by Her Own Government, were jointly adapted for the feature film, “Fair Game,” with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. I saw Joe and Valerie in NYC for a premiere reception and we have remained friends, more so than other authors I’ve published over the years. I just heard from Joe today. He and Valerie sat for interviews with the MSNBC producers and they will also be watching “Hubris” tonight. I hope you will be, too. Please feel free to leave comments here about the program, this post, and this period in our recent history. Joe and Valerie played a significant role in these events, bringing the Bush administration before the judgment of history for its deceptions. I am proud of the role I had in bringing their story before the public. To read about other aspects of this case, especially the federal trial of Scooter Libby for his obstruction of justice, and the book I brought out in 2008, The United States v. I. Lewis Libby, along with Patrick Fitzgerald’s legacy as a federal prosecutor, please see this post.

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September 4th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; News, Politics & History; Publishing & Bookselling

What Were Editors & Execs at Dutton & Penguin Thinking?/Part II

Because I’ve edited & published a number national security books* containing sensitive information that ended up being vetted by government agencies before publication, I’ve been following the ‘No Easy Day’ situation carefully. Yesterday I shared a blog post, questioning how Dutton and Penguin could’ve been so careless in seemingly just accepting the pseudonymous ex-Navy Seal author Mark Owen’s claim that a lawyer he’d hired had said his manuscript didn’t breach any disclosure rules. If that is what happened–and there’s a lot of murk here so one can’t be sure–that’s not the way publishing houses are supposed to deal with these books.

Today, another shoe dropped on the author. According to Bloomberg News, at a press conference today, chief Pentagon spox George Little told reporters, “Sensitive and classified information is contained in the book.” It was a judgment I’ve been waiting to hear rendered since last Friday when it was revealed the Pentagon had sent the author a letter, saying his book may have violated national security. I guess they took the weekend to read it.

Another nugget in the Bloomberg article is that the author’s attorney–Robert Luskin, defense attorney for Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame matter–claims his client’s agreement with the Navy merely “invites but by no means requires” him to provide his manuscript for vetting, that he’s not obliged to do so. Doesn’t sound like any non-disclosure agreement I’ve ever heard of.

While the Pentagon warning about possible seizure of “royalties, remunerations, and emoluments” has been directed to the author, Penguin could also suffer, having heedlessly brought out an unvetted book deemed harmful to nat’l security, and then being forced to pull it from distribution, or even defy the government. More from the Bloomberg story on the Pentagon press conference.

In response to reporters’ questions today, Little gradually toughened his statements, first saying the book contains “sensitive” information, and then saying it “probably” contains “classified” information before saying the Defense Department believes classified information is in the book and finally that it does contain such information. The Pentagon has consulted the Department of Justice about the book while reviewing all legal options, Little has said. “It is the height of irresponsibility not to have this kind of material checked for the possible disclosure” of classified information, Little said today. The need for a pre-publication review is “a no-brainer,” Little said. “This is common sense.”

*Among these national security books have been The Politics of Truth–A Diplomat’s Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity (Carroll & Graf, 2004) by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. For his book, which came out more than a year before his wife Valerie Plame brought out hers (with Simon & Schuster), Joe asked the State Dept. to vet it, even though it had been a number of years since his retirement from the diplomatic corps. Another title, mentioned in yesterday’s post, was On the Brink: An Insider’s Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence by Tyler Drumheller, former chief of CIA clandestine operations, Europe.

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August 24th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner Book Productions; Publishing & Bookselling

Herman Graf–51 Years in the Book Biz

Last night Kyle and I were delighted to join a group of several dozen well-wishers who sprung a surprise party in honor of Herman Graf and his 51 years in publishing. Herman walked in on the hushed throng which had assembled in the living room of Tony Lyons, founder of Skyhorse Publishing, expecting to join Tony for dinner, when in unison we let out with our “Surprise.” More than a bit stunned, Herman said, “It’s not my birthday.” It’s not even my Bar Mitzvah.” We took the photos accompanying this post in the first few minutes after he walked in to find a party had been laid for him.

Herman began his publishing career in 1961, doing stints with McGraw-Hill, Doubleday, Arco Books, and then Grove Press, where he worked in sales and marketing during the indie press’s 60s and 70s heyday. This was the time when Grove was bringing writers like Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Mikhail Bulgakov to American readers, even while founder Barney Rosset was frequently in court, accused of distributing “obscene” literature, like D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Herman rode that tiger with Barney, and other key Grove executives, such as Kent Carroll, Fred Jordan and Richard Seaver. That era is covered well in the 2007 documentary “Obscene,” made by Dan O’Connor  and Neil Ortenberg, also old colleagues of Herman’s, and mine.

The ride was so rollicking that in later years Herman liked to say, “I was the Billy Martin of publishing; Barney fired me three times, and rehired me twice.” There was something to this George Steinbrenner-Billy Martin analogy, as Herman, like the brawling, ill-fated Yankee manager, could handle himself in a tight sport, having been a fair boxer when he grew up in the Bronx. Once, at a Las Vegas ABA in the early 80s–the annual convention of the book industry–Herman found himself defending a bookseller friend who’d somehow gotten on the wrong side of some ornery Vegas low-life types. Herman and the fellow he rescued bulled, brazened, and fought there way out of the club. I know this story is true–I heard about it not only from Herman, but from my late brother Joel, who happened to also be at the venue that night.

By 1978, I was operating my Cleveland bookstore, Undercover Books, and like many stores of the time, we were glad to have a obscure bestseller land in our laps, A Confederacy of Dunces, the posthumous novel of John Kennedy Toole. The book came with a star-crossed and tragic pedigree–the author had killed himself after failing to get it published, whereupon his grieving mother managed to get it into the hands of Walker Percy. The great southern novelist championed it and convinced editors at the University of Louisiana Press to publish it in hardcover. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. Meantime,Grove Press had acquired rights to publish a paperback edition, but the university press edition, though attracting much critical attention and press, had not really sold a lot of copies in hardcover. Herman, though working for Grove, took it upon himself to sell many thousands of copies of the LSU press edition to national wholesalers, such as Ingram where Cathy Hemming ordered copies. The market was seeded for the paperback edition. When Grove published it some months later it sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and millions since, in part owing to Herman’s work for the hardcover of another publishing house.

Herman told me that story sometime after 2000, the year he hired me to work with him at Carroll & Graf, the company he started in the mid-70s. Last night it was great seeing old C&G colleagues, Peter Skutches, Failey Patrick, Tina Pohlman, Bea Goldberg, and Claiborne Hancock. One of our authors, Stan Cohen was there, and his agent, Peter Sawyer. Agent, Laura Langlie, a friend to C&Gers, was also there. Norton execs Bill Rusin and Dozier Hammond also gave their best wishes in person, as did Bob Wietrak.

The seven years I spent with C&G were among the most productive, fun, and successful years of my publishing career. I learned so much working with Herman and got to hear some of the best–and often the funniest–stories about the business. Together we acquired many terrific books and published them creatively and energetically, including Susan MacDougal’s The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Wouldn’t Testify against the Clintons and What I Learned in Jail and Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, both of which became NY Times bestsellers. The years there finally confirmed me on an editorial path I had begun to hew to by 2000, but had not yet fully embarked on–of publishing truthellers, whistleblowers, muckrakers, authors of such singular witness that only they could write the book in question.

Herman now works with Skyhorse Publishing, for whom a book he acquired, The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved by Jonathan Fenby, got a great review in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. He is not stepping back or slowing down.

Thanks to Tony Lyons and Jennifer McCartney of Skyhorse Publishing, and Claiborne Hancock, who after leaving Carroll&Graf started his own company, Pegasus Books. They did a great job of hosting and organizing the surprise party for our friend and colleague, Herman Graf.

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July 4th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Media, Blogging, Internet; News, Politics & History; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Dan Froomkin on Patrick Fitzgerald’s Legacy as a Federal Prosecutor

Dan Froomkin, Senior Washington DC Correspondent for Huffington Post, has long been one of my favorite news aggregators and commentators. I first got to know his work in the early 2000s, when he wrote and edited the must-read, “White House Watch” at washingtonpost.com. WHW was a daily news digest entirely made up of news about the Bush White House, with Dan’s pithy commentaries about the stories he selected for his readers. I used to wait avidly each day until mid-morning when each new column would appear online. If I had a lunch date I had run to, I would print out the pages and take them with me on the subway.

This is Dan’s awesome archive of all the WHW columns he did–plus all the live chats he did–before his employment at the Post was ended in January 2009, one of the worst decisions, among many bad calls, that that newspaper made in the 2000s.

I got to know Dan personally shortly after I began working with Ambassador Joseph Wilson on the manuscript that would become his 2004 book The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity.* Dan and I haven’t been in touch the past few years, but I continue to enjoy reading him.

Yesterday Dan published a provocative column in which he laments the fact that federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald only charged VP Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice in the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s CIA identity, ultimately choosing to not put Karl Rove and/or Dick Cheney on trial. Froomkin reminds readers that

“Fitzgerald was appointed as a special prosecutor in late 2003 to investigate the July 2003 leak of Plame’s identity, which came during a White House effort to discredit her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson [who] was trying to expose how the administration had twisted intelligence to make its case for the war in Iraq, launched a few months earlier, and the White House was desperate to prevent that narrative from establishing itself before the 2004 elections. The evidence that came out at trial clearly established that Cheney was the first person to tell Libby about Plame’s identity and that Cheney wrote talking points that likely prompted Libby and others to raise Plame’s role with reporters.”

As is often the case with prosecutors, his decision may have come down to a calculation of what he could prove at trial, and what a jury would accept, beyond a reasonable doubt:

“In a subsequent court filing, Fitzgerald wrote that ‘there was reason to believe’ the leak had been coordinated by Cheney and that the vice president may have had a role in the cover-up. ‘When the investigation began, Mr. Libby kept the vice president apprised of his shifting accounts of how he claimed to have learned about Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment,’ Fitzgerald wrote. But Cheney was never charged. ‘I think the chances of it being a show trial and losing really weighed heavily on him, in terms of the political fallout,’ said Michael Genovese, director of Loyola Marymount University’s Institute for Leadership Studies.

Froomkin goes on to point out,

“For reasons he has never publicly explained, Fitzgerald ultimately chose not to indict Rove either for the leak or for obstruction of justice. While much could have been gleaned from key investigative documents requested by a congressional committee, the Bush White House wouldn’t let Fitzgerald release them.

Dan gives the last word in his column to one of the reporters who was most dogged about this case, Marcy Wheeler, whose commentary and reporting was then at firedoglake and can nowadays be found at Empty Wheel.

“Wheeler. . . one of the foremost chroniclers of the Libby trial, said Fitzgerald’s investigation didn’t go far enough. ‘The FBI agents believed that they had the case against Rove nailed down,’ Wheeler said. And Fitzgerald ‘actually had Dick Cheney in his teeth.’”

When Fitzgerald recently announced that he’s retiring from the corps of federal prosecutors, I expected to see postmortems of his career, though Froomkin’s is the first I’ve read. It seems that the last decade is already dim and distant in Americans’ memory, and in the minds of members of the media, even though so much of what happened in the terrible Bush years still hangs over us like a black cloud. What I’d really love to read, or even better edit, would be a manuscript by Fitzgerald, though I fear that’s unlikely from this career government lawyer, generally known for his circumspect nature. Still, he did let it all–or nearly all–hang out in one public statement about Cheney’s role in the Plame matter. Quoted here by Froomkin,

“In his closing arguments in the Libby case, Fitzgerald famously declared: ‘There is a cloud over what the vice president did that week. … That cloud remains because the defendant has obstructed justice and lied about what happened.’”

*Along with Wilson’s book, which became in part the basis for the movie, “Fair Game,” I also brought out the book The United States v. I. Lewis Libby, edited and with reporting by Murray Waas, the only published transcript of Scooter Libby’s trial. I recommend it along with Wilson’s book, and former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan’s What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

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June 29th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; News, Politics & History; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

On the Imperative of Publishing Whistleblowers

Neal Maillet, editorial director of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, has published a good opinion piece in Publishing Perspectives on what he sees as the imperative of publishing books by whistleblowers, and the dynamics that prevail when working with these authors and their books. In 2004 Berrett-Koehler published the breakthrough book on vulture capitalism, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, a mega-hit by John Perkins that was licensed to Plume for trade paperback for whom it was also a bestseller. More recently, he writes that B-K has published Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, on the little-known darker side of what we like to think of as progressive measures to facilitate economic progress in the developing world.

For my part, when I describe the imperatives and mandates that impel my personal publishing choices I have long placed “whistleblowers, truthtellers, muckrakers, and revisionist historians” highest on my list, and refer to this on the two business-oriented pages at the top of this website, Philip Turner Book Productions and Philip Turner. Quoting from the latter page, I’ve written “As an editor and publisher I have always felt impelled to publish books by and about singular witnesses–whistleblowers, truthellers, muckrakers, revisionist historians–people who’ve passed through some crucible of experience that’s left them with elevated author-ity, and the only person who could write the book in question, or about whom it could be written. Whether told in the first person by an author who has passed through some crucible of experience that leaves him or her uniquely qualified to tell the tale or in the third person by a reporter or scholar who has pursued a story or historical episode with single-minded passion, I am devoted to publishing imperative nonfiction, books that really matter in people’s lives.”

My definition of an imperative book is not limited to books by corporate and government whistleblowers, though it certainly includes them. The list of relevant books I’ve acquired and/or published over the past decade and a half includes these ten titles:

To the books by these authors, I would also add my writers, the late Edward Robb Ellis, the most prolific diarist in the history of American letters, and 100–year old Ruth Gruber, award-winning photojournalist–each of them singular eyewitnesses to history. Over the years I have published four and six books by them, respectively.

Among my professional roles nowadays is that of independent editor and consultant to authors on book development in which I continue seeking out unique individuals with stories like these to tell. That’s also why I enjoy working with Speakerfile, the company that connects conference organizers with authors who do public speaking. Thanks to Neal Maillett and Berrett-Koehler Publishers for reminding me and all readers of the vital role publishers play in helping us hear the voices of whistleblowers and truthtellers. H/t to Mike Shatzkin for alerting me to Mr. Maillett’s article. Also, thanks to the Open Democracy Action Center (ODAC) for use of their whistleblower graphic.

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June 27th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

A New York Times Talk w/Nora Ephron & Other Guests

In early September 2010, I saw an announcement that Ambassador Joseph Wilson–whose book The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, I had edited and published with him in 2004–would be appearing in a September 16 forum at the New York Times Center to mark the 40th anniversary of the NYT‘s Op-Ed page, which would be observed with a special section of the paper on Sunday, September 25. The moderator of this event, Op-Ed page editor at the time David Shipley, had invited Joe because his July 6 2003 op-ed What I Didn’t Find in Africa had been one of the most historically significant columns the newspaper published that decade, leading to the outing of Joe’s wife Valerie Plame as a CIA official and years of Bush administration denials that they had doctored the intelligence that fueled their claims about Iraqi WMDs.

I got a hold of Joe and he invited me to be his guest that evening. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple years, and so met an hour beforehand to catch each other up on our lives, after which we entered the green room just off the stage at the Times Center. There Joe generously introduced me as his editor and publisher to the other panelists–Roy Blount Jr., Garrison Keillor, Anna Deavere Smith, and Nora Ephron. They all seemed genuinely interested in one another, and conversed briefly among themselves before going out on stage. Blount was funny, in a low-key way, Keillor was diffident and the only one who wasn’t talkative, Smith told stories about her one-woman shows, and Ephron was funny and self-deprecating. I went out and talk a seat in the auditorium. Once on stage, Shipley asked each of them to speak about how they came to write their Op-Ed. Ephron spoke about her stint as a White House intern in the 1960s, which she turned into a 2003 Op-Ed. The fascinating program went by in a flash.

Afterward there was a reception, and books signed by each panelist for interested members of the public to purchase. The paperback of The Politics of Truth was on hand and I was proud to see Joe inscribe quite a few copies for eager readers who lined up to meet him. During a lull in the signings, I approached Nora Ephron and thanked for her remarks during the program, when she’d praised the Times columnist Russell Baker, who retired from the paper several years earlier, and who seems to me too little remembered by readers nowadays. This was in response to Shipley, who’d asked her if she particularly recalled any contributors to the Op-Ed pages. She brought up Baker and in praising him conceded that he didn’t qualify since he was a Times staffer, and not a guest contributor, which those who write Op-Eds are by definition. Still, she said, Baker was too special to go unremarked. I had also long admired Baker’s style and told her I was glad she’d mentioned him, whether he qualified or not. A few days later, eager to make a connection with this witty woman, I sent her a letter, a screen shot of which is produced below. I didn’t get a reply, but I hadn’t asked for one, and remain very glad to have simply met her.

With the news yesterday of Nora Ephron’s passing, I recalled meeting her and writing the letter. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to have enjoyed meeting her in person, so I’m glad I can share my recollections in this space. Just before putting up this post, I discovered a ten-minute video from that evening, almost entirely featuring Nora Ephron. Click on this link and look for “Op-Ed at 40: Voices of the Times” to view it:  Times Talks with Nora Ephron, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Anna Deavere Smith, Roy Blount Jr., Garrison Keillor
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