The Harry Hurry

I decided to work off-site at my local Panera this morning, something I promised myself I would do now that I work from home — but hadn’t yet done in the three months I’ve worked at BlogTalkRadio. The coffee’s great and the breakfast is reasonable; it cost me about the same for a refillable large coffee, a bagel, and a large orange juice as it does for the Starbucks raspberry mocha frappucino to which I’ve become addicted recently.
Barnes & Noble has a store in the same shopping center as Panera, and I was initially surprised to see a line running about 100 yards outside the door as I drove past it. I had not realized that people would start lining up for the release of the last Harry Potter novel, but there has to be over a hundred people — and the book doesn’t get released until tonight, after midnight. I have a hard time imagining why people would line up at midnight to get a book of any kind, and I certainly can’t imagine why they would line up 15 hours before it can even be sold.
I’m not going to gainsay the Harry Potter phenomenon. I enjoy the books and am looking forward to reading the last installment. I already have my book reserved at the same store, and I had hoped to pick it up tomorrow morning on the way to the NARN show. I may come back tonight at midnight with a video camera and see the circus for myself. If I’m plagued by insomnia, I may have a YouTube broadcast here. Check back in the morning.
What do CQ readers think of the Harry hurry? Let’s have a little fun, and take a completely unscientific poll:

UPDATE: I’m back home now, but I did stop at the Barnes & Noble to see what was happening. The line was to get onto the reservation lists at the last minute. By the time I got there, the lines had disappeared, so I confirmed that my name was still on the list. I then got a wristband for their costume party tonight, which starts at 10:30 PM, and an assignment to the color group that will get called first at 12:15 AM to retrieve their books.
If I’m up that late, I have to get some pictures and video of this. I think I’ll come as a Muggle tourist …

On My Desk: Cheney

I took the evening off from blogging, after regularly scheduled medical maintenance for the First Mate and finishing the Ken Burns documentary series, The Civil War. It gave me an opportunity to flip through the latest book by Stephen Hayes, the author of The Connection, which outlined the various links between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime. Now Steven has set his sights on Dick Cheney in his new book, Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President.
Hayes conducted hours of interviews with the VP and was allowed “unprecedented access” to administration officials — including George Bush — and Cheney’s family and friends. The book promises to go into some touchy subjects, such as Cheney’s opposition to removing Saddam Hussein in 1991, his disagreement over the dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld, and how he was chosen as Bush’s running mate.
The book gets released next Tuesday, so get your pre-orders in now. I’ll have Stephen on my show next week or the week after to talk about it and take your questions.

In The Mail: The Prince Of Darkness

One of the ironies of my new job is that I get a number of books for review purposes — and hardly any time to read them. Over the weekend, I plan on posting about three new books just hitting the bookstores, and one from a prominent blogger. However, this afternoon I received what looks like one of the more intriguing selections I’ve seen in a while — the memiors of Robert Novak, titled Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting In Washington.
According to the promotional material, Novak tells the full story of the Valerie Plame scandal for the first time — but that’s hardly the only draw for readers. It promises to be a fascinating look both inside the Beltway and into the life of a man whose glowering visage has dominated political reporting for decades.
I’ll write more after I have a chance to read it. You can be sure that I’ll make some time for this book.

It’s Fun Being The Villain

As many CQ readers already know, the First Mate and I volunteer our time at Twin Cities Marriage Encounter. We are the current president couple for the TCME board, which really means that we get to meet a lot of very dedicated couples who deliver retreat weekends for husbands and wives looking to give their marriage some attention. We have made many friends in the organization, and two of them have donated kidneys to the FM in the last three years.
Every year we have a fundraising banquet where we hold silent auctions for items donated by a number of local businesses. One of the more unique items for bid comes from one of our friends in the Marriage Encounter community. William Kent Krueger is a well-known mystery writer and one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, and he has offered to name one of the characters in his novels after the highest bidder — and a year and a half ago, that was me.
He called me shortly after the banquet and asked me whether I’d want my character to be a good guy or a bad guy. “Oh, a bad guy,” I assured him with a laugh.
“Run of the mill bad guy, or truly evil?”
“Really evil,” I replied, and the both of us laughed.
“I hoped you’d say that,” Kent told me. “I have something in mind — and say, could you sign a release from my publisher?”
Now that sounded like it would be interesting!
I didn’t ask Kent about it afterwards, but a few months back he let me know that he had wrapped up his draft of the new novel, and that I should see a copy soon. The book, Thunder Bay, arrived on Saturday — and I finished it today. It’s excellent, and yes, I’m really rotten in this novel. In fact, I’m so rotten that I —
Well, I can’t tell you that. The book hasn’t been released yet; Kent was kind enough to send me an advance proof of the book. However, you can pre-order the book now, and Amazon will have it at your door as it hits the bookstores. You can click on the second link to order the audio version on CD. You won’t be able to put it down. Trust me … it’s not like I’m eeeeeeevil, after all.

Addendum: I’ll be interviewing Kent on this book, his Cork O’Connor series, and the path he took to becoming a full-time writer (an excellent story) when the book is ready for release in late July.

Reagan On Iraq, Israel, And Saddam

I’ve started to read The Reagan Diaries, edited and collected by Douglas Brinkley, which cover his entire presidency. It’s quite remarkable, and even more useful as a reference guide thanks to the helpful index in the back of the book. So far, it shows that Reagan had been quite involved in policy matters, in contrast to his commonly-accepted persona as a hands-off CEO. Today as I began my tour through the book, I noted an interesting passage that has direct relevance to today’s Middle East problem:

Sunday, June 7 (1981): … Got word of Israeli bombing of Iraq — nuclear reactor. I swear I believe Armageddon is near. … (Israeli PM Menachem) Begin informed us after the fact.
Tuesday, June 9: … Ended day with an N.S.C. meeting re the bombing of Iraq. Begin insists the plant was preparing to produce nuclear weapons for use on Israel. If he waited until the French shipment of “hot” uranium arrived he couldn’t order the bombing because of the radiation that would be loosed over Baghdad.
I can understand his fear but feel he took the wrong option. He should have told us & the French, we could have done something to remove the threat. …
What has happened is the result of fear & suspicion on both sides. We need a real push for solid peace.

When I read this section, I could not help but notice how badly Reagan got this one wrong. First, the French were building the reactor, and were obviously not interested in halting its progress. Not only that, but twenty-six years later almost to the day, we have proceeded no further on the comprehensive peace that would have allowed the Israelis to ignore the nuclearization of a state like Iraq.
Had Begin asked for and followed Reagan’s advice, Saddam Hussein would have had nuclear weapons, and the first Gulf War would almost certainly have turned into a nuclear exchange. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have waited until 1990, and we probably wouldn’t have pushed Saddam back out of Kuwait.
Any lessons here for our strange and passive course with Iran?
I’ll continue to post intriguing diary entries from the book as I come across them. In the meantime, you can order your own copy from Amazon, and help put a couple of dollars in my account there.

A Better Title: In Defense Of Our Rationalizations

I often receive books for review; in fact, I receive so many, I rarely get the chance to read through most of them. One recent arrival caught my attention for being out of the ordinary. In Defense of Our America comes from the ACLU’s Anthony D. Romero and acts as an apologia for the group’s often-controversial positions. I decided to take a read through the book to see whether it would present an interesting challenge to my assumptions.
Unfortunately, Romero and his co-author Dina Temple-Raston only present a disappointing set of half-truths and worse. Over at Heading Right, I describe why I put the book down for good after only one chapter, convinced of the dishonesty of the authors in their attempt to paint themselves as the saviors of the nation. If you’re planning on buying this book when it comes out tomorrow, you’ll want to read this post.

A Look Back At Reagan

Ronald Reagan inspired many analyses of his performance, from historically brilliant to accidentally successful, and worse. Journalists used him as a blank canvas for the most part, projecting their own biases and agendas onto Reagan and missing the essence of the man. Fortunately, Reagan faithfully kept up his diaries until the end of his presidency, and Harper Collins will publish extracts by historian Douglas Brinkley in The Reagan Diaries later this month.
I’ve posted some excerpts at Heading Right from Howard Kurtz’ article in the Washington Post, and we find out that Reagan is as we essentially knew him: witty, honest, passionate, and intelligent. In a front-page story, the placement of which speaks volumes about Reagan’s legacy, the wisdom of the 40th president remains trenchant and compelling today.

CQ Interview: Myrna Blyth

Earlier this afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with Myrna Blyth, longtime editor-in-chief of the Ladies Home Journal, columnist for National Review, and co-author of How To Raise an American: 1776 Fun and Easy Tools, Tips, and Activities to Help Your Child Love This Country. We spoke about the difficulties that parents face in instilling into their children a sense of pride in their American heritage. Her book, co-authored by former White House speechwriter Chriss Winston, discusses those difficulties and presents a multitude of suggestions for solutions. She also will launch a website, How To Raise An American, to continue supporting parents who want to help their children value the American experience.
Here’s a small portion of our interview, podcasted for your convenience:

EM: Tell us why you saw a need for a book to help parents raise patriotic children.
MB: Well, I think both my co-author and I felt that it was more difficult today to raise children who are patriotic. In fact, a recent poll taken by the Winston Group in Washington found that while over 97% of Americans feel patriotic, 70% agree that children today are less patriotic than children were in the past. There are lots of reasons for this, we discovered. We thought that most people instinctively think that as well, but we found that it is difficult to raise patriotic kids, because of the little history they are taught, the way they are taught it, the influence of the media, and many reasons like that do impact kids, and there’s no counterbalance, especially from parents teaching them to love this country.

The interview lasts about a half-hour, and I believe gives a great look at this book, which will officially launch on Tuesday, March 20th. You can pre-order it at the Amazon link by clicking on the picture above.

In The Mail: A Mormon In The White House?

Today I received Hugh Hewitt’s new book, A Mormon in the White House?, his new campaign biography of Mitt Romney. Hugh structured the book by discussing “10 things every American should know about Mitt Romney,” which is also the subtitle of the book itself.
It’s not the normal authorized campaign biography, which should come as no surprise for anyone who knows Hugh and reads his books. Mormon talks about Mitt’s involvement in the marriage debate in Massachussetts, his lack of military service, the evolution of his stance on abortion — and of course, Romney’s religion. It should make for a great read, and be sure to get your copy ASAP. It should also serve as an excellent reference guide for the upcoming primary fight.

The Book Closes On Judith Regan

Last month, HarperCollins and its Regan imprint shocked and angered the nation by announcing the publication of a book by OJ Simpson titled If I Did It. The firestorm of criticism surrounding that decision eventually caused HarperCollins to cancel the publication and the Fox Network to cancel its two-part interview with imprint executive Judith Regan and Simpson. Now the other shoe has dropped:

O.J. Simpson’s would-be publisher, Judith Regan, was fired Friday, her sensational, scandalous tenure at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. ending with the tersest of announcements.
“Judith Regan’s employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately,” HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman said in a statement. “The REGAN publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group.”
Regan’s firing comes less than a month after Murdoch’s cancellation of Simpson’s hypothetical murder confession, “If I Did It,” a planned book and Fox television interview that was greeted with instant and near-universal disgust when announced.
An industry force since the 1980s, when she produced best-sellers by Drew Barrymore and Kathie Lee Gifford for Simon & Schuster, Regan has been labeled a “foul-mouthed tyrant” and the “enfant terrible of American publishing.” She is also widely envied if not admired for her gift of attracting attention to her books and to herself.

The driving force behind Jenna Jameson’s “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star,” a book made rather redundant by the actress’ extensive video demonstrations, obviously made few friends during her career in publishing. She packed up for Los Angeles to get away from personality conflicts, when the heart of publishing remains in New York. It sounds like the Simpson debacle gave HarperCollins a perfect opportunity to ditch their albatross, and they took advantage of it.
She’ll probably return to publishing, but a little wiser the next time. Or, if not, we can look forward to a book by Robert Blake about how he would have murdered his wife, too.