By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Boehner: ‘That Bloody Insurrection’Just when you may have thought the political books sector might start cooling, Simon & Schuster has announced that its senior vice-president and publisher Dana Canedy has acquired world rights, first serial rights, and audio rights in a two-book deal with Donald Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence. He’s to write his autobiography as part of what Brian Stelter, Jamie Gangel, and Michael Warren at CNN are reporting is a deal that “two people in the publishing industry” have said is worth “somewhere in the range of US$3 million to $4 million.
And as the outspoken John Boehner’s book is readied for its Tuesday release–with what promises to be the former House speaker’s scathing assessment of today’s Republican Party–we may see a new season of political books’ prominence in the nonfiction market, various personalities and factions vying to contextualize the US conservative and right-wing movements.
As Stelter, Gangel, and Warren write, news of the Pence deal “comes as the publishing industry grapples with questions of how to handle high-profile would-be authors from the Trump administration. The concern, according to highly placed sources in publishing, is whether the writers could be counted on to tell the truth — and whether a publisher might provoke a damaging backlash in the culture of cancellation.”
Almost as if to illustrate this, the messaging from S&S spokespeople includes a quote from Pence reading, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to tell the story of my life in public service to the American people, from serving in Congress, to the Indiana governor’s office and as vice-president of the United States. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at Simon & Schuster to invite readers on a journey from a small town in Indiana to Washington, DC.”
Known for his determinedly loyalist commentary while in the Trump White House, the question in many minds is whether the former president’s hostility to him at the end of the administration will have altered what Pence does in the setting of an autobiography. It’s worth remembering that Pence was also named to lead Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, an effort now largely discredited as dysfunctional and misleading as Donald Trump sought to play down the danger and impact of the pathogen.
As you may remember, Pence declined to try to alter his ceremonial role of certifying on Capitol Hill the election win of Joe Biden on January 6. So much animosity toward the vice-president was instilled in the domestic terrorists who attacked the Capitol that day that they changed “Bring out Pence!” and “Hang Mike Pence!” as they laid siege to the building. The pro-Trump rioters even erected a makeshift gallows for Pence on the grounds of the Capitol during the insurrection.
And on March 30, the Associated Press’ Jill Covin reported that Pence “is steadily reentering public life as he eyes a potential run for the White House in 2024. He’s joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches, and launching an advocacy group that will focus on promoting the Trump administration’s accomplishments.”
There is, however, wide speculation that Pence, as Covin puts it, “is now viewed with suspicion among many Republicans for observing his constitutional duty in January to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration, a decision that still has Trump fuming.”
Newsweek’s Darragh Roche writes on April 1, “Some prominent pro-Trump social media users have offered harsh criticism of former vice-president Mike Pence amid suggestions that the Republican may be looking at a presidential run in 2024.
So it is that the Pence book deal will be understood by many as the politician’s effort to position himself after a conflicted end for him to the Trump administration. Hillel Italie at the Associated Press quotes literary agent David Vigliano saying that “all major publishers” competed for the Pence contract and that the deal is understood to be “well into seven figures.”
In announcing the deal, Canedy at Simon & Schuster is quoted, saying, “Vice-president Pence’s life and work, his journey as a Christian, the challenges and triumphs he has faced, and the lessons he has learned, tells an American story of extraordinary public service during a time of unrivaled public interest in our government and politics.
“His revelatory autobiography will be the definitive book on one of the most consequential presidencies in American history.”
The first of the two-book Pence deal is tentatively scheduled for a 2023 release, Simon & Schuster says.
As for Trump, himself, and books, the CNN writeup from Stelter, Gangel, and Warren adds that publishing industry players say that fact-checking could be a nightmare, but public outrage would be worse. “‘This is cancel culture P&L,’ said a former executive. ‘That is what they are really afraid of. They are worried about employees. There would be mass walkouts. No one would stay for Trump. No amount of money would be worth it.'”
John Boehner’s Book Releases Tuesday
Macmillan’s St. Martin’s Press, meanwhile, is the publisher of On the House: A Washington Memoir by John Boehner, which releases on Tuesday (April 13).
Maggie Haberman at The New York Times reported on Wednesday (April 7) that in the book, “John Boehner, the Republican former House speaker, issues a stinging denunciation in his new book of Donald J. Trump, saying that the former president ‘incited that bloody insurrection’ by his supporters at the Capitol on January 6 and that the Republican Party has been taken over by ‘whack jobs.'”
The political class will be studying reception of the Boehner book for any signs of weakening in grip Trump retains on the Republican Party. And in a related dimension to those observations, there’s a high level of interest in whether the party leadership can be prompted to reject Trumpism, as Boehner is understood to believe it should do.
In an entertaining early look at how the book had shaped up, Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan already had reported on February 26 at Axios that Boehner, 71, was going off-script during narration recordings for the audiobook edition of his book, making such asides as, “Oh, and Ted Cruz, go f**k yourself.” (Ted Cruz is a Republican senator from Texas.)
Not surprisingly, the Trump compound at Mar-a-Lago has responded to news of the coming Boehner book’s positioning on Trump and his administration. The key spokesman for Trump, Jason Miller, reportedly emailed a statement to Haberman at the Times referring to Boehner as “a Swamp Creature” and accusing him of favoring “Communist China.”
Boehner, who was Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015–the Obama years–is, in effect, firing off on Tuesday one of the first major GOP figures’ efforts to destabilize the current Trump-allegiant evocation of the Republican Party and will be watched carefully for its sales and impact.
Having seen an excerpt from the book in advance, Haberman reports that Boehner writes, “Mr. Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November … He claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.”
And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.