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3/26/04 4:01:00 PM ET

Clarke's book soars to success on U.S. media blitz
Reuters, 03.26.04, 4:35 PM ET


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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Richard Clarke went from faceless bureaucrat to near-celebrity with a soaring bestseller blasting the Bush administration's handling of the "war on terror," and the White House savaged in his book may have inadvertently helped create his perfect storm of publicity.

"Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," hit the shops Monday and Clarke's book is already in its sixth printing with 550,000 in print and book stores clamoring for more copies as it stands atop the Amazon.com bestsellers list.

Clarke, a counter-terrorism advisor to the last four presidents, rose to prominence in a whirlwind week that included an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," Sunday and an appearance Wednesday before a commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I can take responsibility for all of it but the hearings," said Martha Levin, publisher of The Free Press, which put out Clarke's book. Levin said the happy coincidence of Clarke's appearance at the hearings occurred because of a delay caused by White House clearance of the book.

Clarke's role in the administration obliged him to submit the manuscript to the White House for security checks.

"It was the earliest date we could publish. We did not get final White House clearance to publish until Feb. 4," Levin said. "We were not aware that Dick was testifying before the commission until March 10."

That was two weeks before Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 commission, during which commission members waved the book in hand as they questioned officials in televised proceedings.

An all-out counter-attack from administration officials straining to discredit Clarke's charge that Bush ignored the al Qaeda threat until it was too late also kept Clark and his book in the news.

"I think it was brilliantly orchestrated by the publisher," said John Baker, editorial director of Publisher's Weekly.

"Getting him on a big nationally watched TV show on the eve of the first appearance of the book really set the ball rolling. That guaranteed a lot of newspaper coverage."


The Free Press is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which like CBS is owned by Viacom Inc.

"I think there's some synergy at play," acknowledged Baker. "No reason why not."

The book was flying off the shelves in Washington, as might be expected, and doing big business all across the country.

"It's doing fantastic. We just had to order some more," said Roslyn Smith," sales manager at a Borders store in Detroit. "We just sent out the S.O.S. -- 'Send more books,"'

"It's selling briskly. It's our best-selling book right now," said Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in Coral Gables and Miami Beach, Florida.

A Boston bookseller said it seemed to have broad appeal.

"I wouldn't say it's just liberals or conservatives buying the book -- I think everybody has an interest in buying it," said Dan Durica, manager of Borders Books and Music.

A survey released on Thursday by The Pew Research Center, an independent group that studies the press and politics, said 89 percent of 1,065 people polled had heard about Clarke's criticisms. "It's a pretty big number," said Carroll Doherty, the center's editor.

Clarke's book followed by two months one from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who claimed Bush began laying the groundwork for an attack on Iraq the day he took office.

"The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill," also published by Simon & Schuster and featured on "60 Minutes," was No. 8 in Amazon.com sales Friday.

Publisher Levin offered a theory about Clarke's success.

"We're all really desperate to figure out what's right and what's wrong here," Levin said.

"Should we be in Iraq, shouldn't we be in Iraq? What really happened in 9/11? Could it have been prevented or could it not have been prevented? No one knows the answers to these and everyone's desperate to get them."

(Additional reporting by Greg Frost in Boston, Tom Brown in Detroit and Jim Loney in Miami)

Copyright 2004, Reuters News Service

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