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June 24, 2005

OK, One More Truth About Hillary Item, But That's It

by Ron Hogan

Now that both liberals and conservatives are whacking the Ed Klein piñata, Klein and his publisher, Sentinel, are doing their best to prolong the half-life of The Truth About Hillary. As Edward Wyatt (NYT) surveys the fallout, Sentinel's Adrian Zackheim suggests that prominent conservatives are panning the book because "there is some sentiment on the right that these assertions are more helpful to Senator Clinton than not." Because it couldn't possibly be the case, as Peggy Noonan says, that Klein's reporting is "poorly written, poorly thought, [and] poorly sourced." Klein trots out a variant of Zackheim's line, but he also thinks he's the victim of player-hating. To wit: "A lot of people have written or plan to write books about Hillary. As 2008 approaches, there is an understandable competition and jealousy on the part of fellow writers."

Oh, how I had to laugh at that one. You see, I wasn't going to tell this story before, because I thought fishbowlNY did a fine enough job of describing Klein's thin skin, but back in 1996, when Beatrice was a site devoted to author Q&As, I was talking to all kinds of fiction and non-fiction writers, so I met up with Klein at a San Francisco hotel bar to chat for a half-hour about All Too Human, his JFK/Jackie book. As we were wrapping up, I made mention of the fact that I planned to feature the Q&A on the home page as part of a batch of Kennedy-themed interviews that would include Christopher Andersen (Jack and Jackie) and Laurence Leamer (The Kennedy Women).* Klein drew himself up in his chair and said something like, "I wish you had told me that before, because then I could have turned you down. I'm not interested in doing non-exclusive pieces." And that was that--I don't even think I got the other interviews, and the transcript of my conversation with him wasn't that strong, so I killed the story. To hear Ed Klein talking now about jealousy and competition among other writers...well, as we used to say on Usenet back in those days, "Pot. Kettle. Black."

(By the way, it's worth nothing that Wyatt's piece doesn't mention Klein's former position with NYT, which in a way perhaps validates my point from earlier this week that it's not the most relevant line on his resumé as far as the celebrity mudslinging is concerned. And for more insights into his background and modus operandi, skim over Rebecca Traister's Salon profile; because there's a political angle, the online mag actually bothers to get the story out in a timely manner rather than waiting a few weeks as it does with most book stories...)

* The site was young, and I was looking for gimmicks, what can I say?
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