“Conrad Black is no dummy when it comes to promotion,” said Douglas Pepper.
Mr. Pepper, the president of the Canadian book-publishing company McClelland & Stewart, was on the phone from Toronto. He was explaining the timing of his client Mr. Black’s new book, The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Milhous Nixon, which is scheduled to hit the shelves in bookstores throughout Canada on May 22.
Mr. Black already has a busy schedule.
Since the middle of last month, the author, media mogul, British lord, newspaper columnist and alleged corporate embezzler has been embroiled in a high-profile criminal trial taking place in a courtroom in Chicago. Prosecutors allege that during his time at the helm of Hollinger International, Mr. Black and three co-defendants bilked some $60 million from the company. In Canada, the trial has garnered the kind of fevered attention that O.J. Simpson’s trial generated in the U.S.
Mr. Pepper said that with Mr. Black’s encouragement, he scheduled the debut of the book to piggyback on all the free publicity. “The trial is the biggest story of the year, with the exception of the prime-ministerial elections,” said Mr. Pepper. “Conrad is an icon here, whether you love him or hate him. To wait any longer in this country would be a mistake.”
Apparently, the same logic doesn’t apply here in the States. Mr. Black’s U.S. publishers, PublicAffairs Books, don’t plan on rolling out The Invincible Quest until the fall of 2007.
“We wanted enough time to get it edited very carefully and circulated to reviewers and all those things,” said Peter Osnos, the founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs Books. “For an American audience, the book is going to be read in a different way than from a Canadian audience. Also, there are three Nixon books out right now. So we felt that there would be more space for what is an extraordinary piece of work.”
An advance copy of the hefty tome arrived at The Observer today and weighed in at a whopping 1,059 pages. In a photograph on the back of the dust jacket, Mr. Black and Nixon, looking young and wearing tuxedos, stand shoulder to shoulder, smiling. Mr. Black dedicated the biography to his wife, Barbara Amiel, for her magnificence “through good and bad times.”
So how do you promote a book when prosecutors have already booked your author day in and day out?
According to Mr. Pepper, you plan ahead. Back in March, before the start of the trial, Mr. Black did a number of interviews with television and radio stations, which were subsequently embargoed until later this month. Next Friday, TVO, the public-television station in Ontario, will air one of the first of the interviews.
Also, you hope for the best. “He’s very gung-ho to promote the book,” said Mr. Pepper. “We are hoping very much that when the book comes out, that he can do some more appearances. But it depends whether or not he is needed in Chicago.”
Or, perhaps, whether he’s needed in the mess hall. If convicted, Mr. Black could spend more than 20 years in prison.