Legacy of Ashes Author Tim Weiner Will Write Two More Books on National Security

New York Times reporter Tim Weiner, whose CIA chronicle Legacy of Ashes is up for the 2007 National Book Award in non-fiction, signed a contract this morning with Random House for two more national security-themed books: one on the history of the FBI and the other on the history of the American military since World War II.

Random House announced a few weeks ago that the deal was forthcoming, but in an interview today Mr. Weiner said it wasn’t made official until a few hours ago.

Both books will be edited by Random House veteran Bob Loomis; the pair last worked together on Mr. Weiner’s 1995 book Betrayal.

Mr. Weiner, 51, had been reporting on American intelligence for the Times when he started working on Legacy of Ashes, but after returning to the paper from a nine-month book leave in May 2006, he changed his focus to obituaries and started writing national-security stories only occasionally. Since his return, he has filed about 16 obits for the Times’ print edition and produced a number of online “video obituaries.”

These video obituaries were Mr. Weiner’s idea; the basic concept, he said, is to interview people on camera before they die and then post the footage online once they do. Mr. Weiner said about two dozen of these videos have been shot to date, but only one of them—an interview with Art Buchwald featuring the line, “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I just died”—has been posted so far. “We have no dominion over life and death, so we can’t choose when these things run,” Mr. Weiner said.

Mr. Weiner said he does not expect to return to the intelligence beat in the immediate future, not least of all because he and his wife, currently living in New York, do not want to move back to Washington.

As for the two new books, Mr. Weiner said he won’t start working on them until the beginning of next year (“I need to take a breath here”) and that he does not expect to be given any more time off from the paper. He said the two books would probably take between five and six years of work.