- By Cameron AbadiCameron Abadi is senior editor at Foreign Policy.
World opinion seems to be divided on the propriety of America’s sometimes-raucous celebration in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. Hopefully, though, we can all agree that Americans — by virtue of long-standing national tradition — should at least be indulged a few attempts to make a quick buck off of the affair.
Book publishers have been especially eager to track down authors who can write knowledgably and efficiently – read: quickly! – on the subject of Al Qaeda. As one publishing executive told the Wall Street Journal, "If it’s not going to be great, it’s got to be as fast as possible."
A number of authors have been happy to oblige. Former Newsweek Jon Meacham has already begun editing an e-book essay collection called Beyond Bin Laden for Random House. Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War and The Osama bin Laden I Know, has been signed by Crown to write a book tentatively titled The Manhunt, covering Washington’s search for the fugitive terrorist. The Free Press has also said that it is hoping to publish a digital work by Bergen.
Following Hollywood’s standard playbook, Penguin Press announced Wednesday that it had signed New Yorker correspondent Steve Coll to write, in essence, a sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, which covered America’s vexed relations with radical Islam from the 1980s through September 11. The new book will discuss the last ten years of that relationship.
Finally, there are those publishers who already have a perfect book in the works, but somehow failed to predict months back that a potential assassination in early May would provide the opportunity for marketing synergy. Sales strategies have been scrambled, as relatively unknown authors prepare to bask in the full media spotlight. The Black Banner, a narrative account of the war on terror written by Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who served on the front lines against Al Qaeda, is certain to be marketed heavily when it’s published in September by Norton.
Then there’s St. Martin’s Press, which had originally scheduled a May 24 release for a book by retired Navy SEALs Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin on the subject of the military’s secretive Team Six. When that unit succeeded in its secret mission to kill bin Laden on May 1, the publishing house immediately pushed to get the book in stores as quickly as possible. The release date has now been moved to May 10. "Sometimes you get lucky with current events," Mark Resnick, executive editor at St. Martin’s, told the New York Observer.