"At the C.I.A., [adultery] can be a security issue, since it can make an intelligence officer vulnerable to blackmail, but it is not a crime," write Scott Shane and Charlie Savage in the New York Times. Adultery can also sell books, particularly when the book is a gushingly reverential ode to the subject with whom the writer is said to be having an affair. And indeed, the presumably accidental marketing of Paula Broadwell's book by way of scandal is doing wonders for its sales.
To recap, in case you've been in a black hole of news for the past three days, Paula Broadwell, 40, is the married biographer of General David Petraeus, 60, whose resignation as CIA director due to his affair with her has resulted in an occasionally delighted, occasionally horrified, still-searching-for-meaning kind of media storm. On the presumably delighted side: The New York Post's front page today provides us with the headline "The Other Other Woman," featuring the face of Jill Kelley, who allegedly received threatening emails from Broadwell—who allegedly thought there might be something going on between the two—and went to the FBI about them. This story is perfect tabloid fodder, after all, with not just two women involved but three of them, with a CIA director and the keeping and not keeping of some very tawdry secrets, even as the whys and hows remain a bit foggy and confusing—why, especially, does an affair mean that a CIA director has to resign? What, exactly, prompted the FBI to get involved? Is this really simply a high-school gossip-circle sort of matter between just a small group of people in a tight social circle, elevated because of their jobs, or is there something bigger going on? What will this mean for any of these particular players, and what will it mean on a broader scope, as women continue to fight for equal treatment in military scenarios? Surely we'll be continuing to talk and wonder about all of this as the story progresses.
But for now, the book side of things: Paula Broadwell's book, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, co-written with Vernon Loeb, is doing very, very well. As its Penguin summary goes, "Afforded extensive access by General Petraeus, his mentors, his subordinates, and his longtime friends, Broadwell embedded with the general, his headquarters staff, and his soldiers on the front lines of fighting and at the strategic command in Afghanistan to chronicle the experiences of this American general as they were brought to bear in the terrible crucible of war. All In draws on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Petraeus and his top officers and soldiers to tell the inside story of this commander's development and leadership in war form every vantage point."
They had a lot of readers with embedded. As Virginia Brown and Dan MacLeod write in the New York Post, "Broadwell’s biography of Petraeus, All In, is currently ranked No. 102 in sales on Amazon.com — before the scandal broke, it was ranked a mere 76,792." (It's the 3rd best-selling history book, and the 12th best-selling biography.) Amazon reviewers are not all supportive of this sudden success (in fact, at the time of this post, Broadwell's ode to Petraeus had more 1-star reviews than anything else, though the 5-star reviews come in second). But those sales don't lie. Some wonder, in fact, if this is a cheap marketing ploy:
This review is from: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Hardcover) Disgraceful and tasteless—not worth your money—a friend had it back in January and didn't enjoy it so she let me borrow it—I didn't finish it because it was not interesting—but now I'm writing this review so people don't go out and buy it now just because of his affair with the biographer—the book wasn't selling well before and makes you wonder why all of a sudden we find out about an affair through harassing e-mails by the biographer? Uh maybe to push sales?
This review is from: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Hardcover) Your carrying of this book violates your own Conditions of Use and guidelines as the author promotes immoral conduct with her own immoral conduct. The book should be dropped and the publisher should be notified as to why.
... and shouldn't be sold at all.
This review is from: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Hardcover) DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. IT IS GARBAGE! IT IS WRITTEN BY A CHEATER ABOUT A CHEATER!
LET'S DO OUR PART TO HELP GET CRAP LIKE THIS OFF THE SHELVES!
Still others found it better than they thought at first read, given the information available in the news today, and all the double entendres to be made:
This review is from: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Hardcover) In hindsight, it was worth reading, though apparently lacking the objectivity originally expected. The title was well chosen and perhaps the most amusing aspect of the book, as he certainly was ALL IN.
Back in January when Broadwell was doing her promotional book tour, with stints on The Daily Show and elsewhere, talking about the general awesomeness of the general, it's pretty unlikely she hoped any of this would come to light. Yet, regardless of the Amazon reviewers giving it 1-star ratings, it's clear that her book is going to sell—just as her recent Newsweek list, "General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living," has been shared thousands of times—precisely because of what we know now about her relationship with her subject:
This review is from: All In: The Education of General David Petraeus (Kindle Edition) Never in a hundred years would I have read this book, had not the affair come to light. Now it is on my reading list, and that of very many other people, I am sure. The fact that they had an affair during the writing of this book adds some undeniable spice to the words.
Not that that's great news, of course. For one thing, along with what must be a decidedly unpleasant media frenzy around her, her book party might be cancelled. From Sheryl Gay Stolberg, writing in the New York Times, "After the revelation of Ms. Broadwell’s affair with Mr. Petraeus, her friends and neighbors do not quite know what to expect next. 'We’ve been trying to have a book party for her and invite some people from the neighborhood,' said Mr. Williams, the retired editor. 'We talked about doing it in early December. I’m not so sure that’s going to go on now.'”
Maybe it should have been a memoir? That, and book sales, are probably the least of the worries of anyone involved.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.