Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Horns and Halos

The view of the publishing business that emerges in this documentary  is very different than the one you see if all you know is, Borders, and C-SPAN's BookTV. Here you see charismatic young publishers betting the farm to bring fringe and suppressed book to light while battling the forces of "mainstream media" that at all turns seem to be resisting and twisting "the truth."

This riveting documentary presents the story of a young  publisher and his company's relationship with the author of the book FORTUNATE SON, a tell-all biography of George W Bush that was withdrawn (and, some say, burned) by St. Martins Press after it was discovered the author had served time for conspiracy to murder. According to some, the real reason for the withdrawal of the book was that it detailed accusations that young George W. Bush had been busted for cocaine use in 1972 but had through family influence been allowed to perform community service instead of jail time.  Although the source of this information was never revealed in the book the documentary replays the press conference where the author and publisher revealed to a skeptical press that the real source of this information actually was Karl Rove.

But believe it or not, in these perilous political times, the real subject of this documentary, based on two years' work by the producers, is not George W. Bush. The real subject is the charismatic former CEO of Skull Press who decided to republish the banned book. Over the course of the movie he is constantly onscreen, wheeling and dealing, haranguing, and pushing a broom during his day job as a super in a New York apartment house where he has converted the basement into a warren of publishing offices.

I have no way of being able to verify what is said about Bush in this movie. But that is not really the point, which many people will probably have a hard time believing. What I took away was wonder that, in these days of the Internet and monolithically controlled outlets like Fox News and CBS, there are people who still care about bringing books to the public, books that provide independent and different views of the world.

More depressingly though, what you see here is that in some cases our treasured "free press" is sometimes free only to those with money and connections (or access to a blog publisher). How else to explain the initial suppression of a book like FORTUNATE SON?

At the same time, FORTUNATE SON (now openly available through mainstream sources such as my beloved were it to appear today would probably not raise as much of a stink and would probably be available in bits and pieces in thousands of blogs and websites around the net. There would be pro-FS and anti-FS web pages. Pundits would argue about it and then go on to the next hot topic.

But books on paper still hold a special place for many people and it is inspiring to see a firsthand example of independent publishing so well produced as with this movie, which is itself a sterling example of documentary filmmaking.

Man On Fire

Man On Fire

Lewis Gilbert's SINK THE BISMARCK!