Former Vice President Dick Cheney has signed a book deal with a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster and said he hopes readers of all ideologies will be interested in his story. The memoir by Cheney, widely considered the most powerful vice president in history, is expected to be published in Spring 2011, a few months after President George W. Bush's book comes out.
Cheney's work is currently untitled and will cover his long career in government, from chief of staff under President Ford to vice president under Bush, from Vietnam and Watergate to the first Gulf War and the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the 68-year-old Cheney noted that he had never written a book about his years in government, which dates back to the 1960s.
"I'm persuaded there are a lot of interesting stories that ought to be told," Cheney said. "I want my grandkids, 20 or 30 years from now, to be able to read it and understand what I did, and why I did it."
Financial terms were not disclosed. A publishing official with knowledge of the negotiations, but not authorized to publicly discuss, said the deal was likely worth at least $2 million. Cheney's literary representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, declined comment.
Known for his secrecy while in the Bush administration, Cheney has made it clear since leaving office that he was planning a memoir. He is working on the book — in longhand and on computer — at his home outside of Washington, D.C., and in collaboration with his daughter, Liz Cheney.
Books by former vice presidents rarely attract a lot of interest unless the author is likely to run for president (Richard Nixon had a best seller in the early 1960s with "Six Crises"), or claims an expertise outside of electoral politics (Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," released in 2006 and the companion to the Academy Award-winning documentary about global warming).
But Cheney's influence is like no other vice president's and his side of the story should at least catch the attention of the general public, including the many who don't like him. An architect and aggressive defender of Bush administration policies, from the Iraq War to the treatment of suspected terrorists, Cheney has consistently had low approval ratings, sometimes under 30 percent, but he is deeply admired by those that stand by him.
"He appeals very strongly to the conservative side of the political spectrum. That's absolutely true," said Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy. "But what also fascinates me is the sheer breadth of his experience."
The book will be published by Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions imprint, founded in 2005 and headed by a longtime Cheney friend and former aide: Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Threshold has become an unofficial publishing home to the Cheney family, releasing memoirs by Cheney's wife Lynne Cheney and by daughter Mary Cheney.
Matalin has not only reaffirmed her Washington connections, but tapped into — like few others — the current conservative market. She has published one of the most popular works of 2009, Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny," and recently released "Glenn Beck's Common Sense," which on Tuesday ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com.
"A lot of those kinds of books were selling well before, but they've certainly been enhanced by this environment, where conservatives feel a certain urgency; the future of the party feels uncertain," Matalin said. "Cheney's book may play into that — it can't not, I think. But it will also be about the policies that played out under that philosophy of government, over almost half a century."
Cheney said his book will reflect his conservative outlook, but that he has no plans to write "a screed" and sees no reason why liberals shouldn't want to read it, "because it covers some of very interesting and important events in our recent history.
"I would hope it has an appeal to anyone who has an interest in these developments," Cheney said.
Interest in Cheney can be measured by how many books have been written about him. It is a vast, diverse and mostly unflattering library, from parodies such as "Dick Cheney's Diary" and "Duck! The Dick Cheney Survival Bible" to Barton Gellman's investigative "Angler," in which Cheney is portrayed as a virtual law unto himself in the Bush administration.
Cheney said Tuesday that he was aware "there have been quite a few (books) about me as vice president," and added, "A couple of them I have looked at," mentioning Stephen Hayes' sympathetic "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President," a 2007 release written with his cooperation.
Cheney said that he has a "stack of books" by his bedside, accumulated while he was vice president, and "wanted to read at least some of them." Asked if he might have a look at the Gellman book, or another critical take, Cheney said, "I expect I would."
He has made sharp comments over the past few months, not just about the Obama administration, but about former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who often differed with Cheney when they served under George W. Bush. But when discussing his book Tuesday, Cheney said, "In terms of carrying grudges or trying to settle grudges, that's not my purpose. If it had been, I wouldn't have lasted very long in politics."
"He knows he's called Darth Vader," said Simon & Schuster's Carolyn Reidy. "He's aware of how he's been portrayed. But I didn't feel any defensiveness when I met with him. I remember thinking, `I can see why four presidents gave him very responsible jobs in their administrations.'"