A Presidential Fury Propels Wolff Book to No. 1
THE OUTSIDER: Presidential endorsements can help writers bigly. President Kennedy declared his love of the James Bond spy series, and brought Ian Fleming to this country’s attention. President Reagan enthused about the first novel to be published by the Naval Institute Press — an obscure submarine technothriller called “The Hunt for Red October” — and turned Tom Clancy into a star.
It’s less usual for a presidential cease-and-desist letter to propel a book’s sales. But then, part of the point of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” (new at No. 1 in hardcover nonfiction) is that nothing about President Trump is usual. Wolff’s behind-the-scenes look at Trump’s first year in office draws heavily on interviews with aides and staffers, and the picture it paints is as grim as anything by Hieronymus Bosch. “Nothing contributed to the chaos and dysfunction of the White House as much as Trump’s own behavior,” Wolff writes in a passage claiming that the president, afraid of poisoning, won’t let housekeepers touch his toothbrush and barks at them even for tidying up: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” In Wolff’s telling, his subject — used to the home comforts of Trump Tower — finds the White House “vexing and even a little scary.”
Vilifying the commander in chief is itself a proud tradition on the lists (Dinesh D’Souza, take a bow), and Wolff’s scorching portrayal would probably have done well even had Trump not threatened an injunction. For his part, though, Wolff maintains that he set out with no preconceptions. “I would have been delighted to write a contrarian account here: ‘Donald Trump, this unexpected president, is actually going to succeed,’” he told “Meet the Press” this month. “That is not the story. He is not going to succeed. This is worse than everybody thought.”
THE INSIDER: “The Woman in the Window,” A. J. Finn’s debut thriller about a possible murder and an unreliable witness, enters the hardcover fiction list at No. 1. This book arrives with sky-high expectations courtesy of a reported seven-figure advance, rave early reviews and — maybe — the fact that Finn, in real life, is Dan Mallory, vice president and executive editor of William Morrow. (As it happens, Morrow is also publishing the novel.) “I knew that the market was ripe,” he told The Houston Chronicle recently. “But you have to have a story, and I wasn’t going to publish a novel until I felt comfortable with the narrative. … In the end, I think it was a happy confluence of my instinct as a writer and my expertise as a publisher.”