They are not a crook!

In its continuing quest to squeeze every last drop of schadenfreude from the legal woes of the media mogul formerly in charge of its cross-town rival, the Chicago Tribune delivers a long preview of Conrad Black’s upcoming Richard Nixon bio. Reporter Susan Chandler uses one of the Trib’s trademark moves to great effect–couching a snarky takedown in a piece reporting on the snarky reaction of others to the situation. And that situation is worthy of a raised eyebrow or two:

“It’s an awkward time to launch a book — a few weeks before being sentenced for fraud and obstruction of justice.Yet it may also be a welcome distraction for Conrad Black, the disgraced former media magnate who has written a nearly 1,200-page biography of Richard M. Nixon, one of America’s most vilified presidents. Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full is set to hit U.S. bookstores in October, a date picked by his American publisher [PublicAffairs Books] because it fell after the July 13 verdict in Black’s criminal trial. …

“… Black’s choice of subject may have been prescient. Nixon’s ruthless qualities and the up-and-down nature of his career make Black a fitting interpreter for him.”

Sara Nelson, editor of Booklist’s cross-country rival, Publishers Weekly, played along by providing the money quote:

“‘The coincidence of [Black’s trial] having to do with payoffs and secrecy and losing your temper, and the guy coming out with a book about Nixon, the poster child for all those things, is kind of delicious. I think it might actually help the book.'”

Former Sun-Timesman Black clearly hopes so, too. He even agreed to be interviewed for the Trib story. Lemonade from lemons, that sort of thing. Here’s my favorite quote from him. Putting together the first, third and fourth sentences in the following paragraph displays either an incredibly subtle wit or an extreme lack of self-awareness:

“You don’t have much to do when you’re being persecuted by prosecutors. You take calls from lawyers and discuss how to respond to certain things, but it doesn’t take that much time. Brooding is a fundamentally unproductive activity. It was a strong temptation, but I rose above it and took on the project.”

How wonderful that he decided to rise above brooding.

Black’s kinship to Nixon apparently knows few bounds. As the BBC News has reported, “Conrad Black asserts his innocence ‘without qualification.'” No word on whether he flashed the double peace sign when he made that statement.

Anyhoo, Black’s first presidential doorstop study, 2003’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, received a less-than-stellar notice from Booklist, which called it a “massive, comprehensive, but frequently ponderous biography of the great FDR.” The review continued, “Black spends an inordinate amount of time describing Roosevelt’s personal life, often in mind-numbing detail. Does the fact that a young Franklin tried to conceal an accidental gash to his forehead really help to understand the man?”

With any luck, we soon will be asking similar questions about Nixonian bunions.  

We’ll end with a fun fact: Black charged Hollinger International “$90,000 to refurbish a Rolls-Royce; $40,000 to throw a birthday party for his wife; and $8 million to buy memorabilia of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” according to the Washington Post.

I wonder if he had enough room left on the corporate credit card to buy 18.5 minutes of audio tape relevant to his latest project… 

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