Back in the mid 1980s when I was writing a biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, I called Lynne Cheney, then a senior editor at the Washingtonian magazine. I had in hand Kings of the Hill: Power and Personality in the House of Representatives, co-written, or so the cover indicated, by her husband, and published in 1983. It remains a lively collection of profiles of eight powerful House Leaders, from Henry Clay to Sam Rayburn, and includes a chapter on Alice's husband, Speaker of the House Nick Longworth.
Nick was a charmer from Cincinnati; his family owned the prized pottery company Rookwood. He was a near concert quality violinist, the life at every party, a ladies man, and also a heavy drinker. Once it was clear that her father would never return to what she considered his rightful place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Alice wanted Nick to be president. Nick did not cooperate. "Nick would rather be tight than president," she used to sneer. Alice's only child was fathered not by Nick, but by her soul mate, Idaho Senator William Borah.
So I called Ms. Cheney, described on the book flap as a "bestselling novelist," author of Executive Privilege and Sisters -- the latter historical fiction, published in 1981. It includes a lesbian romance. I didn't know about her paperback novel writing at the time.
Demand spiked for Sisters once Cheney took office with George W. Bush in 2001. According to an AP report, "The book sold little when first released but became a cult item after Dick Cheney was elected vice president ... New American Library ... was going to reprint "Sisters" [in 2004], but stopped after receiving a call from Lynne Cheney's attorney, Robert Barnett ... An autographed copy of "Sisters" is being offered for $595 on eBay." (Today, on Amazon, one can buy a dog-eared unsigned copy for $94.66, which is a lot of money given that most used books on Amazon can be had for a matter of pennies, excluding shipping.)
I remember Lynne Cheney as friendly and helpful in answering my questions about Nick Longworth. I don't remember trying to contact Dick Cheney; they share equal billing on the cover, although his name comes first and their introduction repeatedly uses the word "we." I likely assumed at the time that she was the better one to talk to; she wrote for the Washingtonian, I wrote for Chicago magazine; she has a PhD in history and her husband, then Congressman from Wyoming, had probably, I'd guessed, not had much to do with the actual hard work of writing a book.
Turns out my hunch was right. In fact, Dick Cheney must have had so little to do with it the book that he forgot he ever wrote it. During the Q and A with reporters yesterday after his speech at the National Press Club, he contemplated life after the White House. According to a report by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times, he answered "perhaps" when asked if he would write a book after he leaves office. "I really haven't decided. I've never written a book."
One thing is for certain: George W. Bush surely doesn't have to fear another Scott McClellan What Happened: Inside the Bush White House.
It would have been at least as interesting to ask Lynne Cheney what her plans are: surely another book, and surely not another steamy romance like Sisters.