Books and Book Reviewing, or Why All Press Is Good Press

When Bob Woodward published Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, in October of 1987, two things made that book news. One was his assertion that William Casey, the late director of the CIA, had admitted to knowing about the transfer of funds in the Iran-contra deal. The other was the skepticism over Woodward's claim to have interviewed Casey in the hospital. Casey's widow and daughter insisted that one or the other of them was with Casey almost all the time he was recovering from brain surgery, when Woodward says he visited, and that in any case Casey was too sick to have had substantive conversations with anyone—much less with a hostile journalist. Woodward would provide no details, but stuck to his story.

With the prepublication of several chapters in Newsweek, the Veil controversy had broken by the time David C. Martin came out with his review in The New York Times Book Review on October 18. Martin, CBS News' Pentagon correspondent, was reviewing a highly-touted book about a top-secret subject on page one of the Book Review. The crux of the matter had to be whether or not Woodward was lying about the biggest revelations in his book. Surely addressing that would make up the heart of Martin's review.

But that is not the heart of Martin's review. The heart of Martin's review goes like this:

. . . the revelations are not what is so captivating...

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