Attorney General John Mitchell in Prison: “All John Dean Had to Do Was Keep His Mouth Shut”

John Mitchell knew how to keep his mouth shut.

From “In Prison With John Mitchell,” a 1979 Washingtonian story by Ronald James (the pen name of a television news producer serving time for cocaine trafficking), who was in prison with former Attorney General John Mitchell. An earlier post, “When Attorney General John Mitchell Went to Prison: ‘You’re Just a Convict Now, Like the Rest of Us,'” described Mitchell’s arrival at the Maxwell Federal Prison Camp and his first days there. This post goes on to describe what Mitchell’s life was like in prison and how he interacted with other convicts.

The Maxwell prison camp setting is a relatively pleasant one. Were it not for the total loss of freedom and identity that any prison takes away from a man, Maxwell might be called relaxing….A wide, spacious lawn tended by the inmates fronts the Alabama River. Many convicts chose to sit out on the Green during their spare time, talking or watching the tourist-packed paddle-wheel steamboat make its way up and down the river.

Annals of the Magazine Sub Game: This Time the Atlantic

I’ve written about the subscription games played by the New Yorker—they often offer 12 weeks for $6 but then try to find out what you’ll be charged after 12 weeks. Usually it’s $99 a year but I’ve heard of rates as high as $119 a year.

The Atlantic, under the ownership of David Bradley, ran a pretty normal subscription operation, but under new ownership it’s moving into the let’s-see-if-we-can-con-the-reader territory.

In the current issue are two subscription cards:

The first offers “2 FREE bonus issues. You get a full year of The Atlantic (+2 bonus issues) for just $29.50.”

Not the Real Story: The NYTimes Oral History About the End of Time Inc.

Sunday’s New York Times story, “Time Inc.: The End of a Media Dynasty,” is entertaining but the story’s deck, “An oral history of how the once-dominant Time Inc. ended up on the scrap heap” doesn’t deliver.

The Times story has a lot of food and drink tales and plenty on men behaving badly but it  glosses over Time Warner’s disastrous 2000 merger with AOL and what really sunk Time Inc. The AOL deal reflected how dumb Time Inc.’s bureaucracy had become, mortgaging its future to merge with AOL’s dial up Internet service just as it was about to be replaced by broadband. See this good 2010 Times story, “How the AOL-Time Werner Merger Went So Wrong”:

When Attorney General John Mitchell Went to Prison: “You’re Just a Convict Now, Like the Rest of Us”

John Mitchell went to prison for conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

From “In Prison With John Mitchell,” a 1979 Washingtonian story by Ronald James (the pen name of a television news producer serving time for cocaine trafficking), who was in prison with former Attorney General John Mitchell.

Shortly before noon on June 22, 1977, a chauffeured Cadillac edged up a shrub-lined road toward the inevitable….John Newton Mitchell—former attorney general of the United States—prepared to enter  the Maxwell Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Alabama.

“I Do Not Have to Put Up With Editors Making Demands on Me”

“No way I need an editor.”

Anne Rice, author of the best-selling series of novels The Vampire Chronicles, got some negative feedback when her novel Blood Canticle was published in 2004. A New York Times story by Sarah Lyall said:

She reacted to the criticism with shock and horror….She posted a blistering 1,200 word defense of her book on the Amazon site….”Your stupid, arrogant assumptions about me and what I’m doing are slander,” she wrote…..Nor was she thrilled by the suggestion…that “Blood Canticle” might have benefited from some tough love. “Anne, you really should have an editor, or at least someone that would read your book before you send it off to print,” one reviewer wrote.

“A Quiet Man, He Did His Talking in Print”

He hid in plain sight — his three-piece white suits served as a shield that made the man within nearly invisible. To the extent that anyone so flamboyantly attired can recede into the background, he did. Wolfe did not talk much; he preferred to listen and to soak in the atmosphere. A quiet man, he did his talking in print.

—From Max Boot’s column in today’s Washington Post.

The Perfect Word to Describe Tom Wolfe’s Writing

From Caitlin Flanagan’s review of Tom Wolfe’s book, The Kingdom of Speech, in the New York Times Book Review:

. . .the author’s lifelong commitment to carbonating even the most esoteric subjects. . .


Reporting 101: When Doing the Interviewing, Don’t Act So Smart

The writer John McPhee once wrote a New Yorker piece, “Elicitation,” about how to do good interviewing. The article’s most entertaining sections were about the reporting he did for the profiles of Jackie Gleason and Richard Burton that he did for Time before he joined the New Yorker.

The part of the piece I found most interesting was his strategy for getting people to talk by using both a tape recorder and taking notes. Here is some of what he said:

“What If You Journalists Are Just Assets in Someone Else’s Covert Operation?”

Charles McCarry was a newspaper reporter in Ohio, a CIA spy in Rome and Geneva, a magazine editor in Washington, and then a novelist. In Second Sight, his eighth novel, he likened Washington journalists to the secret police in totalitarian countries:

They maintained hidden network of informers, carried out clandestine investigations, conducted interrogations on the basis of accusations made by anonymous witnesses and agent provocateurs, and staged dramatic show trials in which the guilt of the accused was assumed and no effective defense was allowed. They had far greater powers of investigation than the government.

An Old Spy Sees the News Media in Washington Behaving Much Like the Secret Police in Totalitarian Countries

Before Charles McCarry became a novelist, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Ohio and then was recruited into the CIA. He worked under cover, mostly in Geneva and Rome—his cover was writing features for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines.

After he left the CIA, he was the number-two editor at the National Geographic in Washington and then became a full-time novelist. Norman Mailer said that McCarry and John le Carre “are probably the two best writers of spy novels.”