The Atlantic

The Book He Wasn't Supposed to Write

A best-selling author submits a draft to his editor. Hijinks ensue.
Source: Katie Posner

I had written five books for Scott Moyers, following him as he moved from editing jobs at Scribner’s to Random House and then to Penguin Press. We worked well together, and in part thanks to his strong editing hand, my last three books had been bestsellers.

So what happened when I finished years of work and sent him the manuscript of my sixth book stunned me. In fact, I was in for a series of surprises.

They began about 18 months ago, after I emailed to him that manuscript, a dual appreciation of Winston Churchill and George Orwell. When I had begun work on it, in 2013, some old friends of mine thought the subject was a bit obscure. Why would anyone care how two long-dead Englishmen, a conservative politician and a socialist journalist who never met, had dealt with the polarized political turmoil of the 1930s and the world war that followed? By 2016, as people on both the American left and right increasingly seemed to favor opinion over fact, the book had become more timely.

But two weeks after I sent him the manuscript, I received a most unhappy e-mail back from him. “I

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
‘News From Here Doesn’t Go Out’: Kashmir Simmers Under Lockdown
There have been daily protests since August 5, when the Indian government revoked the region’s special status.
The Atlantic2 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Stacey’s Nom?
Stacey Abrams hinted this week that she’d be open to being vice president. Plus: Israel reversed course, but Representative Rashida Tlaib won’t go.
The Atlantic9 min readSociety
America Moved On From Its Gay-Rights Moment—And Left a Legal Mess Behind
Half a decade after the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage decision, the justices and Congress are still trying to figure out what federal law should say about LGBTQ rights.