There’s not a big market for gubernatorial memoirs. Few governors are known outside their own states, and once they leave office, most voters want to forget about them.
Rod Blagojevich looked like an exception. A genuine D-grade celebrity, Blagojevich achieved national fame because of his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat and, let’s be honest, because of his hair. Because of that, he was able to peddle his book, The Governor, on The View -- an appearance any author would covet. Blagojevich reportedly received a six-figure advance from Phoenix Books, but The Governor never made the bestseller lists. The millions who enjoyed gawking at Blagojevich’s imbecilities on Celebrity Apprentice, or at Jason Sudeikis’s Saturday Night Live impersonation, didn’t want to pay $24.95 to hear his side of the story.
But now George Ryan is trying his hand at memoir writing, with a book his son promises will be a “humdinger” of an expose on Illinois politics in the second half of the 20th Century. As they say in the publishing business, I can’t see it. Ryan was a colorless one-term governor who went to prison for crimes confined to the borders of Illinois. He won his last election 15 years ago. Now that he’s out of prison, and out of politics, he clearly has some scores to settle. I’m sure it will make him feel better to sit down and vent about the politicians, prosecutors and judges who done him wrong, but by now, their names are even less remembered than Ryan’s.
There are only two Illinois politicians whose names can sell a book: Abraham Lincoln -- who, at 16,000 volumes and counting, has been written about more often than any human being other than Jesus Christ -- and Barack Obama, who may catch Lincoln yet. All the others belong in the back catalog.