Sarah Palin's most consequential choice since leaving the White House may be her co-author - a staunch conservative, devoted evangelical Christian, and intensely partisan Republican from far, far outside the Beltway.
Lynn Vincent spent the summer working with Palin on a closely-guarded 400 page memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life." The book is due out from HarperCollins November 17 - but it shot to the top of the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists Wednesday as word of its publication spread.
Vincent's past projects include co-writing the memoir of General William Boykin, who blasted the media and President George W. Bush alike for ending his career over his casting the war on terror in overtly religious terms. Her most political book, "Donkey Cons," describes the Democratic Party since its inception as "pro-gangster" and the "party of treason and subversion." Her work for World Magazine, where she was an editor, includes a description of President Barack Obama as the "minority survivor" of the "black genocide" - that is, abortion.
There are at least three types of politicians' books. One is the overtly autobiographical, in which an aspiring candidate casts his or her life in heroic terms. Another is the careful, policy-heavy memoir. Some of those, like Obama's "The Audacity of Hope," feed public curiosity, but more often disappear without a ripple. (Remember John Kerry's "A Call to Service"? Didn't think so.) The more commercially promising sort is the third kind, the fire-breathing partisan tract.
Palin's choice of Vincent suggests that hers will be, emphatically, a partisan tract. And it is of a piece with a post-election posture in which the nation's most intensely popular, and most intensely unpopular, Republican has chosen to deepen her bond with her base at the cost of antipathy from the independent voters who decide presidential elections.
"Sarah Palin is not a Washington person - that's her whole schtick - so she's not going to get some inside the Beltway writer," said Sara Nelson, a longtime publishing industry watcher who is books editor of Oprah Winfrey's Magazine, "O."
"The success of this book will rise and fall on who much it appeals to the Christian right," Nelson said. She called Vincent "a smart choice," if a surprising one, given that Palin was represented in her dealings with publisher HarperCollins by the ultimate Beltway insider, lawyer Robert Barnett, who also handles Obama's book projects and those of dozens of other Washington eminences.
A HarperCollins spokeswoman, Tina Andreadis, said the book will be "a memoir of Governor Palin's life," but would not respond to questions about Vincent. "We do not participate in stories regarding collaborators," she said.
Vincent and a spokeswoman for Palin did not respond to inquiries about the project.
Some Palin backers cautioned against associating the politician with the views of her hired co-author. One Palin ally said she and Vincent had bonded over what they had in common as women of similar political backgrounds.
Vincent, 47, has lived in San Diego since moving there with the Navy, according to San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Diane Bell, who described her as "uncomfortable with political pigeonholing." And her best-known book is largely apolitical: the bestselling "Same Kind of Different as Me" is an inspirational tale of the unlikely friendship between a homeless ex-con and an art dealer.
What can be gathered of Vincent's politics from her books and articles, however, suggests that her heart lies very much with the party's socially-conservative base.
The 2006 "Donkey Cons", published by the Christian house Thomas Nelson, is the only book on which she's listed as the first author, with conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain. It's a romp through the history of the Democratic Party, beginning with Aaron Burr ("federal fugitive" and "ruthless killer") and aimed at proving that "the true history of the Democratic party is a tale of dishonesty, crime and corruption."
McCain (no relation to the Arizona senator) didn't respond to an email from POLITICO, but brushed off
to the Washington Independent's any attempt to link Vincent to his own controversial past remarks on race.
"People are making assumptions about me and Lynn Vincent based on bulls*** they read on the Internet," he said. "She is a person who is a lot more progressive about her views than a lot of people who don't know her would give her credit for."
Two other Vincent books reviewed Wednesday by POLITICO reveal a lively writing style and deep roots in evangelical Christianity. Gen. Boykin - who was forced out of the Pentagon, but later largely cleared of allegations he'd inappropriately mixed religion and the uniform - employed her for a book that is part special forces memoir, and part an attempt to set the record straight against what he and Vincent cast as a biased media and a White House that caved to its demands.
Boykin's religiously-infused references to the "war on terror" were misunderstood, the book, "Never Surrender," says:"I didn't mean through some kind of holy war. I meant spiritually, through prayer."
In the book, Boykin blames an NBC News reporter, a Los Angeles Times columnist, and "the anti-religion left" for his fall, and writes that he was "crushed" by President Bush's move to distance himself from the general.
A second co-written memoir, "The Blood of Lambs," tells a very different story from another Evangelical perspective: That of a Muslim convert to Christianity writing under the name Kamal Saleem.
"Many Muslims are kind and gentle people, but about one in ten, according to scholars who study Jihad, have declared war on our way of life," the book - largely a colorful memoir of Saleem's life in Beirut
-- declares on one of its occasional forays into politics.
It warns that Americans must be "constantly on our guard at home and abroad" to threats from radical Islam, and that readers should "beware of attempts to establish Sharia law in your town" and "beware of attempts to establish Muslim prayer rituals in public schools."
Vincent's work for the evangelical magazine World reflects the same perspective, and also a commitment to an issue that is core to Palin's political beliefs, if not a particular focus of her Alaska governance, abortion.
Her writing on the issue, though, often has an angle more typically associated with the left, casting abortion as a matter of racial inequality. Along with decrying the procedure as part of a "black genocide," Vincent has accused abortion rights groups of the "exploitation of Hispanic women" in the outreach of groups like Planned Parenthood.
She's also been - unlike Palin - an outspoken foe of homosexuality.
"In decades past, men and women routinely brushed off fleeting thoughts of homosexual behavior. Now, though, gay activists have succeeded in planting a seed that says people not only can but should follow such thoughts with exploration and action," Vincent warned last year.
Vincent's posture on the confrontational, conservative right matches Palin's post election stand, in which she has powerfully secured her standing as a leading figure of the Republican party while doing little to broaden her appeal beyond the party's base.
That's also the posture likely to sell books.
"She doesn't need a writer who understands government - she needs a writer who understands the Christian heart - that's what the books going to be about and that's who the books' going to appeal to," said Nelson.