By Sara Nelson
I am not a fan of publishing embargoes, the system by which publishers withhold “special” books from readers until an arbitrarily chosen date so as to “control” the noise and discussion around that book. Purveyors of this all-too-common practice will tell you that they do it for pragmatic reasons: because the book is about to be excerpted or the author interviewed in a major media outlet -- and that the embargo is part of the deal. Some will also admit that embargoes are a way of heightening interest; the withheld book becomes the one everybody is talking about, the one you can’t wait to get your hands on. The thing is: embargoes often backfire. More often than not, the withheld book, when finally revealed, is a disappointment, its few and feeble “gems” ultimately disappointments to our fevered, embargo-fueled desires.
Such is not the case with No Easy Day by Mark Owen, with Kevin Maurer. The title, which (as you surely know by now) is billed as a book about how an elite group of Navy SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. As could have been predicted, some news outlets obtained early copies of the book, which goes on sale today. (Note: there are reporters out there who spend inordinate amounts of time tracking down supposedly “unavailable copies;” it may be the one growth industry within journalism.) And many, many reporters jumped on the revelations: about whether Bin Laden was armed or unarmed when the SEALS found him, about how they got confirmation that it was, in fact, Bin Laden that they’d just killed; about--and this is the biggie--whether “Mark Owen” (a pseudonym) compromised American intelligence by writing this book in the first place.
Those things are important, sure. But what just about nobody has yet said about this book is that the first 2/3 of it aren’t even about Bin Laden--and that it’s largely that 2/3 that makes No Easy Day a fascinating read.