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'All In' and Paula Broadwell's unenviable path to biography fame

November 12, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Then-Army Gen. David Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell
Then-Army Gen. David Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell (International Security…)

At 4:30 p.m. on Friday, "All In" by Paula Broadwell was nowhere near the upper reaches of Amazon's bestseller charts: It was ranked No. 126,995. That quickly changed as news spread that David Petraeus had resigned from his position as CIA director because of an extramarital affair with Broadwell, his biographer in the book.

"All In" was published in January. It has risen to No. 111 overall on Amazon, and is currently No. 3 in the categories history/Middle East/Iraq and history/military/Iraq war. It's No. 6 in biographies & memoirs/leaders & notable people/military.

The book's rapid rise has caught the attention of publisher Penguin Press. Its paperback edition has been moved up to Nov. 21.

That's all good news for any first-time biographer, but it can't be much consolation for Broadwell.

She's at the center of a media storm. Speculation is rampant that a letter published in a New York Times article about an affair, headlined "My Wife's Lover," was written by her husband (although the Times says it believes that is not the case). And the Petraeus affair was allegedly discovered after a woman's  complaint to the FBI about threatening emails led to Broadwell

Like Thomas E. Ricks' "The Generals," "All In" found much to like in the military leadership of Petraeus, a former Army general who led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.S. Central Command.

Some -- particularly in retrospect -- have found it perhaps overly laudatory. "It's not a hagiography," Broadwell told Internet personality Arthur Kade in February. She continued, unfortunately, "I’m not in love with David Petraeus, but I think he does present a terrific role model for young people, for executives, for men and women. No matter what, there’s a great role model there."

As of this writing "All In" is Amazon's No. 148 bestseller, and Broadwell is ranked the site's 18th most-popular biographer.

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Petraeus resigns over mistress, but shines in "The Generals"

The Pushcart Prize anthology reflects the best and worst of times

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