In this information age, transparency, or lack thereof, within government is a subject that we should all be aware of. By law the government of the U.S. is obliged to share the information they have with any interested party, subject to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Of course if you own the chicken coop, you get to decide how, and by whom, the chicken coop is guarded and that is not always a good thing. Blacked Out explores both the history and the current state of the government's openness and public accountability.
Following are some excerpts from the interview, which has been edited for length, and any errors are entirely mine.
Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed your book, it was very thought-provoking. I learned many things that I did not know before. That said, it is not a light read.
Agreed, this is an academic press book. There is a tension between academic and trade presses. With a trade press book you are expected to have a punch line. Some subjects do not have a punch line, they only have information.
Is it possible to create a crossover book, one that appeals to both camps? I do believe yours is very close?
Very few academics have achieved this. The requirements are so different; academic books require extensive research notes, so that students can learn. A trade press book aims more at entertainment.
I have recently reviewed several non-fiction books about fairly serious issues. One in particular springs to mind, a short book about the changes in everyday life that the Supreme Court has brought about. This is another fine example of an important subject that the man in the street knows little about. How does an author of an academic book get it in front of the general public?
If the book is well written, it is possible for it to gain popularity through word of mouth, but it is a rare event.
The Freedom of Information Act is clearly a subject that you know very well. How long did the book take to put together? You first got involved in the subject in 1997, when did the book start to gel?
Yes it was 1997 that I first became involved. Blacked Out started to evolve in 2000, and in the fall of 2004 I started to actually commit it to paper.
Although it is a complex subject and maybe a little outside of the regular reader's vista, it is such a compelling subject. Have sales of the book been up to expectations?