Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cheney: the Power, the Madness, the Definitive Biography

Sometimes even the most indefatigable fiction writers branch out into other genres.  Midway through penning the salacious finale to my epic “Fifty Shades of Puce,” dismal finances forced me to detour onto a more lucrative project.

One of the fastest growing book genres is biography.  And why shouldn’t it be?  We’re fascinated by the lives of others.  We want to know every last sordid detail; the rises and the falls, and more about the falls.  We’re hungry to learn of the deals and the affairs, and more about the affairs.  

So I decided to write a biography about Cheney.

“Cheney will never talk to you,” people told me, but he did.  I was candid with him about my intentions.  “It will be eye-opening,” I told him.  “I’ll be asking some tough questions about the war, about the secret deals, about the offshore accounts.”

“Why not?” he said.  “It’s about time the real story was told.”  

We met at a deli.  If you want to read the entire book, you’ll have to wait until publication (still to be negotiated), but here’s a sneak preview of my expose of the life and times of Boise-area claims adjuster Ludwig Cheney:

The Early Years
“My family moved around a lot,” Cheney told me.   We were sitting at the deli counter.  “First we’d move to one place, and then another.”

“And that’s what first unhinged you,” I ventured.  “It’s what made you question the stability not only of your family, but of your very future?”

“Yeah.”  He shrugged.  “Are you going to eat that pickle?”

I could tell he was starting to open up to me.  I had to dig deeper.

The War
“You could say I sat that one out,” Cheney admitted.  “I really don’t remember too much of it.  I was smoking a lot back then?”

“Marijuana?” I suggested.  “It’s what got you started.  From there you moved up to methamphetamines, maybe a little heroin?”

He frowned at me.  “No, Marlboro Lights.  I never did any of that stuff.  What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.  So you don’t remember too much about the war?”

He shrugged.  “I’m not even sure which war you’re talking about.”

His memory was clearly unhinged, likely the result of deep-seated guilt.  I bought him a cheeseburger.  He was going to need it to absorb my next questions.

The Affairs
“I met Bernice in high-school.  We went steady through senior year.”  He paused to eat a fry.  “We broke up after graduation, but by the end of the summer neither of us had found anyone else, so we kinda got back together.”

“And that’s when you started visiting the prostitutes?”  I had to ask.


“Sorry, the escorts,” I corrected myself.  “And so began a decade of late-night, gin-fueled, guilt-ridden, jazz-accompanied illicit liaisons.”

“What?  No.  But one time I kissed Enid Roper at the office party.  She’s in sales.  Bernice never found out about that.”

“A life of lies.” I shook my head.  “The guilt must be overwhelming.”

“Well, it was just one kiss.  And Enid doesn’t see that well without her glasses.  I’m not sure she even knew it was me.”

I rested my hand on his shoulder.  Guilt can ruin a man, and I wanted Cheney to know he had a friend.

The Secret Deals
“I’ve never told anybody this, but I can’t see the harm now,” Cheney began.  “When we got the new white board for the break room, Rick Dorniss’s name should have been above mine, on account of him having more seniority, but I  told Enid I’d sure be grateful if she put my name up first and she did.”

Enid,” I repeated.  I grinned.  “She was the one you slept with at the Christmas party.”

“What?  What are you...?  No, I didn’t sleep with anyone.  I just kissed her, and that was Enid Roper.  I’m talking about Enid Baxter in HR.  She was from Sioux Falls originally.”

“So you conspired against RIck Dorniss, the two of you.  Did he ever exact his revenge?”

“Nah, Rick moved on later that month.  He got a sales job down in Provo.  Large appliances.  He always did know a lot about range hoods.”

The Offshore Accounts
“Let’s just say I wouldn’t want the tax man to find out,” Cheney confided.  We had moved onto pie with ice cream, and it was good.

“Let me guess, an account in the Caymans?  You have a little something stashed away in case if ever gets too hot for you, don’t you?  A little slush money for entertaining?”

He shrugged.  “Nothing that fancy, but we made about $600 at the rummage sale last October.  Bernice sold most of her mother’s old canning equipment, along with that bread maker we never used.  Let’s just say that money never made it onto our IRS forms.”

We both winked conspiratorially.

The Future
“Bernice has a cousin up in Bozeman, so we’ll likely drive on up this summer,” Cheney confided.  “Other than that, I’ll probably spend some time scrubbing out the fish pond.”

“So what’s next for Cheney?”  I prodded.  “Where do you see yourself six months from now?”

“I still have that two-for-one coupon for the steakhouse at the mall.  We might have to go back there before long.  Bernice likes the baked potatoes.  And then sometimes this summer we need to get the brakes looked at.  The Buick isn’t getting any younger.”

But none of us are, I realized as I left Cheney at the deli.  He’d given me a lot to think about.  The secret to biography, I realized, as I began the daunting task of writing this all down, can be distilled into three simple steps:

1.       find someone fascinating
2.       ask the probing questions
3.       honor, hone, and celebrate every last sordid detail

For my next project, “Trump: The Makings of Empire” I’ll trace newsstand-owner Nestor Trump’s rise from paperboy to newsstand owner.  You can read highlights at http://www.themummiesofblogspace9.com/.


john M. Daniel said...

Bill, I never knew Dick Cheney was such a scoundrel. We are talking about the same Cheney, right? The man of 1000 faces?

William Doonan said...


Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. Half of biography is sleight of hand!

William Doonan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow, I never knew half of this stuff about Cheney. I'd love for you to write my biography! I haven't done much yet, but if you could suggest some self-destructive or downright dangerous paths, I'd be grateful!

--John Brantingham

Charles Gramlich said...

A book whose time has come! I'd buy that for a dollar. :)

William Doonan said...

Charles, I'll let you know when it comes out!

Augie said...

William this was an interesting tidbit, okay so that was Cheney, the Cheney? I know you don't kiss and tell or do you :) Guess I'll have to wait until the book comes out. Augie

Eileen Obser said...

Hilarious! I love this, Bill. I can't wait to read your future biographies...

Liane Spicer said...

LOL! Ditto all of the above. I'm tickled to think of what you'd do with my biography.