02.17.11

Scott Brown's Dark Secret

The superstar GOP senator reveals he suffered sexual abuse in his new memoir. Samuel P. Jacobs on his new book and the beginning of Brown's re-election campaign.

In Brookline, Mass., the hometown of Michael Dukakis, John F. Kennedy, and liberals of all persuasions, the owners of Brookline Booksmith, a local institution, are scrambling. They only ordered six copies of Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s new memoir, due out on Tuesday. With word that the memoir contains revelations about the future senator suffering sexual abuse as a child, the bookseller knows that interest in the politician’s memoir is likely to exceed its current supply.

The book, titled Against All Odds, is the first time Brown has told the story. During the campaign, the former state senator and underdog candidate did open up about the abuse that he suffered at the hands of a series of abusive stepfathers. In an interview with 60 Minutes, to be aired Sunday, Brown describes his encounter with a camp counselor.

“He said that if you tell anybody I’ll kill you. You know, I’ll make sure no believes you,” Brown says. “I can remember how he looked, every inch of him: his long sandy, light brown hair; his long, full mustache; the beads he wore; the tie-dyed T-shirts and the cutoff jeans, which gave him the look of a hippie,’’ Brown writes in the book, according to a copy obtained by The Boston Globe.

That Brown decided to write a memoir which reveals such details from his personal life is unusual. For one, the political memoir as it is currently practiced tends to be a self-serving white paper with sanitized, white-picket fence accounts of the author’s life. The early leaks suggest that this is a very different kind of book, at least in its most attention-grabbing places, one with the potential to humanize a public official.

“For those of us who know Scott, the fact he had a difficult upbringing, that he came from a broken home, and that he had run-ins with the law, is not surprising,” Eric Fehnstrom, a Brown adviser, wrote in an email. “But this is the first time we've learned about the extent of the physical and emotional abuse, and I think the fact he triumphed over it all is remarkable.”

Victims of childhood abuse have already begun to come forward to praise Brown’s bravery.

While the book is generating attention for avoiding the tropes of normal political clunkers, the publication nonetheless does serve a very political purpose for Brown. It marks the start of Brown’s next campaign, one likely to cost the Republican upward of $25 million. Brown intends to use the book as a campaign prop, presenting it as a gift to donors and volunteers. A book tour will take Brown throughout Massachusetts during the early spring. It will also deliver him to places where voters are scarce but donor money flows. Next week, Brown will fly to Dallas and crisscross the country, stopping in California and Florida. Naturally, Brown will visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. ( Brown has promised that he won’t miss any votes while he’s out of pocket.) “Scott Brown was always going for a more national audience,” says Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston Democratic consultant.

After 60 Minutes, Brown will couch-surf the cable and network chat shows, making an appearance on the Early Show (where daughter Ayla is a contributor) and every other prominent morning and primetime perch. All the face-time is a change of course for a politician who has done very few interviews with national outlets since his election a year ago. Democrats in Massachusetts snicker about Brown becoming Sharron Angle in pants, a male version of the Nevada candidate who was seen routinely running from cameras during the 2010 campaign.

The 41st senator is not the only Massachusetts politician stumping for a book this spring. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick has a memoir— A Reason to Believe—heading for bookshelves in April. His story, too, is one of overcoming adversity. Patrick’s recent meetings with top Obama adviser David Axelrod and Tim Kaine, the DNC chair, have loosened speculation that Patrick is on the move. Obama and Patrick are old allies; they share similar biographies and much of the same brain trust. While the governor has denied any interest in challenging Brown in 2012, he would give the White House and the Democrats one of its best chances at turning a red seat blue, if he did run.

Brown had been a senator for only weeks when it was reported that he was seeking a seven-figure book deal. And while Brown captivated a national audience, as the former male model cunning enough to cadge Kennedy’s old seat, it wasn’t clear what kind of story he had to tell.

“I remember thinking, ‘Huh, that is a boring book,’” says D.C. literary agent Gail Ross. Now Ross has changed her mind.

“It makes him into a more complex person,” she says, “More interesting, more sympathetic perhaps. We all like to know that politicians are real people, too.”

Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.