How ‘Rage’ Challenged Bob Woodward


Simon & Schuster has been Mr. Woodward’s publisher since his first book, and their success together has been extraordinary. All 20 of his titles have been Times best sellers, and 14 have reached No. 1. (Simon & Schuster published a book in 1992 by Mr. Woodward and David S. Broder about Dan Quayle, which would bring his tally to 21, but it was a compendium of work that had already appeared in The Washington Post.)

Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, has known Mr. Woodward since they worked together on Watergate stories in the 1970s. He said that Mr. Woodward stood out at the newspaper for his tidy appearance. Newsrooms can be sloppy places, but Mr. Woodward was always neatly dressed. He was extremely polite, almost obsequious, Mr. Downie said, and he kept a toothbrush and toothpaste in his desk.

Today, Mr. Woodward enjoys the luxury of time daily newspapering can prohibit, and he said he always tries to schedule at least four hours for interviews, which often take place over a meal or coffee at his house, where he has lived since 1976. But if a source is dodging his calls, he’ll still show up on their doorstep — he likes to joke that 8:17 p.m. is the best time to drop by. While he was writing a book about George W. Bush, Mr. Downie recalled, there was a general he wanted to talk to who had not responded to several attempts to contact him, so Mr. Woodward went to his house and knocked on his door after dinnertime. The general recognized him right away.

“Are you still doing this [expletive]?” he asked. “Bob said, ‘Yes, and there’s something I want to talk to you about.’ The general was so nonplused he invited him in, and Bob was there for hours.”

Another piece of Mr. Woodward’s process is that he has all his interviews almost immediately transcribed. This has led to a trove of information — he has decades’ worth of transcripts that are typed out by his assistant, in addition to memos written before tape recorders were commonplace. He estimates he has 200 cardboard boxes, kept in temperature controlled storage, that are filled with records going back to when he worked for the Montgomery County Sentinel.

His wife, Elsa Walsh — who is also a journalist, and his first editor on all his books — said that Mr. Woodward shares them with journalists he trusts.

“Bob has a really very interesting archive on Biden,” Ms. Walsh said. She once came downstairs in the morning in her workout clothes to find two people in their living room.


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