Book critical of Kerry in short supply

Friday, August 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Columbians who want to read the controversial book behind the controversy surrounding presidential candidate John Kerry’s war record might have trouble finding a copy.

That’s because the book, “Unfit for Command” by Jerome Corsi and John O’Neill, is absent from all Columbia bookstores and other retailers that stock books. Its Aug. 15 release has been plagued with production and distribution problems nationwide. Only about half the 625,000 orders have been met.

The book recently hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list after starting a nationwide political battle by questioning numerous aspects of Kerry’s service as a swift-boat captain in the Vietnam War, including Kerry’s account of an engagement for which he was awarded a Bronze Star.

A press release from Regnery Publishing, the book’s publisher, said the distribution problems are partly the result of its decision to release the book earlier than planned when excerpts were leaked to the gossip Web site the Drudge Report, which began the controversy.

The release said all orders should be shipped within five to seven days.

But even when it does arrive in Columbia, “Unfit for Command” will be harder to find than other bestsellers because some bookstore owners will refuse to shelve it.

“It’s a bunch of lies,” Columbia Books owner Annette Kolling-Buckley said. “What I stock on the shelves is a reflection of the integrity of this store.”

Kolling-Buckley said her decision is based on numerous complaints about the book from Vietnam veterans, including her husband, and some fact-checking she has done using online sources that refute some of the book’s claims. She did say, however, that she would order the book for any customer who asks.

Mark Haim, who buys books for The Peace Nook, a nonprofit book and accessories store owned by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, is also refusing to stock the book.

“The book has been so thoroughly discredited that it would be a disservice to our customers to carry it,” Haim said.

Others, such as Tiger Tales Bookstore owner Rosemary Stevens, intend to stock the book and disagree that it’s a bookstore’s role to discriminate based on content.

“I think bookstores should keep all perspectives open,” Stevens said.

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