The book that caused former Montgomery County police chief Charles A. Moose to leave his job -- "Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper" -- will be in stores on Monday.
In excerpts to be published in People magazine tomorrow, Moose says he doesn't want to jeopardize the two upcoming trials of the suspected snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, with inappropriate use of case information. In writing the book about the horrific ordeal that froze the Washington area last fall, he says, "I wanted to talk about my life and give an insight into the way police work is done."
The excerpts reveal a reflective Moose -- at times worried or weary or even tearful. Moose recalls that on Oct. 3, after three people had been shot within 14 hours, he had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of what he calls the largest manhunt in American police history. "I remember thinking how normal everything looked," he writes. "I didn't have any theories. I didn't feel afraid. I didn't think of myself as a target."
He adds, "I remember thinking the guy could be observing this all, right now, and really enjoying himself."
As the death toll rose, Moose puzzled over the apparent randomness of the shootings. He cried on camera when announcing that Iran Brown, 13, had been wounded on his way to school. "I'm not sure why I got so upset," he writes. "For a child to be shot now by this sniper seemed grossly unfair."
He was angry when the sniper claimed that the incompetence of the investigators had led to more deaths. He didn't sleep much. When he did sleep, he didn't dream.
He walks the reader through his thoughts as the horrific events unfolded. "With every day that passed -- and some days with every hour that passed -- I could feel the weight of the case a little heavier."
When Muhammad and Malvo were finally apprehended at a rural Maryland rest stop in the early hours of Oct. 24, he writes, "I was worried that my officers would be injured or killed trying to bring these suspects in."
Prosecutors are troubled that Moose's book could do more harm than good. They say that Moose promised to let them vet his book, so that it would in no way compromise their efforts. They haven't seen a copy.
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who is overseeing the prosecution of Malvo, says, "When all the furor about the book took place, I recall the chief saying he would run it by the prosecutors, and I was glad he said that."
Horan says no one in his office has received the book.
Prosecutors are also concerned that the publicity surrounding the book could have an impact on the jury pool. In addition to the People excerpts, an interview with Moose is scheduled for Sunday night on "Dateline NBC." "Personally, I don't understand why someone who's been in law enforcement his whole life would potentially damage our case or compromise a jury pool by doing this," says Assistant Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney James A. Willett, who is handling the prosecution of Muhammad.
When Moose was called for comment, he hung up, saying he was "too busy" to talk. His agent, David Vigliano, would not comment for this report, either.
In March, after Moose had announced that he had signed with Vigliano to write a book, the Montgomery County ethics commission met and decided he shouldn't profit from his public service. Moose chose to write it anyway and resigned from the force in June. He told the commission: "I care a lot more about this case than anybody in this room. So to have people say to me that I'm going to jeopardize these people going to prison or accepting the death penalty so I can write a book is like about the meanest thing anybody can say to me." He also told reporters he would provide copies of the manuscript to prosecutors to ensure his detailed account did not include information that could be of concern to them.
Ronald Karp, the Rockville attorney who represented Moose before the commission, did not return a call to his office yesterday.
In May, defense attorneys for Muhammad raised their own concerns about the book and briefly considered filing a motion to join Montgomery County in its effort to block Moose from proceeding with it.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler believes those worries may be overblown. "I don't know what's in the book. But my guess is, a very small percentage of potential jurors will have read it," he says. "Chief Moose certainly had a great deal physically and emotionally invested in this case, and I can't imagine he would put anything in that book that would compromise the trials."
The excerpts in People end with Moose addressing the public -- including about 50 relatives of victims -- the day the suspects were arrested. "I started with an apology," he writes. "This was not a happy day. It was a good thing it was coming to an end, but the reality, for me, was how much I wished I could have ended it before all those victims had to die."
A source close to the project says the biographical elements of the book are important because race is a large part of the sniper story.
At the time, Moose was praised by many for his patience and heroic steadfastness. He was criticized by others, mostly for the slow progress of the investigation.
It was one of the most rattling and thoroughly reported events in Washington's history. Which raises the question: Does the public want to read anything more?
"That is one of the thorniest questions in publishing," says Charlotte Abbott, book news editor at Publishers Weekly. "Publishing books about current affairs is the highest risk there is because you don't always have an end to the story."
The risk doesn't keep publishers from trying. "23 Days of Terror: The Compelling True Story of the Hunt and Capture of the Beltway Snipers," by Angie Cannon and the staff of U.S. News & World Report, was published by Pocket Books in April. Yesterday, its Amazon sales rank was 79,021.
The Washington Post is also wading into the newsbook fray with "Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation," by reporters Sari Horwitz and Michael Ruane. The book, which includes reporting from other staff members, will be published by Random House and will be out later this month -- in time for the anniversary.
"If a book is pushed out very quickly, its depth is in question," says Abbott, who has been watching the industry for 12 years. "In a funny way, books that come out later try to use their lateness as a selling point." She is not sure that works, either.
When it comes to newsbooks, Abbott says, "I can think of more flops than I can successes."
Accounts of the Microsoft antitrust case and the Enron affair did not do well, Abbott says. The ones that do succeed, such as "Monica's Story," by Andrew Morton, "tend to be personality-driven."
People magazine reports that Moose is pursuing a movie deal and spending some of his time on Oahu, where he and his wife, Sandy, own a home. He reportedly received a $170,000 advance for his book. It is not clear how much of that will go to co-writer Charles Fleming, who also helped "Sopranos" actor Steven R. Schirripa write "A Goomba's Guide to Life."
Published by E.P. Dutton, "Three Weeks" is listed on Amazon as a 336-page book retailing for $23.95. The cover shows a frowning, head-bowed Moose wearing his police shirt and gold badge. Late yesterday afternoon it was ranked 21,116.