How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
Donald Trump is a president who’s launched a thousand tell-alls by high-profile journalists and former administration officials alike. What, one might ask, is there left to learn? But Mary L. Trump’s forthcoming memoir about her famous family, Too Much and Never Enough, nonetheless promises to be one of the sizzling must-reads of the summer 2020 election season.
The book has something that all the others didn’t: Its author, the 55-year-old eldest grandchild of patriarch Fred Trump Sr., is a member of the dynasty itself, privy to insight and information in a way no outsider could be. She also has a highly unsympathetic view of the moral failings of her uncle, the 45th president of the United States.
On Tuesday, following a Daily Beast article that blew the lid off the tightly held project, thereby pushing up the publication date from mid-August to July 28, Simon & Schuster rushed out the purchasing information to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The boilerplate promises a 240-page “authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him,” including “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse,” as well as firsthand recollections of “countless holiday meals and family interactions.”
Someone who knows Mary Trump and has read the book similarly described it as follows: “The punch of the book, the real symbolic thrust, is about how Donald is really an outgrowth of this complex empire that Fred Sr. built—a pretty dark, win-at-all-costs environment. If there’s going to be a big takeaway, it’s about that emotional DNA of the family.”
The narrative, this person said, also touches on Mary’s deep bond with her father, Fred Trump Jr., who died of an alcoholism-related heart attack in 1981 at the age of 42.
The book might not have happened at all. Another Daily Beast story, from June 2019, detailed a messy episode in which New York Times reporter David Barstow was portrayed as aggressively pursuing a ghostwriting gig with a key source who had helped the paper nail down its Pulitzer Prize–winning 2018 investigation into Donald Trump’s taxes.
Barstow reportedly connected the source with his own agent, publishing powerhouse Andrew Wylie, who dangled the prospect of a multimillion-dollar advance at a meeting that fall. Barstow’s co-reporters on the tax investigation were furious that he’d gone behind their backs, and Times brass told Barstow to forget about the project because it would be a violation of the paper’s ethical guidelines.
“There was never any discussion of a cowriting arrangement, nor did I make any financial demands, nor did I review, much less sign, any arrangement or contracts,” Barstow told the Beast last June; he left the Times a month later for a position at the Berkeley journalism school.
The Times source, who we now know was Mary Trump (she reveals herself in the book), walked away from the whole thing feeling uncomfortable, disenchanted, and burned by Barstow and Wylie. Wylie eventually got a stern letter from his would-be client’s attorney, according to the Beast. That could have been the end of her book-publishing ambitions.
But in late 2018, according to a recounting Mary was introduced to another high-profile literary broker through a contact at her attorney’s firm. The new agent, WME partner Jay Mandel, took a secret meeting with Mary and her lawyer in New York before agreeing to work with her.
They spent several months developing a proposal and submitted watermarked copies to about a dozen editors last spring. It’s impressive that the cat stayed in the bag as long as it did. After a competitive auction the winning bidder was Simon & Schuster executive editor Eamon Dolan. A rep for S&S didn’t have anything to add beyond confirming the July 28 publication of Too Much and Never Enough.
Until now, Mary Lea Trump, a trained clinical psychologist who lives on Long Island, has managed to maintain an exceedingly low profile. Prior to this week she was virtually un-Googleable, and aside from the coverage 20 years ago of a court battle and family feud over Fred Sr.’s will, there’s been very little about her in the press.
Now Mary has crossed the Rubicon, and there are already a gazillion clickbaity articles rounding up any and every detail about her life that’s publicly available. The Daily Mail found her Twitter account—apparently hidden in plain sight—which provides some clues as to Mary’s ideological leanings. Her bio reads "#blacklivesmatter…she/her/hers.” On the night of her uncle’s election, responding to a tweet from progressive journalist Joan Walsh, Mary wrote, “This is one of the worst nights of my life. What is wrong with this country? I fear the American experiment has failed.”
Mary has steeled herself for the likely severance of some remaining family ties. Given her uncle’s scorched-earth approach to negative writings about him—he’s currently trying to stop the publication of John Bolton’s upcoming White House memoir—it also seems inevitable that she will incur the wrath of @realDonaldTrump.
But Mary said she’s prepared for whatever may come. “She feels very determined,” the source said. “She has a very clear-eyed view of her family and the importance of what she’s witnessed. I think she’s been getting herself ready for this moment for a really long time.”
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