This is a chase with both ego and money on the line. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron comes courtesy of Fortune‘s Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Fortune has trumpeted McLean’s early revelations of questionable accounting at Enron — though her report was lost at the time amid the magazine’s mostly adulatory coverage. Rebecca Smith and John Emshwiller of the Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, have produced 24 Days: How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered the Lies that Destroyed Faith in Corporate America, a gripping first-person narrative.
Both books were originally slated to hit stores in October. But in late June, HarperBusiness began circulating early copies of 24 Days under a media embargo. Soon, the publisher tipped its hand: The Journal reporters’ book would debut on August 5.
HarperBusiness, which reportedly paid Smith and Emshwiller a seven-figure advance, hopes to beat its rival, Penguin Putnam’s Porfolio, to the buzz. Says a Portfolio spokesman: “We’re not worried about their book. It’s a different kind of story.” Right. And Enron just fudged a bit.