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Glenn Beck gives Skousen book's sales a 'Leap'

Published: Monday, March 22 2010 12:17 a.m. MDT

Here's the latest formula for producing a best-seller:One, spend 50 years writing it.Two, get Glenn Beck to tell everyone to buy it.Proof of the above is the consistently high demand for "The Five Thousand Year Leap," written by Cleon Skousen.For almost a year now, the book has been listed on Amazon's Top 100. Several times it has made it to No. 1, including as recently as two weeks ago.Considering industry estimates that to reach the top spot on Amazon a book has to sell around 1,000 books a day, well, you do the math.Even by guesses that are conservative (pun intended), "The Five Thousand Year Leap" has sold at least 300,000 copies since Beck launched its second coming by praising it on his conservative cable TV talk show in December of 2008.At the time, Barack Obama was about to be sworn in as president of the United States, and Beck was bracing for the liberal agenda he knew was coming.As part of his rallying cry against all things socialistic, he included the need to read Skousen's book, a primer on the "inspired" United States Constitution."The first thing you do," he told his viewers, "is get 'The Five Thousand Year Leap.' (Get it) over my book or anything else. Please. Read it. Inform yourself about who we are and what the other systems are all about."Beck had earlier been given a copy of the book by a friend. When he read it, he felt a "kindred spirit" to the man who wrote it, and was able to make contact with Skousen before the longtime Utah conservative speaker and author died at the age of 92 in 2006.All of the above is verified by Alpine, Utah, resident Paul Skousen, Cleon Skousen's son, who has spent the past year being continually amazed that the book his father gave half his life to has become a best-seller only after he died."I'm sure Dad is pleased as punch," said Paul Skousen, although he acknowledged that the old patriot wouldn't be pleased that a dispute has cropped up over who gets the book's royalties.Sales are divided over two versions of the same book. One is distributed by the Skousen family, with royalties going to Jewel Skousen, Cleon's widow and Paul's mother. The other is distributed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a successor organization of the Freeman Institute that was created by Cleon Skousen in 1971.A legal "discussion" between the two groups is ongoing.In the meantime, the book(s) continue to sell like hotcakes, bopping around on the Top 100, sometimes dipping into the second 50 and then, whenever Beck mentions Skousen again, back up to the top 10.Paul Skousen never saw this coming when he was a boy and his father was hard at work on a book about the Constitution.Cleon Skousen began research on "The Five Thousand Year Leap" in the 1930s when he was attending law school in Washington, D.C.For years, he combed archives at the Library of Congress and other sites to access the writings of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.For even longer years, he worked on the book's manuscript.It was published, finally, in 1981, almost half a century later.Paul Skousen guesses 60,000 copies were sold over the next quarter-century, until his father's death. That qualifies as a success in the book-selling world, but hardly extraordinary — certainly nothing close to the 1.5 million copies sold of Cleon Skousen's seminal work, "The Naked Communist."But the race isn't over. Before it's through, "The Five Thousand Year Leap" (the title refers to the unprecedented progress America has experienced since the Constitution was ratified) could turn out to be Cleon Skousen's biggest seller ever.It certainly doesn't hurt that in addition to his on-air praise, Beck has inserted a foreword in the latest printing (Skousen family version only)."He hasn't asked for anything, no royalties, nothing," marvels Paul Skousen, who can't say enough nice things about Beck."I've had a chance to talk with him in person twice," said Paul Skousen. "He loves Dad; he feels they are kindred spirits as far as love of the country and love of the principles of the constitution are concerned. A lot of the material Glenn Beck uses in his TV show is straight out of Dad's writings."

The power of the pen and the power of the airwaves. It's a formidable combination.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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