Palin furious after unofficial biographer rents house next door

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Like any good "hockey mom," Sarah Palin likes to welcome newcomers to her community with a freshly baked blueberry pie and a borrowed cup of sugar. But the latest resident of the house next door to her family compound in Wasilla, Alaska, did not qualify for the usual folksy greeting.

Instead, Joe McGinnis found himself unpacking his bags yesterday to a volley of public criticism and an inbox full of hate-mail, after the former Vice Presidential candidate used her Facebook page to circulate a breezy rant which described him, in no uncertain terms, as an old-fashioned neighbour from Hell.

But then, Mr McGinnis isn't your average boy next door. And his motives in renting the two-storey home at the bottom of her tree-lined garden are unlikely to have been entirely honourable: he turns out to be a well-known author and journalist who has decided to spend summer in Alaska researching a book which has the working title: "Sarah Palin's year of Living Dangerously."

In a colourfully spelt "status update" on her Facebook page, accompanied by a photograph of McGinnis on the balcony of his new house, Mrs Palin described her dismay at discovering that the man gawping at her children's play area from a distance of "about 15 feet" is a left-leaning biographer of Richard Nixon, who last year wrote a lengthy exposé of Alaska's energy policy for Conde Nast Portfolio magazine.

"Upon my family's return this morning from endorsement rallies and speeches in the Lower 48 states, I finally got the chance to tackle my garden and lawn this evening!" explained Mrs Palin, in an update to the 1.6 million fans of her personal social networking page on Tuesday night.

"So, putting on the shorts and tank top to catch that too-brief northern summer sun and placing a giddy Trig in his toddler backpack for a lawn-mowing adventure, I looked up in surprise to see a "new neighbour" overlooking my property just a stone's throw away. Needless to say, our outdoor adventure ended quickly after Todd went to introduce himself to the stranger who was peering in."

McGinnis, who Mrs Palin described as a "twisted" and "yellow" journalist, normally hails from Massachusetts. But he is said to have told Mrs Palin's husband, Todd, that he'd rented the next-door property to their lakeside home for the next five months.

"Knowing of his many other scathing pieces of 'journalism'... we're sure to have a doozey to look forward to with this treasure he's penning," she said. "Wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking Piper's bedroom, my little garden, and the family's swimming hole?"

McGinnis, who was pictured turning away from the camera in a blue shirt and chinos, has yet to publicly comment on the affair, but his publishers, Broadway Books, denied that he would abuse the awkward domestic situation for journalistic ends.

The forthcoming book will not involve muckraking, and isn't going to be particularly intrusive, they claimed. Instead, it will "examine Sarah Palin's significance as both a political and cultural phenomenon and as an embodiment of the contradictory forces that shaped Alaska as it moved into its second half-century of statehood."

McGinnis is "well regarded for his in-depth, up-close reporting," they added, promising that the author, who has written several real-life crime novels "will be highly respectful of his subject's privacy as he investigates her public activities".

The Palin family has yet to be convinced, though. McGinnis is also a committed environmentalist who has written books condemning oil and gas exploration in Alaska, and is particularly critical of the energy policy Mrs Palin pursued as Governor. So they suspect a hatchet-job is in the works.

With more than a hint of irony, Mrs Palin mused: "maybe we'll welcome him with a homemade blueberry pie tomorrow so he'll know how friendly Alaskans are!"

She also used Facebook to issue an invitation to McGinnis: "Come borrow a cup of sugar if ever you need some sweetener. And you know what they say about 'fences make for good neighbours?' Well, we'll get started on that tall fence tomorrow, and I'll try to keep Trig's squeals down to a quiet giggle so we don't disturb your peaceful summer. Enjoy!"

Neighbourly disputes

* When Kate Moss bought a mansion in the Cotswolds, her new neighbours might have been forgiven for thinking she was there for the quiet life. No surprise, then, that they were less than amused to hear of her plan to fund the construction of another branch of her favourite London pub just down the road in 2007. "I think they'd better keep their ideas in Camden," said the local mayor's wife. "A pub like that would not be in keeping with the Cotswolds at all."

* For Tiger Woods, Raychel Coudriet was an excellent neighbour; for his wife Elin Nordegren, though, she could hardly have been worse. The 21-year-old daughter of the construction tycoon next door told the National Enquirer that she had slept with the golfer. Unsurprisingly, her father was said to be 'livid'.

* Star of The Good Life Penelope Keith found herself in dispute with locals in the highland village of Avoch where she took her holidays when she announced plans to open a tea room in 2007. Accusing her of arrogance, 241 locals signed a petition in protest. But at least one disagreed. "Part of the negative publicity," said hardware shop owner Allan Carmichael, "is purely because the plan involved Penelope Keith."

* Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton took the simplest route to avoiding difficult neighbours: they bought the house next door, taking a property each with an internal connecting door. Brad Pitt took similar steps, buying four neighbouring properties to his home in Los Angeles.