Bill Clinton has co-penned an espionage thriller. Why?

by Michele Hewitson / 26 June, 2018
Co-authors James Patterson and Bill Clinton: you can’t teach two old dogs new tricks. Photo/Getty Images

Co-authors James Patterson and Bill Clinton: you can’t teach two old dogs new tricks. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - Bill Ralston Missing President book

The US president of Bill Clinton and James Patterson's new novel resembles Clinton but with no ick factor.

A political thriller, a collaboration between a former president and a writer who has sold almost 400 million copies of his brand of mission-impossible, mission-achieved thrillers? Why? The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, is neither very bad (which would have been fun) nor very good, which is not the point of the exercise: it is a marketing triumph. Still, Clinton? Perhaps he’s simply bored.

The premise is enticing: the hinted-at insights into Clinton’s world, perhaps into his mind. Instead, you get speechifying. You get a car chase. You get reminded that you can’t teach two old dogs new tricks.

There are cut-out characters. Name your stereotypical terrorist (very cautiously here not a Muslim), Russian or German and Patterson will run them off on that 3D printer you suspect he uses to produce his books.

The President, Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, is Clinton, without the icky add-ons. He’s a good old Southern boy who wants only to do good, preferably over a plate of “mama’s rib tips with vinegar sauce”. He scratched his way up, became a war hero, met his good, clever and feisty wife at law school. She is, as the book opens, already dead, conveniently and disappointingly. What sport it would have been to see how the co-writers dealt with a living woman who would inevitably have been compared with Hillary.

The President is loyal to her memory; he does not have girlfriends. This President will not have sexual relations with any women. Very wise. Clinton’s book tour has already turned into a stinker. “Not my finest hour,” he said about the inevitable Monica Lewinsky questions on whether he’d privately apologised to her. (Nope, not privately – just to the world.)

The book opens with the President facing impeachment – over a telephone conversation with a terrorist – which is about as close to the wind of history as the book sails.

The President is good-looking, with a keen sense of humour, something that is almost entirely missing from the book. There may be one in-joke, if one was inclined to be mean-spirited enough to go looking for one (of course, I was). It concerns the President’s loyal chief of staff, Carolyn, who was tipped to be Speaker of the House before she was caught, on a live mike, calling an opponent “a cocksucker”. That was the end of her political career. “Politics,” muses President Duncan, “can be cruel in the way it treats its wounded.”

There is little time for musing. He is out to save the US – and, possibly, the world – from a cyber attack code-named Dark Ages. The virus will wipe out the internet, reducing the US to a Third World country – no money, no military communications, no Facebook! – vulnerable to attack.

The President has to go this alone, bravely, selflessly, against the advice of his inner circle. If this goes awry, he might leave his good, clever and feisty daughter an orphan. He must leave the White House, with no protection, to meet a mysterious man at a baseball game. He longs for a hot dog and a Bud. But, tick tock. (Somehow he does have time to stop to offer solace and a sandwich to a homeless war veteran.)

It tick tocks along all right, in Patterson’s slug-it-out style. There will prove to be a traitor in the White House, where poisonous spiders lurk and spin. The President has failed to spot the spinner; perhaps the only failing of this great politician and all-round good guy who saves the world.

There may be something wistful about The President Is Missing, although that may be wishful thinking.

THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Century, $37)

This article was first published in the June 23, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The key to long-term success after weight-loss surgery
107438 2019-06-26 00:00:00Z Health

The key to long-term success after weight-loss sur…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Weight-loss surgery is becoming more common, but lifestyle and attitude changes are needed for long-term success.

Read more
Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family recipes
107605 2019-06-25 11:39:22Z Food

Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family rec…

by Lauraine Jacobs

Māori food champions Kasey and Karena Bird share traditional family recipes that are ideal for Matariki.

Read more
Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's going to make a better world
107579 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Profiles

Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's g…

by Emma Clifton

The MP made world headlines when she cycled to hospital to give birth. She talks about how this put her and what she stands for in the spotlight.

Read more
Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky in the road
107472 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Movies

Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky…

by Russell Baillie

The fourth Toy Story instalment is clever, enjoyable and refreshingly weird.

Read more
Mitre 10 living wage ruling sets precedent for retail staff - union
Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebook and Google
107596 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebo…

by Peter Griffin

In the wake of data-privacy scandals, Apple is beefing up protection for owners of its devices.

Read more
Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying tax
107563 2019-06-24 16:28:59Z Business

Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying…

by Nikki Mandow

We are pretty good about paying our taxes here, so why would we willingly go along with avoiding GST?

Read more
Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs crackdown?
107530 2019-06-24 10:19:12Z Business

Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs…

by Nikki Mandow

New Zealand retailers hit by a GST rort that has been going on for at least two years hope officials, Trade Me, ministers and even customers will...

Read more