By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
Here’s something that’s never happened before.
The June 4 publication of The President Is Missing marks the first time a U.S. president and a best-selling novelist have co-authored a work of fiction. And to promote it, President Bill Clinton and James Patterson arrive in Fort Lauderdale on June 12 for an appearance suited to so prestigious a tandem — an onstage conversation at the 2,700-seat Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Not your typical book-tour gig is this.
Yet the grand scale is understandable. The collaboration of such high-powered personalities is at least as intriguing as the book itself. Having sold more than 365 million copies, Palm Beach-resident Patterson is the world’s best-selling author, the Guinness record-holder for the most No. 1 New York Times bestsellers and No. 1 on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the highest-paid authors. He’s also seemingly on a mission to make everyone a reader — with his Bookshots thrillers under $5 and 150 pages, and his children’s and young-adult fiction, which have made him the first author to have new titles simultaneously at the top of The New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists. He’s also given over a million books to school kids.
And President Clinton is … well, he’s Bill Clinton.
By far the most famous of Patterson’s many co-authors, Clinton’s involvement isn’t actually a shocker. The President is a longtime devotee of mystery thrillers and news stories during his presidency noted his avid readership of Michael Connelly, a former Sun-Sentinel writer. Though this is his first novel, he’s authored several nonfiction books, including his 2004 memoir, My Life, a No. 1 international bestseller that has sold over 2 million copies.
The brainchild of a lawyer the authors share, the collaboration has the distinction of being jointly released by two large publishing houses that are normally competitors, Little, Brown and Company and Alfred A. Knopf, which published Clinton’s memoir.
A publicity release described the book as a “unique amalgam of intrigue, suspense and behind-the-scenes global drama” that will be “informed by insider details that only a president can know.” Though it’s been held very close to the vest, the plot will no doubt propel itself through the sort of eminently readable labyrinth that has solidified Patterson’s mastery of the page-turner.
Patterson is a master at stoking the hype machine as well — a kind of P.T. Barnum for books, you could say. In a trailer promoting the release with Clinton, he says: “The President Is Missing will take you right into the White House, make you feel the impossible decisions, the stress, the dangers out there in today’s world and the importance of the American presidency…. The following cliche happens to be true about The President Is Missing. You absolutely, positively will not put this novel down. It’s full of twists and turns — kind of like being President.”
Early reports from Patterson’s contemporaries are similarly glowing. “The dream team delivers big time,” says Jack Reacher creator Lee Child. “Clinton’s insider secrets and Patterson’s storytelling genius make this the political thriller of the decade.” Woman in the Window author AJ Finn adds: “A bullet train of a thriller … it’s The Day of the Jackal for the 21st century.”
“Working with President Clinton has been the highlight of my career, and having access to his firsthand experience has uniquely informed the writing of this novel,” Patterson says in a promotional statement. “I’m a storyteller, and President Clinton’s insight has allowed us to tell a really interesting one. It’s a rare combination; readers will be drawn to the suspense, of course, but they’ll also be given an inside look into what it’s like to be president.”
Of course, the suspense will be over by the time the esteemed co-authors take the stage at Broward Center, but their appearance promises candid insights into their process and research, as well the timely and alarming global issues raised by the novel. For tickets and more info, visit browardcenter.org.