What happens when you mix Slick Willy with a ghostwriter
Bill Clinton and James Patterson make an awkward fist of trying to write a political thriller
Despite the hopeful title (for Americans that is), The President is Missing is such a meh, urgh, *shudder* book. Written by the former US president (no 42) with the book-making phenomenon that is James Patterson (selling more than 350 million books, he holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers), there was no doubt that this thriller would be a hit no matter what and, yes, it went straight to number one on the bestseller lists.It opens with an impeachment hearing. So ja, Clinton opened himself up to all the questions and comments about his own impeachment trial that followed him around on this book tour. But his fictional president, Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, is not hiding dubious sexual relations. Instead he is hiding the horrible truth about a terrorist plot in order to save America. He is stoic and tall and good. His wife is dead from cancer (awkward). The media doesn’t understand him, neither does the senate. “Savagery in the quest for power is older than the Bible,” he gripes, “but some of my opponents really hate my guts.”
He is a man of action and of many words – so many words. The barrage of jingoism that the character spews sometimes feels like it belongs in an episode of Scandal (The Fixer) that the producers decided to scrap because it was boring. He says in the beginning of the book: “When you begin a question by saying ‘with all due respect’, it means you’re about to say anything that doesn’t show any respect. You can think whatever you want, Mr Speaker, but you should show respect – if not for me then for all the other people who dedicate their lives to stopping terrorism and keeping our country safe. We aren’t perfect, and we never will be. But we will never stop doing our best.”The book ends similarly in a nine-page long address to Congress.
The US is under attack from a group called The Sons of Jihad, who, the authors stress, are not Islamic terrorists, rather they are a secular band of people who just hate the West and its influence. President Jonathan has to go undercover (aka missing) to foil their dastardly plans of an apocalyptic computer virus.
All this would be forgiven as a somewhat entertaining B action novel, but the duo’s writing of some of the female characters is shudder-inducing. Despite the fact that most of the high positions are held by women (the vice-president, the chief of staff, the heads of the CIA and FBI), the assassin known as Bach refers to her own breasts as “her girls”. And if you are reading to know what happens in the White House, maybe there’s a bit more to it than The Donald’s tweets. Not much though.
The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (Century, R290)