James Patterson and Bill Clinton with their novel, 'The President is Missing'
James Patterson and Bill Clinton with their novel, 'The President is Missing'
Image: Getty Images

In one of the most hyped literary events of the year, James Patterson has teamed up with former American president Bill Clinton to write a thriller.

Early reviews of The President is Missing are mixed. Which is the book world’s euphemism for it is being savaged. It is, the publisher trumpets, “informed by insider details that only a president can know”. This, according to one reviewer, amounts to revealing there is a bowling alley in the White House. 

The story centres on one President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, by his own account “a war hero with rugged good looks and a sharp sense of humor”. He is facing a lethal cyberattack, codenamed Dark Ages, which will decimate the country. The virus has been designed by a beautiful (of course) Abkhazian separatist known as Bach because of her preferred composer. Here she is arriving at the airport in Washington. She’s been told that looking happy is a good disguise.

Patterson hasn’t sold 375-million books by overestimating the taste of Middle America

“She prefers sexy. The lopsided smile, the strut in her walk as she pulls her Bottega Veneta trolley behind her down the terminal… checking the cleavage she’s made sure to reveal, allowing just enough bounce in her girls to make it memorable.” Girls? Which of them wrote that?

In order to shut down the attack, the president has to go undercover, sneak out of the White House and take matters into his own hands. With the help of an actress friend, “one of the twenty most beautiful women on the planet” (of course), who bushes up his eyebrows a bit, he heads off, incognito, to a baseball game to meet someone who can help.

And so it roars off, in Patterson’s trademark short, stubby chapters, all girls and Glocks and explosions - but no sex - interspersed with stodgy asides about the state of politics today.

It doesn’t matter that it’s being panned by critics. The authors, looking curiously coiffed and embalmed in their publicity photos, are on the stump. It will doubtless sell by the hundreds of thousands. Patterson hasn’t sold 375-million books by overestimating the taste of Middle America.

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