1. When I first saw the headline, it was trending on Twitter – The President is Missing. I figured it was a bit of political hoopla, but it turned out to be the title of a novel written by James Patterson with Bill Clinton. Naturally, I thought it was a hoax. Fake news. But then I saw an article in The New York Times and one on CNN and the BBC, and I realized it was not, in fact, a hoax.
2. My next thought was that this was total genius and I wondered how it had come to pass. I mean, a former president writing a novel about the White House with a man who the BBC says is “believed to be the world's best-selling living author”? Who came up with that bit of authorial magic?? Turns out it was the brainstorm of a lawyer who represents them both. But Clinton and Patterson reportedly know each other, CNN claims, through golf. It makes you wonder if story ever came up on the golf course — Bill doing that thing people do, “You should write a novel about…”
3. After being doubtful and then delighted about this news, I became despondent. Publishing needs two already-uber-famous people writing a novel that will blow every other book out of the water sales-wise? What about the midlist author trying to break out? The debut author trying to catch a break? The diverse voices we need? Must we live in a blockbuster-driven universe? I vowed not to pay any more attention.
4. But then I read that the two men’s publishers, Little Brown and Knopf, had agreed to jointly publish the book and I was amazed. Have two prominent and rival publishers ever done something like this before? Yes, they are going to make a boatload of money, but it also feels like people reaching across the aisle, or the divide or the gap, to create something cool. It seems somehow… hopeful.
5. My next thought was that Patterson is a remarkable literary citizen. Yes, he is the author of a gazillion books that have made a gazillion dollars, but he’s 70 years old and he is doing some of the most innovative things in terms of connecting with readers and promoting reading.
- He launched something very new and different a few years ago called Bookshots — little, easy to read books to appeal to the reader who doesn’t have time for a whole novel.
- He is part of the Masterclass series of online video instruction by masters of their craft like Serena Williams and Diane von Furstenberg, which means he’s part of the online on-demand education movement.
- He recently wrote a middle grade book – totally new genre – and gave away 100,000 copies.
- He gave $1.75 million to libraries and put that muscle into programs to get kids to read.
6. The comments each man made about the deal were heartfelt and charming and really just lovely.
- Patterson: “Working with President Clinton has been the highlight of my career, and having access to his first-hand experience has uniquely informed the writing of this novel," Patterson said in a 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.”
- Clinton: “Working on a book about a sitting president — drawing on what I know about the job, life in the White House and the way Washington works — has been a lot of fun,” he said.
7. I’m not entirely sure I have ever actually read a James Patterson novel. Have I? Maybe? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to read this one.