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The Literary Rants: James Patterson and Bill Clinton Team Up

May 26, 2017

(image via wikimedia)  The world wants to know…

… whose name will be first on the book cover. (image via wikimedia)

The big James Patterson news this month is that he and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are teaming up to write a political thriller called The President Is Missing.

If you read books, it’s almost impossible to escape James Patterson. When you walk into a bookstore, you can’t miss the shelves devoted exclusively to Patterson novels.   Several of my coworkers read different James Patterson novels at any given time.  One coworker even listens to James Patterson audio books.  A few years ago, my daughters read Patterson’s YA novels, even though I had asked them not to.

If James Patterson put his name on a phone book, readers would buy it.  They might get mad after they realized it was a phone book, but most of them would continue reading his books anyway.  He has a lot of fans, and they’re loyal.

Bill Clinton fans are also loyal, so he’s a perfect choice for a Patterson coauthor.  I might not exactly be a Bill Clinton fan, but I at least recognize his name, and I can’t say that about most of James Patterson’s coauthors.  Clinton could write a novel by himself, and it would probably become a best seller, even if it wasn’t any good.  He doesn’t need James Patterson to become a best-selling novelist.

It’s almost ironic that Bill Clinton is co-writing a political thriller.  25 years ago, he was the inspiration behind a political novel, Primary Colors by Anonymous, who turned out to be a journalist named Joe Klein.  If I’d been Bill Clinton, I might have been ticked off that a journalist used insider information to make a lot of money off of a fictionalized account of my life.   Now it’s Bill Clinton (and James Patterson) who can make a lot of money off a (maybe) (fictionalized) account of Bill Clinton’s life.

Conservatives are making fun of the name of the book The President is Missing, but I won’t relay any of those jokes because I’m not a political blogger.  Liberals will say that conservatives don’t read books, but I know that’s not true.  I know both liberals AND conservatives who read a lot of books and sometimes they even… read… the… same… books.

But they usually don’t read the same books about politics.

Bill Clinton isn’t the only politician who writes fiction.  His 1990’s nemesis Newt Gingrich has written a bunch of Civil War novels, and I think those sell fairly well, so a former politician doesn’t need James Patterson to be successful.  But James Patterson guarantees a certain level of success that a former politician can’t reach on his/her own.

For a fiction author, it has to be risky teaming up with a politician to write a book.  I’m sure liberals didn’t want to give their kids a children’s book coauthored by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly (who’s considered by some to be conservative).  Conservatives won’t want to read a political thriller coauthored by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.  If one political side decides to boycott an author, that author can take that as a badge of honor to make money from the other political side.  If both conservatives AND liberals boycott an author, then he/she has to rely on the nonpolitical, and I’m not sure how many of us are left.

Since James Patterson writes so many books, he takes a lot of short cuts that most authors can’t get away with.  Sometimes I write posts that highlight his sloppy writing.  I know my own writing can be sloppy too, but I don’t get paid.  Plus, my mistakes are my own.  I just have the feeling when I read his books that he hasn’t put a lot of effort into them.  At least I put a lot of effort into my mistakes.

James Patterson had better not get sloppy while co-writing Bill Clinton’s novel.  If there’s anybody who is precise with language, it’s Bill Clinton, who once said “…it depends upon what the meaning of is is.”

When you coauthor with a guy who’ll argue about the definition of is, you had better get all your words right.

  1. Interesting. I know Patterson’s standard is to provide an outline his coauthor must adhere too. Patterson checks it over to make sure. So Clinton is going to write what Patterson tells him to? ROFL

  2. I would hope that the quality of the language and the sense of the plots would be better with Clinton attached to this project.

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