“The President Is Missing,” Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s collaborative novel, hit the shelves June 4, one week before the former president and the best-selling writer will travel to Fort Lauderdale to host a conversation moderated by author Brad Meltzer at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
“The President Is Missing” is a thriller that combines Clinton’s political experiences and Patterson’s suspenseful writing to tell the story of a U.S. president’s fight to save America from terrorism, espionage and more. Critics from The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have given the book mixed reviews.
From “historical ramblings” to “mixed metaphors,” Anthony Lane from The New Yorker called the book a “concussive blast of five hundred and thirteen pages.”
Lane floods his review with sarcasm, critiquing everything from the length of the novel to the lack of sex in the book (Clinton treads lightly on his history). Through gritted teeth and his lack of appreciation for Patterson’s success, Lane admits that Clinton chose an effective wingman for his novel.
Lane gives the book a positive review overall: “Somehow, ‘The President Is Missing’ rises above its blithely forgivable faults. It’s a go-to read. It maximizes its potency and fulfills its mission. There’s a twist or two of which Frederick Forsyth might be proud. So, if you want to make the most of your late-capitalist leisure time, hit the couch, crack a Bud, punch the book open, focus your squint, and enjoy.”
Janet Maslin of The New York Times echoes Lane’s “wingman” comment, comparing Clinton and Patterson’s writing relationship to something out of “Jerry Maguire,” saying that “Clinton gives Patterson the substance he often lacks” and “Patterson keeps Clinton from drifting.”
Maslin adds: “[Clinton] is able to dot the book with policy points, White House trivia (the names Frick and Frack are used, but for two men, not a pair of J.F.K.’s girlfriends) and heartfelt-sounding commentary on the wretched state of public discourse. This book takes a vacation from all the howling and never goes lower than a snake’s belly. That’s a visceral relief.”
On the other hand, Barton Swaim from The Wall Street Journal says, “Mr. Clinton adds nothing to the book’s value as a thriller but much to its capacity for publicity.”
Swaim admits the book’s title drew him in, but it doesn’t take long for him to put a spin on the title and Clinton’s history.
“Mr. Clinton’s name shows up on the title page in the same way it forever besets American politics,” Swaim writes. “His foundation’s scandalous solicitations, his party’s struggle with the legacy of his sexual behavior, his wife’s failed candidacies: The one thing Bill Clinton never seems to be is missing.”
The book’s release came on the same day as Patterson and Clinton’s interview with NBC’s Today show. The interview was originally supposed to cover the book’s release, but the novel took a back seat after Clinton was asked about the #MeToo movement and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Clinton and Patterson will appear in conversation in 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. The event will be moderated by author Brad Meltzer and is part of their 18-stop tour. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
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