It is unusual for a prominent politician and a best-selling crime writer to team up on a novel, but it is not, of course, unprecedented. The subgenre has already been popularized by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, who wrote a thriller, “The President Is Missing,” with James Patterson in 2018. The novel, which was published by both Knopf and Little, Brown, has sold more than 2 million copies in North America and was the top-selling adult fiction book of 2018. This summer, they are following up with a second novel, “The President’s Daughter,” about a former U.S. president whose daughter is kidnapped, which will have a first print run of 1 million copies.
Both Clintons are fans of the thriller and mystery genres, and both are represented by the Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett, who is known for his powerful clients, among them the Obamas and the Bushes.
The announcements for both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s debut thrillers stressed that they would draw on their decades of political experience. (A news release for “The President Is Missing” noted that the novel would “be informed by insider details that only a president can know,” while the announcement for “State of Terror” said it “features behind-the-scenes global drama informed by details only an insider could know.”)
Penny and Clinton have long been friends and mutual admirers. In her memoir, “What Happened,” the former presidential candidate wrote that she read Penny’s books after losing the election in 2016, a time when thrillers were sources of comfort along with yogic breathing and chardonnay.
The pair decided to work together on a novel that would be shaped by Clinton’s insider knowledge of the State Department and White House and by Penny’s penchant for crafting addictive plots.