The President is Missing, Bill Clinton and James Patterson, 2018

The great novelist Graham Greene wrote two types of books. He wrote literary novels, and thrillers which he called “entertainments”. The entertainments gave him a good income unlike his beloved literary novels. I select my reading in the same way. I like good literature, but that’s a lot of work. For fun I read thrillers and detective who-done-its.

When I saw that Bill Clinton and James Patterson had teamed together to write a who-done-it I thought it was time for some fun reading for a change (Taking a break from the political tomes I’d been reading lately, like Russian Roulette, Born Trump, and Fire and Fury.) So reading The President is Missing was like putting down my broccoli and taking up a half gallon of butter pecan ice cream. Good who-done-its are like good butter pecan ice cream, they are un-putdownable. The President is Missing was good for about a pint, but maybe not the whole half gallon.

And for who-done-its, who better than James Patterson? His books have sold more than 300 million copies, and he was the first writer to sell 1 million eBooks. He is considered one of America’s highest paid authors. In the last 10 years he has earned more than $700 million. Movies made from his work include the thrillers Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, super who-done-its. A TV movie on The President is Missing is already in the works.

Patterson works often with co-authors; this time it is Bill Clinton. And of course Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton. The thinking was that if you’re going to write a thriller about an American president, why not team up with a real American president who might know a little bit about the goings-on at the highest levels of government – and maybe a little bit about impeachment too?


The President is Missing is more “today” than the 6 o’clock news. It has a war hero president threatened with impeachment, a back stabbing vice president, attempted assassinations and shoot-outs, a beautiful and artistic and pregnant assassin, world class computer hackers, fatal computer viruses, a cyber-attack on the country, attempts at cyber-defense, Russians, Chinese, Israelis (bad guys or good guys we can’t be sure), threats to NATO, possible nuclear war, and a ticking clock count down to the end of the world as we know it. Like I said, just like the 6 o’clock news.

The title of the book comes from the fact that the president is in knowledge that international hackers have installed a virus that will attack all the computers in America and he has to hide himself away to deal with the threat in secret, meeting with world leaders and the best computer experts in the world. He needs to get away because someone in the White House is a traitor (there’s the who-done-it part).

There are lots of Paterson spies, and assassination attempts, and international espionage, and bad guy terrorists, stuff that he is an expert in, but Bill Clinton’s expertise adds lots and lots of political infighting and pushing for his political agenda. The President is Missing may not be the best who-done-it, but with the team of Clinton and Paterson it will probably be a best seller.

One thing it does do is it elaborates deeply on how devastating a real cyber-attack on America could be for all of us. They tell us that a cyber-attack could affect “Every Internet service provider, every state and local government, every member of every industrial sector – banks, hospitals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and many small businesses…If fully successful, it would cripple our military, erase all our financial records and backups, destroy our electrical grid and transmission networks, broken our water and water-purification systems, disable our phones, and more.” Can you imagine how long our civilization would survive if just our ATMs ceased to function, or our smart phones stopped working? Probably about a half hour. Sounds more like a horror novel when you come to think of it.

No mention in the book of disrupting our elections but if all the above happened, that would probably be the least of our worries; elections being just the tip of the iceberg. And it begs the question: Shouldn’t we be doing something proactively to deal with this threat?

That is a question heard often today on the 6 o’clock news.