Former President Bill Clinton brought his co-author James Patterson through Little Rock Saturday on the latest leg of a book tour; one that has generated headlines for reasons unrelated to the book.
Clinton and Patterson, a best-selling thriller novelist, came to the UA Little Rock Jack Stephens Center to discuss their novel “The President Is Missing” in a panel moderated by actress and Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen.
The book centers on fictional President Jonathan Duncan, a former southern governor and Gulf War veteran, who, as the title would suggest, goes missing. The fifth book written by Clinton is a departure from his previous works; his first work of fiction, and his first collaboration with a co-author.
“Well, I’m a reasonably good storyteller,” Clinton said.
“True,” Steenburgen interjected.
Patterson said he had no hesitation entering into a seemingly unlikely partnership with Clinton.
“I had a really good feeling about [Clinton] before I started this, but really it was drilled into me how this man has devoted his life to trying to do the right thing for people across this country,” Patterson said.
The evening’s conversation stuck to the book, which Clinton said is intended to sound alarms about cybersecurity threats to the United States.
“Please don’t see this through a partisan political lens. I wish, no matter what your politics, you could see that was a horrible thing what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin did to our political system,” Clinton said. “But it doesn’t matter, because it’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s just a tiny bit of what can happen to us.”
“This thing has got to be real in two ways,” Clinton added. “First, it’s got to be factually accurate. How old-fashioned is that?”
Clinton had drawn criticism earlier in the week as he made the rounds on the national media circuit to promote the book. In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Clinton pushed back against questions about a personal apology to Monica Lewinsky; the former White House intern with whom Clinton admitted to having an affair between 1995 and 1997.
Clinton kept his focus on his fictional president alter-ego. The former President and Governor of Arkansas reiterated the central message of his novel.
“I think by the end of the book you’ll have some sympathy for almost… all the characters in this book,” Clinton said. “The ones that are on the level, that are doing what they think is right, you will say ‘Well, they probably could work it out if they’d all get off their high horses and go to work.’”
“If somebody gets killed, you know that we ultimately didn’t have any sympathy for that person,” Patterson said.