Friday, May 24, 2019

The President is Missing

President Bill Clinton and novelist James Patterson had a 2018 hit with their bestseller “The President is Missing,” (ghostwritten by David Ellis), but there was another book with the same title released in 1967 by Henry A. Milton. I was unable to learn anything about Milton other than finding that the copyright is in his name (i.e. likely not a pseudonym), and the paperback was published by Banner Books, a Hearst Corporation subsidiary.

Oddly, our friend Bob Deis at informs me that Milton wrote a “Fiction Book Bonus” titled “The Day the President Disappeared!” for the April 1961 issue of “Bluebook Magazine.” It’s impossible that a book published in 1967 was adapted into a short story six years earlier - with key characters’ names changed. The magazine story has no reference to the related novel while still claiming to be a book bonus. It’s likely that Bluebook published the short story by Milton who then expanded it into a full novel six years later. Moreover, it was not unusual for Men’s Adventure Magazines of the era to misrepresent original short stories as “Book Bonus” articles. Oddly, it seems that Bluebook’s misrepresentation succeeded in conjuring a book into existence years later.

Anyway, here’s the review:

It’s the weekend before an important summit with the Russians, and the President (the author never gives him a proper name) is at Camp Victory (a fictional Camp David with way crappier security) working on his speech and relaxing before the meeting. His beleaguered third-string press secretary Mike McDowell, the novel’s protagonist, is leading the skeleton crew of staff at the camp who didn’t get the quiet weekend off, and no one is expecting any action. 

Not so fast! After noticing an unmanned door to the President’s quarters that should have had a Secret Service posting, Mike sheepishly goes inside to discover, you guessed it, The President is Missing! Please note that the President is also missing from the narrative. This is one of those episodes of The West Wing featuring the staff hashing out a problem without the boss around, which, I suppose, is sorta the whole point of the paperback.

Also missing is an enigmatic university professor who plays Gin Rummy with POTUS on lazy weekends like this. The timing of the President’s disappearance is both inconvenient and mysterious. Could this have something to do with the upcoming summit with the Russians? A coup from within the administration? Perhaps a romantic affair? It’s up to Mike and the tight circle of people in-the-know to solve the mystery before it leaks to the press and sparks a national crisis.

For such a high-stakes situation, the book itself is pretty devoid of action. It’s more like an Agatha Christie mystery with a bunch of people in a remote lodge trying to figure out whodunnit and what was done. I kept thinking that Mack Bolan would have handled the situation quite differently. By the time the solution to the President’s disappearance is revealed, I was past the point of caring all that much. I enjoy both politics and mysteries, but I just can’t stand being this deeply bored. As such, file this one in the “don’t bother” pile.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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