I can’t wait for the release of the upcoming thriller The President is Missing, a collaboration between former President Bill Clinton and the author James Patterson. Since hearing about it this morning, I’ve been pulling every string I have to get an advance copy. Luckily for me, I have a knack for getting run over in crosswalks by publishers. It’s partially my fault—I don’t go anywhere without a book, which I usually tape to my face using a couple rolls of duct tape. That way my hands are free to do air drums, give cops high-fives and shake my fist at Knopf employees after they flatten my ass out with a Kia. So it didn’t take me long before I got my hands on the manuscript. But don’t worry, I won’t spoil the whole thing for you! I’ll just give you a taste of what will surely be the most exciting book-on-tape my dad will get from the library. Here are some brief synopses of some of the best chapters in the book.
The story opens on our protagonist, Cal Weston, playing a fiddle on the porch of his humble Arkansas home. His very diverse group of friends is gathered around, shoving entire loaves of cornbread into their mouths, open-mouth kissing each other and singing songs like, “The Past Was When Things Were Good” and “God Made Birds Wrong.” The party is over when Cal’s wife, who is made out of shoeboxes but really smart, tells him he got a call on their landline—he doesn’t even have a flip phone!—telling him his country needs him again. His diverse friends wander directly into the nearest swamp, bummed the fun is over, as Cal puts on his President’s robe, platform shoes and helmet for the first time in 20 years.
Having pursued the killer into a nearby grocery store, Cal is forced to use a shopping cart to fend off an army of sex-crazed interns. “I love my wife!” he shouts as he swings the shopping cart around, knocking the beautiful interns into pyramids of soup cans and cleaning products. “I would never!” he shrieks, throwing a grocery basket onto a nude intern to cover up her enormous breasts. “I have a family!” he barks, spraying lemon juice into his own eyes so he doesn’t get too turned on watching all the gorgeous interns tongue-kiss.
Cal is forced to use his cardigan as a parachute after the villain sends Air Force One into a tailspin. As Cal floats safely to land, he reads the entire contents of an Eddie Bauer catalog out loud, which is featured in its entirety as an insert in the novel. Cal sees the plane explode, slowly burn down to a pile of smoldering ashes and watches as those ashes are carried away by ants. But deep down, his gut tells him the villain is not dead.
Cal hears a gunshot and rushes in its direction. There he finds a bullet lodged in the abdomen of a single ant, and the killer’s boot prints going in the direction of a nearby cave. Cal cradles the ant in his arms and sings “Amazing Grace,” the sheet music for which is featured as another insert in the book, in case the reader wants to play and sing along.
The actual FBI felt this chapter contained too much sensitive information, so they requested most of it be redacted, including the title, which sources say was something like, “Gravity’s Kiss.” The handful of sentences that remain say innocuous things like, “…put his shirt on,” and “…big rock.” If you hold the pages up to the light, you can almost make out some sentences, including, “…then everybody went to church,” and “…the child dunked his own head into a net which was lower than regulation.”
Backed into a corner by white nationalist snakes, Cal manages to find the tiny saxophone he’d hidden in his socks in case of emergency. Playing a sensual but snappy solo, Cal confuses the snakes into tying themselves into a knot. He makes a clever pun about “Knot-zis” before furiously stomping on them for the remainder of the chapter, a sequence for which James Patterson exhausted the thesaurus entry for “squish.”
Several chapters in this novel are devoted to graphic sex scenes in which Cal makes love to various women, unable to control himself for different reasons, like having a cold, or drinking chocolate milk. At the end of every coital session, the other woman always turns out to be Cal’s wife, a revelation to which he always responds, “I knew it was you, my wife whom I love so much, the whole time.”
In the novel’s heart-pounding penultimate chapter, Cal finally defeats his enemy in hand-to-hand combat after having a threesome with two women who turn out to be his wife—just her, somehow. The big reveal as to who the hooded villain is appears to be a point of contention for the collaborators of this novel, unable to decide whether it should be a figure from the past, the present or entirely invented. The sentence, “I knew it was you, ________!” has several handwritten names pencilled in, including: Bob Dole, Ken Starr, John Podesta, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Jared Leto dressed as The Joker, Jack Nicholson dressed as The Joker, just The Joker, Cal’s unnamed wife, an unnamed intern, OJ Simpson, Cal himself having a psychotic episode, a giant saxophone, the ghost of Ronald Reagan’s wheelchair, and James Patterson himself—with “fuck you, Bill” written underneath that. In any case, it’s a wild ride that I think everybody, including and only my dad, is really going to enjoy!
Steven Markow is a writer and comedian based in New York.