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Clinton and Penny team up to write “State of Terror” novel

The nearly 500-page novel combines other details that resonate with recent news – for example, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who, like General Mark Milley under Trump, challenges civilian leadership – as well as explorations of friendship; a cameo for Penny’s famous fictional investigator, Armand Gamache; and, for the writers, the pleasure of placing women of a certain age at the heart of a political thriller.

Sitting together on a modest-sized sofa, Clinton and Penny converse like two public figures who know how to share talking points with the media while clearly sharing a private story of trips, meals, confidences, jokes and mutual esteem. When Penny recalled her apprehension about meeting Clinton – “Hillary Clinton, my God, so impressive, smart and thoughtful” – Clinton smirked and rolled her eyes.

“Do you remember the first time we met?” Penny told Clinton. It was at a restaurant in New York City, just months after Clinton’s shattering loss to Trump in 2016.

“And you were at an event, I think the first in-person post-election event, in Boston,” recalls Penny. “So you were late, and you walked into this restaurant – a public restaurant, obviously. And she came to the door, and the restaurant was throbbing. Silence. Silence. And then together they got up and went. applauded. “

“It was in New York,” Clinton noted with a laugh – her home state, where she had won in double digits.

Each writer contributes an afterword in “State of Terror”, reflecting their friendship and professional partnership. It turns out that they admired each other for a long time. Penny had followed Clinton’s career since the early 1990s when Bill Clinton was first elected president, while Clinton’s best friend Betsy Johnson Ebeling told a reporter in 2016 that she and Clinton were fans of detective novels and read Penny.

Penny met Ebeling shortly after the interview and was surprised to learn that someone so close to Hillary Clinton was not an “intimidating power agent” but a light and unpretentious woman with ” the warmest smile and kind eyes ”. She heard from Clinton a few weeks later. Penny’s husband, Michael, had died of dementia, and among her condolence cards was one from Clinton who cited her accomplished medical career and offered thoughts on loss and grief.

“Secretary Clinton, in the final stages of a brutal and murderous campaign for the most powerful office in the world, took the time to write to me,” Penny wrote, adding that they had yet to meet. and that Penny, a Canadian, could not ‘vote for her.

“It was an act of selflessness that I will never forget, and that inspired me to be nicer in my own life.”

The book is shaped by Penny’s narrative style and by Clinton’s government experiences and global outlook, but also by grief that Clinton still struggles to “fully embrace.” Ellen Adams is based in part on Clinton’s friend, former Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, who died in April 2019. Ebeling, inspiration from Ellen’s best friend, Betsy Jameson, in “State of Terror “, died a few months later. Ellen Adams’ daughter, Katherine, is named after Tauscher’s daughter.

Hillary Clinton, whose closest experience to writing a novel had been a play she wrote in sixth grade on a trip to Europe, is not the first in her family to do so: Bill Clinton directed two hit thrillers with James Patterson, and their success has made some editors question whether Hillary should try something similar.

The idea of ​​teaming up with Penny started with Stephen Rubin, a longtime industry executive who, since March 2020, has been a consulting editor at Simon & Schuster.

In a recent email to the AP, he noted that Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp was looking for ideas for a new book by Hillary Clinton, who has worked at the publisher for over 20 years and has writes the bestselling memoirs “Living History” and “What Happened”, among others. The publisher of Penny is St. Martin’s Press, a brand of Macmillan, where Rubin once worked.

“I really knew and loved Louise from my Macmillan days,” Rubin wrote. “And I knew she and Mrs. Clinton were very close friends.”

Fiction allowed Clinton and Penny to envision a world on the brink of disaster, but also to work in more personal and light details. One passage is an obvious nod to an awkward moment for Bill Clinton – a reference to “didn’t inhale,” his 1992 cover description of his college marijuana use. Clinton says that “selfish and ill-informed” President Dunn (as he is described in the book) is and is not Trump, and argues that the hostility between Ross and the president she serves under, Douglas Williams, does not is not a reflection of its time. with Obama.

“It wasn’t my experience, but the fact that I was a surprise choice – I was well aware of it – led people to speculate that this was the experience I would have,” said Clinton said.

Fiction allows for what politicians call “plausible deniability,” and that extends to the possibility that Clinton and Penny may team up again. The novel’s ending strongly suggests that another Ellen Adams novel is likely, but Clinton responds as she might have had years ago when asked if she was running for president.

“It’s for another day,” she said.


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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson