Former US president Bill Clinton and world-renowned author James Patterson have joined forces to co-write a fiction novel that tackles the threat of cyber terrorism in America.
The thriller titled The President Is Missing – released globally on Monday – warns of a cyber attack that could completely obliterate the internet in America and destroy the systems that depend on it.
“It could really happen,” Mr Clinton said in a statement, adding that the cyber attack – likened to an act of war – poses a “threat so huge” that it jeopardises “all of America”.
The 500-page novel revolves around “three of the most frightening days in the history of the presidency” and contains “information that only a former commander-in-chief could know,” he added.
Americans caught a glimpse of the impact of cyber attacks during the 2016 US presidential campaign when Russia tried to interfere with the outcome of the election.
The novel, which topped Amazon’s best-seller list before publication, magnifies those dangers “that could go way beyond fixing the elections”, Mr Clinton told CBS News on Monday.
“The worst possible attack on the United States happens in this book,” he said.
“If it happened, this is authentically how it would happen.”
The story – written from the president’s point of view – begins by delving into the different reasons that would necessitate a presidential impeachment.
Although the book is fiction, the main character, a made-up president named Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, “doesn’t say things that I think are false”.
“He says things that I think are true, true to himself, things he believes,” Mr Clinton said.
At one point, the fictional US president is embroiled in two different shootouts, one at Nationals Park in Washington and another on 14th Street Bridge.
The fictional events of the novel could happen, Mr Clinton and co-author Mr Patterson said.
“There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet,” the publisher Penguin Random House said in a statement.
“Even the president himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view.”
Mr Clinton, a newcomer to novel writing whose previous books include the million-selling autobiography My Life, didn’t need a lot of research to tell readers what it’s like to sit inside the White House Situation Room or to be briefed on a possible terrorist attack, or to imagine slipping away entirely.
“A, the physical setting has to be authentic. B, the procedures had to be authentic, and the interplay between the president and the staff and all the world leaders and everything had to have the feel of reality, and even how the Secret Service works.”
The novel has received blurbs from Mary Higgins Clark, Walter Mosley and even Hamilton author Ron Chernow.
Mr Chernow told The Associated Press in a recent email he was initially “dubious” about the project, but was impressed by the “stylistic blend” of the authors.
In 2017, Mr Clinton and Mr Patterson signed a deal with television network Showtime to transform the book’s written contents into a TV series, according to Entertainment Weekly.