Bill Clinton & James Patterson Share Excerpt from Thriller, The President’s Daughter
Read a chapter from the upcoming new collaboration between the former president and the best-selling author
The President's Daughter, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, is not on sale until June 7. But the co-authors, who chatted this week with PEOPLE about their joint pandemic project, are giving PEOPLE readers an exclusive first look with the following excerpt.
"The wonderful thing about working with President Clinton is it comes out and it's real," says Patterson, who earlier worked with Clinton on 2018's The President is Missing.
For his part, Clinton says his role is to make Patterson's chilling plot twists plausible: "I wanted to make sure we got the details right, that people understood it all could actually happen."
Two years after losing reelection, former President Matthew Keating is living in New Hampshire, where his daughter Melanie ("Mel") is an undergrad at Dartmouth with her boyfriend Tim. She revels in being free from the White House bubble, with its smothering Secret Service agents and unforgiving media spotlight …
Mount Rollins, New Hampshire
It's a clear, cool, and gorgeous day on Sherman's Path, and Mel Keating is enjoying this climb up Mount Rollins, where she and her boyfriend, Tim Kenyon, will spend the night with other members of the Dartmouth Outing Club at a small hut the club owns near the summit. She stops for a moment on a granite outcropping, puts her thumbs through her knapsack's straps.
Tim emerges from the trail and surrounding scrub brush, smiling, face a bit sweaty, bright-blue knapsack on his back, and she takes his hand as he gets to her. "Damn nice view, Mel," he says.
She kisses him. "I've got a better view ahead."
"Just you wait."
She lets go of his hand and just takes in the rolling peaks of the White Mountains and the deep green of the forests, some of the trees shadowed a darker shade of green from the overhead clouds gently scudding by. Out beyond is the Connecticut River and the mountains of Vermont.
Mel takes a deep cleansing breath.
Just her and Tim, and nobody else.
She lowers her glasses, and everything instantly turns to muddled shapes of green and blue. Nothing to see, nothing to spot. She remembers the boring times at state dinners back at the White House, when she'd be sitting with Mom and Dad, and she'd lower her glasses so all she could see was colored blobs. That made the time pass. She really didn't want to be there, didn't really want to see all those well-dressed men and women pretending to like Dad and be his friend so they could get something in return.
Mel slides the glasses back up, and everything comes into view.
That's what she likes.
Being ignored and seeing only what she wants to see.
Tim reaches above the knapsack and rubs her neck. "What are you looking at?"
"Oh, that doesn't sound good."
Mel laughs. "You goof, it's the best! No staff, no news reporters, no cameras, no Secret Service agents standing like statues in the corner. Nobody! Just you and me."
"Sounds lonely," Tim says.
She slaps his butt. "Don't you get it? There's nobody keeping an eye on me, and I'm loving every second of it. Come along. Let's get moving."
Some minutes later, Tim is sitting at the edge of a small mountainside pool ringed with boulders and saplings and shrubs, letting his feet soak, enjoying the sun on his back, the sweet quiet buzz of the joint he and Mel just shared. He's thinking of how damn lucky he is.
He was shy at first when he and Mel — her identity was no secret on the Dartmouth campus — shared a history class on Africa last semester. He had no interest in even trying to talk to her until one day in class Mel mentioned the importance of microloans in Africa, and a few loudmouths started hammering her about being ignorant of the real world, being privileged, and not having an authentic life.
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When the loudmouths took a moment to catch their respective breaths, Tim surprised himself by saying, "I grew up in a third-floor apartment in Southie, my dad was a lineman for Eversource, my mom worked cleaning other people's homes and clipped coupons to go grocery shopping, and man, I'd trade that authentic life for privilege any day of the week."
A bunch of the students laughed, Mel caught his eye with a smile, and after class he asked her to coffee at Lou's Bakery. That's how it started.
Tim, a scholarship student, dating the daughter of President Matt Keating.
What a world.
What a life.
Sitting on a moss-covered boulder, Mel nudges him and says, "How're your feet?"
"Feeling cold and fine."
"Then let's do the whole thing," she says, standing up, tugging up her gray Dartmouth sweatshirt. "Feel like a swim?"
He smiles, still slightly buzzed. "Mel . . . someone could see us!"
She smiles right back and shrugs, revealing the tan sports bra under the sweatshirt, and then starts lowering her shorts. "Here? In the middle of a national forest? Lighten up, sweetie. Nobody's around for miles."
After she strips, Mel yelps as she jumps into the pool, keeping her head and glasses above the water. The water is cold and sharp. Tim takes his time, wading in, shifting his weight as he tries to keep his footing on the slippery rocks, and he yowls like a hurt puppy when the cold mountain water reaches just below his waist.
The pond is small, and with three strong strokes Mel reaches the other side, then swims back, the cold water now bracing, making her heart race, everything tingling. She tilts her head back, looking up past the tall pines and seeing the bright bare blue patch of sky. Nothing. Nobody watching her, following her, recording her.
Another yelp from Tim, and she turns her head to him. Tim wanted to go Navy ROTC but a bad set of lungs prevented him from doing so, and even though she knows that Dad wishes he'd get a haircut, his Southie background and interest in the Navy scored Tim in the plus side of the boyfriend column with Dad.
Tim lowers himself farther into the water, until it reaches his strong shoulders. "Did you see the sign-up list for the overnight at the cabin?" he asks. "Sorry to say, Cam Carlucci is coming."
"I know," Mel says, treading water, leaning back, letting her hair soak, looking up at the sharp blue and empty sky.
"You know he's going to want you to — "
Mel looks back at her Tim. "Yeah. He and his buds want to go to the Seabrook nuclear plant this Labor Day weekend, occupy it, and shut it down."
Poor Tim's lips seem to be turning blue. "They sure want you there."
In a mocking tone, Mel imitates Cam and says, " 'Oh, Mel, you can make such an impact if you get arrested. Think of the headlines. Think of your influence.' To hell with him. They don't want me. They want a puppet to get news coverage."
Tim laughs. "You going to tell him that tonight?"
"Nah," she says. "I'll tell him I already have plans for Labor Day weekend."
Her boyfriend looks puzzled. "You do?"
She swims to him and gives him a kiss, hands on his shoulders. "Dopey boy, yes: with you."
His hands move through the water and are on her waist, and she's enjoying the touch just as she hears voices. Mel looks up.
For the first time in a long time, she's frightened.
Excerpted from The President's Daughter by Bill Clinton & James Patterson. Copyright 2021. Available from Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, and Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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