Obama, Bi­den imag­ined as crime fight­ers

Book aims to ap­peal to lib­er­als miss­ing ex-lead­ers

Santa Fe New Mexican - - THE WEATHER - By Alexan­dra Al­ter

In the year and a half since Barack Obama left of­fice, dozens of books have been writ­ten about his ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing me­moirs by his of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher, stenog­ra­pher, speech­writer, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers and di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, not to men­tion the Oba­mas’ own forth­com­ing me­moirs.

But only one book in­cludes a scene where Obama bursts into a mo­tor­cy­cle gang club­house in Delaware, ca­su­ally tot­ing a sawed-off shot­gun, to res­cue Joe Bi­den from a mob of an­gry, heav­ily armed bik­ers.

“Looks like you all know who my pal is,” Bi­den tells his an­tag­o­nists with sat­is­fac­tion.

“He’s the guy who killed bin Laden,” one of the stunned bik­ers says.

The un­likely sce­nario sprung from the twisted mind of An­drew Shaffer, au­thor of Hope Never Dies, a new mys­tery novel star­ring the 44th pres­i­dent and his vice pres­i­dent as a pair of crime-bust­ing

am­a­teur sleuths. It’s the first in a planned crime se­ries, with Obama play­ing a cere­bral, de­tached, an­a­lyt­i­cal Holmes to Bi­den’s bum­bling, im­pul­sive Wat­son.

The novel, out this week, is a roughly 300-page work of po­lit­i­cal fan­fic­tion, an es­capist fan­tasy that will likely ap­peal to lib­er­als pin­ing for the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, long­ing for the Obama-Bi­den team to emerge from po­lit­i­cal re­tire­ment as ac­tion he­roes. But it’s also at times a sur­pris­ingly earnest story about es­tranged friends who are re­u­nited un­der strange cir­cum­stances.

“It’s not a par­ody of ac­tion movies or thrillers, and it’s not a satire of their pol­i­tics. It’s just a mys­tery novel star­ring these two well-known char­ac­ters, who just hap­pen to be in the pub­lic do­main,” said Shaffer, who has writ­ten cheeky satires like The Day of the Don­ald: Trump Trumps Amer­ica.

It’s turn­ing out to be a big sum­mer for mys­ter­ies writ­ten by, or star­ring, for­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­dents. The Pres­i­dent Is Miss­ing, a po­lit­i­cal thriller for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton wrote with James Pat­ter­son, which fea­tures a fic­tional pres­i­dent con­fronting a cy­bert­er­ror­ism plot. Now, in Hope Never Dies, a fic­tional ver­sion of an ac­tual for­mer pres­i­dent con­fronts an­other press­ing na­tional prob­lem, the opi­oid cri­sis.

The novel opens with Bi­den star­ing at his com­puter, stew­ing over pa­parazzi images of Obama para­sail­ing off the coast of Cape Town. Like a jeal­ous ex, he’s fu­ri­ous that Obama has cast him aside to pur­sue flashy leisure ac­tiv­i­ties with his new celebrity best friends — BASE jump­ing with Bradley Cooper, kitesurf­ing in the British Vir­gin Is­lands with Richard Bran­son, kayak­ing with Justin Trudeau. “Eight years,” he mut­ters to his Ger­man shep­herd, Champ, “And not even a gosh darned post­card.”

When Bi­den goes to in­ves­ti­gate a flick­er­ing light he sees out­side, he finds Obama lurk­ing in the shad­ows, smok­ing a cig­a­rette. Obama has come with grim news: Bi­den’s fa­vorite Am­trak con­duc­tor, Finn Don­nelly, was found dead on the train tracks out­side of Wilm­ing­ton sta­tion, with a bag of heroin in his pocket. They de­cide to crack the case them­selves.

Shaffer said the open­ing scene came to him in the weeks af­ter Obama left of­fice, when cable news an­chors and late-night hosts broad­cast images of Obama on what looked like an end­less global va­ca­tion. “I was like, you know who would be mad about this? Joe Bi­den. He’s not out there wind­surf­ing with Obama. Some­one else is,” he said. “It felt like he was au­di­tion­ing for a new best friend. There has to be a mis­un­der­stand­ing for a buddy com­edy to work.”


‘It’s not a par­ody of ac­tion movies or thrillers,’ Hope Never Dies au­thor An­drew Shaffer says.

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