Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
For many, Hilary Clinton’s name is synonymous with the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Obama administration and her 2016 election defeat. Now, she is making a new name for herself with the release of her first political novel, State of Terror.
No stranger to publishing, Clinton is used to the spotlight with her autobiographies such as What Happened, which documented her loss of the 2016 Presidential election. However, her new work demonstrates a foray into fiction. Co-written with thriller author Louise Penny, Clinton’s book has received positive reviews of its content and thrilling plotlines, but for many it may represent something much bigger. Is this a start or continuation of ideological influencing through fictional publications?
The blurring of fact and fiction is easily done, but more so when the work has been penned by someone at the centre of any form of political or ideological battleground. Clinton’s name and reputation is not just hers – instead she is representing multiple figure heads on the left wing of American politics.
Her name is tied indefinitely to the Democratic Party in the United States, as well as the current President, Joe Biden, as both an endorser of his campaign and former colleague. While the book is under her name, it is not just her who is under scrutiny. Instead, it has the potential to impact Biden’s administration, the Democratic performance in the midterms and the next round of Presidential elections in 2024.
Even when considering Trump’s accusations of ‘fake news’, facts were commercialised by both the left and right wing. Since then, it has become abundantly clear that the lines between fact and fiction have been blurred within our mainstream and fringe media for a while, which is now spilling over into our world of fiction. Political thrillers are always a good read and hugely popular, and one written by someone formerly at the centre of current affairs provides unparalleled access into realistic fictional world construction. However, separation of the truth and fiction can be hard for audiences inexperienced in the world of Whitehall or Washington.
It is not uncommon for politicians to write books, and for most we under-stand the political plug that they will always go for. Nick Clegg’s How to Stop Brexit and David Cameron’s For the Record come from clear places of political influence and partisan leaning. While their content may be disputed by some interested parties, most notably in works such as Michael Wolff ’s Trump exposé, Fire and Fury, readers are aware of the undeniable and predictable partisan bias. Ultimately, how can we view Clinton’s work objectively when we have watched her comment on US foreign policy and write about her truth in previous works?
Politics is rarely objective. Partisan bias is entrenched, not only in society but personally, through economic, cultural, and societal factors- and it is through this lens we perceive political developments and debate. Just the same as you cannot change your background, altering your entrenched political views is a rare occurrence, and the same applies for former politicians pushing into the world of storytelling.
However, that is not to say these texts are not of value as fictional works. They take time, effort and considerable drafts and redrafts to get right. In an age when politics is more complicated than ever, with more people invested in the outcome of policy and debate, perhaps these works of fiction are a welcome way to merge the political and the personal.
As the personal and the political come together, we should be aware of the primal desire, shared by politicians, to cement and ensure their legacy. Publishing offers a way to ensure that the legacy they desire is reinforced within the history context of their own creation, even if that is through the construction of a fictional narrative.
Clinton is not the first nor the last to publish perhaps with her own legacy in mind. Her partner and former President, Bill Clinton, has published political thrillers with famed author James Patterson. Similarly, former President Barack Obama’s 2020 publication of A Promised Land almost seemed to construct a positive ending with the timely conclusion. Ending with the successful mission to kill Osama Bin Laden carefully avoided the later years of his presidency and the issues he faced.
Legacy creation is natural and nothing new to the world of politics, and in the ever-complicated world, a positive legacy is a hard one to come by as many political careers end in scandal. While fiction books have their own influences, and the best way to read them is in an informed mindset, mindful of the influences that have created them.
Arguably, the electorate needs the world of fiction to make politics accessible to those who have no interest in the daily motions put forward in Parliament or the Executive Orders signed by the President. Perhaps the public should be endorsing the move to accessible publications, available to all ages and political persuasions- politicians and the electorate might just learn something in the process.
Fundamentally, when reading into the fiction of politics,one should remember the classic moves any politician has at their disposal: If history won’t remember you, write yourself into it.