CLOSE
Original image
Noam Galai, Stringer // Getty Images

James Patterson Teams Up With Bill Clinton for New Political Thriller

Original image
Noam Galai, Stringer // Getty Images

Superstar author James Patterson is bringing an extra layer of realism to his upcoming political thriller. The President Is Missing, set for a June 2018 release, will draw from the personal accounts of former president Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, The New York Times reports.

The collaboration was announced by the book’s co-publishers Knopf and Little Brown on May 5. “Working with President Clinton has been the highlight of my career, and having access to his first-hand experience has uniquely informed the writing of this novel,” Patterson said in a statement. “I’m a story-teller, and President Clinton’s insight has allowed us to tell a really interesting one. It’s a rare combination—readers will be drawn to the suspense, of course, but they’ll also be given an inside look into what it’s really like to be president.”

Clinton and Patterson connected through Robert B. Barnett, the Washington D.C.-based attorney who represents both of them. It was Barnett who first came to Clinton with the idea that the two should work together on a novel. The former president, a long-time reader of Patterson’s work, naturally agreed. “Working on a book about a sitting President—drawing on what I know about the job, life in the White House, and the way Washington works—has been a lot of fun,” Clinton said in a statement. “And working with Jim has been terrific. I’ve been a fan of his for a very long time.”

While Bill Clinton has authored a few books on his own, this marks the ex-commander-in-chief’s first foray into fiction. He couldn’t have picked a better partner to explore the new territory with—throughout his career, James Patterson has sold 350 million copies of his 100-plus titles.

[h/t The New York Times]

Original image
Brown University Library, Wikipedia/Public Domain
arrow
This Just In
Lincoln’s Famous Letter of Condolence to a Grieving Mother Was Likely Penned by His Secretary
Original image
Brown University Library, Wikipedia/Public Domain

Despite his lack of formal schooling, Abraham Lincoln was a famously eloquent writer. One of his most renowned compositions is the so-called “Bixby letter,” a short yet poignant missive the president sent a widow in Boston who was believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. But as Newsweek reports, new research published in the journal Digital Scholarship in the Humanities [PDF] suggests that Lincoln’s private secretary and assistant, John Hay, actually composed the dispatch.

The letter to Lydia Bixby was written in November 1864 at the request of William Shouler, the adjutant general of Massachusetts, and state governor John Albion Andrew. “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming,” it read. “But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.”

Unknown to Lincoln, Bixby had actually only lost two sons in battle; the others had deserted the army, were honorably discharged, or died a prisoner of war. Nevertheless, word of the compassionate presidential gesture spread when the Boston Evening Transcript reprinted a copy of the 139-word letter for all to read.

Nobody quite knows what happened to Bixby’s original letter—some say she was a Confederate sympathizer and immediately burnt it—but for years, scholars debated whether Hay was its true author.

During Hay’s lifetime, the former secretary-turned-statesman had reportedly told several people in confidence that he—not Lincoln—had written the renowned composition, TIME reports. The rumor spread after Hay's death, but some experts interpreted the admission to mean that Hay had transcribed the letter, or had copied it from a draft.

To answer the question once and for all, a team of forensic linguists in England used a text analysis technique called n-gram tracing, which identifies the frequency of linguistic sequences in a short piece of writing to determine its true author. They tested 500 texts by Hay and 500 by Lincoln before analyzing the Bixby letter, the researchers explained in a statement quoted by Newsweek.

“Nearly 90 percent of the time, the method identified Hay as the author of the letter, with the analysis being inconclusive in the rest of the cases,” the linguists concluded.

According to Atlas Obscura, the team plans to present its findings at the International Corpus Linguistics Conference, which will take place at England’s University of Birmingham from Monday, July 24 to Friday, July 28.

[h/t Newsweek]

Original image
Gary Knapp // Getty Images
arrow
founding fathers
Inside the Quest to Save 42 Giant Presidential Statues
Original image
Gary Knapp // Getty Images

In 2004, Presidents Park opened in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a huge open-air museum containing 42 two-story-high busts of the presidents to date at the time. Visitors could perambulate among the presidents, reading plaques about them. (Note: There are only 42 busts in total because of Grover Cleveland's two nonconsecutive terms.)

In 2013, local builder Howard Hankins was hired to remove and destroy the busts, after the attraction itself went bust. Hankins had another idea. He carefully transported all the busts to his family farm. This cleared the way for an Enterprise Rent-a-Car facility now located on the former grounds of Presidents Park. It also left him with 43 giant statues, many of them slightly damaged, to deal with.

Over the ensuing years, Hankins has walked among the busts, weeding the grounds and struggling to figure out what to do with these "giants of men." He loosely envisions a similar attraction, this time called The Presidential Experience. Ideally it would have a better location to attract tourists. But Hankins lacks the funding to make it a reality. Since the original haul, he has managed to secure a tiny template for an Obama bust, but couldn't afford to purchase the full-size version. No word yet on a Trump bust.

In the short film All the Presidents' Heads directed by Adam Roffman, we meet Hankins, see the busts, and learn about the possible second coming of a presidential roadside attraction. Enjoy:

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios