From public service to novelist: six politicians to try their luck in the world of fiction
From Winston Churchill to Anne Holt, politicians have found mixed success as writers
After the success of his debut thriller, 2018's The President is Missing, former US head of state Bill Clinton is, once again, teaming up with blockbuster crime author James Patterson to co-write The President's Daughter.
To be published in June, 2021, publisher Century promises a dark and sinister political thriller "informed by details that only a president can know.”
For such a pairing, you would think the upcoming novel would be a guaranteed hit. However, not every politician found success when transferring their communication skills to the written word. Below are six former political leaders who found mixed results as novelists.
1. Winston Churchill
He may have defeated the Nazis, but not the literary critics. Long before Churchill carved his name in history as a war-time UK prime minister, he fancied himself as a budding novelist. His one and only work of fiction Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania is an action packed tale set in a fictional dictatorial European state on the cusp of violent revolution.
Churchill began working on the novel as a young solider in 1897, penning the opening pages during his voyage from Britain to India before releasing it in 1900. The critical response was withering enough for Churchill to disavow that book. The most stinging rebuke came from the author himself. In his 1930 autobiography My Early Life, Churchill laid bare his thoughts on the book: "I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from reading it."
2. Jeffrey Archer
Easily the biggest selling politician-turned-novelist. Archer actually began his writing career while still a member of parliament, releasing debut novel Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less in 1974. While it sold moderately well, it was the follow up, 1979's Kane and Abel that became an international sensation, going on to sell 37 million copies.
With his political career ending in ignominy in 1999, Archer focused solely on his writing, publishing more best-selling works including short story collections, a memoir of his prison experiences and the Clifton Chronicles series of novels.
3. Michael Dobbs
Such was the success of his House of Cards trilogy of novels - and eventual Netflix adaptation - that many people won't know that Michael Dobbs was a former politician. And quite effective one at that. Dobbs was a chief of staff for the UK's conservative party in 1986 and his political cunning had him labelled by The Guardian as "Westminster’s baby-faced hitman"
4. Shashi Tharoor
A man with almost too many talents. As well as being an experienced politician and gifted orator, Tharoor also found success in the literary field. His four fictional works, including 1989's The Great Indian Novel and 2002's Show Business, are characterised by its sardonic commentary on Indian society.
5. Anne Holt
Norway's minister of justice from 1994 to 1996, Anne Holt used that knowledge to become one of the leading lights of Scandinavian crime fiction. She is known for The Hanne Wilhelmsen series featuring the titular tough as nails police investigator. The books were not only best sellers at home, but went on to be published in over 25 languages.
6. Jimmy Carter
His one and only fictional work, 2013’s The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, didn’t fly off the shelves but it has the distinction of being the first novel published by any president of the United States.
Updated: May 29, 2020 06:00 PM