The view that everyone has one book in them is disproved by celebrities, who now tend to produce at least two – a memoir and then, courting publishing’s most lucrative market, a crime or thriller novel. The autumn lists include suspense stories from both a former president and a secretary of state of the US, a former UK home secretary, three well-known British TV journalists and a leading quizshow host.
In Britain, the celebrity mystery genre began with Dick Francis’s Dead Cert (1962), and continued with Jeffrey Archer’s Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less (1976). But though known at the time of their debuts for other things – respectively as a jockey and a Conservative MP – Francis and Archer became primarily famous as writers, and so moved beyond the category they established. Also in a different category are Tony Parsons and Lynne Truss, whose recent series of crime novels – latest instalments Your Neighbour’s Wife and Murder By Milk Bottle – followed many novels in other genres. And, while the current culture secretary Nadine Dorries has published much fiction, she has not yet turned to crime.
The following 10 celebrities – ranked alphabetically and scored for writing and insight – have.
Tom Bradby – Triple Cross (2021)
The ITN News at Ten anchor and sometime confidant of Princes William and Harry had already published six thrillers before Secret Service (2019) took his fiction to a higher level of narrative sophistication and political topicality. Kate Henderson, a senior MI6 officer, investigates data that the likely next British PM has a secret making him unfit for office (echoing doubts that surrounded Johnson and Trump’s campaigns). In Double Agent (2020) and this year’s Triple Cross, Kate continues her scrutiny of the possible traitor-leader. Given the familiarity of many aspects of the “shameless” politician James Ryan, there is enjoyment to be found in reading another chapter just after watching Bradby read the latest Westminster headlines. His publisher and readers surely hope that Bradby will next draw on his royal knowledge.
Inside info: If he told us he’d have to kill us
Bill Clinton (and James Patterson) – The President’s Daughter (2021)
The two-term 42nd president of the US was regularly pictured getting out of presidential aircraft with his latest crime-fiction read (including Walter Mosley and James Patterson) under his arm. Post-office, Clinton has collaborated with Patterson on two thrillers: The President Is Missing (2018) and now The President’s Daughter. One appeal of such books is accidental or disguised revelation: in the fictional presidencies of Jonathan Duncan and Matthew …….