Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny are writing a political thriller due in October

"We’re joining our experiences to explore the complex world of high-stakes diplomacy and treachery.”

Hillary Clinton and author Louise Penny. Clinton is teaming up with Penny on the novel “State of Terror,” out Oct. 12, 2021. Photos by Evan Agostini and Jean-Francois Bérubé via AP

In Louise Penny’s upcoming thriller, a novice secretary of state faces the daunting task of rebuilding U.S. leadership after years of diminishing influence abroad. She is immediately put to the test when a wave of terrorist attacks threatens to destabilize the world order.

A topical political thriller represents new territory for Penny, who is best known for intricate murder mysteries set in a quiet Canadian town. But she had a political veteran on hand to help her shape the plot: her co-author and friend, former secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton.

Their new novel, “State of Terror,” will be published in October by Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press, Clinton and Penny’s respective publishers. Jennifer Enderlin, president and publisher of the St. Martin’s Publishing Group, will edit it.


“When it was suggested my friend Hillary and I write a political thriller together, I could not say yes fast enough,” Penny said in a statement. “Before we started, we talked about her time as secretary of state. What was her worst nightmare? ‘State of Terror’ is the answer.”

It is unusual for a prominent politician and a best-selling crime writer to team up on a novel, but it is not, of course, unprecedented. The subgenre has already been popularized by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, who wrote a thriller, “The President Is Missing,” with James Patterson in 2018. The novel, which was published by both Knopf and Little, Brown, has sold more than 2 million copies in North America and was the top-selling adult fiction book of 2018. This summer, they are following up with a second novel, “The President’s Daughter,” about a former U.S. president whose daughter is kidnapped, which will have a first print run of 1 million copies.

Both Clintons are fans of the thriller and mystery genres, and both are represented by Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett, who is known for his powerful clients, among them the Obamas and the Bushes.

The announcements for both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s debut thrillers stressed that they would draw on their decades of political experience. (A news release for “The President Is Missing” noted that the novel would “be informed by insider details that only a president can know,” while the announcement for “State of Terror” said it “features behind-the-scenes global drama informed by details only an insider could know.”)


Penny and Hillary Clinton have long been friends and mutual admirers. In her memoir, “What Happened,” the former presidential candidate wrote that she read Penny’s books after losing the election in 2016, a time when thrillers were sources of comfort along with yogic breathing and chardonnay.

The pair decided to work together on a novel that would be shaped by Clinton’s insider knowledge of the State Department and White House and by Penny’s penchant for crafting addictive plots.

“Writing a thriller with Louise is a dream come true. I’ve relished every one of her books and their characters as well as her friendship,” Clinton said in a statement. “Now we’re joining our experiences to explore the complex world of high-stakes diplomacy and treachery.”

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