NEW YORK • As one of the United States' most prolific authors, James Patterson has maintained a constant presence on the bestseller list in part by relying on a stable of lesser-known co-authors.
But for a new novel, he is teaming up with a writer who is far more famous: former US president Bill Clinton.
In June 2018, Alfred A. Knopf and Little, Brown and Co will jointly publish The President Is Missing, a novel written by Patterson and Mr Clinton, which represents a rare foray into fiction for a former president.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed and a publicity release announcing the publication was skimpy on plot details, describing the novel as a "unique amalgam of intrigue, suspense and behind-the- scenes global drama" that will be "informed by insider details that only a president can know".
The project came about late last year when Mr Robert B. Barnett, a lawyer at Williams & Connolly who represents Mr Clinton and Patterson, had the idea of pairing them up on a novel, according to someone familiar with the project who did not want to speak publicly because the publishers were holding back details about the publication.
Mr Barnett, who also represents the Obamas, Mrs Hillary Clinton, Mr George W. Bush, Mrs Laura Bush and other politicians, first approached Mr Clinton to see if he was interested in collaborating on a novel with Patterson.
Mr Clinton, a long-time reader of Patterson's breathless thrillers, was game, so Mr Barnett took the idea to Patterson, who wrote an extensive outline.
So far, they have written a few chapters of the novel, which will be edited by Mr Sonny Mehta, chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and Mr Michael Pietsch, chief executive of Hachette Book Group.
While writing a memoir has become standard for former presidents, few have published novels after leaving the Oval Office. In 2003, Mr Jimmy Carter did publish The Hornet's Nest, a historical novel set during the Revolutionary War. But some close observers of Mr Clinton, who loves mysteries and thrillers, say they are not entirely surprised that he is trying his hand at fiction.
"Clinton was always protean and a devoted mystery reader," said Joe Klein, the political columnist and author of the novel Primary Colors and The Natural, an account of Mr Clinton's presidency.
Apart from the strange spectacle of a former president collaborating on a thriller with a celebrity author, the project is unusual in that two large publishing houses, which are normally competitors, are releasing the novel together, with both companies' logos displayed on all editions.
Mr Clinton is already an established best-selling author: His 2004 memoir, My Life, which was published by Knopf, has sold more than two million copies in the US.
In a statement, he said he had long been a fan of Patterson's novels.
"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," he said.
For Patterson, whose books have sold more than 365 million copies worldwide, sharing a cover with an even more famous writer seems to have been a humbling experience.
"Working with president Clinton has been the highlight of my career and having access to his firsthand experience has uniquely informed the writing of this novel," he said in a statement.
"I'm a storyteller 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 like to be president."