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The Influence of Presidents

As the world turns and the news outlets fulminate, laugh, bemoan, and cringe at what is coming out of Washington or Florida during a dinner in a packed room, while the rest of us average Joes wonder at the wild uncertainty that is gripping society, I’ve been musing on the influence of politics, and particularly Presidents, on the artistic psyche.

I’ve been selling books for a long time, I have seen trends come and go, and I really do think that presidential temperament has a bearing on the books being created. Here’s a quick synopsis and generalizations of what I’ve noticed over the years.

I first started paying attention during the Clinton years when it seemed that every other book published was a diatribe against Clinton. This was news media championing anger as the like of Ann Coulter, Dick Morris and others, rose up the best seller charts and stayed there for weeks at time. Publishers being publishers, jumped on the band wagon and these polemics continue to be published yet without the cachet that the Clinton years brought them. Hopefully, people are tired of talking heads yelling themselves hoarse on paper.

The Bush years brought us war books galore – which isn’t a surprise since that was our preoccupation for most of his presidency. What was a surprise, at least to me, was the sheer volume of novels, memoirs and befuddled analysis that came out. It seemed that almost everyone had something to say and somebody to publish them.

It kind of reminds me of the same fascination with Scandinavian mystery writers where it seemed even newborns were getting book deals. Of course, there were some very good books to come out of the quagmire, like Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben FountainYellow Birds by Kevin Powers, and even Karl Marlantes’, Matterhorn, yet the sheer number of books on the subject of war was simply overwhelming for my simple brain.

The last five or six years has brought me more memorable, and enjoyable books, than I have read in the last fifteen years combined. Titles like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, A Little Life, Salvage The Bones, The Financial Lives of the Poets, the list goes on and on. While many people disagreed with what President Obama said, did and thought, from the day he was elected he allowed the nation a chance to catch it’s collective breath, and it showed in the creativeness of the books published while he was in office. A trend that is continuing deep into this year with new titles I can’t wait to put into people’s hands.

Oh boy, look out world. To give you an idea the direction I think fiction will be going in come by and check out One Second After by William Forstchen. Fiction that can possibly come true. Yikes!

– Pete, Book Buyer & Mystery Guru

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