In these trying times, satirist Andrew Shaffer is bringing us a smile with his Obama/Biden novels. And on Thursday, he’ll be signing copies of his latest novel at The Fountain Bookstore.
Grab your best tan suit and your favorite chocolate chip ice cream, folks. America’s favorite crime-fighting duo of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are back and ready to solve more mysteries — this time in Obama’s adopted home of Chicago.
Hope Rides Again by satirist Andrew Shaffer is the sequel to last summer’s hit novel, Hope Never Dies, and is out now. This time around, Biden and Obama have a limited amount of time to find Obama’s stolen Blackberry phone, and of course it must be done even as Obama is about to introduce Biden to a wealthy benefactor who could endorse Biden’s run for the White House — if he decides to run.
If Hope Never Dies was a cozy mystery novel, Hope Rides Again is perhaps comparatively more akin to Die Hard. Not only is it a more compact book where the events take place over the course of roughly forty-eight hours, but the Chicago setting brings a lot more things to play with into the narrative. Shaffer grew up much closer to Chicago than he did to Biden’s home of Wilmington, DE, but writing about Chicago was for him both easier and more difficult to write about.
“There was so much I wanted to include, but you can’t, because there isn’t one experience or story that would encompass everything [I love about Chicago],” said Shaffer. “You can’t do everything, which is unfortunate. It was really difficult, actually.”
The key to good comedy is the accuracy. With well-known subjects like the former president and vice president, there is naturally an endless well of knowledge out there. All the better for Shaffer, who cites doing all of the research necessary for the novels as one of his favorite parts of the process.
“I’m getting paid to read,” laughed Shaffer. “This is kind of great, but at some point you have to put down the books and the research materials and write the book. For these books I did a lot of research on Delaware, and for this one I did a lot of research on aspects of Chicago that I wanted to include.”
Everyone from your coworkers to the current line-up on Saturday Night Live have their own rendition of each of our favorite would-be detectives. But when writing, Shaffer noted that it was definitely easier to find Biden’s voice and fall into his rhythm.
And not just because he felt like President Obama was smarter than him.
“When you’re writing from Barack’s point of view, you imagine him to be so much smarter than maybe he actually is, ” said Shaffer. “If you’re a writer, you can’t be smarter than your own character. That’s what I ran into, is: I’m not as smart as Barack Obama, but I can get into a Joe Biden voice, if I play him a little less bumbling than I may be.”
Shaffer loves a good Biden meme just like the rest of us (including Biden himself), and although he did not have a new favorite to share with me when I asked, he did agree that the campaign trail has changed the former Vice President. Good ol’ goofy Joe is off the campaign trail, and is replaced by serious-bid-for-office Joe — who is probably still wondering when the next pit stop for ice cream is… but he’s hiding it much better.
“I think sometimes on the campaign trail, he’s pretty serious,” said Shaffer. “I’m just like, ‘You know people liked you because you joked around, too, right?’ I don’t want to see a sad Joe Biden meme where he’s sitting on the bench like Keanu [Reeves]. Ice cream brings people together. Throw ice cream at your next rally, Joe.”
“Okay, maybe not,” Shaffer added.
Part of the reason why Shaffer’s Obama and Biden mystery series is so popular is because of how believable he makes the former president and vice-president in his writing. They are so realistic, coming as close to the character that we know of them from their public lives. More importantly, they remind us of a better time than we are experiencing now.
There is something to be said for healing through comedy in the darkest of hours, but would this series have been nearly as successful if the dynamic duo were still in office, or if their successor hadn’t been racist trash?
“Having Barack Obama out of the spotlight gives people the jolt of remembering how good we had it,” said Shaffer. “You have to cling on to the things that give you hope. Hopefully we will be in a better place in eighteen months.”
If the mental image of Obama and Biden walking into the sunset to the Miami Vice soundtrack isn’t enough for you, then what about the new crop of characters the Democratic debates are introducing? Shaffer mentioned that he’d toyed with the idea of possibly doing something with some of the candidates, but continuously keeping his eye on future relevancy led him to put a damper on that.
“By the time the book comes out, people are old news by then,” said Shaffer.
That said, don’t give up hope just yet on that graphic novel series about presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg competing to be the next Food Network Star. If hope can ride again, maybe their fanfiction dreams can too.
Andrew Shaffer will be appearing at Fountain Bookstore, located at 1312 E Cary St, this Thursday at 6:30p to talk about and sign copies of Hope Rides Again. Purchase it there, or wherever books are sold.