Bill Clinton, James Patterson new, dramatic novel

In this Monday, May 21, 2018, photo, former President Bill Clinton, left, and author James Patterson speak during an interview about their new novel, "The President is Missing," in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The book is officially fiction: the story of a president who disappears as he tries to prevent an apocalyptic cyberattack.

The authors, Bill Clinton and James Patterson, swear it could happen.

“You’re asking the Secret Service, in effect, to walk away from their duty,” the former president said during a recent interview at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as he and Patterson discussed “The President Is Missing,” the thriller they worked on together that comes out this week. “(But) it could happen. If you were determined to do it, you could do it.”

“A big piece of it (the novel) was getting him out of the White House,” Patterson said. “It would be irresponsible, but under the circumstances it was the responsible thing to do.”

Prodded to collaborate by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who handles book deals for both of them, Clinton and Patterson drew on their respective backgrounds in completing a 500-page novel that topped Amazon’s best-seller list before publication. Patterson is among the world’s most popular and prolific fiction writers, and the novel is a characteristically fast-paced narrative, with brief chapters and dramatic plot turns.

Clinton, a newcomer to novel writing whose previous books include the million-selling autobiography “My Life,” didn’t need a lot of research to tell readers what it’s like to sit inside the White House Situation Room or to be briefed on a possible terrorist attack, or to imagine slipping away entirely.