Andrew Shaffer’s highly innovative and hilarious Hope Never Dies burst onto the literary scene last summer as a high-action mystery putting Joe Biden and Barack Obama in the role of amateur detectives. It provided a perfect escape from the state of affairs in politics. Now, Shaffer is at it again, more mystery, action, intrigue and absurdity in Hope Rides Again (Quirk Books).
It’s St. Patrick’s weekend in 2019, and Joe Biden is tired. Between a whirlwind book tour and constant speculation about his potential presidential run, he’s anxious to get out of the spotlight and back home to Jill. With one last stop in Chicago, he’s looking forward to carving out some quality time to visit with his BFF: Barack Obama.
In turn, Obama wants to support Joe by connecting him with up-and-coming community leaders who could be influential to voters if Biden decides to run for president. For Joe, finding time in Barack’s schedule—and a place on Obama’s home turf of Chicago—proves difficult. But when Barack’s Blackberry is stolen and all signs point to an unlikely culprit who ends up shot, the two friends must once again team up to solve the crime.
Hope Rides Again takes Joe and Barack on an action-packed ride across Chicago, where they encounter a range of enigmatic characters, from burlesque dancers to Russian masseurs to Oprah herself (well, almost). A cathartic escape from the political status quo, Hope Rides Again will have readers cheering for their elected officials at a time when it may feel difficult to do so.
Shaffer provided some more insight in a recent Q&A:
What do you think attracts people to this series?
Hope Never Dies was a reminder of a bygone era of hope, relative peace, and stability. Barack Obama left office with one of the highest approval ratings of any outgoing president in history. The first Obama Biden Mystery hit shelves at just the right time, when Obama/Biden nostalgia was beginning to kick in.
The Obama Biden Mysteries are escapist literature. We’re caught up in a never-ending breaking-news cycle. Blame social media; blame the current White House administration.
In her recently released memoir, Dr. Jill Biden mentioned that both the Bidens and the Obamas are aware of Hope Never Dies. What was your reaction to this?
It was surreal to be listening to Dr. Biden’s audiobook on my Audible app and hear her mention Hope Never Dies. I never expected the series to be on either the Bidens’ or the Obamas’ radars.
Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again center on two public figures living outside the spotlight. Are there any limitations to portraying real people as fictional characters?
For sure. My rule of thumb is that if the average reader would view something as out of character, I leave it out of my fictional portrayal.
The mystery in Hope Never Dies delves into the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic. In Hope Rides Again, you don’t shy away from exploring gun violence in Chicago. Is it important for you to use your fiction to address America’s serious social problems?
We live in a clickbait headline culture. Novels and other long-form narratives allow us to dive deeper into social problems and see the gray areas in supposed black-and-white issues. With most of my fiction, I’d say the social agenda component is less in your face than in Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again. However, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have spent their careers fighting for progressive ideals, so it felt natural to address real societal ills in the Obama Biden Mysteries.
Do you think there are any similarities between being a detective and being a politician?
Politicians and detectives both need to have excellent legal knowledge—it’s no mistake that more than half of our nation’s presidents have been lawyers. In the case of legwork, however, politicians delegate while detectives pound the pavement. A politician actually going door to door interviewing witnesses is about as likely as a celebrity actor doing their own yard work.
Michelle Obama makes a few appearances in Hope Rides Again. Did you ever consider having her join the investigation?
When I was writing the first book, I made a conscious effort to keep Barack and Joe’s families sidelined. When Michelle’s memoir became the biggest-selling book of 2018, I realized there was no way I could keep her on the sidelines any longer.
Set in March 2019, Hope Rides Again begins with Biden contemplating a possible bid for president. Did his eventual announcement (in May) affect the book at all?
I wrote the book knowing that Joe would likely be making a public announcement on his status sometime in spring 2019. It looked like he would be running, so the book leaned in that direction, although I left some wiggle room.
Now that Biden will be on the campaign trail, do you have anyone you’d like to see team up with Obama to continue solving crimes? Have fans of Hope Never Dies asked you to explore a certain public figure joining the team?
Readers have suggested plenty of alternate pairings of mismatched amateur sleuths, including the oddball team of Michelle Obama and George W. Bush (who Michelle once called her “partner in crime”). The risk, of course, is that this time next year 95 percent of them will be, at least temporarily, in the political dustbin.
Hope Rides Again is available for purchase.
About Andrew Shaffer
Andrew Shaffer is the New York Times best-selling author of the Obama Biden Mystery series, the satirical thriller The Day of the Donald: Trump Trumps America, and the Goodreads Choice semifinalist Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody, among other humorous fiction and nonfiction books for HarperCollins and Penguin Random House. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, the author Tiffany Reisz.