Exhausted by the run-up to the US presidential elections on 8 November 2016?

Exchange those robo calls and campaign ads for some election thrills of the literary variety with 5 presidential election thrillers

These novels are a definite improvement over the real thing.

The Manchurian Candidate

  1. The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

War hero Sergeant Raymond Shaw was brainwashed by North Korean captors into becoming a sleeper assassin. Given the right signal, he’ll kill without question or mercy. Back in the US, his programming will cause him to carry out a hit on a candidate for president. Shaw’s former commanding officer, Major Bennett Marco, is the only one who knows but he’ll encounter a deadly conspiracy spread like a spider’s web throughout the government. Two movies, but the book is still the best way to experience this gripping story.

The hidden Light of Mexico City

  1. The Hidden Light of Mexico City by Carmen Amato

In this compelling and romantic 2012 thriller, Mexico’s First Lady wants to succeed her husband. Her lover, the country’s Minister for Public Security, makes a deal with an El Chapo-esque drug kingpin to fund her campaign in exchange for territory. Attorney and ex-cop Eduardo Cortez Castillo uncovers the deal, triggering a deadly pursuit as the cartel attempts to destroy him, starting with his Cinderella-story relationship with a housemaid. The First Lady and money-for-influence themes harken to #Election2016 but the political slogans and sex scenes are much, much better.


  1. Vanished by Fletcher Knebel

In this 1986 political thriller, a prominent DC attorney and close friend of the president simply vanishes after a round of golf at Burning Tree Country Club. As presidential elections loom, the White House press secretary Gene Cullen becomes the unwilling linchpin in a secret investigation that touches national security agencies as well as the president’ re-election campaign. The book’s pace is swift, Cullen is an appealing anti-hero, and the Watergate scandal hovers between the lines like Knebel’s ghostwriter. Another Knebel presidential politics classic is the equally famous 7 Days in May, both books sadly only available in hardcopy.

A Very British Coup

  1. A Very British Coup by Chris Mullins

In 1982, the thought of an ultra left-wing government in Britain was a real possibility and the novel captures such a rise—and the backlash—with brilliance and humor. Steel worker Harry Perkins wins the prime minister’s seat, vowing to remove American bases, bring banks under government rule, and dismantle the media. British Establishment fights back, in a series of moves that years later were revealed to be uncomfortably truthful, according to the author in a 2006 interview in The Guardian. The book became a much-awarded television series starring Ray McAnally as Perkins.

The Better Angels

  1. The Better Angels by Charles McCarry

The novel has terrorists who use passenger jets as weapons and hacked voting machines that rig a presidential election, all of which appeared far-fetched when it was first published 30 years ago. Set in the 1990’s, the setting is bleak as socialist policies in both the US and the UK have led to unemployment and squalor. The uber-liberal US president facing reelection orders the murder of an Islamic terrorist about to use nukes against Israel, but it’s a decision that could lose him the election. His opponent is a former president who wants to serve a non-consecutive term but has his own issues to cover up. Complicated characters, complex plot. Part dystopia and part prophecy.

More presidential election thrillers?

Got a book to suggest? Leave a comment.

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presidential election thrillers


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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


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