To me, Donald Trump was more than the prototypical protagonist of a psychological novel—he was a fiction writer run amok, the hero of his own impermeable drama, resentful of editors who would prune his imaginings. He feels little need to heed advice, or to learn anything much from anyone. Most of what he says is provisional, ever subject to change, and based on nothing but his transient and subjective needs.

But the crucial difference between Trump and a novelist is that his fancies are not confined to the page, and Americans can’t put them back on the shelf.

Like any other best-selling novelist, I had publicists who helped me. But Trump has an army: the media, particularly cable news. In the run-up to his nomination, cable gave Trump $3 billion in free media—effectively, a sustained infomercial consisting of his rallies and rambling press conferences. This open microphone made him unique among all candidates.

Trump used it like a novelist would—to re-create himself as a fictional archetype, the lonely sheriff who drives the bad guys out of town.