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"I think I'm an okay writer, but a very good storyteller."
May 1, 2014 11:18 AM   Subscribe

World's best-selling author James Patterson on how to write an unputdownable story. Interview with James Patterson. 'Patterson recently earned the distinction of being the best-selling author since 2001. Just to be clear, one of the author's books wasn't merely declared "the #1 bestseller," a blurb that pops up on front covers regularly. Rather, James Patterson is the top selling author in the world for the last 14 years. An estimated one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States is his, dwarfing the sales of both Harry Potter and the sparkly Twilight vampires.'

'I think what hooks people into my stories is the pace. I try to leave out the parts people skip. I used to live across the street from Alexander Haig, and if I told you a story that I went out to get the paper and Haig was laying in the driveway, and then I went on for 20 minutes describing the architecture on the street and the way the palm trees were, you'd feel like "Stop with the description--what's going on with Haig?" I tend to write stories the way you'd tell them. I think it'd be tragic if everybody wrote that way. But that's my style. I read books by a lot of great writers. I think I'm an okay writer, but a very good storyteller.'
posted by VikingSword (92 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Step One: Don't use "words" like "unputdownable".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:20 AM on May 1 [13 favorites]


World's best-selling author James Patterson on how to write an unputdownable story.

Get somebody else to write it for you, then release it under your own name?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 AM on May 1 [61 favorites]


I try to leave out the parts people skip.

I really like that - almost but not quite a paradox.

The thing is, it takes intelligence and skill to write successful schlock - it took me a long time to realize that.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on May 1 [25 favorites]


Why would it necessarily have to be Alexander Haig laying in the driveway to make that example interesting? And wouldn't Haig actually be lying in the driveway?

Nevermind, nevermind...I'll defer to the World's Best-Selling Author.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:27 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


I did not recognise his name, so I looked him up. Here's the books he's published since 2010:

Worst Case, Fang: A Maximum Ride Novel, Med Head, The 9th Judgment, Private, Daniel X: Demons and Druids, The Postcard Killers, Don't Blink, Cross Fire, Witch & Wizard: The Gift, Tick Tock, Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel, Bloody Valentine, Toys, 10th Anniversary ,Private London ,Now You See Her, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Boys Will Be Boys, Daniel X: Game Over, Kill Me If You Can, Kill Alex Cross, The Christmas Wedding, Witch & Wizard: The Fire, Private: #1 Suspect, Private Games, Guilty Wives, 11th Hour, Middle School : Get Me Out of Here, I, Michael Bennett, Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure, Zoo, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, NYPD Red, Daniel X: Armageddon, Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, I Funny, Private Berlin, Witch & Wizard: The Kiss, Alex Cross, Run, Middle School: My Brother Is a Big, Fat Liar, 12th of Never, Second Honeymoon Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, Mistress, Treasure Hunters, Gone, Confessions: The Private School Murders, Cross My Heart, I Even Funnier, First Love, Private L.A., NYPD Red 2, Middle School: Ultimate Showdown, Unlucky 13, Invisible, Middle School: Save Rafe, Homeroom Diaries, Private Down Under, Treasure Hunters 2, Burn, Confessions 3,Hope to Die, House of Robots, Witch & Wizard: The Lost
posted by rebent at 11:28 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


"I am one of the few people you'll meet who's written more books than they've read." -- Garth Marenghi
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:30 AM on May 1 [50 favorites]


Get somebody else to write it for you, then release it under your own name?

I don't read his schlock anyway, but at least he actually credits his ghostwriters, unlike most best selling authors from what I understand.
posted by kmz at 11:36 AM on May 1 [10 favorites]


I try to leave out the parts people skip.

Elmore Leonard, incidentally, gave the same advice. And yet he wrote books I would actually want to read. So perhaps there's more to writing than economy of language.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:36 AM on May 1 [9 favorites]


I feel like every mention of James Patterson should be followed by a TM. His books should be at the end of the shelves in bookstores with the Star Trek and Halo novels; he's as much a commodity as any other licensed novel "series" and as authorially consistent.
posted by Etrigan at 11:36 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Right now I'm reading a book about antigravity.
Talk about hard to put down.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:40 AM on May 1 [31 favorites]


Worst Case, Fang: A Maximum Ride Novel

Ohhhh, that's two novels! I've been reading that over and over trying to figure out what kind of book that could be. "O.K., you're breaking into the heavily guarded home of the world's richest man. He's a capricious fellow, so you really want to be careful about deactivating the alarms. If he realizes you've penetrated the perimeter, there are a number of different responses he might choose. The best case is he unleashes his adorable attack-kitten, Snuggles. If you're not allergic to cats, you should be pretty safe there. But the worst case would be his cyborg half-Rottweiler, half-robot deathbotdog Fang. I'm afraid there's no coming back from that one. You got all that, Mr. Ride?" "Yeah," I grimaced. I sure hoped it would be Snuggles and not Fang. "Call me Maximum."
posted by yoink at 11:45 AM on May 1 [33 favorites]


Patterson is not My Thing, at all, but you can't really disagree with his advice if you're trying to reach a wide audience. Of course, as Cash4Lead notes, it can still be done with style and intelligence, which isn't going to win you a whole lot of airport readers.

I read maybe a novel a week, but I find myself becoming pickier every year. I don't really have patience for writers who spend a lot of time on details or purple (or even purplish) prose or who haven't learned to write natural dialog. Give me a plot that moves reasonably well that isn't burdened by too much window dressing or awkward speeches and I'm pretty happy.

This, of course, eliminates an awful lot of literary fiction; I've made peace with that.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:45 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


So if I wanted to read one book by James Patterson, which should that be? I'm happy to read anything that's not just gob-stoppingly stupid. (And even then there are exceptions; I loved reading Left Behind.) Judging by Goodreads it looks like it should be Along Came a Spider or Kiss the Girls, but maybe that's just because they've been around longer.
posted by Nelson at 11:47 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


The last unputdownable book I read was W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn, which has no plot movement whatsoever other than some guy wandering around Suffolk and feeling a vague sense of loss. I guess this is a form of "I don't even own a TV" but I'm commenting anyway. I don't even own a Patterson.
posted by naju at 11:49 AM on May 1 [9 favorites]


TL;DR
posted by TDavis at 11:49 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Worst Case Fang: the noir adventures of a down-on-his-luck, Chinese-American detective antihero.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:50 AM on May 1 [10 favorites]


His books are definitely not my thing, but I kinda liked him after reading this article:

James Patterson, Inc.
posted by lalex at 11:50 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


I'll admit that I like crime novels that are hard to put down, even when they're fairly bad. Jeffery Deaver is as low as I'll go. Is there anyone here who thinks Patterson is entertaining enough to read, without making the reader feel cheapened and icky inside?
posted by kitcat at 11:50 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


the noir adventures of a down-on-his luck, Chinese-American detective antihero.

Oh man, incidentally, I tried reading a book about a detective in New York's Chinatown. It was really not good. I don't remember what it was called, but I figure "don't get any more books about Chinatown detectives" is a pretty easy rule to follow that won't cause me to miss out on too much.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:52 AM on May 1


Worst Case Fang: the noir adventures of a down-on-his luck, Chinese-American detective antihero.

I liked the sequel, though—Wurst Case Fang—in which he becomes a traveling sausage salesman.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]


An estimated one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States is his

We might hope that some of those are due to large purchase orders coming from the department of transportation.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:54 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


I liked the sequel, though—Wurst Case Fang—in which he becomes a traveling sausage salesman.
Yeah that one was actually by Jim Butcher.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:55 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


Wurst Case Fang

Not to be confused with Wurst-Case Fang, the sorry tale of a vampire with sausage casings stuck in his teeth. (And they are garlic sausages, dear reader!)
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:58 AM on May 1 [11 favorites]


Although come to think of it, Wurst Case Fang might be a workable title for a Maximum Ride film—if, as I assume must be the case from the name, Maximum Ride is a gay porn star.
posted by yoink at 12:00 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]




I've read a couple of the Maximum Ride things on airplanes: they seemed pretty innocuous YA fare. He's not Dianne Wynne Jones or anything, but they have a fast-moving breeziness to them. Characters are not quite in danger and the villains are clear and not too dangerous. The couple I read, I'd be very comfortable calling extruded fantasy products. Brainless, harmless, forgettable. Escapist fun for teens.
posted by bonehead at 12:05 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I got stuck in the woods of Northern Alberta one summer with nothing to read but a shopping bag full of James Patterson novels. I must have read at least a dozen of those suckers and hated every single one.

God, what a horrible summer.
posted by hoodrich at 12:06 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


dwarfing the sales of both Harry Potter and the sparkly Twilight vampires.'

Mentioning these in the same sentence makes me want to feed you to the dementors.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:06 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Reading this drives me crazy, as I cannot make up good, or even serviceable stories for the life of me.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:11 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Although come to think of it, Wurst Case Fang might be a workable title for a Maximum Ride film—if, as I assume must be the case from the name, Maximum Ride is a gay porn star.


From my perspective, using fangs on a wurst case in this scenario makes for a decidedly upsetting scene.

As for James Patterson, being a writer without having to do the writing is pretty much my dream job, so I have to respect him a little bit.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:12 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I actually enjoy quickie crime novels, but I've never had any interest in Patterson. At their best Jonathan Kellerman (and his wife Faye) , Lawrence Block, Andrew Vacchs, and others do the same thing much better. ( I would've added James Ellroy to the list, but I think he's kind of transcended the genre).
posted by jonmc at 12:17 PM on May 1


I have to respect his attitude. A lot of pulp authors seem to be pretentious about what they're doing, it's nice that he's pretty open about the idea that yeah, this isn't great art, but it works well and here's why.
posted by unreason at 12:18 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Given the nursery rhyme naming scheme Patterson uses for his Alex Cross novels, I'm still waiting for "Hot Cross Buns."
posted by usonian at 12:18 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I'd like to read How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, Mistress.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:21 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]


I've never read a James Patterson book, but I was interested to see that some of his advice closely mirrors what I tell my students about writing essays: make sure all your details are relevant to your main point; make an outline before you start and let it guide you, but be open to making changes if necessary; know your audience and tailor your writing to their expectations.

Of course, I am the audience for my students' essays, so I expect that they'll write using academic language and proper citations and that it won't sound like a James Patterson novel.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:23 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Wurst Case Fang—in which he becomes a traveling sausage salesman.

And then there's Würste & Käse Fang, in which our intrepid sausage salesman dares to challenge the imported German cheese cartel.
posted by Iridic at 12:26 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I'm still waiting for "Hot Cross Buns."

Now that's a class Maximum Ride title. (Tagline: "He preferred them glazed.")
posted by yoink at 12:31 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone here who thinks Patterson is entertaining enough to read, without making the reader feel cheapened and icky inside?

I suppose I'm somewhere between hi and lo-brow (The last several authors I've been reading lately are Per Petterson, Junot Diaz, David Gilbert, and I've been on an out-of-left-field Kingsley Amis kick for a month or two) and I've enjoyed a couple of James Patterson books foisted on me by my father-in-law. They were reasonably brisk and entertaining (I certainly didn't feel icky) though I realize as I write this I couldn't tell you the titles if my life depended on it - They were easy enough going down but they certainly don't leave much of a mark, good or ill...
posted by jalexei at 12:43 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


The last unputdownable book I read was W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn, which has no plot movement whatsoever other than some guy wandering around Suffolk and feeling a vague sense of loss.

Oh, I've been wanting to read that forever! Thanks for reminding me that I need to take steps to obtain a copy.
posted by Frowner at 12:48 PM on May 1


The channel New York 1 shows this trailer for one of James Patterson's books, starring James Patterson, and it never fails to crack me up. I want to write a book just so I can run around saying "read it, darlings" in an snooty yet awkward voice.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:52 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I'm reminded of a conversation I overheard between two high school girls a few years ago, while we are all standing in line at a now-defunct Borders. "I've been reading the Twilight series, and the writing is terrible," she confided to her friend. "But I just can't stop!"
posted by thomas j wise at 12:53 PM on May 1


"unputdownable": His stories are ugly, and their mother dresses them funny.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:53 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Any urge I might feel to make a snarky remark about the quality of his output is quickly snuffed by my recognition that I am a nearly 40 year-old man who spends a fair portion of most summer months re-reading the Three Investigators series.
posted by joelhunt at 12:58 PM on May 1 [10 favorites]


So on a level of awful, is his stuff as bad as Dan Brown?
posted by Ber at 1:04 PM on May 1


From that NYT article linked by lalex above.
For all of his commercial success, though, Patterson seemed bothered by the fact that he has not been given his due — that unlike King or even Grisham, who have managed to transcend their genres, he continues to be dismissed as an airport author or, worse, a marketing genius who has cynically maneuvered his way to best-sellerdom by writing remedial novels that pander to the public’s basest instincts. “Caricature assassination,” Patterson called it.
C'mon, that's pretty good.
posted by figurant at 1:05 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't Haig actually be lying in the driveway?

Only if his lips are moving.
posted by Slothrup at 1:05 PM on May 1 [6 favorites]


is his stuff as bad as Dan Brown

Is anyone's?
posted by yoink at 1:10 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


James Patterson should be put into the same (adult) category as collective authors like Frank Dixon, Carolyn Keene, and Erin Hunter. One can say in perfect legitimacy "I love the Nancy Drew books and the Warriors books" with clear understanding all around, but saying "my favorite author is Frank Dixon!" is small and sad.

Though I am negatively biased, as I greet the presence of each week's New James Patterson™ Bestseller as I would greet the arrival of my sitcom archnemesis. PATTERSSSSSSSONNN, WE MEET AGAIN.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:11 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


naju: "The last unputdownable book I read was W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn, which has no plot movement whatsoever other than some guy wandering around Suffolk and feeling a vague sense of loss. I guess this is a form of "I don't even own a TV" but I'm commenting anyway. I don't even own a Patterson."

This summer...you'll believe a man can wander around Suffolk feeling a vague sense of loss! Uwe Boll brings the best-selling novel as only he can! With Vin Diesel as the guy, and somewhere cheap in Ontario as Suffolk!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:22 PM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I can no longer hear about James Patterson without thinking of The Book Catapult's 117 Days of James Patterson and other associated bits of commentary about him on that blog.
posted by phatkitten at 1:26 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


With Vin Diesel as the guy

Schwarzenegger, surely? "Hasta la vista, weltschmerz!"
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


is his stuff as bad as Dan Brown

He's not a bad writer in the way Brown is. But his stories are kind of campy. And not in a good Evil Dead way, either. But they're not bad either. He's sort of the Hershey's milk chocolate of mystery/thriller fiction.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:38 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I read the first 14 novels in Patterson's Alex Cross series. The basic problem is that Patterson is a good plotter and a mediocre writer. This is not a toolset that will really carry you through 400 novels, and I stopped reading the Alex Cross series when it became just ridiculously formulaic. An author can create an entire cast of characters who are endearing but well-worn tropes, but the writing has to be good.

PS: No, not nearly as bad as Dan Brown, who is a truly terrible writer.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:38 PM on May 1


I like to imagine Wurst Case Fang as a story about an intrepid crime-fighting wolf. Except with dinner instead of crime.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:43 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


A lot of pulp authors seem to be pretentious about what they're doing, it's nice that he's pretty open about the idea that yeah, this isn't great art, but it works well and here's why.

On the other hand, he does compare himself to Chagall and Picasso.

Just to take that one step further, a lot of people disagree with me on a number of topics, and I like to remind them that a lot of people also disagreed with Gandhi. Or Jesus.
posted by sour cream at 1:47 PM on May 1


uncleozzy: "I read maybe a novel a week, but I find myself becoming pickier every year. I don't really have patience for writers who spend a lot of time on details or purple (or even purplish) prose or who haven't learned to write natural dialog. Give me a plot that moves reasonably well that isn't burdened by too much window dressing or awkward speeches and I'm pretty happy. This, of course, eliminates an awful lot of literary fiction; I've made peace with that."

Totally agree. I love me some purple prose, but these days if I read literary fiction, I want it to be really good literary fiction. I no longer want to wade through 300 pages of elegaic descriptions that aren't really top-shelf work. But if I'm reading schlock, it's usually enough that it be zippy schlock. Just tell me the story, don't pad it out. Crime stories aren't my thing, but it seems like Patterson does his thing pretty well.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:48 PM on May 1


I'm more interested in the title "The Kiss, Alex Cross, Run, Middle School," which seems to be some sort of poorly-punctuated command-based Georgie Porgie fanfic.
posted by ilana at 1:48 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Big deal! I have a team of writers doing my Metafilter comments.
posted by chavenet at 1:55 PM on May 1


The irony is this is pretty solid writing advice overall but of course in the race to snark, that's pretty much been overlooked. It's like the sneering I get when I say Stephen King's book on writing is pretty solid advice, especially if you want to do anything genre.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:08 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, he does compare himself to Chagall and Picasso.

To be fair to him, he's just saying that art doesn't have to be realistic. To be fair to us, a better example would have been Max Headroom.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:09 PM on May 1


Also from that NYT article:
“Are you James Patterson?” she asked excitedly.

“Yes,” Patterson answered.

“I just read your last one. What was it called?”

Patterson hesitated, unsure which book she was talking about.
I've got no problem with Patterson and have read a few of his books, but I gotta say the worst thing about dealing with his books is the sheer quantity, to say nothing of the interchangeability. Nora Roberts tends to have smaller, identifiable groupings for hers, Janet Evanovich has numbers in her titles, and Sue Grafton uses letters, and those are all a hell of a lot simpler when you're trying to find the next volume in a series.
posted by asperity at 2:10 PM on May 1


I had a college professor whose knew another professor who was notorious for cranking out books. He showed up one day to meet with the man, and the secretary said "Oh, he's not available. He's working on a book."

My professor sat down. "That's okay," he said. "I'll just wait until he finishes it."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:14 PM on May 1 [13 favorites]


Any urge I might feel to make a snarky remark about the quality of his output is quickly snuffed by my recognition that I am a nearly 40 year-old man who spends a fair portion of most summer months re-reading the Three Investigators series.

Not sure how quickly that recognition would be snuffed - according to Jupiter Logic, you spent 2,208 hours reading The Three Investigators books.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:15 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Any urge I might feel to make a snarky remark about the quality of his output is quickly snuffed by my recognition that I am a nearly 40 year-old man who spends a fair portion of most summer months re-reading the Three Investigators series.

I will quote myself:

The author of that was Robert Arthur, Jr., who was involved in the wonderful Mysterious Traveler radio show, worked on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and was the ghost editor of all those excellent Alfred Hitchcock anthologies that came out in the 50s and 60s (he also wrote the punning, macabre intros that were credited to Hitchcock; for an entire generation of readers, Robert Artrhur is as responsible for who we think Alfred Hitchcock was as Alfred Hitchcock was.)


There is no shame in loving the Three Investigators.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:18 PM on May 1 [7 favorites]


lalex: His books are definitely not my thing, but I kinda liked him after reading this article: James Patterson, Inc.

Because he has orange Fanta on hand to drink? Or because he's not so much an author as he is a "creative type" who churns out ideas for others to hastily elaborate upon, so he's less of an author to hate, as he is a marketing genius to copy?

He's the Thomas Kinkade of literature, but pandering more to the most basic popular themes. "Harry Potter's big now, so I'll throw together some magical kids books, set in a dystopian society, to engage the teens." Even Steven King thinks the guy is a bad writer!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:18 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I read his Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life series with my kids and the books are fantastic. I especially liked how the books had tons of details that seemed like something you'd find in real life but not in a book (kid's got a huge unpronounceable last name, grandma's a bit of a hoarder) presented without comment or judgement. Maybe that says more about the ghostwriters than it does about him, but I loved, loved the books.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:22 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Derail, but Bunny, I'm avidly waiting for that Three Investigators FPP you teased in a comment a couple of years back.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:37 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]


The irony is this is pretty solid writing advice overall

Well, the real irony would be if he didn't so much write it as do an outline and have it ghostwritten. Even so, I'm not sure he said anything here that Elmore Leonard didn't say better in about 1/10 the wordcount.

Then again, if that was a comon metric for judging genre writers, most of them would be out of business, so what the hey.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:05 PM on May 1


I think the last Patterson book I read was The Lake House (No relation to the Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves magical mailbox through time movie.) Read the synopsis in that Wikipedia link. It's awful. It's about genetic engineered bird/human kids and is sort of where the YA series Maximum Ride comes from. (Main bird girl is named Maximum. Others are Peter and Wendy and Icarus because flying.) So these kids have wings and throughout the books he refers to their arms as "foreshortened" instead of just "short". Doesn't that mean that the arms look short because they're drawn that way, not because they're actually short? Anyway, (and I'd forgotten about this until I read the Wikipedia link) Maximum sleeps with another bird child named Ozymandias and lays two eggs and they hatch into two new bird children. His other books are just normal amounts of bad. The Lake House is at least Twilight bad, though.
posted by artychoke at 3:16 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


it can still be done with style and intelligence, which isn't going to win you a whole lot of airport readers

It's way back in the thread by now, but I cannot help pointing out that writers like Robert B. Parker and John D. MacDonald have sold a truly mindblowing volume of fiction to airport readers. Style and intelligence are by no means necessary to the content of high-volume mass-market fiction, but there's no reason to believe they're incompatible with it.
posted by brennen at 3:40 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


You know how writers are always saying that random cabbies and everybody's Aunt Edna and whomever constantly tell them 'Hey, I gotta million stories, you could write 'em down for me and we could split the profits!'?

Patterson seems to have made that dream - of being a writer without having to do the writing - into an actual career. But I don't think he's splitting the profits.

But good for him, I guess! If somebody's got to be the McDonalds of producing book-shaped objects on a regular schedule, then it might as well be him!
posted by hap_hazard at 4:09 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I am now imagining James Patterson being forced to read the first half of Austerlitz
posted by kewb at 5:29 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I know Elmore Leonard. You sir, you're no Elmore Leonard.
posted by valkane at 6:43 PM on May 1


Is there anyone here who thinks Patterson is entertaining enough to read, without making the reader feel cheapened and icky inside?

Shouldn't see why. After all, a lot of people in this crowd think porn is A-OK.

Curious the different ways that snobbery kicks in.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:48 PM on May 1


I admit I have no idea how porn and Patterson could be analogous. If you're not into him, you're in denial / a prude / possibly not into books at all?
posted by naju at 6:59 PM on May 1


The parts that both porn and Patterson skip are often the most beautiful and fulfilling parts when done well?
posted by kewb at 7:19 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Is there anyone here who thinks Patterson is entertaining enough to read, without making the reader feel cheapened and icky inside?

Sure. Like I said upthread, I read the first 14 books in the Alex Cross series, and the first 5 or 6 written before Patterson became a content mill are entertaining popcorn reads. (And I say this as someone who loves entertaining popcorn reads.) Everything after that just makes me wish for a refund on my time and money, though.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:31 PM on May 1


The parts that both porn and Patterson skip are often the most beautiful and fulfilling parts when done well?

Exactly. I love all the "skip-able" parts, they're what makes the story rich and meaningful. There are wildly successful genre writers who concentrate on those parts, though, too -- Ruth Randell/Barbara Vine is one.

I've tried reading a couple Alex Cross books, but like a lot of the "airport thrillers" I've tried, they have either felt too sterile* or too macho or both to me. I don't usually finish books like that, because they feel pointless somehow. To each his own, though -- it's not that I'm reading things that are more "high brow," I just prefer stories a bit messier and more interior, I guess.

*This isn't really the right word, but "dry" or "bloodless" aren't really better. Does anyone know what I mean? They don't feel like they have a lot of soul? But some of that might also have been luck of the draw in terms of the ghostwriting.
posted by rue72 at 7:35 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


rue72: " they have either felt too sterile* ... *This isn't really the right word, but "dry" or "bloodless" aren't really better. Does anyone know what I mean? They don't feel like they have a lot of soul?"

Perfunctory? Mechanical? I know what you mean. People can do formulaic well and infuse it with a lot of character, or they can do it where it's just like "Tab A, Slot B, Plot Point C" and there's nothing exactly WRONG with it, it's just dull and dry.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone here who thinks Patterson is entertaining enough to read, without making the reader feel cheapened and icky inside?

Shouldn't see why. After all, a lot of people in this crowd think porn is A-OK.

Curious the different ways that snobbery kicks in.


What we need is a schlock-positive movement.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:57 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I so want to Markov this guy's work.
posted by JHarris at 8:01 PM on May 1


I've never read any James Patterson, wouldn't know where to begin, nor, frankly have any desire to. Must remember to add it to the list of worldwide-mega-hit-blockbuster books/music/movies/TV shows that I have never read/bought/watched..
posted by brianstorms at 8:37 PM on May 1


Derail, but Bunny, I'm avidly waiting for that Three Investigators FPP you teased in a comment a couple of years back.

Oh my god, yes.
posted by Huck500 at 9:59 PM on May 1


God, what a horrible summer.

Now that sounds like a story. How did you end up stranded someplace for an entire summer with nothing to read but a shopping bag full of Patterson novels?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:32 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


"I've been reading the Twilight series, and the writing is terrible," she confided to her friend. "But I just can't stop!"

That's me with David Weber's Honor Harrington series.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:05 AM on May 2


James Patterson is also one of the onscreen poker buddies of titular TV mystery novelist Richard Castle, AKA Captain Nathan Malcolm Hammer Reynolds Fillion. Sometimes I yell at the screen, "Castle! Why do you hang out with that hack!"

The silly thing is that the Nikki Heat books, completely ghostwritten, are actually quite entertaining in-series fanfiction a la "thinly veiled versions of real people and events with the serial numbers filed off, plus LOTS of sex."

Sometime in-series I want Castle to meet an evil billionaire novelist who ghostwrites all his books and then kills his ghostwriters, so he and Castle can fight to the death.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:46 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


I've only ever read one book by Patterson. I got curious, because we always get multiple copies of his books in the library where I work, so I nabbed one from the shelf when it came it. It was called Zoo. And it was utterly utterly terrible.

Although I have heard that his earlier ones were quite a bit better, but whatever you do, avoid Zoo. Avoid it!
posted by Fence at 10:25 AM on May 2


I think it's remarkable that a day after my sincere question for a Patterson book recommendation, no one has really offered one up.
posted by Nelson at 12:48 PM on May 2


I don't find that remarkable, given the forum.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:51 PM on May 2


I think it's remarkable that a day after my sincere question for a Patterson book recommendation, no one has really offered one up.

That's not true. I mentioned a couple of times that the first books in the Alex Cross series are perfectly fine reads. The first book in the series is Along Came a Spider.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:57 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]


I found Along Came a Spider to be passable if derivative thriller fare. I ended up reading The Angel Experiment while down with the flu at a rented beach house, and it was passible if derivative YA fantasy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:06 PM on May 2


I am a children's librarian, and I confess, I haven't read his middle school books. They don't need me to recommend them, they do just fine with the kids who liked Wimpy Kid and want another funny book. Meanwhile, I'm on top of a table, draped in Christmas lights, doing a tap dance and brandishing Rooftoppers and Doll Bones.
posted by Biblio at 5:16 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


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