Fear in Writing: 2 days, 1 Patterson

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2 days, 1 Patterson

Author James Patterson
I finished a James Patterson book last night.  His latest Alex Cross novel, Cross Fire, pits the detective against his longtime foe and former friend, serial killer Kyle Craig.

Several things amaze me about this series.  One, they are such quick reads!  The chapters are between 1 and 2.5 pages long.  The sentences are direct and brief.  The characters have been around for so long now that not much description is needed.  Furthermore, dialogue is carefully placed to get the most bang for the buck.

Two, Patterson gets himself into the head of a seasoned black detective living in one of the rougher areas of Washington, D.C.  I am not an expert on this demographic myself, but the author somehow puts himself there and writes the character in a believable and non-offensive way.  He doesn't take Cross too ghetto and he doesn't make him unbelievably mainstream for the narrative.  He really does a good job of this, and gives the MC a fantastic family to boot.

Three, a ridiculous amount of money has come from a book so simple and formulaic as to make one sick.  I mean, really?  16 books going back 18 years.  According to Forbes, Patterson made $70 million in one year spanning 2009 and 2010.  $70 MILLION!

Author Umberto Eco
And I read his book in 2 nights.  That's roughly 4.5 hours of reading.

What do you think of that?

BTW--I'm going the complete opposite way in taste now with The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.  I expect to measure the reading time in weeks, not hours. ;)


  1. I've never read Patterson, but my mother in law devours his books.

  2. Michele - You make a really interesting point about getting into the head of someone who's quite different. I have admiration for authors whose protagonists are from different age/gender/ethnic/whatever groups. I think that takes extra effort, and I respect that effort.

  3. My short range goal is to make 80k in a year, isn't yours?

    Good post, very informative.

  4. I don't read Patterson but my daughters devour his work.
    I don' know how much credit I would give him. I'm sure he can check demographics with his stable of authors/writers.

  5. Yep, it is nuts! I also think it is crazy that a publishing company gave Yann Martell 3 million (yes million)in advance for Beatrice & Virgil - here's what the Guardian has to say -

    But under the clean, confident surface of this short novel there is something murky and, in my view, dimly appalling. (...) Beatrice and Virgil seems, despite its evidently large ambitions, strangely trivial and narcissistic: a book that ends up thinking about neither Jews nor animals, but using the extermination of both to think about, of all things, writer's block." - James Lasdun, The Guardian

    "As you read through its 13-page paraphrase (intercut with lengthy quotation) of a story by Flaubert, its disquisitions on authorship or book design, and its interminable-seeming inventories of stuffed animals and embalming techniques, you can’t help feeling that the taxidermist isn’t the only person here padding out flaccid material." - Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

    When bad or mediocre books get that kind of money what chance does a new author have? The publishing companies will stake a lot of dough on either a big airport seller like Patterson or a one hit wonder like Martell.


  6. I haven't read Patterson in a long time. Lately I've been catching up on Harlan Coben and trying to read a few newer authors. So many book...