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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

The James Patterson Factory

James Patterson doesn’t like being referred to as a “factory line”, but he has been known to joke that he wrote 10 books while spending a few weeks at home recovering from minor surgery.

In an interesting article in The Independent, Arifa Akbar, reports that the American thriller writer, who produces eight books a year and has sold 130 million copies worldwide, is now regarded as the single most read author in the UK.

While Patterson maps out the fast-paced storylines and intricate plot twists, his novels are some times completed by others. The Bookseller magazine and website, has referred to Patterson as “a brand manager, presiding over a production line of commercial blockbusters written with other authors”, while Time magazine called him “the world’s greatest bestseller factory”, adding: “He’s either a damn good writer or the Beast of the coming literary Apocalypse.”

What do we think?

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26 Responses to “The James Patterson Factory”

  1. Like any other product offered for mass consumption and in proliferation, e.g. a tin of Heinz beans, one can tire of the taste. I stopped reading this gentleman’s novels when he reached the stage of about two books a year. There are various types of crime and thriller novels and I think his appeals to those with a time-limited lifestyle and possibly, a short attention span. Personally, I prefer something with more meat on the bones and something that makes me think. It’s just taste.

    jb says: Hi CFR, I suppose this one brings up the whole question of what fiction is for and what it does in the world. Perhaps Patterson’s books also fulfil that primary function of reminding us that we are not alone? And I suspect that they also lure us into a kind of sleep. But I’m not sure I agree that thinking is a matter of taste, if that is what you meant to say. In my experience people choose whether to think or not. I have met several people who refuse to engage with anything that might wake them up.

  2. emchi says:

    Having met James Patterson at a book signing, I went from liking his books to disliking them, I found him somewhat arrogant in person and realised this came across in his writing, now I boycott the new books he brings out… Just my own two cents into the mix.

    jb says: Hi emchi. I think it was Daphne du Maurier who said: writers should be read but neither seen nor heard.

  3. Yang-May says:

    This is the logical extension of author branding and it’s rather depressing. But then perhaps we need to look at books like we view movies – the Hollywood blockbuster that takes thousands of people inputting special effects etc versus the art movie made by a small group of people with a hand held digital camera. Patterson and others who dominate the bestseller lists are obviously in the former “entertainment” category – and have the funds to employ the teams. I wonder when he’ll be actually making the movies of the book without the book ever being written….?

    jb says: Hi Yang-May. Yes, of course it is the extension of author branding. I’d missed that, thinking he was a one-off. I appreciate your remarks. Thanks for calling in.

  4. Melissa Burton says:

    The most severe disappointment is the adaption on the “small screen” — we readers have our own perception as we get swept away in the story line and the television version of the Women’s Murder Club was nothing like my own.

    And so, he keeps writing, we keep reading, and we avoid the “tube.” Life goes on….

    I hope your readers will post their honest reviews of his work on my Squidoo lens at http://best.mysterywriter.ever.com.

    jb says: OK Melissa, I’ve left your link in. Though how anyone can think he’s the best (or even worth the paper he’s printed on) is beyond my comprehension.

  5. emchi says:

    Hi JB… in regards to Daphne Du Maurier’s comment, perhaps that might be true of some authors, but I’ve also met Iain Banks, and found him one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I don’t read his books, as they don’t appeal to me, but was getting a book signed for my other half. Almost made me want to read his books because he was so nice.

    I’m hoping John Connolly’s nice as I’m going to the Times Literary Festival in Oxford to hear him speak about his books. He’s one of my favourite authors, so fingers crossed I don’t end up hating his books.

    jb says: He’s a bit dishy is what I heard.

  6. Dear John: Regarding James Patterson, I think there can be a problem for any writer who is stuck in a genre. I enjoyed the early works of Robert Ludlum, for example. Then as I read more, I found a pattern to them. Once I saw the pattern, I found his books boring and stopped reading him. The same with Stephen King. Mystery writers using the same detective hero also become less interesting. I think this is particularly true if they are successful writers. They don’t have to work hard at their craft anymore and, so, don’t. They lose their edge. I have read one Patterson novel. I don’t remember the title. It was indeed a page-turner. But the characters were flat and the novel didn’t motivate me to buy another. I prefer writers who don’t write genre, who are eclectic. But the nature of the business is to force writers into genre writing because that seems to be what sells books. Peter

    jb says: Hi Peter. Thanks for your comment. I don’t entirely agree, however, that genre writing is what sells books. I think that is the perception of most publishers, but not necessarily true. The main agent in the proliferation and distribution of books is word of mouth. One reader telling another how much they have enjoyed something.

  7. melissa says:

    Hi. Just finished Honeymoon by Patterson/Roughan and I cannot figure out the key scene in the nursing home with O’Hara, the nurse and the mother. The piece of paper with the watermark is the key. I usually can figure out clues like this … but …
    All I can think of it was FBI stationary?
    Hope you can help!

    Thanks

  8. Paul Gill says:

    I was once James Patterson’s greatest fan, but his ability to write good books ended in around 1997. In fact the last good book he wrote was IMO Jack and Jill. Since then its been a conveyer belt of novels with the same predictable formula of leading the reader down a garden path before throwing in a ‘twist’ a few pages before the end. I’ve now given up reading Patterson novels, with the exception of Alex Cross books. i keep waiting for a comeback, but when he continues to churn out 5-8 books a year (many co-authored) its never going to happen. he has sacrificied quality in favour of quantity and its shown in his dreary, sloppy writing

    jb says: So, who is good these days, Paul?

  9. Daniel says:

    hey-

    i started his alex cross series a couple of years ago reading “along came a spider” which i really liked. but the more books he wrote of the alex cross series, the worse they became. when i read “cross” i thought that he didnt write it himself (though this is just my personal feeling), it was really flat and it felt weird reading it.

    today i was looking if there were any more alex cross novels and i found out that “cross country” is already out and that theres another one coming out next year called “cross fire”. its hard to keep up with him publishing so many books.

    joanne k. rowling stopped after seven books, which is a good thing. her series is completed and she knows that. she could make so much money with an eighth book but she doesnt (hopefully that stays ture =)

  10. Jo says:

    I have only just started reading James Patterson Books,and at the moment find him a good read,and can’t put his books down. I have a question for you though, The book I’ve just finished is ‘Cat & Mouse’ and it’s obvious that he’s writen a follow up, Could anyone please tell me the Title.
    Jo.

  11. Daniel says:

    hi Jo!

    the next one is called “Pop goes the weasel”.
    its a nice read. though as i said before, the more books he writes the flatter they become, sloppy would be the right word. =)
    enjoy the book!

    dan =)

  12. Donna (London) says:

    On the subject of meeting authors, I met Lord Jeffrey Archer and was expecting someone really arogant but he was the NICEST man. I was getting his new book signed for my mum (an avid fan) and he chatted for ages, i told him mum had all his books and would have liked them all signed (jokingly) – he said “hey go home and get your mum and bring all the books down and I will wait for you” and he DID. He gave mum his home address and said that she should send all new books to his house to sign – he even sent mum and dad a 30th wedding anniversary card.

    What a nice man !

    jb says: And they wouldn’t even let him in the tory party. Just goes to show . . .

  13. Donna (London) says:

    I am loving James Patterson – I have only been reading him maybe for 2 years but I am trying to get through as many as i can although I never seem able to keep up. I like the novels without Alex Cross (although I am a fan of his) like Lifeguard and Honeymoon.

    jb says: Hello, again, Donna. I’m getting good at recognising the first stages of despair. I’m sure I can feel it coming on.

  14. [...] in modern popular fiction now? Is there a place for it in pop fiction, as there once was? Or have James Patterson and his imitators won? Should all chapters be three pages long, mostly a mix of stuttering sentences and dialogue, [...]

  15. soubriquet says:

    Oooh definitely the Beast of the Acropolis!
    (That’s a start on my new novel then…. a title.)

    On the best seller stands today it is all too common to see “franchised” books, riding on the name of a well known writer but in fact written by piece-workers. I can just see it now… Tom Clancy’s literary sweat-shop, big whiteboards with book-formulae scrawled across them to remind the writers of their goal. The opening chapter section, where a boat explodes off Knossos, or a plane impacts above Kathmandu, or a train derails outside Lahore, the oval-office chapter in which tough guys from the alphabet spaghetti school of US secret departments argue over jurisdiction, the assorted heroes section, where a tough ex-special forces guy is blackmailed back out of retirement at the president’s personal behest, thus missing his daughter’s seventh birthday party….
    And the deals department. Where James Patterson, and Stephen King’s guys come in to trade completed chapters- “Anybody got one where the good guys escape the erupting volcano in a helicopter flown by a one-eyed alcoholic nun?”.
    I see my future.
    I shall become a wholesaler of paragraphs.

  16. I don’t think it’s so unusual. Throughout history, great thinkers and writers have had others do the tedious work of putting words on a page. Solomon did it. Socrates also did it. Why not Patterson. He is hardly a philosopher, but he is read quite a bit.

  17. Daniel Gorks says:

    yeah, some do that, and the results may be good, but his books are getting worse. usually i stick to a series, but i stopped reading his because theyre not genuine anymore and you can tell =D

  18. Frank B says:

    The Patterson franchise is running out of steam. Like mentioned above, i now only read Alex cross novels but they have been lukewarm for some time and cross country was dire. the only solution is really to stop buying his books. we can moan all we like about declining quality etc but he’ll keep churning them out as long as people keep buying. My advice, don’t buy his books, maybe then he and his publishers will sit up and take note. The party is over for me, I wont buy or read anymore patterson books

  19. kim jackson says:

    Hi all. I started to read James Patterson books a few months ago and i am loving every one of them! I just cant put his books down, they are just brilliant. I have just finished reading Cat and Mouse and now about to start Pop Goes The Weasel. Kiss The Girls…well put it this way, i locked all doors and windows when reading that one! LOL! I love Alex Cross too! I think you can say i am hooked!!

  20. Sam says:

    I found out about James Patterson after watching “Along Came a Spider”, with Morgan Freeman. I really enjoyed it, and it resulted in me reading the book, and then continuing with the series.

    I’m glad that James has achieved such fantastic success, as his books are really enjoyable.

  21. Hope O'Barts says:

    James Patterson is one of my favorit writers. If he was on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best he would get a 20 in my book. Its because of him i want to be a writer my self.The maximum Ride novels are what relly grabed me i started reading it when i was 11 and is just now finding the books i need. One queston why did you have to make fang die.Hope you have more books out soon.

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  23. glen james says:

    Patterson’s writing is lazy, sloppy and child like these days. Predictable formulas, and one book every 6-8 weeks. I gave up after cross country, it was so bad. My wife bought me don’t blink – it should have been called don’t bother. I’m thinking of suing the author – howard roughan – for the time I’ll never get back

  24. Cheryl Lynne Oropal says:

    Not that I’m a fan of James Patterson , though I’ve watched Breakfast at Tiffanys Twice on LMN TV . As a starving writer and non-traditional college student at New Mexico State, I’ve been working on converting a series of journals about the two plus years I spent homeless into a hopeful novel ; Homeless and Hopeless in the Land of [ so-called] Opportunity. Talking with my friend who works at WalMart and is working on his 3rd novel; I asked him ” I wonder how writers like James Patterson can write and publish 10 or more books per year; while you were asked by the self-publisher to buy back the rights to your non-seller, The Woolridge Tale. We both wondered if Patterson had ghost writers working for him? reading his NPR interview, I have a feeling he is full of shite when he claimed ” I sometimes allow a small number of writers to design manuscripts; then I rewrite the first drafts up to nine times till I’m happy with them.” I wouldn’t be suprised if he has Mexican writers skilled in English working in some writer’s sweatshop churning out dozens of his books? this is what’s wrong with America!

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  26. Pete Thompson says:

    Like many others on here have mentioned, the first 4 or 5 Cross novels were okay. Since then it’s been a sad drift into the law of diminishing returns. Ideally,people should vote with their wallets as it seems to me that Patterson now treats his fan-base with an element of contempt.
    There’s so much good crime fiction out there that there really is no justification for wasting time on Patterson anymore: George Pelecanos, Don Winslow, John Sandford, Dennis Lehane, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block and R.J Ellory to name but a few.
    By the way John, I loved your Sam Turner series. Why did you stop them?

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