First Encounter of the Worst Kind: On Reading James Patterson at 32,000 Feet

November 19, 2014 | 1 book mentioned 41 7 min read


Any writer who makes $90 million a year must be doing something right, right? With that unassailable premise in mind, I decided it was time to get down off my high literary horse and lose my James Patterson virginity. Besides, I was getting ready to board an eight-hour flight from Düsseldorf to New York, and since I have never been able to sleep on airplanes and was fresh out of controlled substances, I thought a nice fat James Patterson novel might be the perfect airborne opiate.

Before boarding, I hit the bargain bin and paid €5 (about $6.50) for a copy of Pop Goes the Weasel, my very first James Patterson purchase, a #1 international bestseller from 1999 and, according to the blurb on the front cover of my edition, “PROBABLY THE FINEST OUTING YET FOR ALEX CROSS.”

Once I was buckled into my criminally snug berth in steerage class on Air Berlin flight 7450, before my legs even thought about going numb, I cracked open my new purchase and read the dedication. “This is for Suzie and Jack,” it said, “and the millions of Alex Cross readers who so frequently ask — can’t you write faster?” That sounded like a lot of pressure for a writer — millions of customers breathing down your neck, urging you to hurry up and finish another book. What does such pressure do to quality control?

It kills it, as I learned from the novel’s opening sentence, which goes like this: “Geoffrey Shafer, dashingly outfitted in a single-breasted blue blazer, white shirt, striped tie and narrow gray trousers from H. Huntsman & Son, walked out of his town house at seven thirty in the morning and climbed into a black Jaguar XJ12.”

The third word in the book is an adverb, which Elmore Leonard advised writers to avoid, and the sentence contains two brand names, one of which means nothing to me. I know that a Jaguar is an expensive British car, and I assumed that any guy named Geoffrey (as opposed to Jeffrey) must be a Brit, so I guessed that H. Huntsman & Son is a pricey English clothing store. Should I Google it? Alas, there was no Internet in steerage class — and besides, I had 491 pages to go. I pressed on, feeling uneasy that James Patterson had used the lazy shorthand of brand names twice in the book’s very first sentence.

By the end of the first chapter, which was less than three pages long, I’d learned that Geoffrey Shafer is some kind of lunatic who likes to lead cops on high-speed chases through the crowded streets of Washington, D.C., and he can get away with it because he works at the British embassy and has diplomatic immunity. By the end of the second chapter, which was even shorter, Geoffrey Shafer has picked up a prostitute and told her (and the reader) what he’s up to: “This is a fantasy game,” he explained. “It’s all just a game, darling. I play with three other men — in England, Jamaica and Thailand. Their names are Famine, War, and Conqueror. My name is Death. You’re a very lucky girl — I’m the best player of all.” Then he carves the prostitute up like a Halloween pumpkin and buries the knife in her vagina. You’ve got to hand it to James Patterson: he doesn’t waste time with niceties.

As soon as the plane reached cruising altitude I asked for a beer. Air Berlin still offers free alcohol and free recycled stale air on its packed trans-Atlantic flights. The free beer(s) would prove to be a life-saver.

Next we meet Alex Cross, the hero of this series, an African-American D.C. homicide detective with a heart of gold and a degree in psychology who drives an old Porsche and plays a mean blues piano and lives with his wise old grandma and his two adorable kids after his social worker wife was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Cross is called in to solve the prostitute’s murder, which he believes is the work of a serial killer. Which, of course, it is. A serial killer named — drum roll! — Geoffrey Shafer, aka Death.

After that opening sentence, I can’t say I was surprised that the writing proved to be worse than bad. What was surprising was that James Patterson, the hardest working man in the book business, is so sloppy. Come to think of it, all that hard work — the man cranks out about nine books a year — might explain the sloppiness. But Patterson didn’t even seem to be trying. He repeatedly uses brand names. He repeatedly uses expressions like “once upon a time” (twice on one page), and “as if in a dream” (at least half a dozen times). He repeatedly describes characters by their hair and eye color, with a preference for blonde over blue, as in: “Patsy Hampton was an attractive woman with sandy-blonde hair cut short, and the most piercing blue eyes this side of Stockholm.” Or: “She was in very trim, athletic shape, probably early thirties, short blonde hair, piercing blue eyes that cut through the diner haze.” Sometimes the grammar is atrocious, as in: “I continued down and found she and Damon in the breakfast nook with Nana.” There’s a lot of adrenaline, as in: “Adrenaline was rushing like powerful rivers through my bloodstream.” Here’s what passes for Alex Cross’s motivation: “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess. I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t stop the horror. I had to try to do something about the Jane Does. I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing.” Here’s Alex Cross’s first clunky marriage proposal to his new love interest, Christine:

“I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life, Christine. You help me see and feel things in new ways. I love your smile, your way with people — especially kids — your kindness. I love to hold you like this. I love you more than I can say if I stood here and talked for the rest of the night. I love you so much. Will you marry me, Christine?”

And here, 50 pages later, is his second clunky marriage proposal:

I knelt on one knee and looked up at her.

“I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you at the Sojourner Truth School,” I whispered, so that only she could hear me. “Except that when I saw you the first time, I had no way of knowing how incredibly special you are on the inside. How wise, how good. I didn’t know that I could feel the way I do — whole and complete — whenever I’m with you. I would do anything for you. Or just to be with you for one more moment.”

I stopped for the briefest pause and took a breath. She held my eyes, didn’t pull away.

“I love you so much and I always will. Will you marry me, Christine?”

Nobody talks like that. But what was even more surprising than the bad writing was the sluggish pacing. James Patterson’s trademark short chapters and unfussy prose are obviously designed to keep the story flowing, and they’re obviously written for readers with the attention span of a fruit fly. But I often found myself getting bogged down, especially during a draggy, badly choreographed 75-page courtroom sequence. It didn’t help that the narration kept shifting from the third person in Shafer’s chapters to the first person in Cross’s.

The friendly German flight attendants, bless their souls, kept the cold Bitburger beers coming.

Somewhere out near Greenland, I asked myself a question: Just how do you classify a book like this? It’s not a mystery because the only thing that’s withheld is whether or not Alex Cross will kill Geoffrey Shafer. It’s not a thriller because nothing even vaguely thrilling happens, with the possible exception of the final, predictable confrontation between hero and villain. It’s not a whodunit because we know everything Geoffrey Shafer does, how he does it, and why. It’s not even a page-turner because the prose and plotting are flabby, as though James Patterson knows he’s got to deliver a fat doorstop if he’s going to give his fans the feeling they got their money’s worth.

So what is this book? The best answer I can come up with is that it’s product. Merchandise. Something designed to satisfy the craving of those millions of Alex Cross readers mentioned in the dedication. And while it might be unfair of me to judge James Patterson after reading just one of his 50-plus New York Times bestsellers, I’m guessing, based on the horrendous quality of the writing in Pop Goes the Weasel, that millions of Alex Cross fans will buy the next Alex Cross novel regardless of what’s between the covers. The audience is built-in, automatic. The writing doesn’t have to be any good; it just has to live up to the expectations created by the previous books in the series. I can’t imagine a better definition of brand loyalty.

Go ahead and call me a snob, but I’m not the first person to notice that James Patterson is no James Joyce. Stephen King has called Patterson “a terrible writer.” (Could a little envy be at play here? Patterson outsells Stephen King, Dan Brown and John Grisham combined.) Patterson could not care less about his critics. He freely admits to being an entertainer, not an artist. As he told The New York Times in 2010, “I’m less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories.” And brother, it shows.

As the plane descended toward JFK airport, I came to the conclusion that books like Pop Goes the Weasel are for people who don’t really like to read but love to be able to say they have read, much as fruity cocktails are for people who don’t really like to drink but love to get knee-walking drunk.

That’s less a knock on James Patterson than on the people who shell out $90 million a year for the stuff he and his stable of co-authors grind out. I’m guessing that if James Patterson drank some magic potion and suddenly started writing like, say, Cormac McCarthy, he would lose every last one of his millions of fans. This points to a larger, unspoken problem in American book publishing: There’s no shortage of good writers today, but there is an appalling shortage of good readers.

Any writer who makes $90 million a year must be doing something right, and James Patterson is obviously doing something right. It could even be argued that the man is a genius — not at writing, but at marketing. He worked for an advertising agency before turning his hand to fiction, and his genius is that he knows his audience — and isn’t ashamed to cater to its expectations. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I won’t be reading another James Patterson book anytime soon. There are so many fine books out there, and so little time. I honestly don’t think I could have made it all the way through Pop Goes the Weasel without the help of those half dozen Bitburger beers and the fact that I was strapped inside a sardine can for eight hours.

Danke schön, Air Berlin!

is a staff writer for The Millions. He is the author of the novels Motor City Burning, All Souls’ Day, and Motor City, and the nonfiction book American Berserk and The Age of Astonishment: John Morris in the Miracle Century, From the Civil War to the Cold War. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Granta, The New York Times, The (London) Independent, L.A. Weekly, Popular Mechanics, and The Daily Beast. He lives in New York City.


  1. Thanks for this Bill. Was this your first attempt at this kind of ‘literature’? I find bad books good fun to read. I giggled all the way through a monstruosity called ‘Dies the Fire’ by some called Sterling(?) something. Apocalypse! Revolution! Love!
    On a more serious note: I think you are spot on, when you say that the problem is more a lack of readers than good writers. (I know I may sound defeatist, but…) At least they are reading something! And maybe their kids, who grow up surrounded by James Pattersons and 50 shades and the likes will start to read earlier and, mayhaps, at some point start with other things.

  2. Sara: No, this was not my first foray into this type of “literature.” I managed to get all the way through “The DaVinci Code” and only vomited three times! I wish I could agree with you that truly bad books can be good fun. I find them just plain painful. I’m sure part of the problem is my limited imagination. Thanks for reading.

  3. Yes, how dare those plebians try to pass time by “reading” “books” of insufficient literary merit. Don’t they know their proper place, drooling over episodes of Two and a Half Men on their tablets? It’s all been downhill ever since publishers started pricing books so that non-patricians could afford them.

  4. @Anthony

    Come on, you can’t seriously be playing the snobby elitist card in defense of James Patterson. That’s calling someone a foodie snob because they refuse to eat a plate of dog shit and wonder why millions of people enjoy eating dog shit.

  5. What amazes me is how Patterson has become the Thomas Kinkade of novel writing, and people still buy his stuff with both hands. When a book is “by James Patterson and Some Other Guy,” who — if anyone — actually wrote it?

  6. The Jaguar XJ12 WAS an expensive British car, which ceased being made twenty years ago. A character driving one today might tell you something about that character, if you were prepared to listen. And your characterization of Patterson’s readers amuses me since I’ve read both you and him.

  7. Ah, but the cruel irony is that a Patterson (or a Sidney Sheldon, or a Kincaid) are creating at the highest level of Patterson, Sheldon, and Kincaid-ness, which is no easily replicable thing. A writer of “literary” fiction (which I’m still trying to parse out by the way) who attempts write in their style will be sniffed out and rejected by their audiences. Best to be oneself, and line up a day job, preferably one from which you can pilfer office supplies. :)

    “If there is any secret to my success, I think it’s that my characters are very real to me. I feel everything they feel, and therefore I think my readers care about them.”
    Sidney Sheldon

    Moe Murph
    (83 Year Old Mother Still Urging Me To “Write One of Those Great Grisham Novels So You Can Actually Make Some Money”)

  8. To John T. Shea: You note that the Jaguar XJ12 was an expensive British car that was discontinued 20 years ago. Actually its production was discontinued 22 years ago, in 1992. You add, “A character driving one today might tell you something about that character, if you were prepared to listen.” You’re right. Unfortunately, “Pop Goes the Weasel” was published in 1999, seven years after the XJ12 was discontinued. So what is this fact supposed to tell me about the character of Geoffrey Shafer – that he has a thing for recently discontinued British luxury cars? I stand by my original point, which is this: good writers use brand names in their fiction judiciously; lazy (or overworked) writers like Patterson use it indiscriminately, as a crutch.

  9. Hmmm. Would like to add a bit more to comment above, on closer reading of Bill Morris’ article. Have been musing a lot lately about the idea of rigor, and innate drive, built into the fabric of the human being. What pushes a Rudolph Nureyev to work through pain for the tiniest improvement to his dance as a 47-year-old whose muscles are aching and becoming weaker each month? An improvement that would likely be unnoticeable to anyone but him?

    I work with ESL students at a fairly advanced level who are driven to become the best writers (Special Purpose English) they can be. I’ve been studying Abraham Lincoln’s development as a writer, reading virtually everything he wrote, and as many books (and other resources, see below*) as I can. I was struck by his incredible drive to learn, to improve, and at how long and hard he worked on his writing. Can rigor be taught? Or is it innate in the writer?

    From my own perspective, if writing is your thing, how sad, how hard it would be to live with yourself when you knew very well you had had the capacity to do better but put out a shoddy product. That you deliberately skimped on characterization, plotting. Added in generic background locations. Not even $90 million dollars could relieve me of that type of sadness.

    *P.S. Most highly recommend “The Better Angels” movie I saw last week about Lincoln’s childhood in Indiana. Amazing imagery and emotional power. Very limited release, but available on cable, etc.

  10. @Patrick, Naturally

    No one enjoys eating a plate of dog shit. (If you’ve got reputable reports of a culture that I’m not aware of, please correct me.) And if you don’t like the Thai noodles, fine. Heck, if you think anyone who does like the noodles is an appaling, sub-human miscreant who cannot possibly understand taste, hygene, or the proper use of a garden spade, fine. But admit to your snobbery. Own it. Be proud of it. Trying to create analogies to justify yourself cheapens everyone.

    As for me, I’ve never read any Patterson. I have no idea if I would like his work or not. Whether it’s good or not is completely irrelevant. I also haven’t read anything from Bill Morris. But if this tirade is what you read in heaven, I think I’ll choose hell, thankyouverymuch.

  11. Mr. Morris, Jaguar XJ12 production actually ceased in 1997, with the X300 series. I was thinking of the previous XJ40 series, which ended in 1994. You may be thinking of the Series 3, which indeed ended in 1992. And I too stand by my original points. Driving an XJ12 of ANY age at ANY time might tell you, the reader, something about a character.

  12. JOHN T SHEA,

    When the XJ12 was discontinued is irrelevant. The point is that using brand names as shorthand for characterization is a mark of lazy writing. In this case, it’s part of a laundry list of Posh Britishisms accumulated in the interest of creating a stock rich asshole character (creating stock characters is bad writing, in case that point needs making). And no, it doesn’t really tell you anything about the character anyway. I have known two people who drove XJ12s: one was a wealthy LA film exec, a very nice woman, actually; one was a poor car enthusiast who had fixed up an old one in his free time.

    I will, however, happily concede the point that there are far worse crimes in Mr. Patterson’s writing than the lazy use of brand names–his unbelievably execrable dialogue, for example.

  13. JOHN T SHEA,

    The problem with your stance is that a character driving a XJ12 will only tell you something about a character if you have any idea what the XJ12 is. It’s an obscure reference, only to be understood by a small circle of afficionados, while the rest are left to see it as an incomprehensible code word.

    If I wrote a story about a character who uses “two GTX 970 graphics cards with 4gb of VRAM mounted in SLI mode”, should I be proud that I just gave precious insight into the character, but only to the minority of people out there who understand all that jargon? Shouldn’t I instead try to make ALL readers get the same insight by merely mentioning that the character uses “an exceedingly powerful computer system that only a passionate and knowledgeable user could own”?

  14. So anyway, Rigor. Can rigor be taught? Is it innate in the writer? Any bursts of insight? ….. Anybody?

    Oh…. OK.

    Moe Murph
    (Powers Down Dell Dimension 4600, Pulls On Uggs, Putts Away in 1998 Toyota Tercel)

  15. Must’ve been a “slow news day” for The Millions. Not really sure what the point of this piece was. I agree that James Patterson is a hack writer despite his megastardom, but I thought all of us who read for the purpose of inventive language and deep psychology already knew that. Did we really need you to trash this book? I think the piece’s intention was humor, but it came across as insecure and petty.

    Even when an insight spills out of the insults (“This points to a larger, unspoken problem in American book publishing: There’s no shortage of good writers today, but there is an appalling shortage of good readers”), it feels obvious. Did you truly learn anything contrary to your initial opinion? Anything contrary to the Millions readership’s collective opinion?

    Also, here’s a personal gripe. You write, “The third word in the book is an adverb, which Elmore Leonard advised writers to avoid, and the sentence contains two brand names, one of which means nothing to me.” The adverb thing has always puzzled me. It’s a totally arbitrary and false consensus of value. But Elmore Leonard advised writers to do it, and so the failure to do so is bad writing? Patterson does the Adverb poorly. Many fine writers do it well. And I never understood the problem with brand names. That seems like a hangup from before postmodernism. Either the brand is too obscure and alienates readers, or the brand is too well-known and, therefore, a cliche. But who cares? There are plenty of words in novels that require a dictionary. The sentence is a disaster undoubtedly, but I think your criticism relies too much on principles a few writers have decided are gospel. Your takedown of the proposal makes more sense.

    Patterson is obviously shit. You are obviously a better writer than he, from this piece alone. But I don’t know that we needed you to put it on display.

  16. Hi PN,

    Have not yet reached the point of decision in my own mind on the issue of the “teachability” of rigor, but stand in awe of your staunch certitude on the issue.

    Most rigorous, indeed!

    Moe Murph

  17. Moe Murph, you always make me laugh!

    Have to agree with PN – rigor, obsessiveness, and what my mother used to call “stick-to-it-iveness” are innate and intrinsic to the individual. As a kid, I could never finish anything, unlike both my parents. Must be why I favor the comments section. . .

    Interesting that your question feeds into the talent vs. craft argument from a few days ago. Talent without rigor (development of craft through hard work) can die on the vine. Drive seems as essential to success as talent, though not a substitute for same.

    @Adverbs — just depends on the practitioner. A good writer can break just about any rule. And great writers seems to create their own.

  18. @priskill Hi thank you, what a nice thing to say! I’m trying to keep my innate silliness under control but I’m not always successful.

    Enjoyed your comment. One thought did occur to me, that perhaps it is not so much “teaching” rigor, but instead creating the atmosphere in which what native drive is already within the student can be directed towards a new goal (e.g., excellence in writing). Sometimes, a person is told “You’re practical, you’re not an artist,” or even “You’re stupid,” and the internalization leads to self-suppression. The person can’t give him or herself the permission to wholeheartedly apply themselves in the taboo area.

    For example, I remember a very prim and proper accountant who insisted he was “not interesting or creative” and thus could not create a break the ice anecdote for a writing/oral presentation assignment. He saw no use in putting a lot of effort into it, as he was sure he was a hopeless case. I began to ask him simple, open-ended questions about his life and learned that he had grown up in a very remote area in the southwest US. He recalled that while on a plane flying above the clouds on the way to a job on the East Coast, he experienced a fleeting sensation, a moment which he felt neither in his old life or his new life, but suspended between them . The expressed image was very powerful to me! I told him this and I could feel a real shift in him. He fired up after that, and based on that one image, we weaved a story that captivated the room.

    Even my beloved Lincoln had a few precious drops of soul-sustaining water – his mother, step-mother, and one his earliest teachers, Mr. Crawford to keep him going as he developed. Perhaps it is not so much the “teaching” of rigor, but the careful drawing out of the native passion and force of the personality.

    OK, enough for a Friday night, but I so appreciated your thoughtful comment and also your reference to another Millions comment thread. I always am nourished by these pieces and comments.

    Best Regards,

    Moe Murph

  19. ‘Patrick, Naturally’, when the XJ12 was discontinued was very relevant to Mr. Morris, who corrected me on the point, incorrectly as it turned out. Automobiles figure prominently in all three of Mr. Morris’ novels.

    Not being me, how do you know what anything tells me? The short Patterson extracts Mr. Morris quotes are all I have read of ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ but they tell me a great deal. The XJ12 reference is part of a description of a person who is likely wealthy, and perhaps eccentric, given the XJ12’s reputation for unreliability. No more is needed at that point. I would have gone on to have it break down in the middle of a chase, but that’s just me.

    I am happy to see I am not alone among commenters in dissenting from this snobfest.

    Franck Rabeson, you’re the first person I’ve ever heard imply James Patterson is elitist! Most people probably know a Jaguar is an expensive car, and can look up the model number if they want, though that’s easier now than back in 1999. I’ve never heard of H. Huntsman & Son, but simply assumed they make expensive trousers. Mr. Patterson may have made them up for all I know. I understand no detail of your computer example, yet it works for me, more or less telling me what you suggest in your last sentence. But I do broadly agree with trying to write for as many readers as possible.

  20. If being aware of James Patterson’s obvious, wretched terribleness is all it takes at this point to qualify you a snob, then a snob I gladly and proudly am, although it’s really dispiriting that the bar has gotten this low. In the Good Olde Dayes you were a snob if you didn’t like someone who like Stephen King, who, while being hackish in some respects, still at least writes his own books.

  21. Enjoyed this — thanks, Bill. I haven’t read this novel, and don’t plan to, but the excerpts you’ve posted seem to point to another ” larger, unspoken problem in American book publishing”: lack of good editing, from the macro to the micro level.

  22. Moe Murph — you make a great point about “creating the atmosphere in which what native drive is already within the student can be directed towards a new goal (e.g., excellence in writing)” — yes! — and your example with the accounting student is spot on. Not to keep cross-threading here, but the craft v. talent argument of a few days ago may have drifted into enemy camps, as though they were discrete parts of a writer with no commerce between them. Your example is so telling, and argues for the whole writer. To help someone find the undiscovered talent possibly lurking within is what teaching is truly about, even for the beloved Lincolns of the world who, according to myth, emerge with drive and talent intact. Clearly, you are an awesome teacher! Thanks for this clarification.

    PN — yup, call me a snob, too.

  23. Hi Priskill,

    More promiscuous cross-threading here but please see my comment in the talent-craft article quoting David Lodge’s awesome take on topic, which I think “says it all.” He alludes to the great “mystery” of artistic creation, which I think is vital.

    Moe Murph

  24. Ah, my colleagues in an MFA program were just talking about James Patterson and the abundance of commercial fiction. I personally find it hard to knock any writer who sells so abundantly. But I understand the frustration for people who consider writing an “art.” Patterson considers his novels entertainment and there really is a huge discrepancy between the two. Starting with the readers and ending with the pay.



    I think the mystifying thing is how or why people find writing as bad as Patterson’s entertaining. The dialog quoted in this article, for example, bears no relation to the way real people–or even decently imagined unreal people–speak. I have no problem with genre fiction, and enjoy lots of non-literary mystery/thriller. Thomas Harris’s books, for example, are extremely readable and entirely credible, Hannibal notwithstanding. But writing as execrable as Patterson’s raises questions of baseline technical adequacy. It’s like if millions of people serially enjoyed the films of a director who couldn’t figure out how to work the zoom button on his camera.

  26. (1) Dialogue composed of words and phrases no human being ever spoke, (2) Descriptions of clothing, (3) Cloying ridiculous descriptions of women: my top three reasons for putting down a book I’ve picked up. And leaving it down.

  27. James Patterson sucks and if you like him, you’re a moron.

    A book doesn’t have to be great literature to be good but it does have to have suspense, satisfying plot turns, or at least compelling, unique characters.

    Patterson has none of those.

  28. Out of curiosity and/or masochism, I’ve skimmed through two Patterson novels over the past two days. Yesterday, I entered the world of London Bridges, featuring two recurring Patterson villains: Geoffrey Shafer AND the Bond-esque (more like Bullwinkle-esque) Russian megalomaniac, the Wolf! Hooray. I knew I’d stumbled into a literary cesspool when, in the opening chapters, the latter baddie kidnaps the former baddie, hangs him upside down, and tortures him for an hour by shaking him, with zero ill-effects, apparently. The two work together, blowing up lots of buildings and bridges as part of a convoluted extortion scheme that Dr. Evil would find ridiculous. By the novel’s cliched end, where the Wolf undergoes plastic surgery sans anesthesia, then has enough stamina to shoot everyone in the operating room to death, I despaired for humanity.

    Just as I continued despairing for humanity today, when I read Roses Are Red, featuring the introduction of the ultra-psychotic, ultra-anal-retentive Mastermind, who seemingly kills more people than World War Two did, and who has very explicit sex with a female flunky he’s just killed with poisoned pizza. The world’s most popular author, ladies and gentlemen.

    Does asking for more than one dimension in characterization make me a snob?

  29. Thank you for this article! I used to read Patterson’s books. I loved them!
    Until, one day I started to notice the writing was different. Then, I noticed all these “wtitten by James Patterson
    and some other person I did not know books!
    So I started to investigate my favorite book writer. I found information that called him a warehouse book writer.
    Aha!!!! I thought! Now I understand. My question of how can one person write all these books in one year was answered. What a way to make even more money. Write an outline of the story. Let an unknown, want to be famous writer, fill in the blanks. Voila’!
    A new book! A new writer on the front along with J.P. How good is that?
    To me, not good at all. Quality went way down as far as good writing is concerned. He lost me as a fan plus many others.
    There are so many good, new writers out there thanks to Amazon now.
    I choose them!
    And so, I appreciated your feedback as you tried to read your first Patterson book. I got sucked in for a few years. But I caught on to the scam and refused to engage in the party, finally!
    I do agree with his attempt to engage children to read however! That cannot be a bad thing!
    Best regards,
    Barbara Butler

  30. I know this is an old article, but I was cackling. Long story incoming:

    I know someone who spends his time trying every way possible to become rich and famous (barring becoming a reality TV star because THAT’S below him).

    He criticised me for being immensely critical of Patterson and the way he does not write his own books. He worships him and ‘his’ writing, and sees him as some kind of role model to aspire to. When I pointed out that he didn’t write his own books, this person’s response was a very hostile, ‘How many books have you finished writing? Have you finished one? You CANNOT criticise him if you haven’t finished writing a novel like him.’ This came from the guy who is physically incapable of complementing another person’s abilities when they’re on-par/better than his own, and criticises others for their hobbies/interests constantly even if he does not partake and/or is not good at these hobbies he rips into.

    For the record, I write a lot of short stories for myself, so I’ve probably written a few novels-worth in word-count! But I haven’t shared them with anyone publicly…YET. I have also tried to read one of James Patterson’s ghost-written books (Murder House) and I had dropped it in pages – couldn’t go more than a couple of pages in before a dull gratuitous sex scene was chucked in, and most sentences started ‘He *does this*–‘, ‘He *does that*–‘.

    There are a lot of ‘trash’ stories and writers that I like, and really don’t care what anyone else’s opinion is. But I vehemently do not like and cannot respect James Patterson because I am against someone taking the credit for other people’s work as I have had happen to me before (I’ve had some SHITTY jobs). If Patterson can write an outline, he can write the story, and if he’s writing 80 pages of outline to hand off to a ghost writer to do the hard work, then he’s perfectly capable of practicing the craft and fleshing it all out, whether the end result sucks or not.

  31. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks Pattersons writing stinks! I listened to “The Summer House” on audible. In one of his descriptions he pointed out that the air outside was thick, hot, and warm. How can it be both hot AND warm?! Redundant much? And that made me curious if I was reading a one star, two star book, so I looked on Amazon and it’s a 4.5 star book! I’m completely baffled by this. I don’t get it. It’s as puzzling as Trump vs Biden – the divide is so wide between my view point and understanding the other side (Patterson fans) that’s it’s impossible to meet in the middle.

  32. Spot on. Has anyone noticed lately that he actually doesn’t write anything by himself anymore? This guy corners 17% of the US market by basically renting out his name. On a personal level, I get pissed because he always drowns out my books in search results because we have the same last name, damnit!

  33. A few comments here are by people who defend Patterson and attack the article (or the author) who then say “As for me, I’ve never read any Patterson.”
    I have just read two complete books by James Patterson, with no skimming, and they are the worst two books I have ever read. I have tried to read two or three worse books in the past but given up on the first page.
    1. 30% of both books are blank. Forests have been destroyed to make Patterson money. Each new chapter wastes half a page at the start, and at least half a page is wasted ending a chapter. There are 120 tiny chapters in these books of 430 and 470 pages! There are 5 or 6 sections per book wasting 2 pages each. One book “8th Confession” has about as many words per page as Large Print books for the almost blind. What about saving the planet? This blank paper and tiny word count per page makes low IQ readers think they are smart. The pages fly by!
    2. The violence is very sick, and a lot of it. The criminals are always psycho serial killers. One is a woman (rare in real life) and the other is a man pretending to be a woman to fool the cops (also rare). As one person commented, only WWII killed more people than James Patterson. This tells me that many readers are also sick.
    3. The characters are badly developed and extremely uninteresting. The detective Lindsay Boxer seems to be a man to me, even reading the whole book it is rarely confirmed that the 5 foot 10 inch character is a woman. I thought the first graphic sex scene was between two men! Yet a woman ghost wrote this book? All the other stars are also women and all very dull and unlikeable. Conversations are silly; the romance, and sex, is weak and unbelievable. I did not like any character in either of these books. Black detective hero. White woman detective hero, Japanese prosecutor hero, who always loses her cases. These books are woke. Psycho killers in these books are always white men or women and so are most of the dead victims. In these books victims are almost always rich or rich celebrities. They are never rich overpaid authors of bad novels, unfortunately.
    4. One of the dead victims is known as Bagman Jesus, a white man. He sounds like a great guy. Later we learn that Jesus does not save, he sells drugs in a big way and pimps out children, who also sell his drugs. His Meths lab bus explodes and kills ten random people! Why was this character not named Tyrone or Mohammed? Bagman Jesus is a man from a rich family who has chosen to become a bum.
    5. Yes Patterson lists brand names a lot. This may be product placement, where he gets paid for this. The murder trial judge carries a can of Sprite to the bench in the courtroom. Are USA judges this crass? (I am not a snob)!
    6. The cops are stupid, even the heroes. They give all the servants the Third Degree – but never ask who else has keys to the house, such as the killer who is the dog walker – also at all the future victims’ houses! Even when some random stranger fingers the female killer, it never occurs to the cops to first get a search warrant so as to locate all the deadly snakes still safely in their glass cases, instead of one being used to bite one of the cops! The male cop of course.

    I disliked James Patterson just on reading his thanks at the start “This one is for my buds” then he lists what seem to be 17 males and one female. Plus a special mention of some other female. I cannot believe that this mediocre guy has 17 friends. Money talks though, he can buy “buds”. Are buds friends or drinking partners?

  34. Good God you people are all annoying book snobs write a book yourself then i bet nobody would read it i like pop goes the weasel i think it is a good book you people need to get over yourselves especially you chris your a snobby jerk dont call people morons for like James Patterson you stupid book snob

  35. Hilarious! It’s fall, 2022. YESTERDAY I started reading Patterson for the first time, and it was “Pop Goes the Weasel.” From the opening sentence I couldn’t believe the great James Patterson could be such a terrible writer. So this morning I Googled “James Patterson is a terrible writer,” and this article was up first. I published my first novel one year ago, traditionally—agent, publisher, the whole deal. So today is a great day. I’m a much better writer than James Patterson. It’s not even close. Great article. I’ll be laughing all day.

  36. I agree. Did anyone have to suffer through the agony of reading James Patterson’s “true crime” account of the death of football star Aaron Hernandez? It had no credits (save for the photographs) and it even had a scene where Hernandez was reading a book by James Patterson. The book was probably ghost-written by his friends, perhaps to promote the vanity of James Patterson.

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