Wednesday, March 18, 2009

James Patterson v. James Patterson

A long time ago I was roaming through a store while my wife shopped. Like always, I made my way over to the book section. I saw a paperback called, Along Came A Spider. I'd never heard of James Patterson at that point, but having an unnatural fear of spiders, decided to give the author a try.

The book had absolutely nothing to do with spiders. It didn't matter. I was hooked. I was introduced to the now legendary fictional character, Alex Cross. I then read Kiss The Girls, which had just been released in hardcover. Anxiously, I awaited for more Alex Cross novels.

Over the years, I have read just about every Patterson novel out there, with a special interest in the Cross books.

What I soon realized was, Patterson could put out two, sometimes three books a year. Especially lately.

Many of his older, less popular titles, were re-worked and re-released, oftentimes under new titled names.

For quite a while, only his name appeared on the book covers.

What began to bother me was the number of co-authors soon appearing on Patterson's books.

I believe the first time I noticed this happening was when I bought The Jester. It was written by Patterson, and co-written by Andrew Gross -- who has since launched a very successful solo career. The Jester was different than any book I'd ever read by Patterson. It took place in medieval times. I assumed Gross was a historian expert, which was why Patterson enlisted help in writing the book.

Slowly, I noted that Patterson worked with more and more frequency with co-authors: Peter de Jonge, Howard Roughan, Michael Ledwidge, Gabrielle Charbonnet, Hal Friedman, and Maxine Paetro.

Reading the books with co-authors left a bitter taste in my mouth. Were the books good? Absolutely. Did they seem similar to books written just by Patterson? For the most part, yes. The characteristics were the same: short two page chapters, switching POV, page-turning suspense from start to finish.

So why the bitter taste?

I couldn't help but wonder if Patterson was writing all of these new novels with the co-authors, or whether the publisher was using Patterson's name and unique style to launch the careers of lesser known, but still talented writers.

This past Christmas, I was given Cross Country, the latest Alex Cross novel. It sat on my To Be Read pile for some time. I was not as excited to read the book. I was worried my interest in Patterson's stories had been weakened by my personal suspicion that he was no longer the actual author of the books written.

Two days ago, I set that feeling aside and started Cross Country.

Like every Cross novel, I've devoured the book, reading the 406 pages in just under a few hours -- was almost mad at myself for waiting months to read it, and mad that it was over and I'd now have to wait for the next Alex Cross installment,

On I saw that Patterson's next Cross novel, Alex Cross' Trial, is due to hit stores in August 2009.

But there was something else I noticed on Amazon. Something that made my heart miss a beat, and my stomach drop.

This latest Cross novel bears the names of two authors.

James Patterson and Richard Dilallo.

To say I merely tolerated the "other" Patterson novels, or the non-Alex Cross novels, might be extreme ... but it is close to true. While they were all excellent reads -- the nagging feeling that Patterson wasn't the actual author continues to bother me . The saving grace had always been that -- At Least The Alex Cross Novels Only Have One Author Listed.

But not now. Not anymore.

So rather than just worry about what Patterson may or may not be up to, I decided to do some digging. What I found, however, has shocked me to the point of disappointment.

What I discovered is that, while most successful authors have personal assistants, James Patterson has started his own firm. It is called, James Patterson Entertainment. In 2007, Patterson had six novels released. Six.

When asked by USA Today (2007), why he uses so many co-authors, Patterson stated: "They can't keep up with me." In fact, he says, "I'm not a fast writer. I struggle through the writing. I'm not a craftsman. I'm OK. I can get it done. But I know it's not my strength."
What is, he says, is his "amazing imagination."

Reading more into this article I learned that, Patterson has a huge folder of ideas. He then pumps out a detailed outline. And the co-author's get to work fleshing out the ideas and writing chapters. They then submit the chapters to Patterson, who sends back marked up revisions.

At least, this was the revealed formula for Step On A Crack, written with co-author Michael Ledwidge. The co-author is even quoted, saying that Patterson served less as an editor and more as a writing coach, or teacher.

As suspected, some publisher's admit to attempting to produce, or reproduce Patterson-like authors.

Andrew Gross is a prime example. His first solo novel, The Blue Zone, had an impressive 200,000 first printing. (And was a fantastic book, so you know).

Apparently on a talk show, the interviewer read excerpts from two of Patterson's novels and asked Patterson if he could name the books he'd read the excerpts from, and Patterson couldn't. The interviewer said, "You wrote this stuff." And Patterson simply replied, "Yeah, so what."

Although sales for Patterson's novels have not been negatively impacted since all the co-authoring business, this reader is largely disappointed, and as a suspense author, perhaps a bit jealous as well.

Part of me wished I never asked questions, never looked for answers. I will not be able to look at Patterson novels the same.

Will I still read them?

Good question. At this point, I'm just not sure.

Have a great day.


Source: 2-5-07
Publishing juggernaut Patterson keeps rolling along, Co-authors help shoulder the load
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

No comments: