Thursday, August 18, 2011

James Patterson and His Crew Do It Again

Believe me, I really did try not to do it again this year.  But I'm weak, so here goes.

James Patterson has done it again.  He is the top-earning author in the world, reaping something like $84 million last year.  But that's not really true.  Really it is the brand name James Patterson that has done it again.  Patterson, the actual living, breathing human being, you see, really does not do all that much actual writing these days.  He hires people to do the grunt work for him and he just puts the icing on the cake they hand him.

I suppose seeing this story on The Guardian website is what convinced me that the only way to flush my mind of Patterson's windfall was to make note of it here.  I apologize.
Who was King to say that Patterson's co-writers, the ones who actually wrote the outlines, plotted the chapters, did the dialogue that he then ran through with his pencil, were terrible? What had Marshall Karp, Ned Rust, Richard DiLallo, Maxine Paetro, Liza Marklund or any of the others whose names appeared in smaller print on the fronts of his books ever done to cause King pain? Their names were embossed on the covers weren't they? They swung round every airport bookstall carousel, didn't they?
The 64-year-old, a former chief executive of the J Walter Thompson advertising agency, described his modus operandi with collaborators to the Observer in an interview two years ago: "My only rules are that the story has a driving force and that individual chapters are holding my attention. I will at some point sit there and write 'be there' on a lot of pages – if it's supposed to be a romantic scene and I don't feel anything, or if it is a scary scene and I don't feel frightened."
OK, I feel better now. I hope I didn't ruin your day.  This is sort of like getting a really cheesy song stuck in your head, isn't it?


  1. You know, sometimes I think I'm in the wrong job. I care about literature, I love it, and I love to make things up and try to do honest and great and touching, moving things with the art and stories. And I do all that for, reasonably scant return (and that's including my editing work and teaching). And yet, in the name of books, this guy makes a mint while not actually writing; money aside (or at least, a little chunk of it;) ) - is this really what us writer people should be striving for - is this where we're heading once we 'make it'? Money (again) aside, it doesn't strike me as a goal or anything to strive for (where a writer makes money through books but doesn't actually write). It strikes me as a kind of dishonest Motown.

    And thus ends my moan!

  2. If he doesn't do all that much writing, doesn't that really make him the highest paid editor? Although I may still be giving him too much credit, and insulting all editors who are average or better at their jobs.

    I don't really mind if an author I think is mediocre makes it on best seller lists. However, I would at least like that author to be the one writing the books that have his/her name on them in enormous font. Actually, I'd want the same thing even if I thought the books were excellent, because it'd be a shame for excellent books to be written by authors who don't get the credit.

  3. It's a lot easier if you think of Patterson as a corporation instead of a writer.

  4. Nik, at the risk of sounding too much like Bill Clinton, "I feel your pain." That's exactly my point, too. Yes, he has readers; yes, he brings people into bookstores and libraries, etc. But, essentially, he is a con artist, IMO, and he cheapens the whole craft (and art) of writing.

    On the other hand, it makes me love guys like you more than ever.

  5. Well said, Library Girl. Mediocre writing (or writing not at all to my taste) is not something that bugs me nearly as much as what James Patterson and, too a lesser degree, Tom Clancy are doing.

  6. Pete, you're right...but we have to blame a corporation's deeds on its CEO, generally...and that's Mr. Patterson.

  7. Thanks Sam! So glad we're saying the same thing!