Book Talk: The Patterson writing machine

I think the first James Patterson book that I read was “Along Came a Spider,” the only book that he published in 1993. Then, I read “Kiss the Girls,” the only book he published in 1995. After just those two books, I decided that he was my favorite author. His books sold like ice cream in the Sahara Desert. Soon, he was everybody’s favorite author. He is currently the best-selling author in the world.


During the next two decades, he sold so many books in so many languages in so many countries that, in 2016, his net worth was estimated to be $700 million, probably a fraction of what it is today. That year, he published 29 books! That was ten more than he published in 2015. The following year, 2017, he published 52 books. That’s a book every week, in addition to the other things that he does. According to “James Patterson Book List,” Patterson has published a total of 343 books.


Between 1976 and 2001, he published 17; that’s less than one per year. Between 2001 and August, 2021, he’s published 326 books; that’s an average of more than 16 books per year, a little more than one book every three months for 20 years!


So far this year, he’s published 23 books, including the blockbuster “The President’s Daughter” (594 pages), reported to have been coauthored by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Patterson and Clinton also reportedly coauthored “The President Is Missing” in 2018. I’ve read both, although I haven’t read any other Patterson book since he started “coauthoring” them with other writers.


This past summer, the coauthors of the “President” books took their Bill-and-Jim show on the road, appearing on numerous television talk shows. They discussed the writing process by which they passed manuscripts back and forth several times until they got it right. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t understand how Patterson could possibly do that while turning out the volume of work under his name every year, even if he and the coauthor shared the same living quarters and worked sixteen hours a day.


I don’t mean to imply that these books aren’t as interesting or as well written as the early Patterson novels. The truth is that I don’t know if they are winners or losers because I have no interest in feeding the Patterson writing factory. History texts in the future might well compare Patterson to Henry Ford. What Ford did to automobile production Patterson seems to have done to popular literature publication.


So, why did I buy and read the two books that Patterson has written with Clinton? Well, it’s not very often that a former President of the United States writes novels. I thought they would be interesting. And, I’ve already pre-ordered Dolly Parton and James Patterson’s “Run Rose Run,” which is due on March 7, 2022. Why? Well, it’s Dolly Parton.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.