Annals of Japery

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

By posted at 12:00 pm on November 19, 2014 30

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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!

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30 Responses to “First Encounter of the Worst Kind: On Reading James Patterson at 32,000 Feet”

  1. Sara
    at 1:16 pm on November 19, 2014

    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. Bill Morris
    at 2:30 pm on November 19, 2014

    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. Anthony
    at 3:57 pm on November 19, 2014

    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. Patrick, Naturally
    at 4:43 pm on November 19, 2014

    @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. ZelmoOfTroy
    at 6:10 pm on November 19, 2014

    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. JOHN T SHEA
    at 7:31 pm on November 19, 2014

    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. Rrrandy Wurst
    at 2:54 am on November 20, 2014

    PATTERSON IS THE TOM KINCAID OF FICTION; OR, KINCAID IS THE JAMES PATTERSON OF PAINTING.

  8. Moe Murph
    at 9:18 am on November 20, 2014

    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”)

  9. Bill Morris
    at 11:01 am on November 20, 2014

    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.

  10. Moe Murph
    at 1:21 pm on November 20, 2014

    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.

  11. McGuire
    at 7:29 pm on November 20, 2014

    @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.

  12. JOHN T SHEA
    at 7:41 pm on November 20, 2014

    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.

  13. Patrick, Naturally
    at 10:33 am on November 21, 2014

    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.

  14. Franck Rabeson
    at 11:09 am on November 21, 2014

    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”?

  15. Moe Murph
    at 2:28 pm on November 21, 2014

    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)

  16. Anonymous
    at 3:07 pm on November 21, 2014

    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.

  17. Patrick, Naturally
    at 3:15 pm on November 21, 2014

    “So anyway, Rigor. Can rigor be taught?”

    Hi Murph,

    No.

    Regards,

    PN

  18. Moe Murphy
    at 3:20 pm on November 21, 2014

    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

  19. priskill
    at 4:13 pm on November 21, 2014

    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.

  20. Moe Murph
    at 6:18 pm on November 21, 2014

    @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

  21. JOHN T SHEA
    at 7:48 pm on November 21, 2014

    ‘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.

  22. Patrick, Naturally
    at 9:52 pm on November 21, 2014

    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.

  23. Surfer Rosa
    at 7:56 am on November 23, 2014

    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.

  24. priskill
    at 10:17 am on November 23, 2014

    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.

  25. Moe Murphy
    at 2:47 pm on November 23, 2014

    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

  26. Janelle
    at 11:59 am on November 24, 2014

    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.

  27. My god
    at 8:13 pm on November 24, 2014

    Ferguson.

  28. Patrick, Naturally
    at 8:41 pm on November 24, 2014

    **SNOB ALERT AROO-AROO**

    Janelle,

    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.

  29. Shelley
    at 11:06 am on November 25, 2014

    (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.

  30. Chris
    at 1:08 am on September 20, 2016

    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.

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