James Patterson is an awful writer. Indeed, he’s the type of “writer” who I imagine is just a label on a book – books written by other people. Actually, he is the type of “writer” who is just a brand label on books written by other people. By his own admission, he works with “co-authors” and “collaborators”. He provides outlines and farms them out to writers, who knock up novels from them. Seriously, this is writing as business, author as brand, writing by committee. Hollow drivel, designed for mass appeal. Fast books and double on the fries.
Just let me pause here to put my cards face-up on the table. If you’re the sort of “reader” who thinks the likes of Lee Child and/or Dan Brown are good, and that criticism of them is motivated by envy and/or elitism, I would suggest you leave this page now. You’ll be offended. So please leave. I’d honestly rather not bother with people who think popularity and success in monetary terms are their own justification.
Dan Brown, Lee Child, Clive Cussler, James Patterson – they’re producers of crap. They say nothing interesting, and they say it in an uninteresting way. Dumbed-down writing for a dumbed-down readership (most of whom find thinking and reading threatening). If you can read a comic or tabloid newspaper, you’ll have no problem reading these authors. Is it better that people read these books rather than none at all? I wonder. Is it better that people read Rupert Murdoch’s red-top rags rather than no newspaper at all?
Reading Child, Patterson, and Cussler (who incidentally is passing the business onto his son) is like eating a McDonald’s every day and imagining you have a decent diet. Being able to read at this level does not make you discerning or thoughtful. It does not give you insight. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read crap, any more than I would suggest that eating crap occasionally is a no-no; I just want you to know, be able to tell (for yourself, not because someone else is telling you so), that it is crap. If you don’t and can’t, you probably (sadly) have degraded sensibilities. If you think the Die Hard movies are the height of cinematic achievement, you’re missing (or have missed) something. Sorry.
In interviews, Patterson talks like he isn’t part of the problem. He’s either a very good con-man or is entirely deluded. He expresses concern for book-shops and publishers, and talks about the importance of young people reading. This is a man who has degraded the writing process, and involved his readers in this degradation. He, and his publishers, must surely have contempt for the people who buy his books. He’s dull, he’s rich, he’s self-satisfied, and he’s not someone from whom I want to take literary advice. Indeed, I’m amazed he has the nerve to offer it.
Most people (and certainly most Americans) lack discernment, so money and popularity are the only way they know how to keep score. It’s why poor people in America vote for measures that benefit the rich. They think money, making lots of it, is its own justification.
Here are two interviews with this successful American writer:
Here’s someone desperately trying to be reasonable about JP (while suspecting that the emperor might, indeed, be going sans apparel):
“I doubt that James Patterson can actually write.”
Yes, me too. That won’t stop him, though. Not while there’s another buck to be made.