Yesterday I finished the book “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson. The raves for the book on the second page include “The man is a master of his genre” by Larry King, and “When it comes to constructing a harrowing plot, author James Patterson can turn a screw all right” by New York Daily News. Millions of copies sold worldwide, dozens of his books are filling up the libraries’ shelves at any given time. Yet, I vowed not to read another James Patterson masterpiece ever again. I am not going to be joining an expanding army of fans and admirers of an acclaimed author. I am not going to be contributing to his over $300M empire.
Nick is a great guy, a talented journalist, single, but hopelessly in love with his boss, who has chosen to marry the uber wealthy guy instead. But he loves her anyway, because she is his best friend, gorgeous, and deserves to be happy. Nick is handsome, brave, ready to threw a punch or two if necessary, has a dry sense of humor, and a kind heart. He can also escape a bullet shot at a close range, jump from the speeding train while holding 14 year old girl in his arms, and run with a super speed among many other things that none of us -average folks- should ever “try at home”. His brain is so sharp, that he would outsmart any enemy, including two mobsters and a professional killer. As people around him meet their cruel and untimely deaths he would not give in to sadness; he has a mission to accomplish, since nobody but him could stand up to evil. He would crack a charming smile while spitting buckets of blood, because the delicate lady’s hand caressing the fresh wound works better then any painkiller. He is sensitive, yet tough; vulnerable, yet brutal. He is the men every woman would follow to the end of the world and back. Of course, he would end up making a good income while doing what he loves, but that’s just how the life usually goes, doesn’t it?
You would think that the men like that is hard to find. Not if you read James Patterson novels. All of his protagonists are like that – comes with the job description. Then they finally conquer the women of their dreams, start making an obscene amount of money, and help every single friend or a family member to obtain a suitable life partner along the way. The fairy tale for adults, in which the adjectives are scarce, the chapters are short and the moral of the story is absent is called “commercial fiction”. I did not know this term until yesterday when I was curious to find out the secret to James Patterson’s success.
I also found out that he published about 10 books last year, and were planning on another 9-13 this year. His productivity is even more impressive than his main characters’ survival skills, since many amazing authors publish that many books in the course of their whole careers. Are they lazy, don’t like storytelling as much, or are not interesting in making money? Why does it take them years to write a book while James Patterson is doing it in a month? What’s the secret?
The secret is that Mr. Patterson is writing an outline, then he hires others to do the rest. He reviews the copy and makes corrections while his publisher is waiting anxiously to bring the next bestseller to the store near you. Can you imagine Lev Tolstoy or Hemingway doing that? Can you imagine an artist doing the basic sketch and hiring another painter to do the oil part?
James Patterson is not in a business of touching people’s souls, he is in a business of increasing his bottom line. He is a Wal-Mart of literature, a one-night stand, a “made in China”. And even though the demand for it is huge, and it works quite well for many, it is what it is – the low quality product. His books are a good way to kill time, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, he is not an author or a writer, and everybody who says otherwise is engaged in a false advertising.