Saturday 23 April 2016

On James Patterson, authors

How best to express it? 'James Patterson are a writer'? 'James Patterson is writers'?

In any consideration of the work of this spectacularly successful American author (born 1947), Rimbaud's Je est un autre ('I is another') comes to mind because Patterson is not so much a writer but a brand - he contains multitudes. He published his first book in 1976 and over the past forty years has published 147 novels, although that number is likely to have risen by the time you read this. Sales to date are well over 300 million. Three. Hundred. Million.

His approach is collaborative. Patterson works with a cohort of co-authors including Maxine Paetro, Andrew Gross, Mark Sullivan, Ashwin Sanghi, Michael Ledwidge and Peter De Jonge, all of whom I am sure make a good living from their second billingPatterson is, he says with bracing candour "simply more proficient at dreaming up plots than crafting sentence after sentence." 

Fair enough. Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst don't hand-craft their artworks, leaving such detail to studio assistants; David Beckham doesn't distil and bottle and distribute his male fragrance; actors have stunt doubles. We all of us need a hand in what we do.

The reason for this blog is that I've just read my first Patterson, which was co-written with (or by?) Mark Sullivan. The book was left behind by an American guest on her way to Paris and (surely no coincidence, as she clearly wanted to read up on her destination) it's called Private Paris. I'm sure I'm not the only reader to mistake that title for Private Parts. Glance at the cover and you'll see what I mean:

Image © Little, Brown and Company

The first American edition was published on March 14th this year. Private Rio - trailed at the end of Private Paris -has appeared since, and there's no shortage of cities yet to appear in a series that includes Private London (2011), Private Berlin, Private L.A. (both 2013), Private Sydney, Private Vegas (both 2015) as well as many other 'Private'-prefixed titles (including 2014's snigger-inducing Private Down Under). The series (one of many bearing the Patterson brand) is unlikely to run out of steam any time soon. With news that 'James Patterson' plans to release four books every month in the future. It will be a few years before we get to Private Hull.

I approached Private Paris without preconceptions or prejudice. Really. I expected the literary equivalent of 'a major motion picture event'. Nothing too demanding, intellectual, formally ground-breaking or even particularly credible. I wanted entertainment, diversion, distraction. What did I get?

Find out tomorrow.

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