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Bibliography on the Author James Patterson

Introduction

James Patterson is one of very few authors, specialised in the genre of criminal thriller, who provides his readers not with merely the possibility to “kill time”, during the course of reading his books, but who also allows them to get an insight onto the fact that the concept of crime, in cotemporary America, cannot be discussed as “thing in itself”. That is – no matter how innately wicked the characters of serial killers in his famous novels might appear, author discusses them as the mere reflection of greater evil, which in its turn, is often being described as such that originates in America’s governmental institutions. Therefore, even though that many people think of Patterson’s books as such that are closely related to the concept of entertainment, their literary value does not solemnly correspond to author’s ability to write in clear, cohesive and inventive manner, which allow readers to follow the plot with apparent ease, but also to the fact that by reading Patterson’s books, people are being instilled with the idea that self-reliant individuals are much better protected from crime, as opposed to those who rely solemnly on cops, within a context of trying to enjoy a safe living. We can say that Patterson’s novels are highly didactic in their essence, despite the fact that author can hardly be described as someone who actively strives to force readers to adopt his outlook on moral dilemmas, associated with America’s socio-political realities. Apparently, Patterson was able to realise one universal truth – in order for the author to be able to successfully promote his worldview to readers, it is very important for such writer not to step over the line, while doing it. This is the reason why readers seem to find Patterson’s novels, which are being written in rather casual manner, as being particularly insightful. It is namely, Paterson’s “easy-going” writing style and his ability to get down to the very core of analysed subject matters, which had won him a millions of fans across the globe. We can draw certain parallels between James Patterson and Jack London. Just like London, Patterson writes in utterly realistic manner. Just like London, he does not strive to impose his political opinions on readers, and just like London, Patterson never felt being ashamed of admitting the fact that the prospect of receiving a monetary reward motivates him to indulge in literary activities more then any other factor. In his article “The Man Who Can’t Miss”, Lev Grossman provides us with the insight on James Patterson as individual who fits the least into the traditional concept of “literary genius”: “The fact is, Patterson is an affront to every Romantic myth of the artist we have. He’s not tortured. He’s not poor. He doesn’t work alone, and he’s way too unsentimental about his work” (Grossman, p. 108). As the mental products of a true intellectual, Patterson’s books are free of cheep sentimentalism and lengthy discourses on the subject of morality, which better then anything else points out to their high literary value.

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In this paper, we will briefly outline the plots of Patterson’s most famous novels “Along Came a Spider” and “Kiss the Girls”, in order for us to be able to define these books’ main motifs. We will also analyse a few critical articles, in regards to Patterson as writer, because it will allow us to get even a better understanding of the practical implications of author’s ideas, regarding the issue of crime in contemporary America, despite Patterson’s tendency to express these ideas in rather implicit manner.

Main body

“Kiss the Girls” is one of Patterson’s earliest novels, which is the reason why in it, author particularly strives to make readers emotionally attached to novel’s main character Alex Cross (a private forensic psychiatrist), as if he knew, well ahead of time, that “Kiss the Girls” would become a bestseller and would create a popular demand for more books about Alex Cross to be written in the future. The story begins with Cross being informed that his niece Naomi has been missing for a few days. This coincides with tabloid newspapers beginning to exploit the stories of serial killers Casanova and Gentlemen Caller, who are being revealed as individuals preoccupied with seeking public attention. Initially, Cross strives to collaborate with detectives Nick Ruskin and Davey Sikes, who are being assigned to crack the case of few missing girls in the area where Casanova and Gentlemen Caller were believed to operate. However, it did not take Cross too long to realise that that he would be much better off relying on himself, during the course of investigation, as it appeared that Ruskin and Sikes were not particularly enthusiastic about executing their professional duties. In the meanwhile, Casanova continues to kidnap and to murder young women, with police being increasingly blamed for its inability to catch him by Medias. Gradually, Cross is beginning to realise that Casanova and Gentlemen Caller could not be the same man, as it is was being originally assumed by police investigators, and that both serial killers were amazingly good at “cleansing” the crime scenes, so that not even a single clue, in regards to their true identity, could have slipped into cops’ hands. In its turn, this brings Cross to conclusion that these serial killers were not just some ordinary criminals but rather specialists in the field of medicine and criminology, which would make the task of catching them especially challenging. Moreover, it appeared as if some sort of “competition” was going on between two killers, as to who would murder more innocent women: “There are two men. But that they aren’t just communicating, they’re competing. This could be a scary competition. This could all be a scary game they’ve invented” (Patterson, p. 136). Eventually, Cross grows to suspect Dr. William Rudolph as Gentleman Caller and Davey Sikes as Casanova, although he lacks any hard evidence to use against them. The final showdown between Cross, his partner Sampson and both serial killers occurs a few weeks later, after painstaking analysis of investigated crimes’ pattern, brings Cross and Sampson to conclusion that the kidnapped women must have been kept in the underground location at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, across which the Underground Railroad once laid. During the course of shootout between Sampson and Cross, on one hand, and the Casanova and Gentlemen Caller, on the other, Sampson gets injured, with responsibility for catching both killers being shifted exclusively on Cross, as a result. He manages to come as a winner out of situation, while revealing the Casanova (who was wearing a mask) as being actually the Detective Ruskin, although at the expense of putting few bullets through Ruskin’s chest. Thus, we can say that the main motif of “Kiss the Girls” corresponds to author’s strive to rid readers of illusion that it is simply impossible for someone preoccupied with enforcing the law, to also act as serial killer, in his free time: “He had figured everything out so beautifully. He was a genius that was why he had succeeded for such a long time. I stared into the impassive face of Detective Nick Ruskin. Ruskin was Casanova. Ruskin was the Beast. Ruskin! Ruskin! Ruskin!” (Patterson, p. 275). Thus, even though that “Kiss the Girls” can be referred to as rather technical account of police and FBI investigators trying to solve a crime, the novel ultimately deals with the theme of cops’ corruption.

In his later novel “Along Came a Spider”, Patterson explores this theme even further. The story begins with Cross being called to investigate the kidnapping of Megan Dunne and Michael Goldberg – the children of important U.S. governmental officials (Michael was the son of U.S. Secretary of Treasury). It appears that they were kidnapped by their math teacher Gary Soneji, who has been secretly dreaming of becoming famous, with the kidnapper of Lindbergh’s son serving him as the role model. Cross becomes actively involved with the investigation, although he fails to even get a hint on kidnaper’s real identity (Gary Murphy) for months of time, because, just is it was the case with Casanova in “Kiss the Girls”, Murphy is rather good at eliminating the traces of his criminal activity, which could have led to his arrest: “There were no sure things in life, he was thinking, but he couldn’t imagine how any policeman could get him now. Was it foolish and dangerous to be this confident? He wondered. Not really, because he was also being realistic. There was no way to trace him now. There wasn’t a single clue for them to follow” (Patterson, p. 28). When Dunnes receive a telegram with demand of $10 million in ransom, for the life of Megan, Cross voluntarily assumes the responsibility of a negotiator, and flies to Orlando, where he is supposed to meet the representative of kidnappers, with FBI agents following him discreetly. However, after having met with the man, who claimed to have been given an authority to talk on behalf of kidnappers, Cross realises that arresting this man, would automatically result in Megan’s death, which is why he agrees to fly with “kidnapers’ spokesman” on private plane into the unknown, only to be dumped off the plane somewhere in South Carolina, after having the briefcase with the money taken away from him. In the meanwhile, Gary Murphy is being arrested; however, it appears that he does not know anything about the ransom. FBI begins to suspect a third party to be involved in the case. Cross and Sampson come to conclusion that FBI agent Jessie Flannigan (Cross’ lover) and Mike Devine had something to do with the kidnapping, although there is absolutely no factual evidence, which could have substantiated such their suspicion. It is only when Cross lures Jessie Flannigan to go on a Caribbean tour with him that she finally decides to tell him what had really happened, as she was convinced that whatever she had to tell Cross would only remain between them. Apparently, she was well aware of the fact that Soneji/Murphy has been noticed lurking around Goldberg’s residence, prior to Michael being kidnapped. However, she and Devine did not do anything to prevent the kidnapping. Instead, they designed a plan to extort money out of Goldbergs, as they were well aware of the fact that Godbergs had fallen out of favour with Colombian drug cartel, which is why U.S. Secretary of Treasure was demanding to have his kids being protected by FBI in the first place. Even before going out on a cruise with Jessie, Cross had come to conclusion that kidnapping of Megan and Michael was somehow related to Secretary’s shady dealings with Colombian mafia: “A strange possible connection entered my mind. We were in Florida now, heading farther south. A Colombian drug cartel had originally threatened Secretary Goldberg’s family. Was that a coincidence? I didn’t believe in coincidences anymore” (Patterson, p. 68). Yet, it was the conversation with Jessie that had provided Cross with the insight onto the full scale of corruption within FBI: “Mike Devine called me from the school when it all came crashing down. They wanted to go after Soneji then. That’s when it struck me about taking the ransom ourselves. I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’d thought of it before. It was so easy, Alex. Three or four days and it would be over. Nobody would be hurt. Not any more than they’d already been hurt. We’d have the ransom money. Millions” (Patterson, p. 224). Thus, in “Along Came a Spider” Patterson had managed to tie the themes of mental deviation, sexual perversion, drug money laundering and governmental corruption into one knot. Even though Patterson does not imply any wrongdoing, on the part of Secretary of Treasure (had he done so, he would have ended up being accused of anti-Semitism, given Secretary’s last name), the fact that this high governmental bureaucrat used to be in cahoots with Colombian drug cartel, derives out of novel’s context. People are not afraid of mafia’s retaliation, unless they feel that there is a good reason for them to be afraid, as the result of their failure to provide adequate payment for the shipment of drugs, for example. Only utterly naïve citizens can believe that government does not have its own “share of the dough”, in regards to the drug trafficking. For example, there is an overwhelming of evidence that in eighties, CIA acted as America’s major drug trafficker, with all probability that it continues to be the case, up until today, just as CIA’s “partner in fighting crime”, Russian FSB (secret service) continues to provide major Russian drug barons with “governmental roof”. Therefore, we can say that Patterson’s talent, as a writer, also relates to his ability to dispel the myth of American top officials’ “existential integrity”, without risking the chance of being killed in car “accident”.

Conclusion

Given Patterson’s immense popularity among readers, it comes as no surprise that literary critics pay special attention to his works. In his article “The Patterson School of Writing”, Andrew Gross, who is also an acclaimed writer himself, suggests that reading Patterson’s novel is a must for anyone who intends to pursue the career of writer: “I learned how to plot. How to map out a 100-chapter story in a detailed outline, and figure out the puzzle pieces before you wade into the first page. How to create vivid scenes that stay with readers like movie scenes. And how to create surprises. I learned the importance of making your lead character someone who readers love. To make them crucially invested in that character’s struggle, right from the opening scenes. And how to make your bad guys bad. Real bad” (Gross, p. 168). We can only agree with Gross – Patterson does know how to twist and turn plot, so that it would keep readers in the state of constant suspension. However, it seems that such Patterson’s ability has inborn subtleties, as author had never bothered to attend any literary courses for writers. As we have stated at the beginning of this paper, Patterson’s style of writing allows readers to feel as being active participants in criminal investigations, described in his books. It is not by pure accident that many of his fans became “hooked on Patterson”, after having read at least one of his novels – apparently, the popularity of his novels corresponds to Patterson’s ability to encourage readers to derive pleasure out of utilizing their own sense of rationale, without any “intellectual enforcement”, on his part. Why do many people like assembling puzzles? It is because they get to be intellectually satisfied, once the pieces of puzzle begin to make sense, after being put together. The same line of logic can be applied, within a context of explaining the semantic appeal of Patterson’s novels. In his article “The James Patterson Business”, Jeff Zaleski suggests that one of the reasons why Patterson’s books continue to be published in millions is because of the highly “attuned” content of these books: “Patterson’s novels are sleek entertainment machines, the Porsches of commercial fiction, expertly engineered and lightning fast. The minimal description, the slipstream of sentences, the rat-a-tat-tat chapters, all are geared toward maximum ride; the style exactly suits the vehicle” (Zaleski, p. 53). In its turn, this proves Patterson as a supreme psychologist, even though that it is highly doubtful of whether he ever studied the works of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung. It is namely this feature of his character, which prompts many critics to draw parallels between Patterson’s novels and the works of Stephen King. In one of his interviews, King had suggested that the reason why he writes about exploding golf balls, and about human fingers that crawl out of water faucets, is because people are being innately attracted to this kind of reading material. The same can be said about Patterson – the reason why it is the least suspected characters in his books, which turn out to be the biggest villains, is because readers subconsciously understand that such state of affairs does correspond to the objective reality. The crimes that investigators have a particularly hard time, while trying to solve, are usually being committed in cold-blooded manner, which in its turn, imply that perpetrators of such crimes relied exclusively on their sense of rationale, during the course of committing them. This can only mean one thing – besides being White, these criminals posses a rather good education, which in its turn, suggests them being the figures of high social standing, and therefore – the least likely to end up among the suspects. Thus, by revealing the police officers as being closely affiliated with the concept of crime, Patterson does not want to simply shock readers – he confirms the validity of their subconscious anxieties. In his article “Have You Read a Patterson Lately?”, Rob Brookman, quotes Griffin Stenger, the Director of The Concept Farm in L.A., who while referring to James Patterson, said the following: “He is very, very good at knowing what his readers’ hot buttons are and how to put them together in the right order” (Brookman, p. 44). In this article, author also comes up with the statistical data, according to which, 70% of Patterson’s fans consist of women. This confirms the validity of our description of Patterson’s novels as such that are meant to appeal to people’s subconscious “understanding”, rather then to their rational “knowledge” – after all, there can be no doubt as to the fact that women’s existential mode is affected by their acute animalistic instincts to significantly larger extent, as opposed to men’s. It is a well known fact that, during the time when they undergo training as criminal investigators, women often fall behind their male counterparts, in terms of their ability to rely on their sense of logic. This, however, does not prevent them to execute their professional duties with utter proficiency, after being graduated, simply because women understand more then they could possibly know. It is not by pure accident that in “Kiss the Girls” and in “Along Came a Spider”, Cross continuously refers to “blind instinct” and “intuitive predicament”, as such that allowed him to avoid certain death, while confronting the villains. Thus, James Patterson had proven once again that the best writer is not someone entitled with the supreme understanding of what the concept of stylistic finesse stands for, but someone who has a lot to tell, who is filled with ideas that must be verbally expressed. Lewis Frumkes’ “A Conversation with James Patterson”, contains a clue as to Patterson’s popularity, expressed by acclaimed author himself: “In the beginning, I really worried a lot about the sentences in my books. But at some point, I stopped writing sentences and started writing stories. And that is the advice I give to new writers. Sentences are really hard to write. Stories flow. If you’ve got an idea, the story will flow” (Frumkes, p. 13). As history shows, it is only writers and philosophers that had a “vision”, who were capable of attaining a literary fame, as opposed to those, who despite their extensive knowledge of the “ways of the world”, still lacked the ability to make the ideas, expressed in their works, to be perceived by readers as being particularly intense. James Patterson is definitely the “man with vision”, which is why he was able to brilliantly succeeded in about all of his undertakings, without having to apply much of an effort.

Bibliography

  1. Brookman, Rob “Have You Read a Patterson Lately?”. Book (Summit, N.J.). no.27. 2003. p. 44-8.
  2. Frumkes, Lewis. “A Conversation with James Patterson”. The Writer. (113)11. 2000. p. 13-14.
  3. Gross, Andrew “The Patterson School of Writing”. Publishers Weekly. (254)18. 2007, p. 168.
  4. Grossman, Lev “The Man Who Can’t Miss”, Time. (167)12, 2006. p. 108-9, 115.
  5. Patterson, James “Kiss the Girls”. NY: Grand Central Publishing, 1995.
  6. Patterson, James “Along Came a Spider”. NY: Grand Central Publishing, 1993.
  7. Zaleski, Jeff “The James Patterson Business”. Publishers Weekly. (249) 44. 2002. p. 43-4, 46-8, 53-5.

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