James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life

Little, Brown. Jun. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780316397537. $29. MEMOIR
Patterson is one of the most successful writers of crime fiction alive today, with more than 90 suspense and intrigue novels to his credit. By his own admission, 31 idea files currently sit on his desk, and he often turns out six new books a year. How does he do it? Patterson attempts to answer that question in this memoir about his writing career. (The answer turns out to be that he draws up an outline, then writes fast; but he also collaborates with co-authors, including Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton.) Patterson’sdebut novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was rejected by 31 publishers but won the Edgar award for Best First Novel in 1977; he was then a successful advertising executive, and he retired to write full-time a decade later. If anyone should be able to write an interesting memoir, it’s Patterson. Unfortunately, he hasn’t. Instead, readers get a string of choppy chapters—many one or two pages long—offering platitudes instead of insight; even his advice on how to write is fatuous. There’s too much name-dropping (breakfast with Tom Cruise; golfing with President Clinton; Serena Williams bugging him for an autograph), as well as too much self-congratulation, self-promotion, and cheap wisdom in this banal, disappointing book.
VERDICT Given Patterson’s audience, this throwaway memoir will be popular even though it isn’t merited.
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