HHaving a direct line to at least two former US presidents would seem almost like a requirement to achieve the status of the world’s best-selling author. But it’s not the “ex-guy” who lives two decent golf swings along Palm Beach’s posh Ocean Boulevard for whom James Patterson has plenty of time these days. It is Donald Trump’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, who has become a trusted friend, confidant, and business partner.
To take a quick step back, Patterson, whose gutsy thrillers, children’s and teen stories, and a growing variety of real-life stories have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, used to be friendly with his close neighbor Trump, at least before the most turbulent times. Presidency of modern times.
In fact, Patterson talks about a meeting a dozen years ago in which Trump, excited by a newspaper article he had just read, said to him, “Did you see the polls?”
“He was ranked first among what people would like to see as a Republican candidate,” says Patterson. “And he wasn’t running then, nobody knew anything about what he stood for, zero. And he looks at me and says, ‘Crazy world, huh?’ “
Patterson, who claims to be a left-leaning independent politician, was not a fan of the Trump administration and admits the couple have not spoken since. “There are a lot of bad things that happened there. I don’t understand it, ”he says. “I’ll leave it like that.”
Clearly not a topic Patterson likes to dwell on. But our discussion of Clinton, with whom he co-wrote (at least to some extent) the 2018 bestseller The President is Missing, puts him on a more comfortable footing. Since their first collaboration, which Patterson called “a highlight of my career,” Clinton calls at least a couple of times a month, she says. In June, they will release their second co-written thriller, The President’s Daughter, one of many co-authored projects for which Patterson has become known.
I meet Patterson at his home, a Mediterranean-style villa in Palm Beach. He greets me dressed in an open-necked shirt and jeans, and leads me through the property to a modest patio in the back. There’s no Lamborghini or Ferrari in the driveway, the kind that seems to continually cross Ocean Boulevard outside, just a plain Tesla in the garage that Patterson says he’s happy to be able to drive freely again now that Trump is no longer president and no one is around . Secret Service agents close the road every other weekend.
“Bill and I became very friendly, and it’s nice,” says 74-year-old Patterson, as we chat on the back porch surrounded by lush coconut and mango trees. “He gave me Monopoly for Socialists for Christmas, which is fun. For my birthday the year before he gave me a humidor and he knows I don’t smoke. So I said, ‘Bill, you’re the cigar expert, do I put chocolate or bubble gum cigars in the humidor?’ And he said, ‘Oh, definitely the gum. At our age, Jim, we have to exercise those teeth.
“It’s like this. It’s fun. I see the world through the lens of Newburgh, New York, this little town in the upstate. [where Patterson was born], and it’s great … this kid from Newburgh is talking to the former president! “
The jokes mask the business side of their relationship, in which Clinton lends the authenticity of details and experience, while Patterson primarily visualizes the story and plays the role of word-maker. Imagine in real life if the daughter of a president was kidnapped. It would be on all the news channels forever, ”says Patterson.
“And if you have President Clinton to give it authenticity, in terms of what the Secret Service would actually do, and then the turning the page part… they are good stories, the authenticity is there, and the plots are a bit over the top, but in this day and age. anything could happen. You know, the Capitol building will be raided. If you wrote that, you’d say, ‘Come on, give me a break! That couldn’t happen! But now?
As with Clinton, Patterson says he chooses his co-authors in part for the knowledge and detail they can bring to a story.
The latest, Red Book, the sequel to the 2017 Chicago detective novel Black Book, is his fifth collaboration with David Ellis. At least 15 more books, spanning multiple genres with a different group of authors, are scheduled for release between now and September of an operation that the New York Times once called Patterson Inc.
“I have so many ideas. I have files with a title of ‘Smart Ideas’ that are of this thickness and that I will never finish, ”he says, separating his index finger and thumb widely.
“Some I still do myself. But I have a few people that I really like to work with: Maxine Paetro, who I did the Women’s Murder Club with. We’ve been doing it for a long time and I’ve known Maxine forever.
“A couple of people are newer, [such as] Brendan DuBois. The way I found a couple of them was that I had the idea to do these Bookshots – 70 or so, it was crazy – so all of a sudden I had to find a bunch. “Bookshots was Patterson’s series of short novels (150 pages or less), sold for $ 5 and consumed on devices.
“It’s like the football coach who says, ‘That guy, not that guy.’ I don’t know why, you just know. Invariably I will write a 40 to 70 page outline. In each book, all my sketches are two, three, four drafts. I remember taking someone to the office when I was working on the Bookshots, and I kept pulling out these drawers full of drafts, the guy who was interviewing me said, ‘This is crazy, this is crazy, James, you’re crazy.’ ‘”
Patterson says it could have up to 30 projects running at a time. “A bit of Hollywood, some children’s books, a couple of non-fiction. But I don’t find it overwhelming. “
Critics have taken over Patterson’s overdrive production line and fast, if not furious, literary style. In 2009, Stephen King called Patterson “a terrible writer.” Seven years later, Patterson canceled a fictional book called The Murder of Stephen King, which some thought was an attempt at revenge.
“The world would be terrible if everyone had the same point of view,” says Patterson. “I like his books, most of them. It pisses me off sometimes, but yeah, it’s okay. I think it’s unnecessarily harsh sometimes and no, I’m not a terrible writer, but my basic approach to life is: okay, okay.
“Someone said you’re lucky if you find something you like to do, and it’s a miracle someone pays you to do it, and that’s my job. I love doing it. I’m very fast and good as a storyteller, I’m not so interested in being a craftsman. “
Patterson has built a fortune estimated at $ 80 million (£ 58 million), according to ForbesBut other than his 21,000-square-foot “absurd” mansion, set on two acres of prime oceanfront land with expansive views of the Atlantic, there is little to suggest extravagance, according to his writings.
“Obviously this is a ridiculously large house, but we wanted to be on the ocean, and once you are in the ocean, they tend to be ridiculously large houses. In this city anyway, ”he says of the residence he shares with his wife Susan and where their 23-year-old son Jack, who now works in finance in New York, grew up.
What gives him the most pleasure is dedicating much of his wealth to philanthropic literary causes. Last year he donated $ 500,000 to independent bookstores when the coronavirus pandemic began to hit.
However, it is the literacy of children in the US that really concerns him, and what provides the passion for Patterson’s diverse range of comics, novels, and short stories known as Jimmy’s Books, and the inspiration behind the Read the Kiddo Read website.
“Jimmy Books’s mission is that when a child finishes a book, they will say, ‘Please give me another,’ unlike millions of children in this country who say they have never read a single book in their lives. You have in this country something like only 46% of the children who read at grade level. It’s a disaster.
“There are many things in life: global warming… I could do something and preach to converts if I wrote a book about it. [But] it will only be read by people who are already there. But with reading, something could change. If we could get 70% of the children in this country to read at grade level, it would be amazing. And we can. We know how to do it. And it has to do with teaching teachers to be better at teaching reading ”.
To that end, Patterson has partnered with the University of Florida College of Education for five years, and the James Patterson Literary Challenge finances scholarships for future teachers among other programs. Your donation of $ 2.5 million to help fund classroom libraries Through Scholastic Book Clubs last year he brought his lifetime donation to that cause in excess of $ 11 million.
“If you radically increase the number of children who go to secondary school, you will radically increase the number of children who go out and get a job, who will not have to go ahead and get help from the government to live their lives,” he says.
“It is of any level: humanitarian, economic, however you look at it, it makes sense. We have to bring children to this country so that they can read reasonably well, do basic math, and think. It’s very important.”
Patterson prides himself on leading his philanthropic efforts himself. “I have no staff. It’s me, ”he says. “I’ll call a university: ‘Hey, we like what your university is doing to train teachers. All we ask is that every year, if we are going to give you 10 scholarships, [is that] children write a couple of pages about how they will take what they are doing to the world. ‘
Along with the fictional legends he has created, such as Along Came a Spider’s Alex Cross (“I think I have a lot of similarities to Cross: family oriented, with obligations, whatever”), Patterson also delights in presenting powerful facts. of real life. stories for a wider audience.
His book Filthy Rich, The Story of Convicted Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein (a Palm Beach Neighbor, Although Patterson Never Met Him), written with John Connolly and Tim Molloy, was a New York Times bestseller and became a documentary series of Top-notch Netflix. . And Epstein wasn’t the first Palm Beach resident to come to Patterson’s attention. Last year, The House of Kennedy with Cynthia Fagen explored the Kennedy’s curse and is still on the UK charts today. And then there’s the famous Beatle whose story always held a special fascination, reflected in his 2020 book The Last Days of John Lennon.
“I’m addicted to rock and roll,” he says. “This house is connected to the next door, there is a bridge and the house was owned by Lennon and Yoko Ono. He liked sailing with the boys here.
“I was living in Central Park West, 10 blocks from Dakota, when he was shot. I went up there that night. ”Patterson, with his own inimitable style, turned the events into a best-selling true crime drama.
At the end of the day, Patterson says he tells stories for everyone. People of all ages read them and then come back for more. This year’s Amazon reviews of Walk in My Combat Boots, a powerful collection of interviews with soldiers who have experienced the raw horror of battle, include a veteran who said he had given up on Patterson’s “beach readings”, But he ran back for this .
“That’s the good thing, people saying, ‘You have my husband reading for the first time,’ or you have someone reading again because they ran away,” says Patterson.
“All of a sudden they say, ‘This is fun, I read it and enjoyed it, and give me another book.’
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism