Review: James Patterson by James Patterson

James Patterson by James Patterson, James Patterson. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. 2022.

Summary: The life of this storyteller in a series of stories, arranged roughly in chronological order.

True confessions. This is the first James Patterson book I have read. I think I understand why he has sold so many books and is so popular. The guy can tell stories. In this case, he tells stories on himself, recounting his life in story after story. He’s hardly the first person to try to do this. You know the person you listen to for a while, and then look for an excuse, even nature’s call, to make a graceful exit. Not so with Patterson. Break out the Depends. I’m sticking around.

We learn about the period he worked in a mental ward, the same one in which James Taylor wrote “Fire and Rain.” It was the place where he began reading and writing like crazy.

He jumps back to his Catholic upbringing with stories of eating the unconsecrated communion host as an altar boy. He describes his first kiss from Veronica Tabasco, and later encountering her grave next to his grandfather’s. His dreams of being a star athlete when writing was nowhere on the radar. His college days ushering at the Fillmore East for some of the biggest rock acts of the time. His Woodstock experience. His grad school days at Vanderbilt, curtailed by the Vietnam war, although not because he served.

Perhaps one of the biggest revelations was that Patterson made it big…I mean really big in advertising as a “mad man.” He created the Toys ‘R’ Us jingle for J. Walter Thompson, one of the big Madison Avenue agencies that he helped turn around. We learn about the financial advice he successfully followed when offered three lucrative packages to choose from.

His encounter with Jimmy Breslin, who was cruel, taught him to be kind at book signings. He recounts his early efforts at trying to get published and how Francis Greenberger got him his first book contract, for which he won an Edgar and gave what was probably the shortest acceptance speech on record. He reveals his writing secret: outline, outline, outline. He also talks about all the co-authors he’s loved working with and how he works together with them.

We learn of his two great loves. There was Jane, who he was with for seven years until cancer took her. And there is his wife Sue, who he met at the ad agency and to whom he’s been married since 1997.

He’s golfed with three presidents. He thinks Trump the best golfer but he loved hanging around with Clinton. Perhaps that’s why they’ve written two books together. He even called him an [expletive deleted] when he missed a put. Who does that with a former president unless you have a special relationship? He wrote a book with Dolly Parton as well, who sang him happy birthday and called him J.J. He has nothing but good to say about her.

He’s passionate about getting kids to read and even launched a series of books for kids. He is thrilled when someone says they became a reader because of his books. I loved his reading list toward the end of the book. I think I’ve read about half. Maybe after I’ve read some of his, we could talk books. Probably not, but I loved his taste in reading. He shares his passion for helping bookstore owners and staff, and how it warms his heart when he hears that one of his grants allowed one to go to the dentist.

He tells a compelling story of the five balls we juggle in life, the four made of glass that can scratch or shatter, and the one made of rubber that bounces back, telling you which one you can afford to drop. He shares the time when he let one drop to be with a dying friend.

There’s lots more where this came from. He not only helps us understand his take on the writing life, but his take on life and what it means to be a (mostly) decent human being who has never forgotten his roots and remained “a hungry dog.” If you’ve never read one of his books, this one might get you started and make you want to read a second, and a third…. We’ll see.

3 thoughts on “Review: James Patterson by James Patterson

  1. I’ve read a fair amount of Patterson’s young adult series when I was younger and really liked them at the time, but I haven’t read any of his regular fiction–I intend to at some point, and this post about his storytelling makes me think I should make it more of a priority. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very entertaining review, including the humorous conclusion of your first paragraph and the starkness of the subject matter of your second paragraph. I read Patterson’s “The Last Days of John Lennon…”. I appreciated that he included stories of the formation and days of the Beatles. Other than magazine articles and perhaps some book chapters, I hadn’t read anything about them. I found the book an effective introduction to the Beatles and John Lennon, and the latter part of Lennon’s life. From Patterson’s book and the novel “Shoeless Joe” and additionally, a college student’s experience with a banned books research, I’m planning to read “The Catcher in the Rye” this summer.


  3. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: April 2023 | Bob on Books

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