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Thursday, March 30, 2017

What’s the Deal with James Patterson?

Written by Jon Williams

First off, a happy belated birthday to the author, who turned 70 last week.  As a librarian, you are no doubt aware of Patterson’s prolific nature and his constant presence on the bestseller lists. Have you ever wondered, though, exactly how he manages to put out so many books?

Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, in 1976, before he turned 30, but it wasn’t an easy road. He had a full-time job in advertising as he wrote it, and the novel was rejected 31 times before it finally found a home. It won the 1977 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, but did not sell many copies. Nevertheless, his career path was set. For the next twenty years, he continued to work in advertising as he wrote novels, including two of his best known: Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.

Those two novels introduced detective Alex Cross, one of Patterson’s most lucrative creations. As of now, there are 25 Cross novels, the most recent of which, Cross the Line, was published in November. The character has also made the jump to the big screen: Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) starred Morgan Freeman; then, in 2013, the character was rebooted in Alex Cross, with Tyler Perry in the title role. That movie was based on Patterson’s 2006 novel Cross, and a second movie starring Perry is in production based on 2007’s Double Cross.

For twenty years after The Thomas Berryman Number was published, Patterson continued to work full-time as he wrote. He retired from advertising in 1996 (although he continues to be involved in campaigns for his own work). In those twenty years, he published eight novels. Following his retirement, his publication pace really picked up. In 1996 alone, he released three novels: Hide & Seek, Miracle on the 17th Green, and Jack & Jill. Since then, not a year has passed without the publication of at least one Patterson book, and most years have featured several.

How does he do it? For one thing, the writing in Patterson’s books is relatively simple, streamlined for maximum readability. Secondly, he has turned his books into a cottage industry, collaborating with a number of other writers to produce many of them. This 2015 article in Vanity Fair describes the process, in which Patterson provides his collaborator with an extensive outline that details the plot from beginning to end, and then revises and rewrites the manuscript to his specifications once it is fleshed out. Some of his collaborators have included Richard DiLallo, Mark Sullivan, Michael Ledwidge, Liza Marklund, and Maxine Paetro. Patterson’s most recent novel, Black Book, published earlier this week, is a collaboration with David Ellis.

Part of the strategy behind Patterson’s writing style is his intention to appeal to an audience that may not otherwise be interested in reading, as a way of promoting literacy. When he noticed that his own son Jack was a reluctant reader, Patterson decided to jump into the arena of young adult literature. Thus, in 2005, the Maximum Ride series was born with the first book, The Angel Experiment. Now his involvement in the genre has grown to include seven more series (including Middle School, which led to the recent feature film) as well as quite a few standalones. Lately, Patterson has turned his attention to adults as well, launching a series of Bookshots: short, exciting reads that can be easily consumed in one sitting (and although he’s not as involved in the writing process, there’s also a line of Bookshots Flames aimed at romance readers).

So that’s the “secret” behind how James Patterson writes to many books. Needless to say, such a large share of the market has made him quite a wealthy man, and he has put a substantial amount of that money where his mouth is, donating large sums to fund scholarships and literacy programs, in addition to launching ReadKiddoRead, a website devoted to providing resources to parents in the effort to pass the joy of reading to their kids. That being the case, there’s really not much else to say, other than: Go, James, go! To share more of his impressive oeuvre with your patrons, SmartBrowse his name on our website, and point them toward our collection of his audiobooks on hoopla digital.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Two Classic Albums Reissued

Written by Jon Williams

Classic rock fans are in for a treat—or, more accurately, two treats—over the course of the next two New Music Fridays. Two rock legends are releasing remastered and expanded versions of albums that came out in the 1980s.

First up, available tomorrow, is Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt. Originally released in 1989, it was McCartney’s eighth solo album (or fifteenth, if you include his Wings outings) after the dissolution of the Beatles. Ever the collaborator, Sir Paul enlisted the help of Elvis Costello for this album, and together the two co-wrote four tracks. The special edition reissue features a second disc comprising nine demos, five of which are songs that were not originally included.

This is also the tenth installment of the McCartney Archive Collection, which are classic album reissues supervised by Sir Paul himself. It follows the Wings classic Band on the Run, the solo albums McCartney, McCartney II, Ram, the live album Wings Over America, Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, Tug of War, and Pipes of Peace. Each of these contains a treasure trove of extra songs not found on the original release. The first release in the collection came out in 2010, and McCartney has continued to put them out while also maintaining a full worldwide touring schedule and releasing two new albums: Kisses on the Bottom, a collection of covers with two original songs, and NEW, containing all-new material.

Next week offers a similar treat when Fleetwood Mac reissues their 1987 album Tango in the Night in honour of its 30th anniversary. The standard edition is a remaster of the original album, while the expanded edition will include a second disc that offers a number of outtakes and rarities from the recording sessions. The album is notable for being the last to feature Fleetwood Mac’s “classic” lineup of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie. It also experienced a resurgence in 2014 after the song “Seven Wonders” was featured in the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven, a season in which Stevie Nicks appeared as herself on the show.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of their iconic album Rumours, which was released in February of 1977. One of the bestselling albums of all time, it received the reissue treatment in 2013, an expanded three-disc edition that includes live tracks as well as early takes of the album’s songs. The band’s other albums to feature their most well-known lineup are Fleetwood Mac (1975), Tusk (1979), and Mirage (1982). Although Tango in the Night was their last album together, they do still perform live.

Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac are stellar artists who have been making outstanding rock music for decades. These new reissues of classic albums are the perfect opportunity to share their work with your music-loving patrons.