I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished. I’m very conscious of an audience. I’m very conscious that I’m an entertainer. Something like 73 percent of my readers are college graduates, so you can’t condescend to people. You’ve got to tell them a story that they will be willing to pay money to read. – James Patterson
Odi et amo is the first line of a poem by the Roman author Catullus. It means “I love and I hate”, which may seem a strange title for what is basically a book review, but then I’ve just read Sail by James Patterson.
I was given a set of three James Patterson books for Christmas. I read the first, Cross Country, some time ago and I quite liked it. It’s a twisty fast paced thriller which is what I felt like at the time. Sail is very similar in that it is also a twisty fast paced thriller. I actually thought it was the better book, particularly as there were a couple of twists, particularly at the end, that I really didn’t see coming and I like that.
And yet there is something that I don’t feel comfortable with and that is the writing method. I heard James Patterson being interviewed on the radio a few weeks ago and a lot of what he said made sense. I was actually really impressed by his passion to get kids reading and how much the parents have to take responsibility. But then he started talking about how his books are written, basically by him coming up with a framework and then having a team of writers to actually do the writing, and it just felt wrong.
I’ve got no problem with people working together. In fact Sail has another author’s name, Howard Roughan, on the front as well as James Patterson, although it’s actually quite hard to see being blue on a blue background:
I think what bothers me is that in many cases the other writers aren’t credited at all. It is impossible to know how much James Patterson has actually written. Of course ghost writers are nothing new, but it’s one thing with a celebrity autobiography and quite another for a novel.
You could say it’s just pulp fiction, mass produced for the mass market, so what does it matter? After all, Colonel Sanders doesn’t do all the cooking himself and neither does Ronald McDonald. But it does matter. I totally agree with Patterson’s passion for reading and libraries and bookshops, I think it is fantastic that someone so successful is standing up for those things. But I think he should write his own books.
So: odi et amo