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The “James Patterson is a Hack!” Challenge

February 19, 2013
Library book shelves

If somebody told me that this entire aisle was filled with James Patterson novels, I might (maybe) believe it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to read a James Patterson novel.  He’s a popular author, and I’ve never read any of his books, so I went to the library last weekend and realized I was out of my league.  An entire shelf was filled with James Patterson novels, not because he was the library’s featured novelist, but because he’s written so many books that it took an entire shelf to showcase them. 

Staring blankly at the selection, I noticed that James Patterson co-writes a lot of his books with various authors (whose names I didn’t recognize).  This is great for James Patterson because he can put his name on a lot more books.  This is great for the co-authors because their names are on books that are guaranteed to sell.  This is good for the public because book readers have more (but not necessarily a better) selection of mystery/thrillers. 

If I were a mystery/thriller author who was not James Patterson or one of his co-authors, I’d be kind of ticked off. 

I’m guessing that James Patterson is a hack, and I don’t mean that as an insult.  

I’d like to be a hack, but since I’m probably not good enough, I have to settle for making fun of them (not that they care because they have tons of money, and I don’t).  For the last year, I’ve been making jokes about Sue Grafton and her alphabet series, without realizing that she’s an amateur compared to James Patterson (I have some weird gaps in my knowledge).

 Now that I have finally recognized the awesome hackery that is James Patterson, I finally present… 


Below is a list of some James Patterson book titles.  I also added three more fake titles.  Without cheating (like checking up on Wikipedia or Patterson’s home page), pick out the three fake book titles. 

Along Came a Spider 

The Big Bad Wolf 

Cross Fire 

Don’t Blink 

Dream On 

Four Blind Mice 

Get Ready, Get Set, Die! 

Guilty Wives 

I Funny 

Jack and Jill 

Kill Me If You Can 

Kiss the Girls 

Little Miss Murder 

Never More 

No Way Out 

Now You See Her 


Pop Goes the Weasel 

Roses Are Dead 

School’s Out- Forever 

Step on a Crack 

Tick Tock 

Violets Are Blue  

Worst Case 

Answers are at the end of the… no, they’re not!  It wouldn’t be a challenge if I answered it for you. 

BONUS CHALLENGE (only for people who have read a lot of James Patterson novels)- Choose one James Patterson book for me to read. 

I want to read one (and probably only one) James Patterson novel, but I don’t know where to start.  I don’t want to read his YA stuff.  I’m not interested in Alex Cross.  I’d like one good book that represents what James Patterson writes.  I’m not reading it to “hate” it or be overly-critical; I just want to see what his books are like. 

If “None” is the only answer I get, then my decision will become easier, but I really hope the answer isn’t “None.”


For more about authors who are (or might be) hacks, read My Favorite Author is a Hack .

  1. Not hating because I was definitely just like you and all excited to read his books, so for a secret santa my guy friend freaked and decided to pick a random book off the shelf and got me the collection of ‘School’s out’ with max and all that. It’s kind of like a more teenage novel-ish I feel, and this is from a teenager myself, so just a heads up.

    As for the challenge? I lost, I haven’t even gotten through my stephen kings yet.

    • I’m kind of (almost) disturbed that Patterson writes YA literature (?). Some of his non-YA stuff has (from what I’ve read in reviews) serious adult situations. Hopefully, some kid doesn’t pull out Kill Me If You Can (with a lot of incest… supposedly) thinking he’s getting a YA book. I guess that’s a seperate issue from just being a hack.

      • Yeah, when I read the books I got I’ve got to say I was disappointed.. just because I thought he had so much more to offer than to entertain another strange fantasy fiction for adolescent teens. That’s good to hear though, shows variety. Maybe I’ll give him a try another day (: If you get a chance to read any, feel free to drop a recommendation !

      • Laura Hedgecock permalink

        My kids devoured his YA books in middle school. (Maximum Ride Series).

  2. I think the early novels he wrote himself, but as he became a serious money-making machine for his publisher, he now “collaborates” on his new novels. Anyway, I’m not a fan, but if I was forced at gun point, I’d read one of the early ones.

    • “Forced at Gun Point…” That might make a good James Patterson title. I’ll probably follow your advice and go for one of his early books. Thanks!

  3. OyiaBrown permalink

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  4. I had to go to the emergency room a couple of years ago & someone from the office gave me a James Patterson to while away the wait time. It was a fast read & served the purpose of distracting me from the wait. I’m good though, I don’t need to read another – and I suspect it would be very familiar because like romance novels his books all follow a strict format.

  5. I think James Patterson was a creative director at a major NYC advertising firm before becoming a hack, so he is a hack cubed.

  6. I have read exactly two James Patterson novels, and skimmed pages of many others in various waiting rooms over the years.

    The first, back when I was working in a bookstore, and he’d just published his first “Along Came A Spider” to great success. It was a reading group selection, and, I was one of two who didn’t like the book. There was nothing that I hated, it was just a mindless suspense novel that was easy to figure out.

    The second book, read years later, was “1st To Die” … in 2007, a short lived TV show, staring Angie Harmon was on TV, and caused me to seek out the book. I would recommend this one. There is nothing brilliant about it — the sentences are short, declarative, and not full of depth. But, the pages go by quickly, and the story is compelling. I was compelled enough to go out and by the second book in the series, but, seemingly not compelled enough to actually read it, as it is still sitting on my shelf, unread.

    As someone who worked in a bookstore for a decade, I had a rule — I’d never judge an author until I gave them a chance. I gave Patterson a chance, and I would say your assessment is not wrong. I don’t make a diet of that kind of book, but, now and then, one needs a Beach Book, something that requires little thought or effort — escapism, as it’s called.

    I admire you for giving him a go.

    • Thank you. From the advice I’ve received, it looks like I’m going for one of his early books that aren’t co-authored. Or maybe I’ll read 1st to Die (since you recommended it and I think I’ve seen it in the library)

  7. Laura Hedgecock permalink

    Don’t read the co-authored books. They just don’t read as well.

    • That sounds like great advice. I almost started reading Kill Me if You Can until I saw it was co-authored, and I had second thoughts.

    • Donna C. permalink

      I had read a couple of his Davenport novels a while back( circa 2004) then stopped. Couldn’t tell you why. Liked the books though. Something made me start reading them again. Who is writing this stuff? Why the focus on naming ulta high priced items that the average person would have to look up if he wanted to know WTF he is talking about?

      The novel ‘Sail’….. Does James or his named ghostwriter REALLY think that the majority of people will KNOW all the of the l

      ultra high priced BRANDS he names in the first couple if chapters? And really…what is the point when the majority don’t know WTF he’s talking about? Or is it a sly reference to ” I got mine!!! Who hooo !!

  8. lauren permalink

    I just stumbled upon your post and wanted to chime in. I remember reading an interview with Patterson ages ago where he stated that his ambition was to be on all of the best seller lists at the same time, and that he wanted to do what Tom Clancy was doing with his op-center novels (basically giving his name to another author’s story). More recently I read that Patterson sketches out ideas of stories and gives them to others to write. At the time I read the interview I thought, Wow, that’s a weird thing to aspire to. I still think that. I love thrillers. I liked Along Came A Spider. After that, I read a few more and thought they were all terrible. I would get so irritated because he would repeatedly describe by comparing their appearance to a celebrity. And that would be it. Does it get much lazier? So, no more for me! Can’t stand him.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Describing a character by comparing him/her to a celebrity is pretty bad (and can make a book outdated pretty quickly). I wonder if he compared any female characters to Ashley Judd (or male characters to Morgan Freemen). I don’t know. Maybe I won’t read any of James Patterson’s books after all (or if I do, it’ll be one of his older ones).

  10. Cathy permalink

    I liked all of the books with Alex Cross and his family and his best friend. After that he began co-writing novels. Didn’t care for those. I never did start reading the 1, 2, 3 books about a group of women in San Francisco solving crimes. I used to call them “fluff” books because they were so fast-reading and 2 weeks later I’d forgotten them. I agree with Lauren. He probably gives an outline or plot notes to a “co-writer” which gives a new author a spot light. Not a bad idea.

  11. Well, I don’t know when all these comments were written, but today is March 20, 2018. I’e been so frustrated with James Patterson for all the books he allegedly writes. and when you look at the (very) much smaller name on the bottom of the front page, there’s the true author. How lazy is that? Pretty much false advertising, if you ask me. So, the books get sold at a price befitting a James Patterson book, when they are actually written by a much lesser known writer. Plus, at the end of the book, the “Portrait of the Author” regarding James Patterson is extremely long and self-congratulatory, while the write-up on the co-author is usually three or four lines. I think this is a dishonest practice and he should stop it, or at least put the other writer’s name up there with his, exactly the same size. Also, does he write any of it, or is it just “inspired” by him?

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