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Literary Glance: The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson

January 8, 2018

At first glance, The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson is just James Patterson being James Patterson.  The chapters are short, and there are 114 of them.  Descriptions are basic.  All the characters talk the same way.  Everybody is a smart ass.  If you like that kind of writing (and lots of people do because these books always sell like crazy), then this book won’t bother you.

But it bothers me.  I don’t want to go into another James Patterson rant and repeat stuff that I’ve already said here  and here and here .  I prefer that each of my rants be somewhat original, but I can’t help myself sometimes.  .

I probably shouldn’t keep reading James Patterson books because I always know how I’m going to react and I’m rarely wrong.  At the same time, I can’t just ignore James Patterson.  He’s too relevant.  He writes 10-15 books a year.  Bookstores have sections just for James Patterson.  He’s almost a genre.  You can’t ignore an author who is almost his own genre.

What bugs me is that The People vs. Alex Cross seems like it’s written by an author who feels contempt for his readers (and that’s not good for a genre).  It feels like James Patterson knows that he can write anything and it will sell.  Here’s an excerpt/description that shows what I’m talking about (with my comments in parenthesis):

Anita Marley, my attorney, was also there, waiting at the curb.

Tall and athletically built(of course), with auburn hair, freckled skin, and sharp emerald eyes (of course), Marley had once played volleyball (of course) for and studied acting at the University of Texas (of course); she later graduated near the top of her law school class at Rice (of course).  She was classy (of course), brassy (of course), and hilarious (of course, but…she’s not sassy?), as well as certifiably badass in the courtroom (of course), which was why we’d hired her.

Marley opened my door.

“I do the talking from here on out, Alex,” she said in a commanding drawl (of course, because everybody from Texas has a drawl, especially students near the top of their law class at Rice) just as the roar of accusation and ridicule hit me, far worse than what I’d been subjected to at home.

That was pretty bad, even by James Patterson’s standards.  He has to know that’s crappy writing.  I know that’s crappy writing, and I write for a free on a blog that maybe a few people read.  James Patterson has written decent stuff before, so he knows he’s writing crap, and if he knows he’s writing crap and he still publishes it, then it shows he doesn’t care.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about James Patterson so much (I’m not losing sleep over it).  I can ignore his books.  If he stopped writing, it wouldn’t affect my chances of becoming a successful author.  But it’s frustrating (or annoying) to see an extraordinarily successful author getting away with writing that amateurs wouldn’t even put on their own blogs (except to use it as an example of bad writing).

She was classy and brassy, and hilarious, as well as certifiably badass in the courtroom, which was why we’d hired her.



What do you think?  Is that really bad writing, or am I overreacting?

  1. That’s James Patterson all right – and I’ve only read two of his books. I like the stories, but the descriptions always seem to be nothing more than physical appearance. It almost takes away the reader’s imagination.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    The Pattersons are written by different people, I’ve read. I think hilarious is the biggest claim that would need some proof. Does she do impressions? Has she got a stand-up act? Does the author give a sample joke? But seriously, assessment paragraphs don’t seem real because people don’t meet someone and fall into a trance while inventorying their clothes, height, weight, etc. And if any of these things matter, they can be introduced at the point where they matter. I. e., “Her heavy gold bracelet fell on my toe.”

  3. Ugh. It’s not just you. I couldn’t finish one book because the writing was very straight forward. I never felt that I was in that world, or experiencing that emotion! I’ve seen the books sell like hot cakes, even at our book fairs for highly discounted prices. One of my friends is crazy for the ‘genre’, but I’ve realised that I could never be a part of it.

  4. What happened to “show, don’t tell”?

  5. One or two ‘of courses’ might have been clever, but that excerpt quickly devolved into nonsense. And being a Texan myself, I am fairly certain the writer knows very little about Texas.

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