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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more James Patterson's "Books"
An author who writes books faster than readers can read them—it must be fiction, right?
Rod Penn sat in his corner office on the seventieth floor of World Book Review Enterprises Tower, which looked out on a magnificent view of the New York City skyline, which today was as beautiful as it always was.
But Rod wasn’t looking at the view. He was looking at the stack of books on his desk.
He sighed. Books had been getting more and more similar. Ever since James Patterson had become the best-selling author in the history of the printed word, things had changed. More accurately, Patterson had changed them.
Books now had more em-dashes—and more exclamation marks! Shorter sentences. And shorter chapters, too.
Rod looked again at the stack of books on his desk. All 144 of them, all with James Patterson’s name on the cover in 144-point type. There was a time, long ago, when Patterson wrote only one book a year.
But for that man’s prodigious imagination, which rivaled all creative engines since the dawn of time immemorial, one book was not enough.
One became two. Two became four. Four became eight. Eight became twelve. There had been a time when, with his cowriters, Patterson wrote twelve books a year. Mysteries, crime fiction, science fiction, and mysteries. For adults and kids, too.
But twelve was not enough. A scant few years later, James Patterson Industries now produced an even gross of books per year. A new one was published every two-and-a-half days, each one an instant best-seller upon the hour of its release.
Rod Penn, sometimes called “Red” because of his fiery red hair, knew he had to take action. Because Patterson was killing book reviews!
Rod took his private elevator down to the garage, a trip that took only seven seconds because of the high-tech machinery whose installation he had personally overseen. He climbed into his state-of-the-art car and started its powerful, custom-built motor.
He began to drive home, cutting his way through traffic like an aggressive madman.
While he drove, he thought about his problem with Patterson. It wasn’t as though he liked or disliked the books. That was like saying you didn’t like commercials. They were everywhere, and some of them were kind of fun to watch, when you thought about it.
No, the problem was something else. Patterson was review-proof. Every single one of his 144 novels this year would be a guaranteed best-seller. Penn was obligated to review them, using precious pages in his magazine. But Patterson never bought an ad.
He didn’t need to!
When Rod Penn reached his penthouse suite, with expansive views that included World Book Review Enterprises Tower, there was a woman waiting for him with a drink in her hand.
Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, with curves that stirred the deepest reaches of his soul, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. And she was his wife!
“You’re early,” she said, drinking.
Penn made a drink and drank some of it. “I’m trying to solve a problem. Driving helps me think.”
“You’re not driving anymore. Did you solve the problem?”
“No—I can’t. James Patterson is going to put me out of business. If he keeps signing cowriters at this rate, half the books in America will have his name on them, and there won’t be any point in reviewing any of them. It would be like running reviews of Coke.”
“You probably shouldn’t be talking to me about this,” cautioned Susan. “As you know, I’m the Executive Vice President of Marketing for James Patterson Industries.”
“Damn it, Susan—I need to talk to someone!”
“Who needs to talk?” said Susan huskily, unbuttoning his shirt.
Their lovemaking was passionate and intense. It should have worked. But, even with his naked wife writhing in ecstasy beneath him, a woman who had appeared on the covers of 17 internationally distributed magazines, Penn’s mind wandered.
In his mind, he saw the chiseled granite jaw and topaz-blue eyes of James Patterson, the wildly prolific author. Patterson seemed to be watching Rod and Susan. Rod tried heroically for two hours but was unable to climax.
While his sleeping wife dreamed, Rod showered and dressed. He went out onto the cold dark streets at night.
Solomon Wiseman knew just what to do. The solemn African American bartender at the Four Seasons had Rod’s drink mixed before Rod sat down.
“Here you go, sir, a Rob Roy made with Johnny Walker Blue,” said Solomon, pouring.
“Thanks, Solomon,” said Rod, drinking. “Hey, do you mind if I tell you about a problem I have? Can you keep it between the two of us?”
“That’s what I’m here for,” said Solomon wisely.
“Well, there’s this writer, James Patterson. He doesn’t really write his own books anymore. He’s more like an idea man, editorial director, and branding machine. He offers up-and-coming writers a lot of money to do the actual writing.”
“I know,” said Solomon. “I’m working with him.”
Rod nearly spit his 40-dollar cocktail onto the polished bar of the Four Seasons.
“I just delivered book two in a projected seven-book series. The first one pubs next month. It’s called Drinks.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about a Black Panther turned CIA operative whose cover is as bartender at a fancy New York City hotel. He’s a deadly killer who’s really good at mixing drinks.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” protested Rod. “The CIA can’t operate in the United States.”
“In this book they do.”
“What’s the second book called?”
Rod did just that—actually, he gulped!
At home, Rod found Susan doing her midnight yoga exercises, wearing only sheer undergarments that strained at the seams when she did the most provocative poses.
“You’ll never guess what I just learned,” Rod informed her. “Solomon the bartender is writing a series of books with James Patterson.”
Susan stopped posing and looked at him in surprise.
“I don’t know why you find that so surprising—I’m writing a series with Patterson, too.”
Rod shook his head in disgust. “I feel like I don’t even know you anymore!”
“Admit it,” said Susan. “You want to write one, too.”
Angrily, Rod stalked off to the master bathroom.
Was everyone in the whole world going to write a book with James Patterson?
The next morning, Rod opened his mail and found a picture of Patterson staring up at him from a piece of richly embossed stationery.
Are YOU my next coauthor? read the heading.
Rod crumpled the paper and threw it in the trash—or tried to. The stiff paper resisted folding and regained its former shape the moment it left his hand. It must be some kind of space-age paper, mused Rod.
To calm his mind, he began looking at page layouts of Book Journal, the premier publication of World Book Review Enterprises. His editors were on their game. His art department was doing good work. And his top writers were incisive in their evaluations of the leading writers of the day.
But something was wrong—very wrong.
In the crime-fiction section, it seemed that every other review was of a book with Patterson’s name on it. Far more than usual. He called the review desk.
“What’s with the May 1 issue? It has too many Pattersons in it.”
He could hear Danny O’Bannon, his top book-review editor, take a deep breath. But he knew that Danny wouldn’t lie to him. Danny was a company man.
“We’ve been doing our best to spread them out, sir,” said Danny. “But there are just too many! If we don’t add some pages, the damn thing’s going to fall apart!”
“Can’t you do something?”
“Well, if they’d take out an ad, at least we’d have something to put them around—but the ad would say Patterson, too.”
“I understand,” said Rod.
“And one more thing, sir,” added Danny. “I’m giving you two weeks’ notice. I just got a six-figure offer from James Patterson to write a multiplatform series about a teenager who time travels in order to save the lives of all the assassinated U.S. presidents.”
“What’s he paying you? I’ll double it!”
“Sorry, sir, he’s offering two percent of film and video game rights. You don’t have any film and video game rights you can offer, do you?”
Rod slammed his phone down, shattering the delicate prototype into a hundred pieces.
A mailroom clerk, wearing the coveralls of his trade, timidly pushed a flatbed cart through Rod’s door.
“What is it—can’t you see I’m busy?” snapped the harried president of World Book Review Enterprises.
The clerk took off his cap and mopped his brow. “I’m sorry, sir, but I thought you’d want to see this. It’s the summer Pattersons.”
Speechless, Rod came around his desk without saying a word.
The cart must have held a thousand books!
Rod picked one up and stared at the cover. It was called James Patterson and Maxine Paetro’s Alphanumeric Naming Convention, by George Ballard and Franz Huxley.
This was new.
This was too much.
Even his cowriters had cowriters!
“They’re multiplying faster than we can keep track of them,” Rod told the clerk. “Don’t you see? Soon they’ll be writing books faster than we can possibly review them. Faster than anyone can read them. Soon there will be more James Patterson books than there are readers to read them!”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” said the clerk humbly. “After all, the man’s a genius. He doesn’t do anything without planning for the future.”
Rod whirled to face him, his eyes flashing. “I suppose you’re going to go write a book with James Patterson, too?”
“I hadn’t planned on it—he never asked.”
The phone in his pocket began vibrating.
“Go on, answer it,” Rod snarled.
Embarrassed, the clerk took the call. His mumbled conversation was too soft for Rod to hear.
Rod stared at the book cover while he regarded its evil implications. James Patterson had to be stopped!
“That was Patterson,” said the clerk. “I guess I’m doing a series with him, after all.”
Stop Patterson—but how?!?!
The author, so familiar from his stunning jacket-flap photos, was not to be found at his offices in Midtown. His building, at 237 Park Avenue, had once been the headquarters of Hachette Book Group. Now it was called the James Patterson Industries Building, and the rest of the Hachette imprints had been relocated to a former deli around the corner.
Patterson wasn’t at his estate in Briarcliff Manor, New York, either. Driving through the night with his windows down, the cold night wind keeping him awake, Rod arrived the next morning at the legendary author’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
Two guards flanked the gates, both of them typing furiously on titanium-clad laptops.
“What page is the inciting incident supposed to be on?” one of them asked the other.
“No later than page seven,” answered his colleague.
Rod cleared his throat. “I’m here to see James Patterson.”
“Are you a coauthor?” asked the first one.
“Yes,” Rod lied.
They waved him in.
As he drove up the red-brick driveway, he saw real coauthors scattered around the grounds, some of them alone and some in small groups. One young man was perched on the edge of a fountain, his brow furrowed as he worked. Others worked beneath the shade of trees with large fronds.
So this is where it all happens! he thought.
Rod parked in front of the door and left the engine running. He didn’t plan to stay for long.
A muscular man wearing a suit, sunglasses, and an earpiece showed Rod into a palatial waiting room. The furniture was finely upholstered, and the walls were lined with genuine antiques. A massive coffee table held stacks of books.
Hot off the press!
While he waited, Rod picked up the nearest book and examined it—he was in for a shock.
The title? James Patterson’s Pattersonia, by James Patterson and James Patterson.
But why would James Patterson need James Patterson to coauthor a book?
“You’re the first person to see that,” a gravelly voice gravely intoned.
Rod jumped. He hadn’t seen anyone come in.
The speaker was impeccably dressed in a fawn-colored V-neck sweater, a navy blazer, creased chinos, and tasseled loafers. And rising from the V-neck was the craggy face Rod had seen so often before, with piercing blue eyes set below a majestic sweep of forehead.
It was James Patterson himself!
He sat down in the couch opposite Rod, clearly a man comfortable in his own body.
“I know you: Red Penn,” he said. “Have you come to take me up on my offer? How about a series called ABC of Murder, where a handsome editor-slash-martial arts expert solves murders based on clues in unpublished manuscripts?”
“No!” said Rod defiantly. “It’s actually not a bad idea for a series—and I could certainly write it—but we just don’t need any more books. We can’t take any more books. You’re destroying publishing!”
“You think this is about publishing?” said a voice.
Rod whirled. An identical copy of the man in front of him—behind him!
Two James Pattersons.
“Which one of you is real?” Rod demanded.
“All of us are real . . . or none of us,” said the James Patterson on the couch. “It depends on how you look at it.”
The second James Patterson came around and sat beside the first one on the couch. As Rod gaped in amazement, more James Pattersons came into the room—three, four, five, and then six, seven, eight—more and more! Until there were at least a dozen!
As they took turns talking, Rod turned again and again to see which one was speaking. All their voices were identical. And they all spoke as one man.
“You see, reading is a pleasant enough way to pass the time . . . ”
“ . . . and books are a reasonable way to earn money . . . ”
“ . . . at least, to start with.”
“But books are really loss leaders. You know, like cans of tuna fish in the supermarket . . . ”
“ . . . you use them to get people in the store, and then you sell them what you really want to sell them.”
“Just ask Amazon,” said the James Patterson in front of him.
“But what do you really want?” Rod demanded.
One of the Pattersons laughed, then another, then another. Their laughter filled the room.
“What do we want? What do we want?” they chortled, guffawed, and laughed.
“That’s the biggest mystery of all!”
Rod “Red” Penn typed The End and then clicked Save. He had just completed Written in Blood, the latest installment in the Ghostwriters series, for which he was the lead author.
He had signed the contract, of course. Realizing that resistance was futile, he soon became the coauthor of three different James Patterson series. Patterson, who allowed Rod to call him “Jim,” liked his work and had even granted him the rare honor of having his own name in the title of one of the series, while Patterson’s appeared in the byline.
Rod knew that it wasn’t really Patterson who was his coauthor, but one of his clones. Still, it made him feel important and, more importantly, the distinction was worth an extra 20 thousand dollars.
Rod was now determined to write as many James Patterson books as fast as possible—because he knew that coauthors’ days were numbered. Because he had solved the mystery.
Soon all the books would be written by James Pattersons and read by James Pattersons, too!
On his way to work that morning, Rod had passed a wino with a tin cup, who asked, “Got a dollar for a former James Patterson collaborator?”
Patterson had let Rod keep his job at World Book Review Enterprises. All they reviewed now were James Patterson books, and all expenses were paid by James Patterson himself, who claimed that the magazine was a useful way to keep track of everything he had written or cowritten.
Rod had no idea how long it would all last, but he wouldn’t root for it to end. His retirement fund consisted entirely of Patterson Enterprises Stock, which was doing quite well.
Emailing the finished book to James Patterson—a James Patterson, anyway—Rod paged through some résumés. He needed to hire an assistant editor again. Patterson had recommended someone named James Patterson.
Rod thought he would probably hire him.
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