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117 Days of James Patterson – Day 117

Well, here we are.

The question I posed to myself back on April 29th, Day One, was what is it about James Patterson that compels a staggering 14 million human souls to purchase and read his books each year?  What is that intangible element that allows him successfully produce 9 books a year and be the highest paid author on the planet?  Why are so many people not just content with but frothingly ecstatic over reading his books?

“A brand is just a connection between something and a bunch of people. Crest toothpaste: I always used it, it tastes O.K., so I don’t have any particular reason to switch. Here the connection is that James Patterson writes books that bubble along with heroes I can get interested in. That’s it.”  (-JPatt from the NYT piece, James Patterson, Inc. by Jonathan Mahler, January 2010)

After spending the last 117 days reading and analyzing his book The 9th Judgment, I’m convinced that JPatt is nothing more than a creepy, manipulative, gigantic egomaniac hell-bent on world domination.  By using his self-professed brand-power, he now has a vast portion of the American reading public eating right out of the palm of his clawed hand.  I genuinely mean no insult when I write this, but I think that most of his readers are either not educated or literate enough, or perhaps just not intelligent enough, to realize that he is manipulating them to such an astounding degree.  He’s just dropping candy into their open mouths and they never even wonder where it’s coming from.

Like I’ve said before, people have suggested to me that by reading this book at the one-chapter-a-day pace, I lose the appeal of the ripping-fast page-turner – JPatt’s supposed bread-and-butter.  To that I continue to say, if this book can’t stand up to a tiny bit of scrutiny and critique, then its value as a piece of literature is completely lost.  And whether he wants to admit it or not, he is working in a field known as “literature” and should be subject to the same expectations and open to the same critical assessment as any other work of fiction produced.

“I’m less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories.” (- JPatt, again from James Patterson, Inc. by Jonathan Mahler)

If that above quote is truly how Patterson feels about his own work, then I have to call bullshit on him.  I don’t think he’s interested in sentences, stories, character development, or anything else related to the crafting of a work of fiction.  “Stories?”  What story?  The story at the core of The 9th Judgment is terribly crafted, poorly structured, and not well thought out at all.  It’s nothing, hollow, vacuous.  It’s like candy on the beach – still sort of sweet, but covered in sand & kind of bad enough that you want to wash your mouth out with seawater.  All he is interested in is continuing his brand, getting as many copies of his books into the hands of as many people worldwide as possible, and raking in as much cash as he possibly can.  I’m just sorry that more readers don’t see it that way.

In a perfect world, I’d be happy if just one James Patterson reader stumbled across these 117 Days and realized that there is a vast universe of quality literature – even of genre fiction – out there in the world, waiting for them to pluck it from the tree.  I want them to realize that they don’t have to be resigned to their fate of wading through JPatt’s sea of purple prose and one-dimensional characters – they can go out and read some real books and feel good about themselves.  Turn the TV off and read for longer than the span of a commercial break – you do have the time to let your mind live a little.


Day 117, Chapter 117
Lindsay has Joe safely back at home after her 207-word plane crash scare from the last two chapters.  She takes the phones off their hooks and literally locks each of their cellphones in a wall safe to keep the outside world away.

Joe and I took Martha for a run, and when we got back, Joe made ham-and-cheese omelets with leftovers. It was after noon, so we opened the wine Miles had brought, Joe sipping, looking at the bottle, and saying, “Wow.”

See, there you can see the evidence of JPatt’s disinterest in writing coherent, well-formed sentences.  Sip, look, say “Wow,” move on.

Lindsay informs the reader that she and Joe had previously purchased the first season of the television program, Lost, but had never gotten around to watching it.  (JPatt – always current.)  Today’s the day!  They “pulled up armchairs to the TV and went through six episodes” before taking a break for pizza, beer, and some TV news.  On the news, they learn that the plane crash – that just narrowly avoided involving Joe – was due to pilot error, not sabotage.  

…terrible enough because four people had died but a relief in that it hadn’t been a failed attempt on Joe’s life.

God, it hadn’t even occurred to me that the crash could have been deliberate.  The ego at work here is astounding!  Then they watch five more episodes of Lost, bringing their television watching time for the day up to somewhere around 10 hours.  My brain hurts just thinking about watching that much TV.

“I love you,” I said.

“Of course you do. I love you, too. I wish there was a better, more expressive way to say it. Too bad you can’t slip into my skin and feel how much I love you.”

I laughed.

Ah, thank you, JPatt – we all laughed at that one.

The next morning (sorry folks, no porn scene in this one) Lindsay gets up, straps on her gun, kisses Joe goodbye, and heads out to her car where she listens to her voicemails before driving to the Hall of Justice.  Jacobi had called her four times.  “I was alarmed and swamped with guilt.  I love Jacobi.  Love him like the father I wished I’d known.”  Over the course of those messages, he apologizes for missing the dinner party, but tells her that Chief Tracchio is resigning and that he is moving up to captain.  I’m not sure what that means, since all this time I assumed that Jacobi was already the captain of the homicide unit.  Who’s going to be the chief, then?  He also offers Lindsay back her “old job” of lieutenant, whatever that means.  When did she lose it?  She’s been “Lieutenant Boxer” for 354 pages, as far as I can tell.  Are there pages missing from my book?  Are there really 118 chapters?!  Aaaahhh!  It’s an endless loop!

She has been given an ultimatum, of sorts, to call Jacobi back with her acceptance of the “promotion” – an deadline that she has missed because she locked her phone in the safe and watched 10 hours of Lost instead.  He tells her that he may offer the job to CSI: Miami’s Jackson Brady if he doesn’t hear back from her.  Oh shit.  

The dramatic conclusion:

What had Jacobi decided to do? Replace himself with me? Or with Jackson Brady? Clearly I’d lost my chance to vote. I tried Jacobi’s phone and got a busy signal. It happened when I called him the next time, too.

I started up my car and headed toward the Hall of Justice, but where was I really heading? I had no idea.

I have no idea, either.

*Thank you to everyone who tuned in regularly to read these 117 posts – your encouragement and hilarious commentary (both in person and on the site) really kept me going these last 4 months.  I really appreciate it.  Hopefully, you’ll keep reading the Book Catapult when JPatt is long gone – I do like to read real books, you know.  For those of you in San Diego, there’s a good chance I will be on KPBS’s These Days on Thursday morning at 10am to talk about JPatt.  Tune in.

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13 comments on “117 Days of James Patterson – Day 117

  1. Amy
    August 24, 2010

    Wow… done. What will I do for mind-numbing every day from here on out? Certainly won't be picking up one of these myself. I seem to remember seeing a JP novel at my mom's when I was out last – a friend had lent it to her. Maybe I should do them both a favor and chuck it out 😛

    I am, as always with this book, confused. I also thought she was Lieutenant throughout. And who gives you 24 hours on your day off to call back right away and answer or not? Lame.

    Sorry you had to go through this torture, but it has been fun reading along!

  2. Nate
    August 24, 2010

    Well done, Seth. The opening commentary is stellar. Congratulations on pressing on to the end and pulling an Andy Dufresne — crawling through a river of shit and coming out clean on the other side.

    Your posts were a bright spot in each day, never failing to draw a smile and often an out-loud laugh. On a more selfish level, I also found it enormously cathartic to read the commentary of someone who recognizes the Patterson(R) brand for what it is and is similarly baffled by the enormous popularity of the products of a man who — let's not mince words — can't f**king write.

    I will definitely visit the Book Catapult again, as I'm always on the prowl for talented authors who CAN “frickin'” write, as well as the company of others who appreciate that.

    My best to you!

  3. Anonymous
    August 24, 2010

    You were the highlight of my week, Seth. I'll miss your commentary, but would never ask you to do it again! 🙂

    Like Nate, I'll visit Book Catapult again. Enjoy your life now that you're not shoveling s*#t into your brain anymore.

  4. Naomi Johnson
    August 25, 2010

    So good to have you back safely. I worried for your sanity but you have arrived undiminished.

  5. Seth Marko
    August 25, 2010

    Thanks, you guys!

  6. Anonymous
    August 26, 2010

    One last anonymous comment…please take a picture – or have someone take it – of your FACE when the next customer hands you a JPatt book that they are BUYING! Loved your commentary – and am so relieved I will never have to read one of his books because of you and can look a patron in the eyes (as a brand new librarian) and say yes, I've read one of his books……Book Catapult rocks – I'll be back! Thanks for a crazy 117 days Seth!

  7. Magna
    August 26, 2010

    Welcome back to your regularly scheduled mornings

  8. aaryn b.
    August 27, 2010

    I want to slip into your skin and feel how relieved you are to be done. Don't tell your bride that, though. She might think it's some sort of JPatt kink. 🙂

    Great work, Seth.

  9. Arevanye
    August 27, 2010

    Sorry I missed the big day, but I wanted to stop by and thank you for your effort. Reading J. Patt. so I didn't have to – truly a sacrifice on your part.

    You're on my Google reader now, so I look forward to book reviews of Real Literature from you in the future!

  10. Mark
    August 28, 2010

    Yeah, advertising execs make good. Clive Cussler is also from that biz but his stuff is at least interesting on the macro level if still with tacky execution. Farm out the titles is the key to production. All they write are outlines. Patterson doesn't even type. When only 13 percent of the populace has a college degree, you can't expect critical thinking.

    Nice work eviscerating the master.

    Black backgrounds are tough on the eyes. Just saying.

  11. Anonymous
    August 31, 2010

    Remember what Nietzsche said about “life's school of war” in 'The Twilight of the Idols'? I think you should do Stephanie Meyer's first Twilight book next. Actually, no… that one WILL destroy you.

  12. Anonymous
    September 1, 2010

    Had a family emergency that took me away from the internet for days (yes, that IS possible) and so I missed the grand finale til now.

    I hope you're still reading these comments, Seth. If I ever do get off my ass and hike the Appalachian trail, or run a marathon, or do any of those other incredibly time-sucking, difficult, endurance tests on my bucket list, it will in part be because you stand in my mind's eye as a shining example of fortitude.

    No, really. Thank you!

  13. Emily
    October 16, 2010

    Wow, what a craptastic ending. Fitting, I suppose.

    I know this is months after the fact, but congrats on surviving! Your posts were a hoot and a half (although, I admit, I'm a little worried about your sanity. are you still holding up? you're not going to suddenly go postal on us, are you?). Thanks for suffering through this for us! Now none of us ever have to 🙂

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This entry was posted on August 24, 2010 by in 117 Days of James Patterson.
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