The author of choice for Britain's library borrowers

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The Independent Culture

He may have been dismissed as a "best-seller factory" who churns out novels at a rapid rate to fill bargain-priced supermarket shelves, but James Patterson is now able to claim that he is British book borrowers' favourite writer.

The American thriller writer, who produces eight books a year, has sold 130 million copies worldwide. And a survey has found that libraries lend more of his books than those of any other author.

Some within the literary community may sneer at Patterson and his team of "co-writers", but he has developed an army of loyal readers who appear to love his work. Titles by the author were lent more than 1.5 million times between July 2006 and June 2007, an annual survey found. Such is his popularity that he has ousted the children's writer Jacqueline Wilson from the number one spot, according to the Public Lending Right figures.

His primacy in the world of book lending is bound to reignite the debate on the "consortium style" working practices of some popular writers, where teams of co-writers help with the process of putting together a novel.

While Patterson maps out the fast-paced storylines and intricate plot twists, his novels are some times completed by others. The Bookseller magazine and website, has referred to Patterson as "a brand manager, presiding over a production line of commercial blockbusters written with other authors", while Time magazine called him "the world's greatest bestseller factory", adding: "He's either a damn good writer or the Beast of the coming literary Apocalypse."

According to Nielsen BookScan, an information website for readers, Patterson's books took a 2.7 per cent share of the British fiction market in 2007.

When Random House took over as his publisher last year, Patterson was referred to as a "company", according to Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller. The publishing house also claimed that he has had more number one bestsellers around the world in the past five years than Dan Brown, J K Rowling, Tom Clancy and John Grisham combined. Mr Rickett said while his collaborative way of working may be frowned upon by some, it was a more common way of working in the thriller genre.

"If you compare his way of working to other writing teams such as those in television, it's not that unusual. He appears to have a keen awareness of brand and there's a certain amount of cringing in this country but it is really about establishing a name that readers can trust"

While Patterson dislikes references to his working practice as a "factory line", he has himself joked that when he spent a few weeks at his Palm Beach home recovering from minor surgery, he wrote 10 books.

His books are rarely reviewed by the broadsheet press or talked about in highbrow literary circles but he still counts a roster of American statesmen and British royalty, including George Bush Snr, Bill Clinton, Diana, the late Princess of Wales, and the Duchess of York among his fans.

Other popular writers highlighted in the PLR survey included Danielle Steele and Ian Rankin, while the Richard and Judy book club, featured on Channel 4, was having a dramatic effect on borrowing habits.

The most borrowed

James Patterson

Jacqueline Wilson

Daisy Meadows

Josephine Cox

Nora Roberts

Danielle Steel

Ian Rankin

Mick Inkpen

Janet and Allen Ahlberg

Francesca Simon

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