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James Patterson’s short books will enthuse new readers

Patterson has arguably done more to encourage reading for pleasure than any other modern-day American novelist

Wednesday 23 March 2016 00:34 GMT
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James Patterson has arguably done more to encourage reading than any other modern-day American novelist
James Patterson has arguably done more to encourage reading than any other modern-day American novelist (Getty Images)

James Patterson is as much a publishing phenomenon as he is simply an author. His breakthrough novel, Along Came A Spider, was published in 1993, the first in a best-selling series featuring murder detective Alex Cross; the sequence has gone on to sell some 88 million copies worldwide. In total, Patterson’s name has adorned 156 books, which between them have achieved an estimated 325 million sales.

Despite his popular success – or perhaps because of it – Patterson has frequently been dismissed by serious critics: his books are page-turners, they grumble, rather than literary masterpieces, and they are overly formulaic. Then there is the criticism of his collaborative style of working. Many of his novels are co-authored with a stable of other writers, which explains in part why he is able to be so prolific.

Now, seemingly seeking an even bigger audience, the author has announced his intention to write and publish a series of short novels, each no longer than 150 pages, appearing at a rate of two to four per month. They will be sold in grocery stores and the like, alongside glossy magazines. At less than $5 (£3.50) a pop, these BookShots are likely to find even less favour among the literary elite than Patterson’s full-length novels.

Yet it would be quite wrong to sneer. Patterson has arguably done more to encourage reading for pleasure than any other modern-day American novelist. He has campaigned for the preservation of libraries and for physical bookshops, and he has also done much to change the way in which books are marketed by publishers. If his BookShots encourage non-readers to spend a few hours engrossed by the written word, surely that’s no bad thing at all. In a world dominated by high-end tech and ever more frantic work patterns, some may find that a cheap thriller provides a much greater thrill than they anticipated.

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