James Patterson

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Newburgh, New York
Birth Sign
Newburgh, New York

Former chief executive of the North American advertising agency J Walter Thompson, James Patterson is one of the best-selling American authors. His popular works include crime thrillers and romance novels. Twenty years after retiring from a career in advertising, Patterson began to write seriously. His ‘Alex Cross,’ ‘Women’s Murder Club,’ ‘Michael Bennett,’ ‘Maximum Ride,’ ‘NYPD Red,’ ‘Daniel X,’ ‘Private,’ and ‘Witch and Wizard series, as well as countless stand-alone novels, have sold more than 300 million copies, making him the country’s highest-paid author. Additionally, he is the first author to have sold over one million e-books. The ‘Guinness Book of World Records recognizes him as one of the most prolific authors in the world for having the most books on The New York Times best-seller list. Patterson has emerged as a fervent advocate for reading and literature, donating millions of dollars from his personal fortune to teachers’ colleges, universities, school libraries, students, and independent bookstores. The prestigious ‘Literarian Award’ was bestowed by the ‘National Book Foundation’ for his endeavors “to make books and reading a national priority.”

Youth and Early Life

James Brendan Patterson was born to Charles and Isabella Patterson on March 22, 1947, in Newburgh, New York. Isabelle was a teacher, while Charles was an insurance broker. When James was quite young, his family relocated to Boston, where he resided in a poor house with his parents, three younger sisters, and grandmother.

James was an excellent student in high school, despite never having enjoyed reading. During the time he was pursuing his B.A. in English at Manhattan College in the Bronx, he took up reading and, after being encouraged by family and friends, began writing, a hobby that became his lifelong preoccupation. As an adolescent, James worked as a night-shift orderly at the ‘Mclean Hospital’ in Belmont to cover his college expenses.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee to pursue a master’s and doctorate in English literature. However, he quit the program after only one year because he believed that his studies would destroy his passion of reading and that the Ph.D. itself was of little value to him.

After being denied employment as a taxi driver due to his long hair, he joined J. Walter Thompson (JWT), a prominent advertising agency, as a junior copywriter around 1971. Inspired by works such as ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Day of the Jackal,’ he began writing commercial fiction in the mornings before going to work and during lunch breaks at the office.

At the age of 26, he penned his first book, “The Thomas Berryman Number,” which was rejected by 31 publishers prior to its 1976 publication by “Little, Brown, and Company.” He received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from Mystery Writers of America for his finest debut novel.

James Patterson’s Career

Patterson, encouraged by the success of his first novel, went on to write several other novels, including ”Season of the Machete” (1977), ”See How They Run” (1979), and ”Virgin” (1980), which all failed to captivate both critics and readers.

Devastated by the brain tumor-related mortality of his girlfriend, Jane, he developed high blood pressure and other medical conditions and stopped writing to focus on his job. Within a few years, he rose to the position of creative director at ‘JWT’.

When Patterson resumed writing, his writing style altered. He worked on ‘The Midnight Club’ by first creating a rough draft of the plot that included all the major events, and then fleshing out the narrative with description and detail while polishing the language. Pleased with this new style of “colloquial storytelling,” he began writing in the early 1990s in an unadorned, streamlined style with fast-paced narratives and short chapters.

In 1993, his novel ‘Along Came a Spider’ became his first major success. The book featuring Alex Cross, an African-American homicide detective, topped the bestseller charts not only because of its racy plot but also because Patterson used all of his advertising experience to create a TV commercial to promote the book, a move that was unheard of in the publishing industry at the time. Little, Brown, and Company, initially taken aback, agreed to cover one-half of the production and broadcast costs of the commercial, with Patterson covering the other half.

Even though Patterson was the chairman of ‘J Walter Thompson in 1996, he resigned in order to focus on his writing. In addition to the popular ‘Alex Cross crime novel series, many of which have also been adapted into films, Patterson has also written the ‘Women’s Murder Club series, the ‘Michael Bennett series, the ‘Private’ series, and the ‘NYPD Red series.

In 1996, he collaborated with Peter De Jonge to publish ‘Miracle on the 17th Green’, which was his first co-authored book. Patterson has frequently collaborated with other authors, despite receiving criticism. Numerous titles in the ‘Women’s Murder Club’ series, which features four enterprising women professionals who solve crimes, were co-authored. The novels also served as the inspiration for a 2007-2008 television series.

In addition to his crime fiction series, Patterson has regularly written stand-alone novels; while many are thrillers and crime fiction written in the best traditions of the genres, ‘Sundays at Tiffany’s’ (2008) was a supernatural romance, ‘The Christmas Wedding’ (2011) was a family drama, and ‘The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King’ (2009) was written in collaboration with an Egyptologist.

James Patterson began writing the ‘Maximum Ride’ series of science-fiction novels in 2005 after observing that his son Jack was not particularly interested in reading. The series’ intended audience was young adults, but it was appealing to readers of all ages.

Following the success of ‘Maximum Ride,’ he devised a number of series for young readers, including ‘Confessions,’ ‘Daniel X,’ ‘Middle School,’ ‘I Funny,’ ‘Treasure Hunters,’ ‘House of Robots,’ and ‘Witch and Wizard,’ as well as a number of stand-alone books. The ‘Maximum Ride’, ‘Daniel X’, and ‘Witch & Wizard series were also successfully adapted into graphic novels.

Co-authored by Patterson and the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, ‘The President Is Missing’ was published in June 2018 and headed the bestseller lists immediately. The first week’s sales of over 250,000 copies were the largest debut for an adult fiction book since ‘Go Set a Watchman’, the sequel to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 2015.

James’s Major Opera

The first ‘Alex Cross novel, ‘Along Came a Spider’ (1993), was Patterson’s first significant success. ‘The President Is Missing’ (2018) was a huge success and topped The New York Times Best Seller list.

Personal History and Legacy

In 1977, James Patterson married Susan, who also worked for JWT, and they settled in Florida, where they continue to spend the majority of their time. Jack, their firstborn, was born in 1998. In 2005, he established the ‘James Patterson PageTurner Awards’, whose purpose was to provide funding to schools, educators, businesses, and other institutions that implement innovative and effective methods of promoting reading and literature.

In 2008, the James Patterson PageTurner Awards were suspended because Patterson wanted to focus on a new initiative, ReadKiddoRead.com, which intended to assist parents, teachers, and librarians in locating the best books to encourage children of various ages and interests to read.

He has donated millions of books to schools, youth initiatives, and U.S. soldiers, as well as a significant portion of his personal wealth to public school libraries, independent bookstores, his alma mater, Manhattan College, as well as his wife’s alma mater, University of Wisconsin. In addition, he has established over 400 ‘Teacher Education Scholarships’ at various colleges and universities.

The ‘Little, Brown’ imprint ‘JIMMY Patterson’ was established in 2015 with the mission of turning children into lifelong readers and serving parents, teachers, librarians, and booksellers.

Estimated Net Worth

American author and producer James Patterson have a net worth of $800 million. James Patterson is best known for his Alex Cross novels, but he has also written the “Women’s Murder Club,” “Detective Michael Bennett,” “Maximum Ride,” “Daniel X,” and “Witch and Wizard” series, as well as numerous standalone thrillers and non-fiction works.