James Patterson | Biography, Books, Series, Movies, & Facts (2024)

American author


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  • James Patterson - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

Also known as: James Brendan Patterson, Jr.

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James Patterson

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In full:
James Brendan Patterson, Jr.
March 22, 1947, Newburgh, New York, U.S. (age 77)
Notable Works:
“11th Hour”
“14th Deadly Sin”
“16th Seduction”
“1st to Die”
“7th Heaven”
“Alex Cross, Run”
“Along Came a Spider”
“The Christmas Wedding”
“Confessions of a Murder Suspect”
“Cross the Line”
“Deadly Cross”
“James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life”
“Kill Alex Cross”
“Kiss the Girls”
“Mary, Mary”
“Miracle on the 17th Green”
“Murder of King Tut: The Plot of Kill the Child King, The”
“Run, Rose, Run”
“Sundays at Tiffany’s”
“Target: Alex Cross”
“The Last Days of John Lennon”
“The President Is Missing”
“The President’s Daughter”
“The Thomas Berryman Number”

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June 4, 2024, 1:47 PM ET (AP)

How 'Eruption,' the new Michael Crichton novel completed with James Patterson's help, was created

James Patterson (born March 22, 1947, Newburgh, New York, U.S.) is an American author, principally known for his thriller and suspense novels. His prolific output and business savvy made him a ubiquitous presence on best-seller lists in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Patterson studied English at Manhattan College (B.A., 1969) and at Vanderbilt University (M.A., 1970). After abandoning graduate school—he had originally intended to complete a doctorate—he found employment as a junior copywriter at an advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson Co., in New York City. There he created the slogan “I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid,” and he eventually worked his way up to CEO (1988) and chairman (1990) of the company’s North America division. At the same time, Patterson actively pursued a literary career. His first attempt at fiction, a dark stylized crime novel called The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America. Several novels in a similar vein followed, though he failed to attract much attention from either critics or the reading public.

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By the early 1990s Patterson had modified his approach to writing fiction, adopting a style characterized by unadorned prose, bite-sized chapters, and fast-paced streamlined plots. Realizing the sales potential of this formula, he contributed to the promotion of his novel Along Came a Spider (1993; film 2001) by taking the unusual step of creating and financing a television commercial for it. The book, a grisly thriller featuring African American homicide detective Alex Cross, became an instant best seller, and its protagonist resurfaced in more than a dozen sequels, including Kiss the Girls (1995; film 1997), Mary, Mary (2005), Cross (2006; film 2012), Kill Alex Cross (2011), Alex Cross, Run (2013), Cross the Line (2016), Target: Alex Cross (2018), and Deadly Cross (2020). Patterson later launched a spin-off series that centres on Cross’s son; it began with Ali Cross (2019).

In 1996 Patterson quit his advertising job to concentrate on writing. While continuing to work on the profitable Alex Cross series, he began to branch out into other literary genres, such as romance novels and historical fiction. For Miracle on the 17th Green (1996), an inspirational story about a middle-aged golfer, Patterson undertook the practice of writing with a coauthor, and many of his subsequent novels were collaborations. He launched a second series with 1st to Die (2001), which introduced readers to the Women’s Murder Club, a quartet of women professionals who team up to solve crimes. The series proved popular and served as the basis for a short-lived television series (2007–08). Later entries in the numerically titled series, including 7th Heaven (2008), 11th Hour (2012), 14th Deadly Sin (2015), 16th Seduction (2017), and The 20th Victim (2020), were written with coauthors. Patterson’s other thriller series included one involving Michael Bennett, a detective. The first installment, Step on a Crack, was published in 2007, and later books included Burn (2004) and Blindside (2020). The NYPD Red series, which debuted in 2012, centres on an elite task force of the New York Police Department.

Patterson continued to publish stand-alone novels as well. Among them were Honeymoon (2005), which traces the efforts of an FBI agent to track down a femme fatale, and Sail (2008), which centres on a family trying to evade hit men while on a boat trip. Sundays at Tiffany’s (2008; filmed for television 2010) was a supernatural romance written with Gabrielle Charbonnet, and The Christmas Wedding (2011) was a family drama written with Richard DiLallo. Patterson later collaborated with former U.S. president Bill Clinton on the thrillers The President Is Missing (2018) and The President’s Daughter (2021). Run, Rose, Run (2022) was written with country singer Dolly Parton. Patterson’s nonfiction books included The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King (2009; with Martin Dugard), which explores the centuries-old mystery surrounding the death of the Egyptian pharaoh, and The Last Days of John Lennon (2020; written with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge), about the murder of the legendary musician.

In 2005, after discovering that his son lacked an interest in reading, Patterson created the Maximum Ride series of science-fiction novels, aimed at young adults but designed to appeal to readers of all ages; a film adaptation was released in 2016. Its overwhelming success led him to develop the Daniel X and Witch & Wizard series of children’s fantasy books, and all three series were eventually adapted into graphic novels. In Confessions of a Murder Suspect (2012; with Maxine Paetro), he tailored standard thriller conventions to an adolescent audience in relating the tale of a young girl who is blamed for her parents’ murder. He established the Pageturner Awards, which gave funding to educators and libraries, in 2005; they were discontinued three years later. Patterson founded the Web site readkiddoread.com in 2011; it promoted childhood reading and provided lists of suggested texts for different age and interest groups. In 2015 he teamed with publisher Little, Brown and Company to form a children’s book imprint known as jimmy patterson. The next year he partnered with the publishing companies Penguin Random House UK and Hachette Book Group to form BookShots, an imprint of short books that were in a variety of genres, under 150 pages in length, and priced less than $5. Many of them featured characters from his earlier efforts and were written with coauthors.

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Though some critics derided Patterson’s work as facile and formulaic, he was nonetheless recognized as a publishing phenomenon, capable of producing multiple best sellers each year. By the second decade of the 21st century, he had penned (alone or with a coauthor) several dozen novels, with worldwide sales exceeding 300 million copies.

In 2015 the National Book Foundation awarded him its Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. The memoir James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life was published in 2022.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Encyclopaedia Britannica.

James Patterson | Biography, Books, Series, Movies, & Facts (2024)


What is James Patterson's best series? ›

While he is best known for the popular Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club and Private series, Patterson has written a host of standalone thrillers, too – each containing his signature suspense, drama, and never-saw-that-coming plot twists.

How many of James Patterson's books have been turned into movies? ›

Approximately 23 of James Patterson's novels have been adapted into movies or TV shows.

How many James Patterson series are there? ›

Certainly we all know Alex Cross and The Women's Murder Club, but are you aware that Patterson has created and authored books that form more than 20 different series ranging from adult fiction to middle-grade readers? And that's without mentioning the standalones.

Is James Patterson retired? ›

Patterson soon retired from advertising to focus full-time on writing. Since 1993, he has written, on average, an Alex Cross book every year. Besides writing his most popular series, Alex Cross, Patterson has written and co-written several other series.

What is the best James Patterson book to start with? ›

by James Patterson. Along Came a Spider is the first book in Patterson's most popular series, Alex Cross—in which every book is downright addictive. Compelling and twisty, this is a quintessential thriller and the perfect place to start with his work.

What is one of the most popular book series? ›

Having sold more than 600 million copies worldwide, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history.

What is James Patterson's most famous book? ›

Along Came a Spider is James Patterson's classic thriller. The book follows Detective Alex Cross in his pursuit to track down a criminal mastermind who has kidnapped two children from an exclusive private school in Washington, D.C., and taken them to Baltimore.

What TV series is based on James Patterson's books? ›

ABC has put in development Michael Bennett, a cop drama/family soap series based on the character in the bestselling books by author James Patterson. Written by The Man In the High Castle co-executive producer Rick Cleveland, the project centers on NYPD Detective Michael Bennett, who is something of a living legend.

Should you read James Patterson books in order? ›

When you read in order it makes a lot more sense of each book. If you read out of order you are not going to get the full meaning of certain parts of what you are reading. The James Patterson, Alex Cross Series is one of my favorites, you definetely want to read this series in order.

Which James Patterson books are not part of a series? ›

James Patterson's Stand-alone Novels
  • The Thomas Berryman Number. by Patterson, James. ...
  • Season of the Machete. by Patterson, James. ...
  • Black Friday. by Patterson, James. ...
  • The Midnight Club. by Patterson, James. ...
  • Sam's Letters to Jennifer. by Patterson, James. ...
  • Hide and Seek. by Patterson, James. ...
  • Cradle and All. ...
  • Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas.
Jun 3, 2024

What is Patterson's first book? ›

In 1976, while still working for J. Walter Thompson, Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, with Little, Brown and Company. After being turned down by thirty-one publishers, it won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

How many books has James Patterson written all together? ›

Patterson has written more than 200 novels since 1976. Patterson has had more than 114 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds The New York Times record for most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author – 67 – which is also a Guinness World Record.

Are Stephen King and James Patterson friends? ›

Was Stephen King right about James Patterson? Stephen King and James Patterson are two literary giants. One would think that the two writers would be united in their success, but they've had a love-hate relationship over the past decade.

Who is the richest author in the world? ›

Edinburgh author J.K. Rowling is believed to be the world's wealthiest author, with a fortune of around $1 billion. It's all a long way from the struggling and skint single mum who started her world-conquering Harry Potter series of novels in a cafe in Scotland's capital.

Have any James Patterson books become movies? ›

James Patterson Movies to Watch
  • Miracle on the 17th Green (1999) This sports drama revolves around the game of golf. ...
  • First to Die (2003) Homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer is dealing with a lot. ...
  • Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (2005) Christina Applegate stars as Dr. ...
  • Sundays at Tiffany's (2010)
Jul 11, 2019

In what order should I read James Patterson's books? ›

Overview of James Patterson books in publication order
  • Along Came a Spider (1993)
  • Kiss the Girls (1995)
  • Jack & Jill (1996)
  • Cat and Mouse (1997)
  • Pop Goes the Weasel (1999)
  • Roses are Red (2000)
  • Violets are Blue (2001)
  • Four Blind Mice (2002)
Apr 11, 2023

What is the number one selling book of all time? ›

The Bible — 5 to 7 billion

The site says that 6.4 Bibles are sold every 10 seconds. The Guinness Book of World Records highlights a 2021 study by the British and Foreign Bible Society that offered a similar figure. It suggests the total number of Bibles printed is most likely between 5 and 7 billion copies.

Who is considered the best mystery writer? ›

These masters of crime fiction are sure to keep your heart racing.
  • Stephen King. Billy Summers. Harlan Coben. ...
  • Kate Quinn. The Rose Code. Michael Connelly. ...
  • Lucy Foley. The Guest List. ...
  • Dean Koontz. The Other Emily. ...
  • Janelle Brown. Pretty Things. ...
  • Clive Cussler. Inca Gold. ...
  • Janet Evanovich. Fortune and Glory. ...
  • Alex Michaelides. The Maidens.

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