Dear James Patterson….

Dear Mr. Patterson,

I’m sure your mom loves you; probably you’re a nice man who is good to dogs and small children, and you try not to run over any manatee in your private pontoon boat near your inlet coastal home.

But frankly, dude, I am so over you.

My husband and I run a used bookstore, and not a week passes that one of three things doesn’t happen:

(Sorry, did you follow that okay? I’ve read a couple of your books, so understand that you prefer simple syntax.)

1)      The door opens and someone staggers in bearing a box full of battered mystery and thriller paperbacks; about 1/3 of them are yours. The others will be Mary Higgins Clark, Danielle Steel, or Patricia Cornwall. (Not that your private life is any of our business, mind.) The person trading these in will dump them on the table and head straight for classics, waving a dismissive hand behind him- or herself. “These aren’t mine; a friend was moving and said I could take them. Never read trash like that. Have you got any Hemingway First Editions?”

2)      The door opens and a customer comes in asking for you (your books, I mean; we all know you don’t get to Southwest Virginia very often.) I point out the shelf you share with John Grisham (again, your private life is your own) where we now stash you for $4 a paperback, $6 a hardback; it just saves time, not having to price you every day. The person scans quickly, then frowns. “These are old. I want the newest one. Why don’t you have it if you have all these?”

3)      The phone rings and someone offers to sell us “a really valuable set of books.” Three times in five, sir, they are talking about an entire hardback collection of you. We explain that we don’t buy books for cash, and they become irate. “This is a really popular author! Everybody reads him!” Yes, we know. We have a growing stack of this popular author’s older hardbacks creeping up the wall in one corner, because they outgrew that Grisham/Patterson shelf. One day some of our foster kittens were playing nearby, and the pile collapsed. You just missed committing multiple felinicides, James me lad. Wouldn’t that have made you feel terrible?

So, Mr. Patterson, we just want you to know–and no hard feelings–that we kind of hate you. Nothing personal, but you make us feel like book pimps instead of erudite scholars. Plus, your customers are so … loyal. We suggest a Kava, plead with them to try a Jance, lead them to Scottoline, even beg them to consider Hillerman or Stabenow. We extol variety as the spice of life.

Nothing works. It’s your spiciness they crave, Mr. P, you who have filled used bookstores everywhere with your 1,2,3, nursery rhyme titles, with your “same-plot-different-characters” smoke, mirrors, and adverbs routine. You are giving the readers exactly what they want.

{Sigh}. And that’s why we hate you.  So now you know, and I hope you can still sleep at night, riddled with all that guilt.

Sincerely, Wendy and Jack, proprietors, Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books

P.S. Please do not send any of those men who read your novels professionally for ideas, to rub us out. We are small town people and would have no defense. Thank you.

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18 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA

18 responses to “Dear James Patterson….

  1. Saara

    I read two of his books and I completely agree with the “same-plot – different characters” thing. I wonder why people like him so much.

  2. Did you know that there is an entire James Patterson team at his publishing house? An entire multi-person staff dedicated just to maintaining his books, his brand, and making sure each new one comes out on time and with enough promotional tweets?

  3. I’ve never heard of Patterson but I was wondering how you deal with the likes of Stephenie Meyer?

    • She’s starting to stack up in the paranormals. Selling used books has a small window: six weeks from publication until it hits your shop (give or take; Under the Dome took nine…); three months until you start keeping copies on the shelf instead of people buying an hour later any that come in; six more months until you start putting multiple copies in the free bin. “Fifteen minutes” just isn’t that long. :]

      • The Twilight novels are often in the children’s section in Finnish book shops. I think it’s pretty funny to see Bella’s pained face next to Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter, but it’s also a bit disturbing. I wouldn’t let kids read that stuff. For one thing, they’d get the wrong idea about vampires!

  4. Paula

    HURRAY for saying it out loud and proudly !!!!

  5. Heather

    You and Jack know I was once a JP whore. Quick and easy satisfaction, followed by terrible guilt and shame. I loved the chapters that were 3 pages long – they made me feel I was accomplishing something during the 30 minutes I had to myself at the end of days spent chasing two small, wild boy children around. It was an escape. Then came his book about the bird children – genetically engineered to have wings and fly and even lay eggs. I was into the 3rd chapter before I realized I needed help.

  6. Now I realize I should ask you to blurt out the mystery plot that sells the most books instead of slogging it out on my own. I’m almost embarrassed to ask, but serious. So, let’s hear it, Wendy.

    • Mysterious reprehensible rogue is really undercover knight in shining armor who has been protecting naive preschool teacher/heiress/medical missionary from nice bad guys the whole time. Also works for romances, but mysteries require a few McGuffins thrown in.

  7. Walt

    Patterson’s novels excel at meeting the needs of a very specific niche — “crapper readers.” His short little unchallenging chapters are all approximately one B.M. in duration. Perfect! (have I shared too much???)

    • {ahem} I am a Southern Lady, sir. I will close the door and draw the blinds in my bookshop before laughing myself into a loss of bladder control.

      • I am having a hard time writing a reply to this one as I am still laughing and had to go to the bathroom once already. Walt, I must say I have needed a good laugh for a long time and you have fulfilled that need. Wendy you never cease to amaze me with your perfect comebacks. Still laughing.

  8. Cathy

    That is too funny! I didn’t quite have an accident, but almost spilled my precious morning coffee on my keyboard. Nevertheless, keep ’em coming. Brilliant and right on the money!

  9. loved the website, keep up the work guys, i will be following you.

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