James Patterson: A Critical Companion

Greenwood Publishing Group
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Since the publication and cinematic success of 1992's Along Came a Spider, James Patterson seems to have taken up permanent residence on the bestseller lists. In the ensuing decade, his hit detective novels, with memorable nursery rhyme titles like Cat and Mouse, (1997) and Pop! Goes the Weasel (1999), came in rapid-fire succession and generated similar popularity and praise. His Alex Cross series created one of the most recognizable detectives in literature, and one of the first urban African American detectives to appeal, on such a grand scale, to audiences of all demographics. With full literary analyses of ten of his most popular works of fiction, this critical companion offers readers a chance to more fully explore Patterson's writings. Beginning with his 1976 bestseller The Thomas Berryman Number and moving chronologically to 2002's 2nd Chance, each chapter examines elements of plot, character development, theme, and critical perspectives.

A full chapter offers a delving biographical study of Patterson, including a brief timeline, that traces his early literary and personal interests and later professional achievements. Another chapter discusses the genres of detective and mystery writing, and situates Patterson 's contributions within this framework. Patterson's sociological writings are also considered. Whether for personal pursuits or school assignments, this volume provides ample insight and extensive bibliographic information on Patterson's work, including critical sources and reviews.

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About the author

JOAN G. KOTKER is a member of the English Faculty at Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, Washington. Her essays on popular fiction have been published in Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, and Great Women Mystery Writers (Greenwood Press, 1994) among others. She is also the author of Dean Koontz: A Critical Companion (Greenwood, 1996).

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Additional Information

Greenwood Publishing Group
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Published on
Dec 31, 2004
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Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / Mystery & Detective
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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One of the most popular and widely known characters in all of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has an enduring appeal based largely on his uncanny ability to make the most remarkable deductions from the most mundane facts. The very first words that Sherlock Holmes ever says to Dr. Watson are, "How are you? You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." Watson responds, "How on earth did you know that?" And so a crime-solving legend is born. In The Scientific Sherlock Holmes, James O'Brien provides an in-depth look at Holmes's use of science in his investigations. Indeed, one reason for Holmes's appeal is his frequent use of the scientific method and the vast scientific knowledge which he drew upon to solve mysteries. For instance, in heart of the book, the author reveals that Holmes was a pioneer of forensic science, making use of fingerprinting well before Scotland Yard itself had adopted the method. One of the more appealing aspects of the book is how the author includes real-world background on topics such as handwriting analysis, describing how it was used to capture the New York Zodiac killer and to clinch the case against the Lindbergh baby kidnapper. Sherlock Holmes was knowledgeable about several sciences, most notably chemistry. Therefore the book takes a close look at Holmes the chemist and discusses, for example, chemical poisons such as carbon monoxide, chloroform, and Prussic acid (the historical name for hydrogen cyanide). The author also debunks Isaac Asimov's famous assertion that Holmes was a blundering chemist. In addition, the book discusses mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, meteorology, and geology, always in the context of Holmes's exploits. Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate millions of readers and movie goers alike. The Scientific Sherlock Holmes is a must-read for the legion of fans of this most beloved of all fictional detectives.
Fans of Lee Child know well that the muscular star of his bestselling novels, Jack Reacher, is a man of few words—and a lot of action. In Reacher Said Nothing, Andy Martin shadows Child like a literary private eye in a yearlong investigation of what it takes to make fiction’s hottest hero hit the page running. The result is a fascinating, up-close-and-personal look into the world and ways of an expert storyteller’s creative process as he undertakes the writing of the much anticipated twentieth Jack Reacher novel, Make Me.
Fueled by copious mugs of black coffee, Lee Child squares off against the blank page (or, rather, computer screen), eager to follow his wandering imagination in search of a plot worthy of the rough and ready Reacher. While working in fits and starts, fine-tuning sentences, characters, twists and turns, Child plies Martin with anecdotes and insights about the life and times that shaped the man and his methods: from schoolyard scraps and dismal factory jobs to a successful TV production career and the life-changing decision to put pencil to paper. Then there’s the chance encounter that transformed aspiring author James Grant into household name “Lee Child.” And between bouts at the keyboard in an office high above Manhattan, there are jaunts to writers’ conventions, book signings, publishing powwows, chat shows, the Prado in Madrid, American diners, and English pubs.
“Can I—the storyteller—get away with this?” Lee Child ponders, as he hones and hammers his latest nail-biter into fighting trim. Numerous bestsellers and near worldwide fame say he can. Jack Reacher may be a man of few words, but Reacher Said Nothing says it all about a certain tall man with a talent for coming out on top.

Praise for Reacher Said Nothing
“Martin, an unabashed fan of Child’s work, conveys his excitement at hanging out with Child.”—Publishers Weekly
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“Amazingly enjoyable and genuinely enlightening, largely because Lee Child is as thoughtful and as amusing as you’d think from reading his great thrillers.”—Sullivan County Democrat
“An unusual entry in the annals of literary biography . . . fascinating . . . I could not stop reading.”—Sarah Weinman, The Crime Lady
“One-of-a-kind . . . It’s funny, serious, a kind of mock-heroic and heroic together. It’s quizzical and respectful, sophisticated and self-deprecating.”—Professor Dame Gillian Beer
“Andy Martin is no mere ‘Reacher Creature,’ as fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher are known. He’s something of a Reacher Teacher. Martin’s book is the perfect accompaniment to all things Reacher. It explores, it explains, and it entertains. Like a detective novel, Reacher Said Nothing takes you down alleys and lanes and streets cast in shadow—but the journey isn’t urban, it’s in the boulevards and byways between your own ears. Andy’s writing is a brainiac’s delight.”—Sam Fussell, author of Muscle

From the Hardcover edition.
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