On March 22nd, 1947, the legendary American writer James Patterson was born in Newburgh, New York. He earned his Master's Degree from Vanderbilt University. In 1985, at the age of 38, Patterson retired from his successful advertising career to write full time.
Before he retired from advertising, Patterson had written three novels. His first, a mystery novel called The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), won him an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.
His fifth novel, the first in a classic series of suspense thrillers, was a huge bestseller and established him as one of the greatest suspense novelists of all time.
Along Came a Spider (1993) introduced Patterson's most famous character, Alex Cross, an African-American homicide detective for the Washington, D.C. police. He's also a brilliant forensic psychologist.
The novel opens with Cross suddenly pulled off the case he's been working on - the bizarre and savage murder of two black prostitutes - and reassigned to investigate the kidnapping of two students from an exclusive private school.
Cross is angered at being pulled off his double murder case, and feels that the department cares more about rich white children that poor black women. What he doesn't know is that both cases are linked.
They are the work of Gary Soneji, a math teacher at the private school the children attended. After a standoff at a McDonald's restaurant, Soneji is captured, and Cross must figure out what he did with the children.
Using his skills as a psychologist, Cross hypnotizes Soneji several times and pieces together the horrifying truth. Soneji is a split personality. He is both Gary Murphy, a gentle teacher and loving family man, and Gary Soneji, a vicious, bloodthirsty psychopathic serial killer.
The kidnapping of the children was part of a ransom plot. In order to save the children, Cross must track down Soneji's partners in crime - a task that is complicated when Soneji escapes from prison. He wants to get to his partners - and the ransom money - before Cross does.
Along Came a Spider was adapted as a feature film in 2001, featuring Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. Widely panned by critics, (and fans) it scored only 32% on the Tomatometer. Another film, Alex Cross (2012), was even more reviled by critics and scored just 12% on the Tomatometer.
There are twenty-nine novels in the Alex Cross series so far; the 29th, Fear No Evil, was released last year. Another of James Patterson's popular suspense novel series is the Women's Murder Club series.
The first Women's Murder Club novel, 1st To Die, was published in 2001. In it, San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer is called to the scene of a horrific crime - a young newlywed couple has been viciously murdered in their hotel room on their wedding night, the bride still in her wedding gown.
Lindsay's investigation is complicated by her personal problems - she suffers from severe depression and a life threatening blood disease. She could use a little help, and she's about to get some.
Covering the story of the crime is Cindy Thomas, a rookie investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Lindsay and Cindy form an unlikely friendship as Lindsay begins tracking down a brutal, twisted serial killer.
Soon, two new friends join in - city medical examiner Claire Washburn and Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhardt. The four ladies decide to pool their talents and resources to catch the serial killer, and The Women's Murder Club is born. There are twenty-one Women's Murder Club novels. The 21st, 21st Birthday, was published last year.
In 2005, James Patterson began a new series of novels in a new genre - young adult fantasy. The series was called Maximum Ride and the first book, The Angel Experiment, introduced the heroine, Maximum "Max" Ride.
14-year-old Max is the leader of The Flock, a group of children ages 6-14 who are winged human-bird hybrids (98% human, 2% bird) created by genetic engineering. In addition to being able to fly, the Flock possesses other powers.
The Flock, which also includes Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel, are on the run from the scientists who created them. The scientists have dispatched superhuman assassins called Erasers to kill off The Flock in order to keep their creations a secret.
A feature film adaptation of The Angel Experiment, titled Maximum Ride, was released in 2016. The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and streaming services.
In addition to his series novels, James Patterson has written many stand-alone novels. In recent years, he has outsold Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dan Brown - combined. Most of his novels are huge bestsellers. One in 17 hardcover novels sold in the United States is by James Patterson.
Patterson's philanthropic endeavors are geared toward promoting literacy. In 2005, he established the James Patterson Page Turner Awards, which awarded nearly a million dollars a year to schools, institutions, companies, and individuals who encourage people to read.
In 2008, Patterson put the Page Turner Awards on hold and began a new initiative, ReadKiddoRead.com, which is for parents, teachers, librarians, and others who want to encourage children to read. The site helps them find the best books for kids and provides information such as lesson plans for teachers and social networking.