Thursday, August 26, 2010

119 Days and counting...

Just when I thought I had escaped the cold clutches of Mr. Patterson for good...  I was on our local NPR affiliate's morning talk show, These Days this morning, discussing (quite civilly, thank you) the works of JPatt.  My many, many thanks to Angela and the rest of the good people at KPBS for helping me spread the good word.  Please enjoy the sound of my voice.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 117

Well, here we are.

The question I posed to myself back on April 29th, Day One, was what is it about James Patterson that compels a staggering 14 million human souls to purchase and read his books each year?  What is that intangible element that allows him successfully produce 9 books a year and be the highest paid author on the planet?  Why are so many people not just content with but frothingly ecstatic over reading his books?

"A brand is just a connection between something and a bunch of people. Crest toothpaste: I always used it, it tastes O.K., so I don’t have any particular reason to switch. Here the connection is that James Patterson writes books that bubble along with heroes I can get interested in. That’s it."  (-JPatt from the NYT piece, James Patterson, Inc. by Jonathan Mahler, January 2010)

After spending the last 117 days reading and analyzing his book The 9th Judgment, I'm convinced that JPatt is nothing more than a creepy, manipulative, gigantic egomaniac hell-bent on world domination.  By using his self-professed brand-power, he now has a vast portion of the American reading public eating right out of the palm of his clawed hand.  I genuinely mean no insult when I write this, but I think that most of his readers are either not educated or literate enough, or perhaps just not intelligent enough, to realize that he is manipulating them to such an astounding degree.  He's just dropping candy into their open mouths and they never even wonder where it's coming from.

Like I've said before, people have suggested to me that by reading this book at the one-chapter-a-day pace, I lose the appeal of the ripping-fast page-turner - JPatt's supposed bread-and-butter.  To that I continue to say, if this book can't stand up to a tiny bit of scrutiny and critique, then its value as a piece of literature is completely lost.  And whether he wants to admit it or not, he is working in a field known as "literature" and should be subject to the same expectations and open to the same critical assessment as any other work of fiction produced.

"I’m less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories.” (- JPatt, again from James Patterson, Inc. by Jonathan Mahler)

If that above quote is truly how Patterson feels about his own work, then I have to call bullshit on him.  I don't think he's interested in sentences, stories, character development, or anything else related to the crafting of a work of fiction.  "Stories?"  What story?  The story at the core of The 9th Judgment is terribly crafted, poorly structured, and not well thought out at all.  It's nothing, hollow, vacuous.  It's like candy on the beach - still sort of sweet, but covered in sand & kind of bad enough that you want to wash your mouth out with seawater.  All he is interested in is continuing his brand, getting as many copies of his books into the hands of as many people worldwide as possible, and raking in as much cash as he possibly can.  I'm just sorry that more readers don't see it that way.

In a perfect world, I'd be happy if just one James Patterson reader stumbled across these 117 Days and realized that there is a vast universe of quality literature - even of genre fiction - out there in the world, waiting for them to pluck it from the tree.  I want them to realize that they don't have to be resigned to their fate of wading through JPatt's sea of purple prose and one-dimensional characters - they can go out and read some real books and feel good about themselves.  Turn the TV off and read for longer than the span of a commercial break - you do have the time to let your mind live a little.


Day 117, Chapter 117
Lindsay has Joe safely back at home after her 207-word plane crash scare from the last two chapters.  She takes the phones off their hooks and literally locks each of their cellphones in a wall safe to keep the outside world away.
Joe and I took Martha for a run, and when we got back, Joe made ham-and-cheese omelets with leftovers. It was after noon, so we opened the wine Miles had brought, Joe sipping, looking at the bottle, and saying, "Wow."
See, there you can see the evidence of JPatt's disinterest in writing coherent, well-formed sentences.  Sip, look, say "Wow," move on.

Lindsay informs the reader that she and Joe had previously purchased the first season of the television program, Lost, but had never gotten around to watching it.  (JPatt - always current.)  Today's the day!  They "pulled up armchairs to the TV and went through six episodes" before taking a break for pizza, beer, and some TV news.  On the news, they learn that the plane crash - that just narrowly avoided involving Joe - was due to pilot error, not sabotage.  
...terrible enough because four people had died but a relief in that it hadn't been a failed attempt on Joe's life.
God, it hadn't even occurred to me that the crash could have been deliberate.  The ego at work here is astounding!  Then they watch five more episodes of Lost, bringing their television watching time for the day up to somewhere around 10 hours.  My brain hurts just thinking about watching that much TV.
"I love you," I said.
"Of course you do. I love you, too. I wish there was a better, more expressive way to say it. Too bad you can't slip into my skin and feel how much I love you."
I laughed.
Ah, thank you, JPatt - we all laughed at that one.

The next morning (sorry folks, no porn scene in this one) Lindsay gets up, straps on her gun, kisses Joe goodbye, and heads out to her car where she listens to her voicemails before driving to the Hall of Justice.  Jacobi had called her four times.  "I was alarmed and swamped with guilt.  I love Jacobi.  Love him like the father I wished I'd known."  Over the course of those messages, he apologizes for missing the dinner party, but tells her that Chief Tracchio is resigning and that he is moving up to captain.  I'm not sure what that means, since all this time I assumed that Jacobi was already the captain of the homicide unit.  Who's going to be the chief, then?  He also offers Lindsay back her "old job" of lieutenant, whatever that means.  When did she lose it?  She's been "Lieutenant Boxer" for 354 pages, as far as I can tell.  Are there pages missing from my book?  Are there really 118 chapters?!  Aaaahhh!  It's an endless loop!

She has been given an ultimatum, of sorts, to call Jacobi back with her acceptance of the "promotion" - an deadline that she has missed because she locked her phone in the safe and watched 10 hours of Lost instead.  He tells her that he may offer the job to CSI: Miami's Jackson Brady if he doesn't hear back from her.  Oh shit.  

The dramatic conclusion:
What had Jacobi decided to do? Replace himself with me? Or with Jackson Brady? Clearly I'd lost my chance to vote. I tried Jacobi's phone and got a busy signal. It happened when I called him the next time, too.
I started up my car and headed toward the Hall of Justice, but where was I really heading? I had no idea.
I have no idea, either.

*Thank you to everyone who tuned in regularly to read these 117 posts - your encouragement and hilarious commentary (both in person and on the site) really kept me going these last 4 months.  I really appreciate it.  Hopefully, you'll keep reading the Book Catapult when JPatt is long gone - I do like to read real books, you know.  For those of you in San Diego, there's a good chance I will be on KPBS's These Days on Thursday morning at 10am to talk about JPatt.  Tune in.

Monday, August 23, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 116

P-p-p-poker face.
Day 116, Chapter 116
It's chapters like today's that make me take stock and really ponder what the hell I have been doing with my life since April 29th.  What is wrong with me?  At its worst moments - like Chapter 116 - this book truly reveals itself to be nothing more than a manipulative, devious mind-controlling crap fest of bloated emotions, jerky, rickety rollercoaster rides, and half-assed, amateur prose stylings by a hack writer with no soul and an ever-ballooning bank account.  Patterson is a sneaky, manipulative devil of a man, as witnessed by Chapter 116, but I will save the rest of my (9th) judgment for tomorrow's post, thank you.

Just when you think things are wrapping up and we can all go home after 116 days, Joe's plane has crashed, Lindsay is delirious with grief ("Oh no. Oh God no."), & everybody's crying, even Yuki.  Great.  Even the dog is bummed out.
I was overwhelmed with a horrible emptiness, a pain so deep, so shocking, I wanted to die. I rolled onto my side so I couldn't see anyone and covered my head with a pillow. Sobs poured out of me.
Then she passes out, hugging Joe's pillow.  Sad, sad shit, to be sure.
I woke up not knowing why I was drowning in dread.
"What time it is?" I asked into the pillow.
"It's almost five," Claire said.
"In the afternoon?"
"Yes."
"I've only been out for an hour?"
She's like the kid throwing a tantrum in her room, trying to get her parents' attention, but only managing to stay in there & remain all emotional for like 5 minutes.  (Maybe that was just me.  Hi, Mom!)  Lindsay pulls the blanket up over her head and falls asleep again.  Almost immediately, she wakes up again, this time to the sounds of cheering and a "roar of voices."  For the record, there have been 207 manipulative, emotionally wrenching words between when Lindsay first blacked out from the news of Joe's death to right now:
I came up from the deep again, this time into a roar of voices, cheers - What the hell?  Was I still dreaming? The bedroom door opened, and lights blazed. Joe was standing over me.
I screamed his name.
Was it really him? Was it? Or had I gone insane?
Joe opened his arms, and I threw myself against him, feeling the wool of his jacket scrape my cheek, hearing his voice saying my name.
Wow, it's just like the season finale of Dallas!  Bobby's alive and in the shower!  Hooray!

It turns out, Joe never got on the plane - he received a call while in the airport that the passengers on the hijacked DC plane managed to overpower Waleed Mohammad, the terrorist.  (Yes, the hijacker had a name - be thankful that I spared you for this long.)  Crisis averted.  Joe didn't know about the plane crash until he was in the car headed home.  I assume he thought it would be more dramatic to just burst into the bedroom in a flood of heavenly light, rather than to just call one of the four phones in the house.
I was helped out of the bedroom and brought to the table. Joe sat beside me. The food was rubbery and cold, and it was the best damned meal I'd eaten in my life - in my entire life.
Wine was poured. Toasts were made. I looked around the table, and it finally sank in - Jacobi wasn't there.
What?!  You just found out that your boyfriend wasn't just killed in a horrible plane crash, but the tremendous thing that is just sinking in now is the fact that your boss never made it to your little dinner party?  Will somebody please get me the fuck out of here!!  (Sorry for the cursing.)
We raised a glass to Jacobi's new girlfriend. (Because, of course, he's off getting banged somewhere, right?  What else could it be?) We ate Joe's apple cobbler with gusto and, by the way, the 49ers won. (Again, please leave my sports teams out of this, JPatt.)  I was weak from emotion (oh, I do believe I have a case of the vapors!) and didn't even try to stop people from clearing the table.
I am also weak from emotion.  See you tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of James Patterson's novel, The 9th Judgment!
Go to Day 117

Sunday, August 22, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 115

Day 115, Chapter 115
I wish that there was a way for me to poll readers of the 117 Days ahead of time about where they think the Epilogue is heading - how you think this shitstorm is going to end.  As of this morning, there are only nine pages left in my reading of The 9th Judgment - 3 chapters of 3 pages each - yet, as you will see, the drama has yet to fully unfold.  Or is that melodrama?
I was dressed by the time Yuki and Miles arrived. Miles, that too-cute-for-words bartender, presented me with a bottle of wine, telling me about its special qualities. I barely heard him, but I'm pretty sure I thanked him. Yuki asked where Joe was, and I told her with my voice catching, my eyes watering up, that he had rushed off to Washington.
I turned away so she wouldn't have to endure my disgraceful wet-eyed funk. So she followed me into the kitchen and helped me plate the olives and cheese. "What's going on, Lindsay?" she asked me.
"Don't look at me. It's just that everything finally got to me. You know. Everything."
"Don't look at me showing my soft, vulnerable feminine side!  It's disgraceful!"  Then Claire shows up with her husband, Edmund, and even now, JPatt can't resist a plus-sized dig at her: 
Claire surrounded me in a big hug and smothered me with flowers.  
The WMC Voltron (Ritchie is the head)
At least it wasn't "surrounded me with flowers and smothered me in a big hug."  Then the party really gets kickin' and the Women's Murder Club Voltron is once again complete when Ritchie Conklin and Cindy bust in.  Apparently, this is the first time anyone has seen them as a couple, unless you count accidentally seeing them screwing in Conklin's car in Chapter 24.
Rich said, "You want me to pick out some music, Linds?"
"Thanks. That would be great."
Ritchie was digging through the CDs and I was pulling the ham out of the oven when the phones rang, each of them, one in all four rooms ringing together. 
Let me get this straight: a call comes in on your home phone; you have multiple phones scattered throughout the house - let's say four phones; because the call is coming in on one line and all four phones are connected to that line, they all ring simultaneously when the call arrives?  That's incredible!  I don't understand your strange technology.  You world is strange and foreign to me.
"Are you getting the phone?" Claire asked me.
"Phones are no friends of mine."
Yeah, screw the phones!  They're always ruining everything, especially nice dinner party scenes constructed by high school freshman English students.  Maybe Maxine Paetro is a 14-year old - I never thought of that.  

Lindsay answers her cell phone, which miraculously rings separately from the cacophonous four home phones.  At first she thinks the call is Jacobi, who's late to the party with his new "mystery date."
"Sergeant Boxer?"
"Yes. Who is this?"
"This is Commander John Jordan. I'm afraid there's been an incident. I wanted to reach you before you heard it on the news."
My mind skittered like a needle across an old-fashioned vinyl record. 
Oh man, I knew you shouldn't have answered that phone!  What did I tell you?  As Commander John Jordan talks in her ear, she sees news footage on the TV in the other room of "Charter Jet Downed in California," complete with images of airplane wreckage and "a blooming column of black smoke."
The commander was speaking to me, but I didn't really hear his words. I already got it. Joe's plane had gone down. They didn't know what had happened, why it had blown up or simply crashed.
The lights faded to black, and I went down.
Down like a charter plane in the hills of California.

**Okay, only six frickin' pages left!  How's it doing to end?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Go to Day 116

Saturday, August 21, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 114

Day 114, Chapter 114 - "Epilogue: 911"
Yesterday, Forbes announced their list of the highest-paid authors in the world - guess who made it to number one?  He earned $70 million in the last year - $30 million more than Stephenie Meyer, his closest competitor.  Part of this, if you recall, is due to his recent contract with his publisher, Hachette, worth somewhere between $100-150 million for 17 books to be written by 2012.  (I don't think the sales of the Women's Murder Club video game made much of a dent in his income.)  The Forbes list is kind of fascinating, actually: #3 is Stephen King ($34 million), #4 Danielle Steel ($32 million), #5 is a relative shocker - Ken Follett ($20 million), #6 Dean Koontz ($18 million), #7 Janet Evanovich ($16 million), #8 John Grisham ($15 million), #9 Nicholas Sparks, who will be at Warwick's on September 22 much to my glee ($14 million), and #10 J.K. Rowling ($10 million).  I think with the exception of Follett and Rowling, any one of these authors could be the subject of another 117 days.  If I really hated my life, of course.

So, now to the epilogue!  I'm not really feeling any sort of sense of resolution from the rest of the book, you know?  Maybe it's because of the way I read the thing - too methodically, perhaps - but if I look back to the way things were being laid out in the early chapters, I feel that the structure completely fell apart.  Remember early on, when Yuki and Claire (and to a small degree, Cindy) played a part in the formulation of the storyline?  They met in the bar, discussed the case, Yuki had a personal connection to the Dowlings, Claire was trying to sort out the murder scenes - what happened to all of that?  It just fizzled away, just like my entire summer, leaving us with a have-assed epilogue and 10 pages to go.
It was September 25, and Joe and I were having friends over to toast one another and the good days ahead.
A ham was in the oven, baking under a peppery mango glaze. Martha was begging for a taste and got a Milk-Bone instead. I was wearing a kimono and an avocado mask as I peeled the potatoes and Joe sliced apples for the cobbler.
I don't know how much time has passed since the events of Chapter 113 - presumably not much, since it's still September and Lindsay was at a 49ers game in Chapter 99 - but she's still frazzled from her life as a vulnerable lady-cop.  Joe's cell phone rings and she doesn't want him to answer it, but he does anyway.
I hadn't had a call in weeks that hadn't sent me down a tunnel of horror, and frankly I was so strung out from my job, I couldn't take even a lightbulb burning out. Or a broken fingernail. Or even a dip in the temperature. I just couldn't take it anymore. 
How about a flat tire?  Or a papercut?  Or when Martha shits in the living room?  Or when Joe leaves the toilet seat up and you sit down on that cold porcelain at three in the morning?

Joe comes back after his phone call, "gray-faced and grim" like Jacobi.  I think this epilogue's about to get blowed up, y'all.
"There's a plane full of people on the tarmac at Dulles International," he said. "There's a guy on board, used to be an informant of mine years back. He smuggled C-four in with his hand luggage. He's threatening to blow up the plane."
"I got to get into this dude's pelt and crawl around for a few days."
I wonder if this hijacker remembered to bring his blasting caps?  How did he sneak his C-4 (not to mention, a couple of blasting caps) past the TSA?  In his underwear?  Or maybe he fashioned the C-4 into tiny animals like Carl in Caddyshack.
"So you need to call the guy," I said. "Talk him down."
"I have to fly to Washington," Joe said, walking to me, enfolding me in his arms. "A car's picking me up. I have to go right now."
It felt like my heart stopped in its tracks.
It was stupid, but I just wanted to bawl in Joe's arms and tell him he couldn't go, and if he did, I'd keep crying until he came back.
"Do what you have to do," I said.
Only JPatt could weave the plot of an entirely new novel into the 10-page epilogue of another.  Hang on, everybody, this shit's not over yet!
Go to Day 115

Friday, August 20, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 113

Day 113, Chapter 113
Today is the final chapter before the four chapter epilogue, so this is the point at which most of those fine narrative tendrils should be wrapped up.  Ri-i-i-i-ight.  At the end of Chapter 112, Pete Gordon was being shot by a lady in a parking garage - let's pick up the action right where we left off:
I was running up Sutter, Jacobi shouting into the cell phone at my ear, "It's not one of ours!"
"Say again."
"None of our people are involved. We got a nine one one call. Shots fired in the Sutter-Stockton Garage. Third floor." 
So it's not Agent Connie Cacase or Heather "Can't Touch Me" Thomson doing the shooting, it seems to be a civilian.  Lindsay and Conklin race to the garage and head to the third floor.  This action is described in riveting prose such as: We were yards from the garage and then we were inside...

And then?  And then?

They find the scene with Gordon lying face up on the floor with a woman nearby holding a .22.
"It's him, isn't it? she said, still transfixed, her baby screaming behind her. "The coroner said to carry a gun, and I did it. It's him, isn't it? It's the killer, isn't it?"
Isn't it?  Isn't it?  Don't get me wrong, it's great that this lady killed the Lipstick Killer (or so it would appear) but who the hell listens to the advice given by the coroner over the television?  Seriously, have you ever heard the county coroner where you live giving any type of public recommendation of any sort?  I know Claire's part of the Women's Murder Club, but still, it's absurd.

Lindsay kicks the gun out of the limp hand of Pete Gordon and checks for a pulse.  He's still alive!  Call an ambulance!
His blood was pumping onto the concrete floor.
I didn't want to lose him. I wanted to see him in an orange jumpsuit, shackled to the defense table. I wanted to hear his fucked-up view of the world. I wanted him to pay with nine consecutive life sentences, one for each of the people he'd killed. I wanted him to pay.
Wow, Lindsay said the f-word!  Before Pete dies on that concrete floor, let us recap the police activity in this thrilling law-and-order novel.
1) the Hello Kitty robbery case: HK returned all the items she stole.  The FBI inadvertently put her into Witness Protection.  Cop involvement = nonexistent
2) the Casey Dowling Murder case: the police spent most of this book thinking that Hello Kitty killed Casey while robbing her house.  The SFPD eventually decided that her husband, Marcus, was the guilty party because his hair was wet at the crime scene.  Confronted with this, Marcus confessed.  Cop involvement = minimal at best, bumbling at worst
3) the Lipstick Killer case: Pete "WCF" Gordon killed 9 women & children.  He tricked Lindsay into driving around town with her shirt off.  His wife somehow realized that he was a mass murderer & went to the FBI, who proceeded to let him go after he blew up his house.  He remained on the loose until a civilian shot him in a parking garage while the police set useless decoys in all the other garages in town.  Cop involvement = completely frickin' useless
I pressed my hand to the well of blood pumping from his femoral artery. I nearly jumped when Gordon opened his sleepy eyes and turned them on me, saying, "Sweet...meat. I think...I'm shot."
I leaned so close to his face, I could almost feel a breeze as he opened and closed his eyes.
I said, "Why'd you kill them, you son of a bitch?"
He smiled and said, "Why not?" Then he exhaled a ragged breath and died.
So once again, the cops had nothing to do with the conclusion of a case.  Nice.

I thought Pete was shot in the right shoulder - wasn't that the bullet that put him down in the first place?  So, after that - while he was on the ground - the woman shot him in the leg?  Perhaps JPatt is unaware that the femoral artery runs down the right leg?  Sigh... 

RIP WCF.  It's been real.
Go to Day 114

Thursday, August 19, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 112

Day 112, Chapter 112
So it turns out that Pete "Lipstick Killer" Gordon is actually in the mall stalking people, because of course the police are right in their assumptions.
His target was no beauty queen, but she had some mesmerizing tail action, a nice jiggle and sway. Pete gave her a name, Wilma Flintstone, which was perfect. Dotty little dress, hair twisted up, and Pebbles in the stroller.

What can I say about a passage like that?  After 112 days, I'm just not surprised anymore.  "Mesmerizing tail action?"  Jesus, Patterson, put it back in your pants.  Oh, and by the way, as you can see from the included image, Wilma Flintstone always wore a white dress - Fred was the one with the polka-dots on his outfit.  Way to screw up another cultural reference, JPatt.

Pete follows Wilma through the parking garage, "maintaining a steady ten-foot distance" between them.  He gets angry when a family of "four jackasses" gets between him and his prey, but they soon move on.  I don't know what this guy is expecting, but at some point the women of San Francisco are going to catch on to the fact that there's a guy in a baseball hat stalking and killing mothers and their kids in the mall parking garages.  But hey, don't listen to me, Pete, by all means, lower the bill of that cap and keep following this lady.
Pete was starting to worry that he'd lost her when her dress jumped out at him.
Yaaaaaah!!!  Surprise!!  (Sorry, I thought it sounded like just the dress jumped out to surprise him.)

Wilma takes the elevator & Pete watches to see which floor it stops on before following up the stairs.  But when he gets to her floor and begins following her again, she spots him.  Like I said, it was only a matter of time.  "She stared, bug-eyed, for a long moment" before racing back to her car screaming, "Stay away from me.  Stay away."  Well, it says that she "shouted" and I assume she would have said this with some volume (maybe not the same volume one would use inside a soundproofed van) but for some reason, there are no exclamation points.  So, I guess she just politely suggests to Pete that he "stay away."  He continues with his usual spiel - "Lady, you got it wrong.  My cell phone died." - but Wilma's not buying it and she pulls a .22 out of her baby stroller.  Oh snap.  Here is the uninterrupted ending to Chapter 112:
He pulled his gun, but it snagged on his shirt. The muzzle was coming up when he heard the shot and felt the punch to his right shoulder. His gun jumped out of his hand and clattered to the concrete floor.
He yelled, "Stupid bitch!" and dove for the weapon. A slug pinged into the floor an inch from his nose. He rolled onto his back with his gun in his left hand.
"Don't move, Wilma," he said, taking aim. But his vision was blurring and lights swooped around him. He squeezed off a few rounds, but he didn't drop her. Wilma was firing again.
She kept firing.
Go to Day 113

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 111

Day 111, Chapter 111
I think I'm at the point in this stupid exercise where I can no longer readily find the inadvertent humor in these chapters, being so blinded by the piss-poor writing and contrived plot machinations.  Alright, that may not be entirely true, but still, I am continually shocked on a daily basis at how cheaply constructed the plot of this book really is.  Someone very early on in these 117 Days remarked that perhaps if I were reading the book at the rapid pace that it was intended to be read, I would be able to better appreciate the style that Patterson employs.  Would I?  Or would I just be glossing over the fact that he is a terrible, terrible writer?

The brilliant idea for catching Pete Gordon that Claire had at the end of Chapter 110 involves nothing more than several undercover female police officers pushing baby strollers around the malls in town with the hope that Pete will try to kill them.  In all seriousness, why had this not occurred to anyone in either the SFPD or the FBI before the assistant medical examiner suggested it?  This case has been going on for months, 8 or 9 people have been killed, and they're just now trying to set a trap to catch the killer?  To counteract my annoyance with this development, I give you the opening paragraph from Chapter 111 - I call it "Baby-Sized Dolls."  Enjoy.
It was my third consecutive night in a surveillance van with Conklin and Jacobi. The vehicle was airless and soundproofed and connected wirelessly to two female undercover operatives near Nordstrom in the San Francisco Centre - they were pushing strollers with baby-sized dolls inside. I was listening to my designated decoy, Agent Heather Thomson, who was humming "Can't Touch Me," and Conklin was tracking Connie Cacase, an innocent-looking, street-talking twenty-year-old rookie from Vice.
I would chalk Jpatt's flubbing of the song being hummed to his advanced age, but the fact is, he's only 63.  There is no song called "Can't Touch Me" - at least not well-known enough for a Vice cop to be humming it or for it to show up in an extensive Google search.  At first I thought he meant MC Hammer's 1990 smash hit, "U Can't Touch This," but there is also a lesser known song by Detroit rapper Royce da 5'9" called "You Can't Touch Me" that reached #12 on the Billboard chart in 2001.  Or maybe he meant the stupid Family Guy version, which was, in fact, called "Can't Touch Me."  Either way, he got it wrong and I mock him for it.

Regardless of where this storyline ends up, I love "Connie Cacase, an innocent-looking, street-talking twenty-year-old rookie from Vice."  Frickin' hilarious.
Claire's plan made sense, but it was far from foolproof. We were all set to pounce but had no one to pounce on. Jacobi was checking in with Benbow when I heard shots through my headset. Heather stopped humming.
"Heather!" I called into my mic. "Speak to me!"
"Was that gunfire?" she asked.
"Can you see anything?"
"I'm on Stockton. I think the shots came from the garage."
I shouted to Jacobi and Conklin, "Gunfire! Agent Thomson is fine. Ritchie, do you have Connie? Is she okay?"
"Connie's good."
"I don't know what the hell happened, but something bad. Stay tuned," I said to Jacobi.
That's a lot of shouting inside that tiny "airless and soundproofed" van.  "Ritchie" and Jacobi are right next to Lindsay, yet she yells to them as if they're down the street.  I especially like the "Gunfire!" comment.  Wouldn't they have all heard it through their surveillance headsets too?  I wonder what's gonna happen tomorrow?  "Stay tuned!" Seth shouted.
Go to Day 112

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 110

Day 110, Chapter 110
110.  Holy crap.  Gimme some Claire, today, JPatt.  
"Sorry I'm late. I was on the medical examiner database, still trying to break the logjam in this Lipstick Psycho disaster. Edmund says I should take the pictures of those dead babies down from the board in my office, but I want to keep them up until that devil is in custody."
"Did you find anything?" I asked.
"I can't find a pattern that matches anything in any database but ours. No other mother-child shootings. No lipstick messages. The stippling pattern is unique. What is his motivation, his trigger, his problem? I don't have a clue. Cindy, could you pass the chips?"
1. I will forever be haunted by those words: "Cindy, could you please pass the chips?"
2. Yes, let us discuss the stippling pattern one more goddamn time.  Pete was in the military and the gun seems to be military issue.  For the love of God, can we please move on from this?!
3. "Lipstick Psycho Disaster" is a great band name.
4. She keeps pictures of dead babies on her cubicle wall at work?  Who's the crazy one?
4. And who the hell is Edmund?

WMC: Yuki Castellano not included.
Now that we have reached the event horizon in this ridiculous excuse for a novel, what would be the point of trying to figure out what the killer's motives are?  His name is Pete Gordon, he was a soldier in Iraq, he seems to have gone crazy, and he has been killing people.  And the police screwed up his capture on several occasions, thus he is still at large.  Just find him.  Jesus, won't this thing end?

And if you really want to know, Claire, I'm sure there's something in his military records that drove him to this lunacy.  You just don't have clearance for that, though, sorry.  Maybe you should just read this stupid book.

Claire doesn't buy the fact that Pete is motivated by money - and she's probably right, but again, who cares?  She asks where the investigation currently stands - we left things with the FBI after Pete wrote on another windshield that he wanted $5 million.  Lindsay doesn't know anything - "Benbow is in charge." The girls discuss setting a trap for Lipsticky, since he will most likely kill more people if the FBI ignores him.  Which they seem to be doing - especially since Special Agent Dick Benbow was last seen driving Heidi and Sarah off into the wild blue yonder.

Claire claims to have "an interesting idea, different from the last time" for catching Pete.  Lindsay is relieved, as she doesn't want to take off all her clothes and drive around town again, never knowing "when Gordon would take the money and pop (her)."  (Presumably, "pop" is not a euphemism.)  Then the chapter just ends.
Go to Day 111

Monday, August 16, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 109

Day 109, Chapter 109
I have a confession to make here: I have been out of town since Day 104 - I cheated pretty hard and read and wrote about 105-108 in advance so I did not have to travel with James Patterson in my carry-on.  I am sorry if anyone feels lied to.  Get over it.

Hello Kitty turned in the jewels she stole, Marcus Dowling was accidentally discovered as the murderer of Casey Dowling, the Lipstick Killer is still at large, and it has been 87 chapters since the titular "Women's Murder Club" has been in session.  I think this calls for a Girls' Night Out!  

Lindsay and Cindy head over to Susie's (bar or grill or whatever) to meet Yuki and Claire (Susie's was the scene of Yuki's spicy-crab salad haiku and ridiculous conversation with Miles the bartender from Chapter 23.)  In the car, Lindsay gives Cindy the scoop story on Hello Kitty, telling her that she thinks "Kitty returned the jewelry because she didn't want that 'murder during the commission of a robbery' charge hanging over her head."  Did she really think it that far through, consulting a legal dictionary before turning the jewels in?  C'mon.
I grinned at Cindy as I quoted from Hello Kitty's letter, then I parked as close as I could to Susie's. We both got out of the car and, squealing like little girls, ran a block through the sharp blowing rain.
Oh JPatt, always using every opportunity to make your characters "squeal like little girls."  Yuki's at the bar, hugs all around.  She introduces them to Miles La Liberte, the bartender from Chapter 23.  When they leave to find a table, Yuki kisses Miles on the lips.  Gasp!  Damn, girlfriend!  Was that tongue?
"What was that I just saw?"
"Cute, isn't he?" 
"Darned cute," I said. "And how long has this been going on?"
"A few weeks."
So while the rest of this book has been trudging along, Yuki's been banging the bartender and we haven't been allowed to see any of it?  Bullshit, JPatt.  Know your readers, man.  (Was Yuki won over by Miles' line about the sun coming out when she smiles?  Wow.)  I apologize for the rest of this upcoming dialogue, but, like I've said before, if I have to read it, so do you.
"So this is...serious?"
"Yeah," she said, blushing and grinning at the same time.
"Wow," Cindy said. "You kept that a secret?"
"Good for you, Yuki. A new case and a new boyfriend. A pitcher of brew, please," I said to Lorraine (the waitress). "Four glasses."
"I have an announcement, too," Cindy said, clasping her hands, leaning across the table, practically falling into my lap. "Rich and I are living together."
"Whoa. That's fantastic," I said - and I felt it. A hundred percent. "He didn't tell me."
NOOO!  Ritchie!!  I like that she has to clarify to the reader that she "felt it."  Oh, okay.  The "whoa" at the beginning sends a different message, that's all.  They go on to talk about "closet space and how the bed was too soft for Rich" and I can feel my brain dying a little bit.  Where the hell is Claire?!
I turned, looked over my shoulder, and saw her barreling down the narrow passageway toward our booth.
The look on her face could be described only as an eclipse of the sun. A thunderstorm was coming in.
Yes!
Go to Day 110

Sunday, August 15, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 108

Day 108, Chapter 108
We're almost there, everybody.  I can see the light.  Ten days to go and then we're all free!

Dowling gets a call from his missing lawyer, Peyser.  He complains at him over the phone and hangs up, ready to make a deal with Lindsay and the DA.  Why the sudden turn?  Nothing has happened, as we all know - just a little humming yesterday.  Apparently that was enough to make Dowling decide to confess.  "All too easy," as Darth Vader says.

Dowling's story: Casey found out that he was sleeping around, she got mad, pulled the gun on him, they struggled, the gun went off, the end.  The burglar was a convenient distraction for Casey's plan, that's all.  I have to give it to Lindsay here - for the first time, she actually shows some backbone and a little policing skill:
"Mr. Dowling, are you sure you want to tell it that way? Your wife took two bullets, remember? One to her chest. The other to her neck. She was naked and unarmed. There was no gunpowder stippling in her skin. That means you were at least five feet away. The angle of those shots is going to bear that out."
Oops.  Yeah, I guess that's probably more accurate.  But still.

Dowling starts to sputter and lisp when faced with these accusations.  Seriously.  "I don't remember.  I was frightened."  Of the naked lady.  So I shot her.  On accident.
"I should never have cheated on her. It's hard, don't you see? Women come on to me all the time. Casey didn't understand that."
Good, sound reasoning.  Okay, you can go.  Oh wait, your "confident, thousand-bucks-an-hour" lawyer's here.  (Where the hell has this guy been?)  Man, he's gonna be pissed when he finds out you just blabbed your whole B-S story to the cops.  Lindsay cuffs Dowling and reads him his rights.  Aw yeah!
"It was self-defense!"
"Who knows? Maybe the jury will believe you," I said, looking into a face that had struck love into the hearts of untold thousands of women. "But you know what I think? You're a bad actor. You really stink."
Go to Day 109 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 107

Day 107, Chapter 107
We were in Interview Room Number Two, the larger of our interrogation spaces, the one with the better electronics.
Oh my God, who cares?  Why would you start a chapter like that?  "Better electronics."  I'll give you "better electronics." 

It's time to interrogate Marcus Dowling - no electronics necessary.  Let's just wait for his lawyer to show up.  Hmmm-hmm-hmmmmm.  Doo-dee-doo.  Nothin' happening here.  La-la-la, la-la.

No really, that's pretty much all that happens in Chapter 107.  Is somebody running out of ideas?  Hmmm? Are you guys just dragging this shitty little book out to fill a quota of chapters and pages so you can cash your gigantic royalty checks?  

Dowling is sitting in the famous Interview Room Number Two, "rocking back on (the) hind legs" of a chair, waiting for that lawyer to show up.  The gun is sitting on the table in front of him.  A ballistics tech (Carl Loomis) comes in and picks up the gun but takes the time to let Dowling know that he admires his films.  C'mon, Loomis, get the hell out of here, you're ruining the mood.  There's a little cop-threatening, deal-offering ("The DA goes home at five" if anyone wants to make a deal), and some cocky suspect banter ("Cross your heart?"), but little else.  That is, until Conklin begins to hum the theme song from Dowling's film Night Watch.
It was a catchy little ditty that had made the charts even when Dowling and Cushing's shoot-'em-up movie had bombed.
I saw something come over Dowling's face as Richie hummed. The nonchalance evaporated. The chair legs came down. Seemed to me that hearing that tune had focused Dowling as nothing else had.
Oh Ritchie, you can hum like the dickens. 
Go to Day 108

Friday, August 13, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 106

Day 106, Chapter 106
I yanked out my desk chair and crashed it hard into my trash can, then did it again for the satisfying effect of the clamor. I said to Conklin, "Red Dog won't ask for a warrant without a damned smoking gun."
Yeah, God forbid we should actually have to collect evidence to build a case.  What do you expect detectives to do, detect stuff?  Just makes me want to smash my chair into a trash can.

Okay, now brace yourself, for within Chapter 106 lies the most spectacular, jaw-dropping, bullshit-shovelling leap in logic we have seen yet.  Little Richie Conklin, tired of being in Lindsay's shadow, has been doing some detecting on his own.  Mainly, he has been watching old movies starring Marcus Dowling.
"Night Watch," Conklin said. "He made this decades ago with Jeremy Cushing. Terrible film, but it was what they called 'camp.' It became a cult favorite. Check this out."
There was Dowling: black suit, sideburns, and a sun-lined squint. And he was holding a gun. "You're kidding me. Is that a forty-four?"
Can you see where this is going yet?
"A Ruger Blackhawk. It's a single-action revolver, a six-shooter," my partner said, clicking on another picture. The famous and now-deceased Jeremy Cushing was giving the gun to Dowling as a keepsake in a handshake photo op. You could almost hear the flashbulbs popping.
That's right, it's the murder weapon.  Isn't it obvious?  Why wouldn't one B-list actor give another a real handgun from the set of a movie they did together?  Didn't you know that actors use real guns on movie sets?  And of course, Lindsay with her eagle-eye detective skills can tell - from this old picture from the 70's - that it's the exact same make and model that fired the bullets that killed Casey Dowling.

Oh, wait, friends, there's more to come.

Lindsay, Conklin, Yuki, & Chi team up with three pointless characters named McNeil, Samuels, and Lemke and head over to the Dowling abode with their freshly inked search warrant.  
Yuki handed Dowling the search warrant. "I went to school with Casey, you know," she said, stepping past Dowling into the vast gilded foyer.
"I don't think she ever mentioned you."
Ha ha!  The dead rich lady doesn't remember you!
"Wait," Dowling said. "What are you looking for?"
"You'll know it when we see it," I said. 
The team ransacks the house, but doesn't find anything.  Can't we get some help here?  This is too hard!  Can't someone just point us to where the gun is hidden?!  Hey look, it's the illegal immigrant maid, Vangy!
"You're Vangy, right?"
"I'm an illegal alien."
"I understand. I...that's not my department. What do you want to tell me?" 
Vangy punches her ticket back to Guatemala by showing Lindsay to the laundry room, where she claims to have heard Dowling hiding an item in the exhaust vent behind the dryer.  Case closed, muthafuckas. 
Go to Day 107

Thursday, August 12, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 105

Day 105, Chapter 105
(District Attorney) Leonard Parisi looked particularly ragged the next morning when Yuki and I came to his office requesting a search warrant. Parisi, known as "Red Dog" for his dark-red hair and his tenacity, pawed through the pictures of approximately four million dollars' worth of stolen jewelry and a copy of the letter from Hello Kitty.
(He "pawed through the pictures," get it?  'Cause he's a dog!)  Really?  We're still on this Hello Kitty thing?  I've got news for you guys, you just accidentally sent the frickin' jewel thief off to start a new life on the tax payer's dime - it's time to move on.  But hey, Yuki's back!

Parisi's pissed because the video surveillance at the Hall of Justice failed to pick up a decent shot of Hello Kitty when she dropped off the case filled with stolen jewels the other day.  No prints on anything, all the stolen goods are accounted for, no real lead on anything other than the fact that Hello Kitty said she didn't kill Casey Dowling.
Like the rest of us, Parisi had taken vast quantities of crap for his department's low conviction record in the face of San Francisco's rising crime rate. That would be our fault - the police, who didn't bring the district attorney's office enough evidence for them to build airtight cases.
Was that just an admission of ineptitude on the part of the police department?  Even the characters in this book know that they suck at their jobs.  That's bad.

I feel kinda bad for Red Dog, taking those "vast quantities of crap...in the face."  Seems excessive, no?

It seems that the warrant Yuki and Lindsay are seeking is for Marcus Dowling's house - even though they admittedly have no evidence that he has done anything wrong.  Well, they think that since Casey had a large inheritance, that's motive enough for the movie star to kill her off.  That and his story has been a little inconsistent throughout, but hey, that's not a crime, right JPatt?
"What else?"
"His hair was wet when we interviewed him right after the shooting."
Seriously?  You're going with that?  Do you have proof that his hair was wet?  Even if you do, what does that prove, exactly?  I'm going to light this book on fire if they convict Marcus Dowling because his hair was wet.  Help me out here, Red Dog.
"A shower is not probable cause. Before you search the screen legend's house and the news media gets hold of it and that gets us sued for defamation, you'd better have something stronger than the burglar says she didn't do it and Dowling took a shower."
Finally a reasonable, relatively sane character.  "A shower is not probable cause" just might be the best line in this whole vast crap in the face of a book. 
Go to Day 106

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 104

Day 104, Chapter 104
Lindsay walks Heidi out of the station, "puffy-eyed and dazed," to meet Sarah and the kids as they head off into the greener pastures of Witness Protection.  OMG, Lindsay is going to get this close to Hello Kitty and not even realize it, isn't she?
"Sergeant Boxer, meet my friend Sarah Wells."
Sarah was a pretty brunette, no makeup, late twenties, wearing oversize clothes. She put a pink rubber ball down on the seat and reached across to shake my hand. She had an impressive grip. She said, "Listen, it's good to meet you at last. Thanks for everything."
There was an odd expression on Sarah's face - as if she were afraid of me. Had she had run-ins with the police?
"Meet me at last?"
"I meant, since you found Stevie."
"Of course."
K, bye.  I suppose, in Lindsay's defense, there's no way for her to know that Sarah is the jewel thief.  Well, she might have had an idea if she had done any police work of value at all, ever.  It's even funnier that due to her ineptitude, her other case (Lipstick) got transferred to the FBI and they unknowingly put the criminal from the robberies into Witness Protection.  Ha ha.

Why is Sarah still trying to improve her hand grip if she's retiring from Hello Kitty-ing?  Is it because she's gay?  C'mon, JPatt, don't go there.

Sorry, there's nothing else to really comment on for this one - Heidi and Sarah just drive away in an FBI caravan lead by Special Agent Dick Benbow.  Man, he didn't even say goodbye.
Go to Day 105

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 103

Day 103, Chapter 103
I'm flabbergasted by today's chapter.  Not because of the content - there's nothing that could shock me at this point, good or bad - but because of its immense, massive, mouth-watering girth!  Beginning on page 309 and ending on page 313, Chapter One Hundred and Three packs more words per chapter than any of the previous 102.  JPatt's been saving up his 103 mph fastball for the bottom of the ninth.  Or maybe it's the Bugs Bunny slowball.  Either way, this one's a doozy - oh my, how will I ever be able to give it the proper attention?

Heidi shows up to talk to the FBI about her husband, the Lipstick Killer.  After talking to Lindsay and Agent Dick Benbow for awhile, they tell her that she needs to enter Witness Protecion with her kids.  She wants to bring Sarah Wells with her.  After a bit of muttering, Benbow agrees.  That's it.  I don't know who the hell wrote this chapter, but at twice the length, there's no way it was James Patterson.  Here are my favorite passages - the whole chapter is from Heidi's perspective:

1) How had she lived with Pete Gordon and never known who he was? Pictures kept coming into her mind, images of cooking for Pete, reasoning with him, trying to keep his lid on.
2) And now her husband had both literally and figuratively blown up their lives.
3) "He said that when he was driving around, he was planning to kill Stevie, but then he saw something in Stevie's face. He said, 'He looks just like me. But you, Heidi. You look nothing like me at all.'"
"That was pretty ugly."
4) Heidi's mind flooded with thoughts.
5) Benbow was saying that, for her own protection, her life as Heidi Meyer was over. That for the safety of her kids, she had to disappear, delete her real life and start over as a new person. It was damned near inconceivable.
6) Heidi was overwhelmed by the enormity of this immediate and complete break with her past - and with the idea of a future without Pete. What would it be like to love without fear, to be with Sarah every night and in the light of day?
7) Tears filled Heidi's eyes again and spilled down her cheeks. She covered her face with her hands and let the tears come. 
1:  Please keep the lid on that thing.
2:  Oh, right, he blew up your house.  (I really did forget that part.)
3:  "That was pretty ugly."  Thanks, Lindsay.
4:  Quick, build an ark!
5:  Her last name's been Meyer all this time?  Inconceivable. 
6:  "Every night, all night," you mean.  Am I right, JPatt?
7:  Tears filled Seth's eyes and spilled down his cheeks.  Two and a half months of his life was completely gone and there was no way to get any of it back.
Go to Day 104

Monday, August 09, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 102

Day 102, Chapter 102
Lindsay, Conklin, and Chi (sounds like a law firm) head up to Jacobi's "pigpen" of an office ("no offense to pigs") to open the black mystery case.  "Are you going to open it, Boxer?  Or are you waiting for an engraved invitation?"
"Something you're gonna like," echoed Chi. "What would that be?"
"I'm hoping for puppies," I said.
Sorry, no puppies - it's filled with every single thing that Hello Kitty stole from the upper crust of San Francisco.  Even the Sun of Ceylon.  Here's the letter from the thief:
"Hi, Sergeant Boxer. I did NOT kill Casey Dowling. All of her stuff is in here, and everyone else's stuff is in here, too. Please tell everyone I'm sorry. I made some bad mistakes because I thought I had no choice, but I will never steal again. Marcus Dowling killed his wife. It had to be him."
I know I'm not supposed to ask this question anymore, but WHY?  Why did I read all those endless chapters about Sarah Wells robbing people if she's just going to turn around and give everything back?  What the hell??  Why would she ever do that?  She's gotten away with it, completely free, the police have absolutely no idea who she is - I'm not even sure anyone's even looking for her anymore.  Did that idiot Heidi put her up to this?  Why would she suddenly feel guilt over stealing?  Why now, other than just being a convenient plot device?  God, that entire storyline was a complete waste of my time.  Well, so was the rest of the book.

Oh, by the way, Heidi - Pete's wife, Sarah's GF - just showed up at the FBI.  Ooh, we're so close to cracking that case, too!  Great work everybody!
Go to Day 103

Sunday, August 08, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day 101

Day 101, Chapter 101
Counting this one, there are just 17 chapters and 52 pages remaining.  "For a moment, I forgot to inhale. I was at the edge of a precipice, and I didn't want to stop."

Lindsay is back at "work" today - how much time has elapsed since her vacation is unclear, but let's be honest: nobody cares. A package addressed to her shows up at security downstairs in the lobby of the Hall of Justice.  Not a sketchy package, it's just a nylon laptop case wrapped in "many yards of clear packing tape."  Perfectly normal.  She calls the bomb squad and evacuates the building.

Please let this happen.
Conklin and Chi (where you been, Chi?!) come outside with her and watch the bomb squad robot and its human "Hurt Locker" partner slowly head inside the Hall.  Boring.  They agree, so they go over to the local cop bar, MacBain's.  The rest of San Francisco's law enforcement community is in there getting trashed, waiting for their office to explode.
I had my hand in the Beer Nuts when my phone rang.
Did you know that Beer Nuts is actually the name of the company that manufactures all the beer nuts?  I was all set to make fun of JPatt for capitalizing "Beer Nuts," when I learned this incredibly valuable fact.  Here I thought "beer nuts" was just what you called those sugary peanuts you never eat in a bar - it never occurred to me that it was the name of an actual company.  Finally, James does his research! 

Considering how much potential tension there is in a bomb scare scene like today's, there is virtually none in Chapter 101.  The cops are bored, the reader is bored, I suspect that Maxine Paetro is pretty goddamned bored by this point.  Lindsay eventually gets a call from Lieutenant Bill Berry from the bomb squad, who has an unnecessarily mocking tone in his voice: 
"Your so-called bomb has been rendered safe."
C'mon, dude, just a few days ago, a huge explosion - aimed primarily at Lindsay - just rocked the shit out of like a dozen cops.  Shouldn't you all be a little concerned that this package might have been sent from the same at-large mass murderer who detonated the first bombs?  Don't be a dick about it.
I walked with Conklin and Chi to the bomb truck, which was now parked in the lot behind the Hall. I knocked on the door of the van, and when it opened, I took the case from Lieutenant Berry's hand.
"So, what is it?" I asked him.
"Christmas in September," he said. "I think you're going to like it."
Great.  After all that, we have to wait until tomorrow.  There is NO WAY this needed to be a separate chapter from whatever tripe will follow in #102.  God, I am so sick of this.
Go to Day 102