Sometimes Systems Fail

Do you ever wonder how a writer gets to be famous? I do. When I read a so called best seller I wonder why it became popular? Most times it is obvious even to me that it is popular because it was a damned good, and well told story. Today, I completed a reading of James Patterson’s first book The Thomas Berryman Number. The library has several shelves of Patterson stories, and most I agree are good. The Thomas Berryman Number is not one of them, it is average at best.

To test an author’s credibility I will read his first work. Years ago, I was hooked on author James Michener. The first of his works I read was Poland. It was a great history of the country dating back to the time God created planet Earth. I learned, by reading thirteen of his works, that all of his novels began the same way, the first three chapters deal with creation, and evolution. The history and detail in his historical tomes take an average of a thousand pages of regular print. They are not books you can read in a weekend. I still remember reading Poland. It was a Memorial Day weekend, and once I got into the story I couldn’t put it down. After three days of non-stop reading I was half way finished at 500 pages. I put the book down down on an end table, and there is stayed for twelve months. After a year had passed without touching the book, I decided it was time to return it to the owner, but I had to finish it first. After another marathon reading session I finally finished

Then one day, I looked at Michener’s book list to see what I was missing. I never read his first stories. I ordered his very first one from the library and immediately immersed myself into Tales of the South Pacific published in 1947. Surprise, surprise, I knew the story from beginning to end. Rogers and Hammerstein used this book to produce the musical play titled South Pacific. The play followed the original exactly, and played on Broadway for 1,954 performances, and then was followed up with a movie.. The only exception was the book went into far more detail about the war in the South Pacific. I still rate this book at five stars, and it was a lot shorter than a thousand pages.

I used this same principal to decide if Patterson’s first work would turn me on as much as Michener’s did. Patterson’s first work disappointed me, yet he has written dozens of mystery stories which are all hits. I guess I’ll have to revise my system.

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