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The Author Speaks

Interview With James Patterson

Best-selling writer talks about his new books, career changes and how to get a child to read

Q. Your latest Women's Murder Club book, 10th Anniversary, is just out. What's the appeal of that series for you?

A. Most detective series involve a lone wolf — male or female. They're obsessive: They go home, smoke a cigarette, drink themselves to sleep. I liked creating something different, where you have four women [a detective, a district attorney, a medical examiner, a reporter]. Women are much more collaborative than men. And the fact that they're best friends — that's a cool notion.

Q. You've said you're compassionate and referred to your sentimental streak. Why murder stories?

A. It seemed presumptuous to think I could write serious fiction. A murder mystery seemed a little more logical. There's a market there, there are people who actually read them, it's a little easier to get published, and I liked them. Somewhere along the way, I read Day of the Jackal and The Exorcist and I went "Oh!" — these are good, I think I can do things like this.

In some of the best mysteries and thrillers, there is real heart. The key to Alex Cross is, he has a heart, he's a compassionate man. Now, obviously, there's a lot of graphic stuff in what I do too.

Q. Yes, what about the blood and gore?

A. It's appropriate to what I'm doing. It's not something I shy away from. I'm hardly the most graphic, but it's not Mary Higgins Clark either. I like her, and I like her writing. But that's a different style. Her first book, Where Are the Children?, was actually pretty scary. I think she could push the envelope a little more [now] than she does.

Q. I'm assuming you won't be retiring anytime soon. But will there come a time?

A. I wasn't planning on these young adult books. That's what has put it a little over the top. [But] I love what I do, I don't feel harried, I don't feel any pressure. So there's no particular reason to not want to do it.

Evelyn Renold is a writer and editorial consultant in New York. She is the former executive editor of Lear's magazine and senior deputy editor of Good Housekeeping.

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