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Monday, December 6, 2021

James Patterson interview: ‘Am I entitled to write a black character? Sure I am’

“We go out for dinner and Bill and Hillary hold hands under the table,” he says.  “One of the things I love about Clinton is that he is so open to listening. Which doesn’t happen anymore in this country. In the US, it’s like, ‘My view of the world is correct and yours is stupid.’ In colleges they don’t even want to hear speakers from the other side. I don’t get that, personally. I’m like, ‘no, listen to the bastards. I wanna hear what they have to say’.”

Patterson is a brawny mix of the straight talking and the liberal leaning. He produces books like a factory produces cars, yet cares passionately about literacy – he’s donated millions to pupil literacy funds and has campaigned loudly for libraries and bookshops. His novels make no claims to artistic importance, yet he believes deeply in the power of stories to reveal other lives more clearly.

Alongside Filthy Rich, he’s written several non-fiction books, including one about John Lennon and two based on interviews with American veterans and healthcare workers. “A lot of these veterans come back from war and they don’t have anyone to talk to. People think they know all about the military, but they read my book and realise they don’t.” 

“Walk In My Combat Boots is very readable,” he adds, somewhat unnecessarily. “I’m doing cops next. And one about the Royal family, but I can’t tell you anything about that. It will be respectful, though.”

He is also writing an autobiography. “People have this cockeyed idea about who I am. But you’ll read my book and, well, you might go, ‘I can’t stand this guy’, but it won’t be what you thought.” What do people think of him? “They think I think I’m a big deal, or that I’m arrogant. And that I only care about sales. I don’t care about sales. Well, I care a little, but not much.”

He also has a forthcoming collaboration with Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run, a novel about a young Nashville singer. Parton is apparently “fabulous and very modest”, as is Patterson in an odd way. I ask him why he keeps on going and for the first time a hint of a different sort of writer appears.

“When I was a kid, I had this notion that I wanted to write the sort of book that would be read so many times the binding would fall out and the pages would be scattered by the wind. I’m still working on that one. So that’s why.”

Fear No Evil is published on November 25. To order from The Telegraph for £20, call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk 

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