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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 9 - "Run for Your Life" by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Almost 1/10th of the way finished with my Cannonball quest, and the next one’s a fairly big book, so I don’t know when I’ll have that in store for you all. Nevertheless, another review is upon us and I hope you have as much fun reading them as I do writing them. Once again, I’d like to thank the good people at Hachette Book Group for providing me with a review copy of the book you’re about to read about.

As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Don't forget February 14th kicks off the two week “Miss Lonelyhearts Stomps a Child 5K”. Rules and details are at the following link: (http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/5k-miss-lonelyhearts-stomps-a-child/)
As always, for the uninitiated, here's where to go for all the background you need on this epic quest, http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm . Once more, special thanks to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. What? You want to sign up? Start here: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/

James Patterson is one of the authors I actively collecting the works of, joining the ranks of Rowling, Crichton, and Fleming in my book. He's also a machine, with a track record of publishing seven books per year (some with co-authors) in the past two years ALONE . The man knows how to constantly churn out work, and not only does he write the Alex Cross series but he also writes the Maximum Ride series, the Women’s Murder Club series, and now the Detective Michael Bennett series, as well as many stand alone pieces. Now some of you might be thinking, "That doesn't necessarily make him a good author. Hacks write that quickly too." The difference between James Patterson and a hack is that while a hack can churn anything out and the quality will differ from time to time; James Patterson’s books all feel the same in a good way. They intrigue and grab the reader the same way no matter the book, no matter the series. The best example would be the Law and Order franchise: for the most part it’s the same formula with minor variations and different characters, but it’s in the characters that we see the most differences and not the plots. It must sound like I’m complaining, but really I’m not. I’m actually praising James Patterson for being able to somehow, undoubtedly with the help of some good co-authors, consistently provide quality thrills.

Like any other Patterson book, the story and the characters are allowed to properly develop simultaneously. The story is in the moment, with some internal flashbacks to fill us in on the details, and this helps a lot. In Run for Your Life, the story’s all about The Teacher: a killer whose motivations are unbeknownst to us except for one simple detail: he’s going to teach the world a lesson, and that lesson is going to be written in blood. With a hit list, some lethal hardware, and military training under his belt, he will go on to execute a rampage against the upper class. Naturally, the only man that can stop him is NYPD Detective Michael Bennett, recently widowed and recently the target of media speculation over a hostage situation gone FUBAR. The book jumps between The Teacher’s third person antics, and Bennett’s first person accounts of events as they unfold; and while we see a massive contrast between these two men and their motivations, we see a pretty massive overlap in their overall missions. Both men want justice, no matter what it takes, and no matter who gets in their way. The only difference is The Teacher believes killing is his justice, while Bennett (as all good heroes do) believes in the system. It is through Bennett’s ideal of justice through the system that Patterson and Ledwidge also convey undying respect for law enforcement officials.

I’ve been a Patterson fan for a couple years now (the first book I ever read of his was Roses are Red) and this is the first collaboration I’ve ever read of his. Sadly, I have not read Step on a Crack so I don’t know how Run for Your Life stacks up to its predecessor. What I can say though is that it’s hard to tell where Patterson ends and Ledwidge begins, though for my money’s worth I assume Patterson mostly developed the Teacher’s storyline while Ledwidge steered the Bennett storyline. Make no mistake; Patterson is the master of cat and mouse. He sets his characters on their respective tracks and finding all sorts of interesting ways of having them miss each other, only to cross paths again a couple times before finally throwing down. This type of overlap is interesting to read, especially in a relatively claustrophobic story such as this. (The story takes place, for the most part, in New York City.) The only complaint I have with Patterson’s work is he sometimes tries too hard to throw in contemporary references in his books. If they fit organically, it works, but reading a cop telling another cop to relax and go “krunk” with some hot ladies at a party they’re guarding takes me out of the moment. Patterson has no problem regaining his hold after these moments, but those moments are still there.

Perhaps the second best compliment I could pay the authors on their work is that like Patterson’s solo efforts the book is broken up into smaller, faster chapters. This makes it easier, and more addicting, enabling the reader to complete the book at a faster pace. It’s 373 pages, but it’s a brisk 373 pages. Patterson has always been an economical storyteller: he tells you who the players are, what you need to know about them, and lets them loose in his playground. He’s also a really good series author, in that he gives his characters so many nuances over time as opposed to trying to fit all of their personality and conflicts into one book. An engagingly fast read, with thrills and action that you’d expect from a really good TV show, Run for Your Life continues James Patterson’s tradition of literary marksmanship. Someone should hire him as a writer on a season of 24, or maybe one of the 24 Declassified books they put out, because I could only imagine what Patterson could do with a Jack Bauer storyline.

Next Time: Endgame 1945 by David Stafford

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