Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

I’m Reading Along Came A Spider So You Never Have To (With Bad Drawings)

Much like we did with Hollow Kingdom, I’ve decided that since I’m only a quarter of the way through James Patternson’s Along Came A Spider, I would share my reading journey with you all. It seemed to work well last time, and I enjoy everyone following along and reading the book with me, essentially. If you haven’t read some of my Hollow Kingdom reviews, please go ahead and give them a look here and here. Warning: there ARE spoilers!

Before we get into this, let’s remember who James Patternson is. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials with this jolly dudes face on it:

Courtesy of Business Insider

He sells more books, according to that linked business insider article, than J.K Rowling or Stephan King. I don’t know how true that holds today, and I’m not going to waste my time reading that article, but if any of you are interested, please come back and let me know what his secret is.

Because his writing infuriates me.

Let’s get started.

Characters

In Along Came A Spider, we’re introduced to Sampson and Alex Cross, the latter being the deputy chief of detectives and also the narrating protagonist. The book opens with them on a case in “the hood.”

Do you see where this is going.

Now, being an African American woman, I have no issue with a white man writing a black character. I have issue with that character having stereotypical actions as part of their repertoire, or around them (like Alex’s daughter calling him “Big Daddy”) or using mannerisms that you wouldn’t normally see in the black community. The real problem with Alex is that he has absolutely no personality. He’s a flat character. There’s no depth. There’s no dimension. He’s just narrating the story. He’s telling what happened. And this is how this book is written.

We get shoddy descriptions of him like “Sampson and I are both physical. We work out at the gym attached to St. Anthony’s–St A’s. Together, we weigh about five hundred pounds. We can intimidate, if we want to. Sometimes it’s necessary in our line of work.”

Flat.

“I couldn’t help grieving as I looked down at the little boy, his sad, lifeless eyes staring up at me. Everything was very noisy inside my head.”

My head and the noise

Flatter.

Considering this book is written with Alex Cross in first person, you’d think we get a little more of a glimpse of what “noisy” means for him. What does “grieving” mean for him? We get a better description of the dead boy than we do of Alex’s reaction; at least we know his eyes are sad and lifeless.

Then we get this weird description of Sampson: “We walked along, goofing on the situation and on each other. Sampson rapped lyrics from pop songs, something he does a lot.”

Really? Really Patternson? Does he do it a lot? Because we’re 161 pages in at that line and we haven’t heard Sampson rap one fucking line. So does he do it a lot or just when you have nothing better to say?

Then, we’re introduced to Jezzie Flanagan and we just know she’s a bad ass because her name is spelled uniquely and she rides a motorcycle or something.

We don’t get much of personality for her either. She’s kind of just there. She gets great descriptive sentences like “it was a neat little scene to watch.”

Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg are two uppity children of political officials and famous persons and go to a fancy private school in some part of Washington D.C. What I like about the children characters is that they fit Patternson’s writing style much better. They don’t need tons of descriptors or beautiful prose or fancy words–because they’re children and most likely don’t know them. He writes through their eyes and that works for the most part.

Then we meet Mr Gary. Mr. Gary is at first a teacher at the private school Maggie and Michael attend, and then he’s their kidnapper and murderer. He comes off sort of childish too, in the way he explains his obsession with the Lindberg kidnapping and his own dirty deeds. Perhaps that’s Patternson’s point: this is a shattered, sick little man who doesn’t have the development of a stable adult. But we’ll never know.

So, what we’ve got are a couple of children, a flat detective, a badass who hasn’t yet gotten to show how badass she is, and a murderer obsessed with fame.

Plot

Sampson and Cross are pulled from their initial murder case (the little black boy with the sad, lifeless eyes) and put on the case of the kidnapped rich, white children, which is brought up as an issue in the book, as it should be. The setting is placed in Washington D.C. in 1992, so although not a heavily racist era, still an era where race played a major role and people weren’t as “woke” as they are now. People didn’t have cell phones to record racist cops or racist shooters and there certainly wasn’t social media around to narrate racist experiences to the world. So, the little black boy with the sad little eyes had to go without so the little white children could be saved.

Spoiler Alert: they don’t save the white children either.

Mr. Gary kidnaps Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg with the intention of becoming one of the most famous criminals. He’s killed multiple people, assumed multiple identities, and Patternson totally stole this idea from me (insert laugh here) and I’m outraged. Gary drugs the children and brings them to a shack where he tosses them in the shed. Michael dies because he has a heart condition and too much of the medicine was administered, but Maggie wakes up and starts screaming. I haven’t yet learned how she died.

Then we get a nice little scene around page 141, Chapter 29, of Gary home with his wife Missy and daughter Roni. Apparently he has both of those things. He is constantly fantasizing about killing them all, including his wife’s brother, in front of each other. We get a nice description of “he imagined beating Marty to death with his snow shovel, actually murdering Kasajian [Marty] in front of Missy and Roni. Show them who the man of the house really was.”

Marty’s Unique Death, P.G Version

What we learn about Gary through the transposition of the plot is that he’s quite the cliche murderer. He wants to kill everyone in sight, never get caught until he wants to get caught, and be one of the most famous bastards in history. Because that’ll show them who the man of the world really is.

It’s boring. We get tons of murderers like that in every crime novel. Can’t we come up with something more creative than the need for fame and the lust over murder?

Mr. Gary also wanted a ransom for the children. The families agreed to a hand off, and Alex Cross was taken handcuffed on a plane with a suitcase full of money by some contact of Gary’s. The contact got away and Alex was left handcuffed to the seat of the private jet. I don’t know man, it sounds like it should be exciting, but it really wasn’t. I glazed over it.

Now that the children are both dead, the media and families are blaming Alex Cross for having ruined the pick up and letting the killer get away. Alex and Sampson get put back on the case of the little black boy with the sad eyes only to discover one of Maggie Rose’s shoes at the crime scene of another murder in the hood.

The connection there, of course, is that Gary is killing everybody. That’s what he does. He’s showin’ them who’s boss, ain’t he?

Conclusion

162 pages in and I’m having trouble getting through the other 273. That’s my conclusion. I have nothing else to say.

Do you like James Patternson? How does he compare to Stephen King, another author who can vomit three or four books in a month? Have you read a book by Patternson that you think I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) rip apart?

I can say I would prefer to re-read Hollow Kingdom than read Along Came A Spider. At least in Hollow Kingdom I was entertained.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Murderous Writing

I don’t know what kind of writer you are, but I am a writer who enjoys mystery, crime, drama, and just a touch of magic. I like stories that are literary in nature, contain weaving motifs and conflicted characters. I want to search for the meaning and if there is no meaning intended I want the creative ability to create a meaning that is meaningful to me. That’s all I ask.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through a book of short stories called Santa Cruz Noir, noir meaning stories full of crime and moral ambiguity. I’m all for it.

Considering I live in Santa Cruz and it was at one point considered the murder capital of the world, I dove right in.

And still the stories shocked me.

The very first story, entitled Buck Low is about a seemingly comfortable and developed serial killer (I inferred that) who has killed a woman, killed her friend looking for her, and took off up into the Bay. He gave me serial killer vibes because of his nonchalance and easy of killing and travel, as if he’s done that before. It felt like the author intentionally created that vibe.

There are odd stories too, like Mischa and the Seal, about a woman marine biologist graduate student. Seals are her muse, they speak to her (quite literally) and she enjoys staying in hotels, particularly a hotel which overlooks the beach. She meets a fellow ocean lover, James, and while they date, a particular seal she communicates with warns her there’s something strange about James and she needs to “dig into it.”

Longer short story short, James is a seal and otter serial killer.

Mischa kills James with his own arrow contraction that he kills the animals with.

She takes a shower, I think, and then seemingly kills herself by also disappearing into the ocean.

I say these stories shocked me because it’s not often I get to read good published crime stories or novels. A lot of them feel contrived to me, although there’s one story I’m hoping is good that I’d like to read about a serial killer who broke out of prison and is searching for his daughter. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. I used to work at a library and saw tons of books I wanted to read. If anyone knows the book I’m talking about, please put it in the comments below.

If you have any crime book recommendations that aren’t detective mysteries, please put those in the comments below too.

I feel like there’s a community of crime writers that are often rejected from the mainstream publishing scene considering murder and darkness scares people. I personally love writing and reading stories that push the boundaries of what we think is acceptable.

I just wrote a story entitled To Jane. My protagonist murdered another woman because she accused my protagonist of stealing some cheap costume jewelry. I sent it off to a couple small magazines, but I’m anticipating rejection; good writers always anticipate rejection. It makes getting published more surprising and fun.

It’s also a grave mistake to pair mental illness and crime together. The two are not synonymous, in fact they’re very opposite of each other. I aim give evidence to that point with my book.

My main work in progress is centered on crime as well; besides the stalking, there is murder, and I’ve learned that murder is acceptable as long as the actual murder isn’t described; people just need the idea of it to conjure their own sick visions. People also like a little mystery.

What is your favorite genre? What do you write? What do you read? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button, and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or Twitter @thephilopsychotic.