Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers, Writers, Books Galore; the Annual Much Ado about Books Unites Those Who've Been Published and Those Who'd like to Be

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers, Writers, Books Galore; the Annual Much Ado about Books Unites Those Who've Been Published and Those Who'd like to Be

Article excerpt

Byline: JUDY WELLS and BRANDY HILBOLDT ALLPORT

"I'm John Grisham," said author James Patterson, keynote speaker for the Much Ado About Books luncheon Saturday, as he reached the podium.

He received hearty laughter in response, but no one in the packed-to-capacity grand ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel was fooled. They had come to hear the best-selling novelist and he responded with an hour of anecdotes and name-dropping, followed by 30 minutes of answering questions from the audience.

They heard that his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was turned down by 31 publishers but went on to win an Edgar Award as the best mystery of 1977, even though no one came to his first book signing in Manhattan. That while talking to Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood at a restaurant, a fan approached and asked for his autograph, after which Eastwood said, "I need a hit movie bad."

And that he outlines each book, writes in longhand and "the day it started to be fun was when I stopped writing sentences and started writing stories."

He applauded Mayor John Peyton's actions to make Jacksonville the most literate city in Florida and had advice for parents who want their children to love reading.

"Give them a book that they're going to like," said Patterson. "We didn't start loving movies by watching Ingmar Bergman films."

Patterson said his grandmother was his mentor, but his grandfather, a truck driver who delivered frozen foods and ice cream, had the best career advice: "Just remember, when you go over the mountain to work in the morning, you've gotta be singing."

Patterson has published 35 books, and 18 climbed to the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list. He's sold 100 million copies, and Hollywood translated his work to the big screen (Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider).

If you ever get invited to go to a movie set, don't go, he told the audience. The writer ranks below the caterer when it comes to pecking order.

"They know why the caterer is there," he said. "No one knows why the writer is there."

He reeled off stories about press junkets gone awry, his grandmother's opinion about why he shouldn't pursue a career as a professional basketball player, and seeing a woman shoplifting one of his novels. "Does that count as a sale?"

The audience sang Patterson's praises and Jeanne Ward, vice chair of the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation, announced that the foundation was donating $10,000 to its adult literacy program in his honor. …

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