Cut to the Chase (Secrets of Bestsellers #3)


I've just finished James Patterson's 1st to Die. Relating back to the previous two bestseller secrets, this book is up to scratch on the first (the universal one, being some backdrop of extreme wealth). Re: the second, that the villain survives, the book was up to scratch with an excellent foul villain till the epilogue. Patterson is something of a moralist, keen to despatch evil.

I spoke with one of Patterson's US agents some time ago, who held him up as a model for thriller writing. His main strength, in her mind, was in his moving action forward through dialogue. His dialogue is indeed punchy and strong. He goes for big warm emotions too - 1st to Die starts a series involving the 'women's murder club' in which a group of high-powered, well-placed women friends pool their intuitions and expertise to solve murders.

How does this novel fit into the third of this secrets of bestsellers series? It obliges, though in something of a half-hearted way. This secret, an element included in most of the bestsellers I've studied, likely has some root in our primeval ancestors and their need to survive in the wild. We needed to escape, we needed to hunt. We respond to books that have a chase scene.

James Patterson can wield a dab hand at such scenes - chase sequences were a large constituent of the previous novel of his I read, When the Wind Blows. In this new one the villain duly escapes to be hunted down, the consequences are catastrophic, but it largely happens 'off camera'. We're not treated to the details. In bestseller terms, it's a failure.

For a masterful example of a chase scene, try out Nicholas Evans's The Horse Whisperer in which a veterinary surgeon chases a wounded horse up a river in full spate. It comes near the opening of the book - and shows why this first-novel deserved to sell for a fortune on only its opening chapters and a synopsis.

Previous entry

Previous 'Secrets of Bestsellers' entry