In Sarasota, author James Patterson says he tries to save lives with books

Best-selling author speaks to the Library Foundation for Sarasota County annual luncheon.

Before Little Brown took a chance in 1976 on his first book, “The Thomas Berryman Number,” James Patterson was turned down by 31 publishers. It went on to win an Edgar Award for best first novel and launch one of the most successful writing careers in history.

“So, if you get turned down by publishers, that means you probably have a good book,” the best-selling novelist told more than 500 people Wednesday at a sold-out luncheon supporting the Library Foundation for Sarasota County at the Municipal Auditorium.

All those publishers missed out on a chance to work with the author who holds the record for the most No. 1 New York Times best sellers, with nearly 70. Since that first book — which he wrote while working for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (where he became CEO) — he has written or co-written nearly 150 novels, true crime stories and books for young readers. He has sold more than 350 million books around the world and was the first author to sell more than 1 million e-books.

They include nearly two dozen books about detective Alex Cross, and 17 books in the Women’s Murder Club series, with the next one due in May. His latest book (with Alex Abramovich and Mike Harvkey) is the nonfiction “All-American Murder,” about football player Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison after he was convicted of murder. In June, he will publish “The President is Missing,” written with former President Bill Clinton.

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