Michael Ledwidge, James Patterson’s right hand author
In 2005 Step On a Crack came out, co-authored by Patterson and Ledwidge, the first in Patterson’s hugely popular Michael Bennett series (featuring an Irish American father of 10) and it was an instant hit.
To give an idea of the level of success that Patterson enjoys -- last year an estimated 14 million copies of his books in 38 different languages were sold around the world. He published nine original hardcover books in 2009 and he will publish at least nine more in 2010.
The word success seems anemic when it comes to describing his achievements. In fact Patterson has reportedly made over $500 million for his publisher Hachette over the last two years alone.
After Patterson and Ledwidge cracked their first book together in 2005, they’ve worked more or less the same way since.
“Usually one of us more than the other will have the original idea. Michael Bennett the character was Jim’s idea. Originally he wrote a 30-page outline,” says Bennett.
“The way he conceptualized it was Die Hard meets Cheaper By the Dozen. Michael Bennett, the hero, is an Irish American NYPD detective with 10 adopted kids. He has a wife who’s dying of cancer in the first book, and this is all happening against the background of a developing terrorist situation.
“It’s over the top, entertainment popcorn stuff. One of the best English critics said the book was like a Bruce Willis movie between two covers. So when the former first lady dies her celebrity filled funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is taken over by terrorists. Patterson likes daring, large scale stuff.”
The working relationship the two men have developed is fascinating. “The deal is that either one of us, usually Jim, will get the outline, do a first draft -- I’m in contact with him every couple of weeks. Or towards the end I’ll have the first draft and he’ll take it, shine it up and then we’ll do the finished project together.
“He’s sort of like that old eighties cartoon and he’s Godzilla and I’m Godzuki, you know?”
How many books has Ledwidge co-authored with Patterson this year?
“It’s like planes landing at JFK. There’s always a new one hovering around. The next one I co-wrote will be published in January.”
When the writing is good and it’s going well Ledwidge takes the same pride in his workmanship that any writer does, critics be dammed.
He worked hard for many years and he remembers the tough times in the past. “The good thing about my new job is that I’m not a doorman any more and I don’t work for the telephone company either. I really don’t miss popping manholes in the summer heat,” he laughs.
And even though he’s making much more now as a co-author with Patterson, the enjoyment is exactly the same, he says.
“Every time the phone rings and James Patterson’s name comes up on caller I.D. I still think, man this is wild. I think, who’s going to call me next? Stephen King?”