business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I’m not a big James Patterson fan; in some ways, I’m more impressed by the scale of his output (he’s written or co-written or had his named listed on some 150 books with sales of more than 350 million copies) and his genius for branding than I am by the actual books themselves.

That said, I could not resist when I saw a story about his latest book, “The Store,” co-written by Richard DiLallo, which has as the enemy a big, faceless, ubiquitous and ultimately malevolent e-commerce business that sells everything and goes by the name, “The Store.”

While Patterson says that the books is not about Jeff Bezos and Amazon, methinks he doth protest too much.

What he does say, at least in this interview on Marketplace, on National Public Radio (NPR), is that while he is “not maligning a big, fat bookstore,” he is “maligning the idea of monopolies in the country. And in particular, I think it's a problem when it threatens publishing, because I think that books are really important in our lives, especially books that we can't live without.” Patterson seems to be particularly worried about the diminished role of e-books in our lives, especially in the lives of young people, who he fears will lose touch with the essence of literature.

In the book and in real life, Patterson’s concern seems to be that one man and one company have way too much control of the information we get and how we process it. In the book, the plot plays out as a married couple - having run into trouble because publishers don’t want to put out their new book - decides to go undercover at the company to investigate the culture that drives “The Store.”

It is an interesting premise. I just wish the book were a lot better. In fact, it reads so much like a treatment for a screenplay that I’m pretty sure that, if this project ends up in the right hands, the movie actually will be better than the book. (As has been the case with Jaws, The Godfather, and pretty much every movie based on a Tom Clancy novel.)

There are some twists and turns, and the authors’ ambition seems to be to create something along the likes of The Parallax View and The Stepford Wives (the original Katherine Ross version of Stepford, not the Nicole Kidman remake). But either they’re not up to the task, or just wanted to get the book out there fast so they can close on a screenplay deal.

I will say this. If you like Patterson’s work, or if you are just looking for a really fast, mindless read during the last week of summer, you may want to give “The Store” a shot.

I think the idea of turning Amazon into a book or movie villain is an entirely legitimate one - in both forms, major organizations (governmental, judicial, political, industrial, religious) often make the best villains. But I’m waiting for the book or movie that does a better job of it, that is a real Eye-Opener with some actual insights.

There was an irony, by the way, to how I consumed “The Store.”

I bought it on Amazon, and read it on my iPad using the Kindle app.
KC's View: