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March 20, 2024 Modern Law Library

James Patterson dishes on his new legal thriller, 'The #1 Lawyer'

By Lee Rawles

James Patterson has written bestsellers in many genres. But as he tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles in this episode of The Modern Law Library podcast, he has always been fascinated by legal thrillers, courtroom dramas and crime novels. He even considered becoming a lawyer—before his literary career took off.

In his newest release, The #1 Lawyer, Patterson partnered with co-author Nancy Allen to tell the story of Stafford Lee Penney, a criminal defense attorney in Biloxi, Mississippi, who’s never lost a case. But after handing a high-profile murder trial involving the son of a mobster, Penney finds himself on the other side of the bench as a defendant—charged with murdering his wife.

Patterson has written and co-written more than 300 books, including bestselling series like Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Maximum Ride.

He had some writing tips for attorneys, particularly on how to work collaboratively. As Patterson tells listeners in the podcast, he is open about working with other writers on many of his books, and he finds tools such as outlining absolutely essential. He also shares with Rawles how he thinks co-writers should handle interpersonal communication while working together.

Patterson says one of the major benefits of working with co-authors is pulling from their experiences to make his books more accurate and true to life. When he wrote The President Is Missing with former President Bill Clinton, Clinton could tell Patterson the inside details of how a Secret Service detail worked. When he wrote Run, Rose, Run with country singer Dolly Parton, she walked him through the production cycle for a song.

Allen, who conducted more than 30 jury trials as a prosecutor in Missouri and taught law for 15 years at Missouri State University, contributed her firsthand courtroom experience to The #1 Lawyer. Patterson says they worked to make everything as accurate as possible—while still allowing for a good story. It’s their second book together, following a previous stand-alone novel, Juror #3.

In this podcast episode, Patterson shares some of his favorite law-related pop culture picks, news about new and ongoing projects, and describes a very special birthday event with Parton.

He also discusses how his children’s series Maximum Ride got caught up in Florida book bans in 2023. For fans of Patterson’s breakout success, the Alex Cross series launched in 1993 with Along Came a Spider, the author shares updates about what’s next for the intrepid detective—including details about the upcoming Amazon Prime TV series Cross, starring Aldis Hodge.

In This Podcast

James Patterson

James Patterson is the creator of characters and series including Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Jane Smith and Maximum Ride and of nonfiction about the Kennedys, John Lennon, Jeffrey Epstein and Tiger Woods, as well as military heroes, police officers and ER nurses. He has co-authored No. 1 bestselling novels with former President Bill Clinton and country singer Dolly Parton, told the story of his life in James Patterson by James Patterson and received an Edgar Award, 10 Emmy Awards, the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation and the National Humanities Medal. Patterson has donated more than 1 million books to students, focusing on some of the most under-resourced schools and youth programs in the country. Patterson also founded, a website designed to help parents, teachers and librarians ignite a new generation’s excitement for reading.