In Patterson’s latest Alex Cross novel, history gets personal
Working tirelessly to attain his personal goal as “king of the page-turners,” James Patterson has already sold more than 170 million books worldwide and shows no sign of slowing down. His reign began with the 1976 Edgar Award-winning mystery The Thomas Berryman Number and has continued without pause. He writes in an astonishing variety of genres: mystery, crime, detective, horror, fantasy, young adult and even romance.
What many fans may not know is that Patterson is passionately involved in literacy outreach. His website ReadKiddoRead.com is dedicated to turning kids into readers for life, from infancy on up.
But most Patterson fans know his mysteries best. In fact, The Women’s Murder Club and the Alex Cross cycle are the most popular mystery series of the decade. Two Alex Cross novels, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, have become successful films (starring Morgan Freeman as Cross), and now, a television movie is in the works for The Women’s Murder Club. The best way to keep up with this impossibly prolific author (latest book count is around 60) is through his official website: JamesPatterson.com.
For those of us who cannot get enough of Alex Cross, temporary relief is at hand. Book number 15 in the series hits bookstores on August 24: Alex Cross’s Trial. In a radical departure from the setting of the most recent installment, Cross Country, the new novel opens in the year 1906 and takes readers from Washington, D.C., to Eudora, Mississippi. We meet fearless D.C. lawyer Ben Corbett, regarded with suspicion for his willingness to take black clients. His vocal campaign against discrimination eventually wins notice from President Roosevelt, who asks Corbett to investigate rumors of Ku Klux Klan activity in Eudora—Corbett’s hometown. Beneath the seemingly placid surface, Corbett finds a literal reign of terror, and although he is a hometown boy, white and the son a prominent citizen, he finds himself in just as much danger as the black community. He is not alone, however—he has help in the form of one Abraham Cross. Recognize the surname? As the new book jacket says, “the Cross family had more than one hero.”
Abraham Cross was actually the uncle of Nana Mama, Alex’s grandmother and keeper of family stories. Ostensibly, the novel is Alex’s attempt to record for posterity one of Nana Mama’s most unforgettable tales. The story could never be thoroughly told were it not for the fact that Corbett kept private journals. The volumes eventually made their way to Nana Mama, and then to Alex, who saw an opportunity to bring them to the world.
An excerpt from Alex’s introduction says it best:
“What I now feel compelled to write about took place in Mississippi during the time that Theodore Roosevelt was president, the early part of the twentieth century. I believe it is a story that helps illuminate why so many black people are angry, hurt, and lost in this country, even today. I also think it is important to keep this story alive for my family, and hopefully for yours.”
Back in Abraham Cross’s day, trials are not in short supply down South, but in the sense that daily life is a trial for a major percentage of the population. For Eudora in particular, constant persecution is the order of the day, and lynchings, though officially illegal, are a regular sport, complete with spectator stands.
When Ben Corbett’s investigations create deadly repercussions too public to be hushed up, an actual, legal trial is called for. It makes headlines immediately. The eyes of America are on little Eudora, Mississippi in what becomes the “trial of the century.” Caught up in it are Corbett, Abraham Cross, Abraham’s gorgeous granddaughter Moody and of course, the larger fight for justice.
To reveal more would be an unforgiveable spoiler. Readers will have to discover the adventure for themselves in Alex Cross’s Trial.