Collaborating with author James Patterson

New book containing short novel by Doug Allyn makes NYT bestseller list

When Doug Allyn crossed paths with mega best-selling author James Patterson several years ago in New York, he doubted he’d left much of an impression.

“He’d edited the ‘Best American Mystery Stories 2015’ for Houghton Mifflin, and included one of my stories in the edition,” Allyn said of the publishing industry giant. “A mutual friend, Otto Penzler, introduced us. We chatted books and writing while we signed copies. He couldn’t have been nicer, but I assumed he forgot the meet and greet five minutes later.”

Luckily for Allyn, that wasn’t the case.

Fast forward to today when Allyn, who grew up in Northeast Michigan and attended Alpena Community College, finds his work on the New York Times bestseller list due to an innovative writing project called BookShot on which Patterson asked him to collaborate. Together, the two wrote a short novel, “The Lawyer Lifeguard,” that’s included in the new Patterson hardcover book, “Murder in Paradise.”

“I’ve never collaborated with anyone, so it was not only a new game to me, it was like playing catch with Justin Verlander,” said Allyn, who resides in Montrose and is an award-winning writer in his own right.

According to Allyn, Patterson developed BookShot in response to the significant impact the Internet has had in the publishing world.

“Books, newspapers and magazines have all taken a hit,” he said. “The smart ones have adapted and carried on. But the Web has not only changed what we read, it may actually be changing the way we read.”

Allyn said while people are reading faster now with emails and tweets, what they gain in speed, they lose in concentration.

“Enter James Patterson, who is virtually a phenomenon in our business,” Allyn said. “Instead of griping about the Web’s increase in speed, Jim decided to match it. His idea was to create something new called a BookShot, a short novel, 150 pages for under five bucks for readers in a hurry, waiting for a flight, standing in line at Starbucks, etc.”

The stories can be read start to finish in a couple of hours, he said.

“Murder in Paradise” contains a total of three short novels marketed as “pulse-pounding” and written with three different authors, Allyn right there among them. Originally, the short novels were released as eBooks. Allyn said the electronic run sold so well that the publisher, Grand Central Publishing, decided to roll them into the hardcover edition.

The author of 11 novels and more than 30 short stories, Allyn is a two-time Edgar Allan Poe Award winner, holds seven Derringer Awards for novellas and took home the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award an unprecedented 11 times. More than two dozen of his tales have been optioned for development as feature films and television.

Even so, he didn’t see the offer to collaborate with Patterson coming.

“I was surprised when I was invited to work with him on a BookShot project,” Allyn said. “The project we chose only had a title, ‘The Lawyer Lifeguard.’ Perfect. Jim’s written extensively about lawyers, and I was a lifeguard, tested and qualified at Alpena’s Boy’s Club Camp in the days of Camp Wixon. I thought it would be fun to write about and it was.”

In “The Lawyer Lifeguard,” defense attorney Brian Lord narrowly escapes death when a bomb destroys his car. His fiancee isn’t so fortunate. While he’s recovering, his boss visits his hospital room and tells him he no longer has a job. Signing on as a lifeguard, he finds solace at the beach, unaware of the danger that stalks him.

Collaborating with Patterson turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience for Allyn.

“The project was a ton of fun because Jim made it that way,” he said. “He’s practically an industry in our business, but working with him, you get no sense of that. Bottom line, he’s still a working writer, intensely committed to the project at hand, who’s smart, funny and fast.”

Despite the success of having his work make it onto the NYT bestseller list, Allyn’s not resting on the laurels. He had to deliver four short stories this summer with the last due in September. He also has a new novel in the works, “The Belgians,” which he said is set in his favorite faux northern Michigan county local readers should easily recognize.