Patterson's best-known and best-selling character is Alex Cross, an African-American psychologist who first appeared in the thriller Along Came a Spider in 1993, and was later played by Morgan Freeman in a film by the same name in 2001. He has also gained loyal devotees for his Michael Bennett, Women's Murder Club, Maximum Ride, Daniel X and Witch and Wizard series. In all, Patterson is estimated to have written as many as 65 novels. Quantity does not equal quality, however, as critics are quick to point out. The horror writer Stephen King has branded Patterson a "terrible writer" of "dopey thrillers".
Patterson himself has something of a contradictory approach to his own work. He defended his short and to-the-point style of writing, saying sentences "shouldn't get in the way of a good story", but once warned fans off one of his books, Season of the Machete, calling it an "absolutely horrifying book" that fans "probably shouldn't read".
Victoria Richards: US author takes Rowling's rich-list crown, The Independent, 22 August 2010.