James Patterson has written everything from mystery thrillers and scientific fiction to romance, young adult and children’s books. Now, he’s bringing his talents to the audio world with a slate of original projects for Audible.
Reset talks to Patterson about his first release, The Coldest Case: A Black Book Audio Drama, and hears from actor Krysten Ritter about what it was like to be a part of the project.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Why this project with Audible?
James Patterson: I hadn’t done it before. I thought it’d be kind of cool.
It’s kind of like a movie for your ears. You’re jogging or you’re on your bike and you can listen to this four-hour very dramatic mystery … It’s a little like the old time radio, except that it’s much more sophisticated now. They have original music and special effects and it’s very cool. Very different.
I mean, there have been studies done that you actually retain information better when you hear it. So people will never forget this, The Coldest Case.
The Coldest Case is a prequel to The Black Book. Tell us why you wanted to set this story in Chicago.
Patterson: The Black Book, which came out a few years ago, I wrote it with David Ellis. He’s out there in Illinois now … and I spent a lot of time in Chicago. I worked at J. Walter Thompson for a while, and my wife’s from Rockford. So I know the area really well. I like the area.
I’ve said, many times, I think The Black Book is the best mystery I’ve ever done. Billy Harney, who’s the detective in it, in some ways I like him as much as or better than Alex Cross. He does stand-up comedy on the side. He goes to this cop bar and they have a mic and he’ll talk about what happened that day in Chicago and that gives him a different dimension. I haven’t really seen that in a television show or a stream. It also makes the Audible original kind of interesting because he’s funny.
What did you enjoy most about The Coldest Case?
Patterson: Well, I love the character. I love Billy. In fact, later in the month, I have The Red Book coming out. So we have The Black Book, which was the original. Then the prequel with The Coldest Case. And you don’t have to have read The Black Book.
In all of the books, Billy has a twin sister, who’s played by Krysten Ritter, and then their father is the chief of detectives. He’s an interesting dude, too, in terms of what happens during the twists and turns. A lot of it centers around this black book and there’s a lot of names of famous people around Chicago in the black book. So they don’t want it to get out in terms of whatever bad things that they’ve done.
Krysten, what drew you to be a part of this project?
Krysten Ritter: I signed on for this project, basically, because the name James Patterson. He obviously is the biggest author in the world. So I had that name recognition, and I love a thriller. And the podcast space and Audible space is just taking off in such a huge way.
I signed up to do this right before the pandemic hit. I mean, days before. Then everybody’s jobs were canceled and everybody was never going to work again. We have a studio at home because my partner is a musician. So I was like,” I can do this. Let’s figure it out. We can work from home.”
So this was a unique experience for me and ended up being a lot of fun to obviously reteam with Aaron Paul as well.
You really brought your character Patti to life. Tell us more about who she is.
Ritter: Patti is a tough detective, a sibling to Aaron Paul’s character. She is part of this family business and is about to get married to someone, even though maybe it’s not the right match or the right fit. She’s kind of a woman trying to do it all — excel in her field and have some normalcy. But she’s got a real biting sense of humor, in that she’s a little bit of a smart ass and she’s tough and can hang with the guys. So that’s what I liked about this character.
What was it like performing this audio drama? How does it compare to acting on a set?
Ritter: It was obviously a very different situation because it was in a makeshift studio in sort of a closet of my house. Navigating the technical difficulties, it’s so frustrating.
But for me, I love acting. And I had a baby, a six-month-old at home, so I was kind of out of the mix for a while. I was just so excited to get to do a scene and have someone read with me, get on my feet a little bit.
But in terms of how you act on set versus for an Audible project, you have to make some choices because you only have your voice to get your point across. You don’t have a glance or a physicality to help sell something. But any time you’re acting, you just try to find truth and try to make it not sound like you’re reading lines.
GUESTS: James Patterson, best-selling author and creator of The Coldest Case: A Black Book Audio Drama
Krysten Ritter, actor, producer and author of Bonfire: A Novel