That assembly-line format has yielded popular series such as Maximum Ride and Alex Cross (who has a Ph.D. in psychology from Johns Hopkins, by the way). A recent New York Times story noted that in recent years the combined U.S. sales of John Grisham, Stephen King and Dan Brown don't match his. His formula has been insanely lucrative: A deal last year with Hachette, reportedly worth $150 million, calls for him to produce 17 books in three years. Patterson also is a presence on the big and small screens. "Private," a series that begins in June, may morph into a TV show, according to his website, which also notes that a movie based on Alex Cross is in the works.