TopVet: Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson

Army Veteran Richard North Patterson brings his experience among Washington’s inner circles toward helping and entertaining others. He’s a best-selling novelist, and is active in family outreach programs.

In one of his most noteworthy books, his 1999 No Safe Place, Patterson delivers a story of startling realism and originality–an extraordinary novel of presidential politics turning deadly.

To write No Safe Place, Mr. Patterson traveled with the 1996 campaign, attended a national political convention, and studied the intimate workings of the Senate. He interviewed more than fifty people, including a former President; presidential candidates; United States senators; a cabinet secretary; senior White House staffers; political consultants, campaign managers, press secretaries, and pollsters; members of the national press; and Secret Service agents.

During his research, Patterson also came to know and admire Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Senator John McCain, "both of whom have an absolute core, an idea of themselves that involves more than looking around a room and seeing how other people feel about them, an idea about themselves that transcends whether they are returned to office or not." Former President George Bush, "a modest man and a real gentleman" taught him about the "incredible focus and competitive drive you need to be President. It’s almost like having an extra chromosome."

Says Patterson, "I came away with the sense that the good politicians are better than we know and better than we have a right to expect, given the corrosive nature of the fundraising system that exists, the demands of the office, the absolute loss of privacy, dignity, and even respect. I mean, we all know the system’s crummy in a lot of ways, and we all know that it tosses forward a lot of people we wouldn’t want to have to dinner, but what we don’t appreciate is how good the good ones really are."

Patterson graduated in 1968 from Ohio Wesleyan, where he now serves on the Board of Trustees. He is a 1971 graduate Case Western University’s School of Law, and is a member of the law school’s National Advisory Committee. He has served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio; a trial attorney for the Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Patterson practiced law for 22 years before retiring to concentrate on writing.

But his passion for the legal field remains in his writing, and his high regard for the importance of public service shows in his actions. In a 1999 commencement address before Case Western’s law school, he encouraged graduates to contribute pro bono work as part of their practice:

"I am not naive. I will recall the pressure to make a name for myself; to support my family; to do the job I was hired for….But I also know that our profession’s future commitment to equal justice is in your hands, and that anyone who helps a stranger improve some small portion of his life also enriches her own," he told graduates.

He has been active, and served on the Board’s of the following organizations: the Family Anti-Violence Prevention Fund, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Common Cause, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

"What I care about now are social interests. I’m interested in issues rather than cases," he once said in an interview.

His literary accomplishments include several best-selling books, as well as an Edgar Allan Poe Award and the Grand Prix de Litérature Policière. He and his wife, Laurie, live with their family in San Francisco and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Balance of Power
Editor’s Note: Patterson’s recent novel, Balance of Power, is available at
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