James Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, 50 miles north of New York City. Valedictorian of his class at the Christian Brothers school, St. Patrick's, in 1965, Patterson graduated from Manhattan College with a degree in English. He first entertained the idea of becoming a writer in 1971 when he worked as a college student in a mental institution, a job that afforded him abundant time to read. He came up with the idea for his first novel during that time, and five years later, after 26 rejection slips, his first effort, "The Thomas Berryman Number", appeared in bookstores. Since that time, Patterson has written numerous best-selling thrillers featuring the sensitive, modern-day hero Alex Cross, including "Kiss the Girls", which was made into a major motion picture starring Morgan Freeman.