Best-selling author, law alum Richard North Patterson speaks on campus Friday

When New York Times best-selling author Richard North Patterson arrives in Cleveland to speak at Alumni Weekend, it will be a homecoming in more ways than one. Patterson, who spent much of his childhood in Bay Village and graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1971, will return to Cleveland for the first time in nearly 10 years for his keynote conversation, “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth,” on Oct. 14.

During the discussion, Patterson will delve into the subject of his most recent novel, The Devil’s Light, which centers on an Al Qaeda plot to steal a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow his presentation, which begins at 1:30 p.m. in Ford Auditorium. The event, sponsored by The Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University, is free and open to the public.

Patterson’s recent books have focused on topics such as nuclear terrorism, race relations on a college campus and gun violence, but it’s his earlier novels that harken back to his time in Cleveland.

His 1997 book Silent Witness is set in a town much like Bay Village and relies on his memories of living in the community where the infamous Sam Sheppard murder case took place. (Silent Witness has been adapted for a TNT movie, set to premiere Dec. 7.)

The 1999 international bestseller Dark Lady, meanwhile, involves a murder and the civic corruption surrounding the building of a ballpark in a Rust Belt city similar to Cleveland—although Patterson is quick to note it is not reflective of the city’s handling of the construction of Jacobs Field. “Cleveland was doing a good job coping with industrial change, so I thought it was a good backdrop,” he explained.

Northeast Ohio has played a vital role in Patterson’s writing, and he credits his time at the law school with “providing a first-class education that certainly helped me on my way as a lawyer and to the career I have today.”

Through the moot court program, which was mandatory for first-year law students, Patterson learned he was good on his feet and also honed his writing craft. “I would say that program was, in some ways, career-making for me,” he said.

Now, 40 years after his graduation from law school, the lawyer-turned-author is returning back to campus not only to speak to aspiring writers, lawyers and fans, but also to connect with his former classmates.

“It’s always fascinating, especially if you’re a novelist, to find out what happened to people,” he said. “I know a lot of the guys from my law school have had great careers and other great experiences.”

When Patterson said “guys,” he meant it—only five or six women were in his class, he said.

Obviously times have changed, and the makeup of individual classes of students continually evolves, Patterson said. ,

“Universities are so important to extending education opportunities to so many people,” he said. “I’m grateful to the school for asking me. I’m excited to come back and see what the future of the school holds.”

For more information on Patterson’s discussion and other Alumni Weekend events, visit