Dolly Parton and James Patterson's Thriller Features a Singer with a 'Dangerous' Past — Read an Excerpt!

Dolly Parton and James Patterson share an exclusive excerpt of their thriller Run, Rose, Run with PEOPLE

dolly parton and james patterson
Dolly Parton and James Patterson. Photo: JB Rowland

Dolly Parton isn't afraid to take on new projects. She's excited to share her latest one — Run, Rose, Run, a thriller she co-wrote with James Patterson — with her fans.

On Wednesday, the Queen of Country shared an exclusive excerpt of Run, Rose, Run with PEOPLE, including songs from the eponymous album. The book will be published by Little, Brown and Company on March 7, 2022. The Run, Rose, Run album, containing 12 original songs inspired by the book, will be released a few days prior on March 4. (It's co-produced by Richard Dennison and Tom Rutledge and will be released on Parton's Butterfly Records, in partnership with Ingrooves/UMG.)

"I cannot be more excited about the release of my very first novel Run, Rose, Run with the great James Patterson. I also have a new album to go along with the book," Parton told PEOPLE for the book and album announcement in August. "All new songs were written based on the characters and situations in the book. I hope you enjoy the book and the songs as much as we've enjoyed putting it all together!"

Run, Rose, Run follows a young singer AnnieLee Keyes, who moves to Nashville to fulfill her dreams of becoming a star. But when country legend Ruthanna Ryder decides to help the ingenue, the spotlight means AnnieLee's past may catch up with her. "She's running from a past so dangerous, she may not live long enough to realize her dreams of stardom—or for the world to learn her true identity," reads the press release.

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Last month, Parton explained that the book project was Patterson's idea.

"I thought, 'What? Why do you want to write a book with me? You're doing alright on your own and I'm doing OK,'" Parton, 76, told PEOPLE about responding to Patterson's proposition. "He said, 'No, I think this would be a good thing!' So I thought, 'Well, why not? I'm doing everything else.'"

Parton and Patterson, the 74-year-old creator of the Alex Cross series, swapped ideas throughout the writing process. Parton discovered that she and her co-author are "very similar in the fact that we like to have a good time and we don't take the work so serious we can't enjoy it," she explained.

"I'd get good title ideas from some of the things that he'd write, and then I would write something about that and the situation, and then he would expand on the characters and on more of the story," said Parton. "He says it was really beneficial to him, and it was beneficial to me, because we'd get together and put all those things together, clean up our mess, and then start again."

The country star explained that creating the Run, Rose, Run album was different than any songwriting she'd done before. (Parton wrote, performed and produced the original songs in the accompanying album.)

"It's like writing for a Broadway show or something where you know who the characters are," Parton said. "It makes it easier to write for them. He would send pages and it would make me think, 'Oh wow, that would make a great song,' when something was said a certain way."

Patterson was just as enthused about working with the iconic singer.

"It's been an honor—and a hell of a lot of fun—to work with the inimitable Dolly Parton, whom I've long admired for her music, her storytelling, and her enormous generosity," Patterson told PEOPLE in August.

"The mind-blowing thing about this project is that reading the novel is enhanced by listening to the album and vice versa," he continued. "It's a really unique experience that I know readers (and listeners) will love."

Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from Run, Rose, Run.

It was open-mic night at the Cat's Paw, which meant that everyone and her in-laws had come out to get their six minutes in the spotlight. And if Ruthanna Ryder had known this in advance, she'd have thought twice about showing up.

"Boo!" said a voice right near her ear.

Ruthanna socked her guitarist in the arm without even looking. "Ethan Blake, don't scare a lady," she said.

"Shh," he said. "She's on."

"It's nice to be back here," she was saying. "I'm AnnieLee Keyes, and I'm kinda new in town." She tapped on the beat-up instrument she held in her lap. "This here is the Cat's Paw, um, community guitar. It's got old strings and slippery pegs, so it doesn't always like to stay in tune. But the two of us'll do our best for you tonight."

As AnnieLee began to strum her intro, Ruthanna could hear how dull the strings sounded, and she quickly decided to get a better instrument sent to the bar tomorrow. She was wondering whether she should get a Martin or a Gibson—or maybe a Taylor?—when the girl opened her mouth and started singing. And Ruthanna sat up and started paying attention.

Dark night, bright future

Like the phoenix from the ashes, I shall rise again

The girl's voice was a honey-colored soprano, clear and luminous. Where did this girl come from? AnnieLee Keyes looked barely older than a teenager, but she sang as though she'd lived for ninety-nine years and seen tragedy in each one of them.

When she started a new song with a quicker tempo, her voice became a roar rather than a trill. Underneath that sweet, doll-faced exterior, there was something fierce and furious about AnnieLee Keyes. Some dark pain powered those pipes; Ruthanna was sure of it.

She'd seen more than a lifetime's worth of brilliant, accomplished professional musicians, but this girl was a natural.

It took one to know one.


When AnnieLee finished her set and went to the bar for her celebratory club soda, the bartender waved her off. "Somebody wants to meet you."

He gave her a gentle shove and then they broke through a knot of people to find themselves standing in front of a small, battered table, in the very back corner of the bar, where the biggest star in Nashville was sitting, clicking her nails on the rim of a martini glass.

Perfumed and painted, with smoky eyes and candy-red lips and her spectacular hair coiffed in studiously messy curls, Ruthanna Ryder was so dazzling that AnnieLee gasped.

As Ruthanna extended a slender arm, gesturing for AnnieLee to sit, her beaded dress reflected the colored lights dripping down from the ceiling. "Damned if I don't look like a disco ball in here," she said, almost to herself.

"Ruthanna," Ethan said to the glittering queen beside him, "I'd like you to meet AnnieLee Keyes. AnnieLee, this is Ruthanna Ryder."

"You're a very talented girl," she said. "I've been in this business for over forty years, and I've seen more singers than I've seen Sundays. But honestly, you stand out, AnnieLee Keyes. You've really got something special."

AnnieLee's heart swelled with relief and gratitude. "Thank you," she whispered. "That means the world to me."

But Ruthanna didn't smile. She pointed one perfect, blood-red nail at AnnieLee's heart. "Here's my advice for you, AnnieLee Keyes," she said. "Get the hell out of Nashville while you still can."

AnnieLee swallowed. "Pardon me?" she gasped.

"It's a hard, rough business," said Ruthanna. "A tiny thing like you? You'll get chewed up and spit out like a hunk of gristle. Sure, you might taste success, but you're more likely to end up broke and alone. Do something sensible with your life, AnnieLee. Get a job. Find a man and marry him."

AnnieLee had to remind herself to breathe.

Can I fix it?

No I cain't

But I sure ain't gonna take it lyin' down

Steeling herself, she spoke slowly and calmly to her idol. "I admire you more than anyone else on this whole green earth," AnnieLee said, "but with all due respect, Ms. Ryder, you can go screw yourself."

Excerpted from Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson. Copyright Little, Brown and Company 2022.

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