Monday, August 22, 2016

Reviving Your Favorite Series?




I've been pondering this ever since I read and reviewed David Lagercrantz's continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, and I finally decided the only way I'd get a good answer is to ask all of you.


How do you feel about mystery series being continued by other writers once the series creator has died?


My curiosity doesn't just stem from my reading of Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web.  I have also attended events at The Poisoned Pen in which featured authors have talked about continuing a series and how the process of writing something like that differs from writing one of their own books.

It seems to be happening more and more. The list of series continuations grows. Robert B. Parker. Dick Francis. Stieg Larsson. Agatha Christie. Tony Hillerman. Dorothy L. Sayers.  I know I'm missing several, but these are the authors' names that came flying out when I opened my mental barn doors.

I can understand how many readers would be bereft if the author of their favorite series died. I felt that way when I learned of the death of Leighton Gage, a very talented man who taught me so much about Brazil in his Chief Inspector Mario Silva mysteries. I still miss him... but I don't want someone else taking over the characters he created. The new person's vision would not be the same, nor would his writing style. Even if reams of the most detailed notes were left behind.

Perhaps my opinion is unduly harsh due to the whole Harper Lee/Go Set a Watchman fiasco. To me it was crystal clear that Go Set a Watchman was a rough first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird and was never meant to be published. It's only after Harper Lee's sister-- and fierce guardian of Harper's legacy-- died that unscrupulous people in control of the author's affairs decided to make as much money as they could at the expense of an elderly woman in poor health. They cared nothing about legacies even if Harper Lee's was one of the most fabled in all of American literature. All they could see was dollar signs. I think it's this more than anything else that makes me see all these series continuations with a very jaundiced eye. 

So... for my part, when an author dies, I think that should be the end of the series. It doesn't matter if they had five or six manuscripts in various stages of completion; that should be The End. Yes, I'll miss the characters. Yes, I'll miss the way that particular author wrote. But at the end of the day, I have thousands of other books available for me to read, and among those thousands, I know I will find new authors and new stories to fall in love with.



But what do you think? I've only read one example of a series now being written by someone else. Have you read any? What did you think-- close enough to the original for you to enjoy?  Or do you have reservations about doing it, too? I've said it before, and I'll say it again (because it's TRUE)-- Inquiring minds would love to know! Please don't keep me in suspense!


 

28 comments:

  1. Unless the series is a lighter read (for example the Mr. Monk series) I think it's fine when another author takes over. For more serious reads, I only like reading the original author, for the reasons you mentioned.

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    1. Interesting viewpoint, Vicki. I hadn't thought of that, although I do think lighter reads-- especially humorous ones-- can be difficult to write in their own way. Humor is so individual and very tricky to do well.

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  2. Interesting question, Cathy! In general, I'm not much of a one for follow-ons. Once the author has died, I think that should be the end. It's really never the same when another author takes over. At least it isn't to me.

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    1. No. It just doesn't feel the same.

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  3. Rarely successful. Must admit RF Coleman's extension of Parker's work is exception

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    1. Coleman is one of the authors I was thinking of when I mentioned certain events at The Poisoned Pen. He is an exceptional writer to begin with, and his thoughts on continuing Parker's Jesse Stone were insightful.

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  4. This is interesting, because I always think I am on the fence about it, yet I have yet to read the 'new' Vince Flynn.

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    1. Perhaps you're not really on that fence? :-)

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  5. Sometimes it's good and sometimes not. I loved the Steig Larsson series and eagerly started the continuation and was so disappointed, couldn't finish it. But Felix Francis has done a good job with his father's books and he was partly writing them anyway. The first book by Tony Hillman's daughter was good, definitely caught her dad's style, the second one not so much.
    I was devastated when Robert Jordan died, I'd been reading his Wheel of Time series forever, so I was glad that his wife Harriet, who was also his editor, secreted Brandon Sanderson to complete the series using Robert's notes.
    Other continuations I have avoided, so I'm selective and hope for the best.

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    1. That should say selected Brandon Sanderson not secreted.

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    2. I think your being selective has worked because the series you mentioned in which the continuations were successful were ones that have been carried out by people who played a major role for the author in writing the original series.

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  6. I agree, Cathy - the end is the end! PD James wrote a follow up to Pride and Prejudice which was not successful for me, although I know others liked it. I haven't tried Sophia Hannah's Poirot books ...

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    1. Death Comes to Pemberley was not successful for me either, Margaret.

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  7. Normally I'm very reluctant to try others continuations..as in positively allergic...Mr Francis Jnr's writing just doesn't work for me and I have tried repeatedly :o(
    ... But Jill Paton Walsh's follow on for DL Sayers I really, really enjoy and look out for and scout out her Imogen Quy books too.
    My daughter's have also gained great pleasure from Pamela Cox's continuation of Enid Blyton's school stories ..so I can no longer be so definite in my opinions ...lol

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  8. The only follow-up I have read was Sophie Hannah's The Monogram Murders featuring Poirot. I didn't think it hit the mark but I wonder how much of that was my sub-conscious rejecting it. Christie didn't hit the mark every time herself.

    Still, as heartbroken as I would be to lose dear Bruno (for example), I think it's best to leave the series done at the author's death. Yes, the characters in many series have a life of their own, but it's the author's unique "breath" that completes them.

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    1. "...it's the author's unique 'breath' that completes them." I love this, Debbie. It's spot on!

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  9. Since she has problems posting comments to my blog, "Lealee" from Missouri asked me to post this for her:

    "When a series is a special favorite I become invested in the lives of the characters. I hate it when a series ends abruptly and there is no closure for the characters. (Or me). I think that in a case like that I would like a final book if the author left a partial manuscript or an outline of how he wanted things to end. If it is just some other author making the whole thing up then I wouldn't want that. A final book and then no more.

    The only example I can think of right now would be the Charlie Priest police procedurals by Stuart Pawson. They were wonderful. Charlie was a special person. After the way the last one ended I was so anticipating the next one. Then the author's writing career was cut short by ill health. I guess Mr. Pawson is on my mind as I just read yesterday that he passed away in February.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Oh, and the Harper Lee fiasco left a terrible taste in my mouth as well."

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    1. I was very sad to hear of Pawson's death, too.

      You also make a very good point about bringing closure to a series. I hadn't thought of that either. (See? It's a good thing I asked all y'all for your opinions!)

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  10. Dick Francis always had a co-writer in his wife and then in his son Felix, and when he picked up writing again after his wife's death, the feel and the voice of the books was different. The earliest collaborations with Felix were a tad awkward. Nonetheless, Felix has developed into a fine writer and has his own series characters now. Do I see it as a continuation of the Dick Francis series? Only in that it often features horse racing, and is published under his father's name first, with his own under it.

    Jill Paton Walsh has done a good job with Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. I wish there were more of those.

    Sophie Hannah's Poirot is not quite spot on, but I enjoyed the first one.

    It took a long time for me to try the Sophie Hannah book. Jill Paton Walsh as well. Because he'd been working with his dad for a few books already and I'd seen him developing as a writer, I didn't have problems jumping on in with the Felix Francis books. In general, though, I'm not in a big rush to read series that are continued by other authors after the original author's death.

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    1. You're reading the new Craig Johnson!!!!!!

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    2. You (and the others) are certainly giving me good intel about how well some of these series are being continued, so this has been a very valuable post!

      Re: Craig Johnson

      Yes, I am a very lucky duck. (Hey-- I got chased out of the pool by rain this afternoon.) The new Craig Johnson is mahvelous, absolutely mahvelous, and has a very oblique reference to The Poisoned Pen which made me laugh.

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  11. I have different views on different aspects of this discussion. First of all, I agree 100% with what was said about Harper Lee and what happened with To Set a Watchman where her writing was misused by "unscrupulous people."
    It should never have been published -- and I'm sure big bucks were the motive. And the book doesn't do justice to To Kill a Mockingbird or Harper Lee's kegact,

    But I read David Ledercrantz's so-called sequel to the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I liked it, thought it showed Lizbeth Salander in a good light, with her brilliance and complexities.

    The problem I have with the Stieg Larsson "sequel' isn't the writing; it's that Eva Gabrielsson, his life companion, was cut out of his estate, even though she helped him with his books. And all of his assets went to his biological relatives, and I think they were involved with Ledercrantz's writing the book. So, money is involved here, too.

    So it's complicated.

    So, I'd say I would judge on a case-by-case basis. I have a problem with detectives based on real people or real authors. I've never read those books.

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    1. I think if all parties were to be honest, money is the prime factor in all decisions to continue series (or to pick them up decades after the original author died).

      Yes, the whole debacle surrounding Stieg Larsson was horrible, which goes to show that all people who are in serious relationships should have some sort of up-to-date legal documents stating what they want done after their deaths. It may sound morbid, but I've personally seen what happens if it's not done.

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  12. Yes, true about the role of money in publishing decisions. That is the bottom line, so to speak.

    And Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson should have had a legal agreement about his estate. I guess they didn't think that he'd suddenly die at 50, but they should have done something since unmarried life partners don't have any legal rights in Sweden. That in itself is shocking when Sweden is so progressive in so many other ways.

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    1. Yes, of all countries, you would think Sweden would have more progressive laws than that.

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  13. This is a comment from Kathleen in New York, who has a lot of very interesting things to say in regard to my question:

    "A bit late in reading this and responding as I am on vacation. As you know, I am in total agreement with your paragraph on the Harper Lee situation. At the same time the series that comes to mind is the Anne George series, which ended abruptly when the author died unexpectedly. It was sad to think there would be more adventures with the Southern sisters. Then there is the Miss Zukas series by Dereske. With that series the author opted to stop the books and did a lovely job of tying up loose ends in Farewell Miss Zukas. I miss Miss Zukas and her thin as a dime voice and eclectic friends, but respect the author's wish to move on.

    One of the things I have always like about mysteries is staying in touch with the characters as they face different circumstances and evolve. For example, Muller's McCone series and Maron's Deborah Knott, to name just two. You get to join in their experiences and family and friend much as you would visiting a good friend, if done by a author who is good at her craft. Another example is Elizabeth Peters and the Amaelia Peabody series, "another shirt ruined." Gosh, I think she wrote that right up to her deathbed! Yes, at times it dragged a bit, but it was always a great and fun read. She also wrote other series, my favorite being Jacqueline Kirby, that she didn't maintain for her own reasons. Again, I missed Jacquline but that choice is hers.

    What is tough is this new trend by publishers to just contract author's to do three books and then start a new series. How disappointing to start to be involved in the characters only to suddenly have it dropped. I think the publishers are clueless to the reader's interests and loyalty to a character.

    You also asked about another author picking up a series started by another. That will only work if the second author is as good as the first, and willing to continue the character as first developed. Could a second author have been able to keep the subtle voice, humor, and tone of either a Anne George or Elizabeth Peters?

    Then again there is the example of the Lucy Arlington series "A Novel idea." Lucy is really Ellery Adams and her friend Sylvia May. After three books in the Novel series they handed the name of Lucy Arlington over to Susan Furlong who is continuing the series. The difference between the first three books and those written by Susan Furlong is fairly negligible. I actually hadn't noticed much, just a slight difference in tone. I believe I found out about the change mainly by accident. I'm more interested in continuing to enjoy the life of Lila and her community of interesting workmates, family, and friends.

    A long answer to an interesting question. Thanks for asking! Back to vacation...."

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    1. Thanks for such an interesting response. Hope you're enjoying your vacation!

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