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Archive - General > What about keeping characters alive after the author is dead?

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message 1: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments I recently read a couple of books in which two of my all time favorite mystery heroes were written by new authors. The books were "Cheap Shot" with Spenser, written by Ace Atkins and "The Black Eyed Blonde" with Philip Marlowe, written by Benjamin Black.

Both were pretty good, although I thought the Spenser book was by far the most successful. I mean Ace Atkins really nails the voice of the late, great Robert B. Parker for Spenser. I've read all three of the Atkins Spenser books now and - to be honest - they might even be better than Parker's work at the end.

Can't say the same for Benjamin Black writing Philip Marlowe. Of course, Raymond Chandler is a pretty touch act to follow, even after all these years. What he winds up with though is a pretty good mystery with an interesting character who happens to be named Philip Marlowe, even if he doesn't quite have the mystique and special qualities that made the Chandler original so memorable to us.

Some people are bothered by other authors taking up beloved characters like this. Others like the chance to keep reading about them. I think I fall into the second category. I love having Spenser still alive for me, and even a not as great Philip Marlowe is better than no Philip Marlowe at all.

What does everyone think about this?


message 2: by Donald (last edited Jul 27, 2014 09:48AM) (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments You've sort of opened up a can of worms here, at least for me. I think it's nothing less than a smack in the face to the writer, the implication that their style of writing, characters, and what they had to say wee - in the end - nothing special at all, as it was all so easily copied by someone else for the sake of bringing the family and publisher that much more money.

It's insulting, and you couldn't pay me to read one of these "forgeries". Sorry, but have real contempt for them, and don't consider those who read them loyal fans. Perfect example: Agatha Christie. Isn't she STILL behind only the Bible and Shakespeare in terms of sales? Yet over 80 years ago, she wrote 'Curtain' - originally intended to be published AFTER her death - for the sole purpose of making sure that a Poirot novel could NOT be written after she passed away ... and oh wow, gee, look what's coming out in September because Christie's family and publishers aren't quite rich enough yet? The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Sorry, I really don't mean to offend anyone - but this is, to me, the most disturbing and insulting trend in publishing to come along in a long time. If readers can so easily adapt to other writers taking over for these characters, places and plots, why the hell do any of us have such things as "favorite writers" in the first place, if they can so easily be copied and the public still buy, buys, buys??


message 3: by David (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments I haven't read Black's book, but I have read several of Atkins's Spenser books and Michael Brandman's continuation of Parker's Jesse Stone series.

Of the two, I think Atkins did a better job with Spenser than Brandman did with Stone. The last Stone book I read was terrible (very cookie cutter-ish), and see the next one will be penned by Reed Farrell Coleman.

As good a job as Atkins did, I don't think he quite has Spenser nailed yet. I can't pin it down to any specific shortcoming, just a 'feeling' that he's a little off the mark.

But, like you, I'll keep reading both.


message 4: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Oxier (debbieoxier) | 4944 comments How can an author take someone else's characters, write a story and expect it to turn out the same? It's never going to happen. When an author dies, let their work die with them. I won't read them.


message 5: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments Debbie wrote: "How can an author take someone else's characters, write a story and expect it to turn out the same? It's never going to happen. When an author dies, let their work die with them. I won't read them."

AMEN!


message 6: by M.L. (new)

M.L. (margieee) | 16 comments I realize the BBC production of Sherlock Holmes' stories are not books but they're very popular and appealing adaptations of the originals.


message 7: by David (last edited Jul 27, 2014 04:58PM) (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments From what I've read, Atkins, Brandman, and Robert Knott (writing the Hitch & Cole series) weren't just plucked out of thin air and told to continue Parker's characters. They had to submit samples of their own writing and samples of their stabs at continuing the various series to Parker's editor and his wife for vetting before they were turned loose.

R. G. (and the rest of you who commented), how do you feel about Felix Francis continuing to write books under his father's name?


message 8: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments For Donald and the others who are outraged by this trend, I understand where you're coming from. I really do.

But it doesn't bother me that much. As long as I still enjoy the books, I kind of like the fact that the characters stay alive after the person who created them died.

Just take the James Bond character, for example - and maybe this isn't an exact comparison - but Bond was created by Ian Fleming's books and then brought alive by Sean Connery in movies.

But people kept writing Bond books after Fleming died and other great actors took over after Sean Connery stopped playing character. And people still enjoy James Bond, right?


message 9: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Thanks for bringing up the Jesse Stone books, Quillracer. I was going to mention them too, but didn't because I haven't read one yet. Although, similar to what you said, I have heard it wasn't as well done as the continuation of the Spenser series by Atkins.

You also make an excellent point that the Parker estate would have to approve the new Spenser books. For whatever its worth, Parker brought Philip Marlowe back to life for a couple of books a number of years ago.

I;m not familiar with the Felix Francis stuff - but I'll check it out.


message 10: by David (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments R.G. said: Thanks for bringing up the Jesse Stone books, Quillracer. I was going to mention them too, but didn't because I haven't read one yet. Although, similar to what you said, I have heard it wasn't as well done as the continuation of the Spenser series by Atkins.

I didn't think they were. Brandman, who scripted the Jesse Stone movies starring Tom Selleck, delivered the form but not the essence of Parker's character. As I said, maybe that's why R. F. Coleman is writing the next one.

I agree with you that some may not like seeing characters continue after their creator has died and they're entitled to their opinion. I'll continue to read Spenser and Stone and Hitch & Cole books as long as they're still enjoyable. I told a friend, "An average Spenser book is better than no Spenser book."


message 11: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments R.G. wrote: "For Donald and the others who are outraged by this trend, I understand where you're coming from. I really do.

But it doesn't bother me that much. As long as I still enjoy the books, I kind of lik..."


You're really stretching by bringing up the Bond films, what actor is cast as ANY literary character is always up for speculation; what Holmes do you like best, pick one, there are many. It's not a violation of the writer's work by creating all new stories and making characters you didn't create say and do things not written by the mind who created them. Your point's invalid.


message 12: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments Quillracer wrote: "R.G. said: Thanks for bringing up the Jesse Stone books, Quillracer. I was going to mention them too, but didn't because I haven't read one yet. Although, similar to what you said, I have heard it ..."

And yet you don't address the fact of Christie, and WHY she wrote 'Curtain' - and OF COURSE the publisher is going to have to approve any fake writer, it's ridiculous to say anything else because the original author's family and publisher have the rights to the characters ... but what the publishers FIRST commitment is to is KEEPING THE MONEY COMING IN, it has ZERO to do with the feelings of the readers or "real" fans.


message 13: by Kgwhitehurst (new)

Kgwhitehurst | 43 comments There are two main reasons I object to the continuation of a series after the author's death-- 1) the lack of creativity. Why are we trying to continue these series? Because publishers (less the readers) are afraid to try new things? Or it is purely tied to the second reason? 2) the money train? These series are perceived to be golden geese, rather like James Bond, so find somebody who can generate books that read like the originals--even if the original author squeezed everything out of that series he/she could. Of course, if publishers weren't wedded to an outmoded business model, there might be less of this nonsense. Ditto with Hollyweird.

R.D. Wingfield's Inspector Frost series has been continued in this fashion, and I refuse to read it--right along with every other series continuation.


message 14: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Again, I understand all the complaints about this practice of keeping the characters alive after their creator has died. And I'm not advocating it. But I'm still happy to read the books, if they're good.....I think what Ace Atkins is doing with Spenser is damn good. Some of the others, maybe not so much.


message 15: by Brendan (new)

Brendan Donald wrote: "R.G. wrote: "For Donald and the others who are outraged by this trend, I understand where you're coming from. I really do.

But it doesn't bother me that much. As long as I still enjoy the books, ..."


But the Bond books continued after Fleming. Not just the movies.


message 16: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Yep, Brendan. Pretty successfully too.


message 17: by Kgwhitehurst (new)

Kgwhitehurst | 43 comments Bond is not in the same category as Spenser and Frost and Lord Peter Wimsey.

James Bond is a Time Lord. He's on his sixth regeneration. Six more to go. Writing a Time Lord has got to be a multi-person effort because each new regeneration emphasizes different aspects of a nearly-immortal being's personality. Only the core traits remain consistent.


message 18: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Davie (kathydavie) | 23 comments I think Eric Lustbader has been doing a very good job writing Robert Ludlum's Bourne series, and I am incredibly grateful that Brandon Sanderson stepped in and finished Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. It may not have been precisely to Jordan's voice, but it was still well done. And while I love hearing more about Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, sigh, Paton is merely okay.


message 19: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments James Patterson is probably a whole other thread. I've liked a few of his books, but the mass market industry process you describe, Jamie Lynn, has really turned me off him. I haven't read a Patterson in awhile because I don't know who I am reading..


message 20: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Mclaren | 182 comments Not that you need another voice chiming in but I generally don't like when a new writer takes over a character. I'm also somewhat opposed to the original writer sticking to a character way past their expiration date.

But movies, by their very nature, seem to be different. Rarely is the writer that involved and while the characters my have the same name, its not really the character from the book. Think the TV series "Bones," which is totally unlike the character in Kathy Reichs books, or Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, for gosh sakes.

James Bond is an excellent case in point: the movie Bonds are not really like the book bond at all. Fleming wrote about an aging spy veteran -- the only film version with that gritty feel is the latest version with Daniel Craig — and I did like the movies because the movies have their own feel, their own characters quite different from the book.

Same with the latest TV series "Sherlock." I like the series, like the character but he really is different from Sherlock in the book. And I for the most part can see them as two different characters that share the same name.

Books, however, are a whole different matter. I read one of Laurie King's Sherlock books and hated it. It's not the same. And really, why not write a new character?

Except that it feels like the author/publisher is trying to make money from the brand (and I'm not pointing just to King, she's just another example). That is what I object to.


message 21: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Good points, Pamela.


message 22: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments R.G. wrote: "Yep, Brendan. Pretty successfully too."

"Duck Dynasty" and the Kardashians are successful - that does in NO WAY speak of quality in entertainment at all. And haven't read a single Bond book that wasn't written by Fleming - and never will.

Was thinking about this today, if the writers and publishers WEREN'T so money-hungry, then why don't said authors just use that same plot and center it around a completely NEW character and setting?

I'll tell you why - $$$$$$$$$$.

Otherwise, what you're telling the original writer is: there is nothing unique or special about your work or your characters, because we can find another writer in not time who can churn out more books the public will buy. And when THAT writer is dead or moves on, we'll find another.

Like I said, a slap in the face to the original writer, the characters, and the real fans.


message 23: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Wait a minute, you got a problem with the Kardashians? Just kidding. Look, the bottom line is if people want to read a character they like, they will continue to do so. If not, the character will die too. I know that may lack a certain amount of artistic integrity. I don't really have a problem with that. But I understand why you and others do. Like I said at the beginning, I just wanted to invite a debate on this...which I certainly have done!


message 24: by David (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments Some won't read books written by other authors after the creator of the main character dies. Others will.

Some will think a certain author is terrific. Others won't.

Some will give up on a series because they don't like the direction the author has taken the characters. Others will think it was a wise move and swear they are the best books the author ever wrote.

Everyone has an opinion they are entitled to and none of them are wrong.


message 25: by Joseph (new)

Joseph  (bluemanticore) | 27 comments Just to give my two cents, I do not care for books that are written by other authors after the creator of the main character dies or for those that are written by others but still give credit to the still living author/creator like James Patterson and Clive Cussler. I know it's all a matter of money, publisher's wanting to make a profit using characters they know sell, but as a reader, I want original work and if an author dies then their character should die as well and I would rather move on to new original works than read copies that cannot be as good as what the original author produced. No one can know the character as well as the creator. On a slightly different note, I detest ghostwriters. When I read a book, I want to know who the true author is. I consider it dishonest for someone to take credit for someone else's work.


message 26: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments Joseph wrote: "Just to give my two cents, I do not care for books that are written by other authors after the creator of the main character dies or for those that are written by others but still give credit to th..."

Agreed. Sorry to have been SO passionate about this topic - maybe TOO passionate, I apologize - but the writers, characters and books discussed here are ... special, unique, and it takes away from that total love readers have for them to keep them going. Have felt this way for decades, since Andrew Niederman (spelling?) took over after V.C. Andrews' death. It just takes away from their "specialness" to imply that any hired author the publisher deems worthy can write the same characters and plots. Kudos to those who can read them, but to me it's just ... wrong, and I certainly would never want any characters I've created to continue after my death. They say that a writer's books, his/her characters, are like their children for a reason ...


message 27: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronb626) | 3701 comments Interessting thread here. I've read some of the Spenser books continued by Atkins and a couple of the Jesse Stone books by Brandman. And, I like them. I get that some people don't want to do that. That to some, when the author dies, the character dies as well.

But, id the James Bond movies die for you when Sean Connery stopped doing them? And, how about Perchance to Dream, Robert B. Parker's continuation of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe character.

To me, they're all good. If you don't like them, then, don't read them. Or, watch then.

That said, I did hate Roger Moore as James Bond. I think even Pierce Brosnan was better than he was. And, I like Daniel Craig in the role. But, nobody personified what I image to be, the "real" James Bond better than Sean Connery.


message 28: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments I pretty much agree with everything you said there, Ron. Including Sean Connery as the only "real" Bond for me. But overall keeping a character alive doesn't bother me as much as some here...


message 29: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments I pretty much agree with everything you said there, Ron. Including Sean Connery as the only "real" Bond for me. But overall keeping a character alive doesn't bother me as much as some here...


message 30: by Donald (new)

Donald Scott (writeondon) | 87 comments Ron wrote: "Interessting thread here. I've read some of the Spenser books continued by Atkins and a couple of the Jesse Stone books by Brandman. And, I like them. I get that some people don't want to do tha..."

As stated before in this thread, the whole actor/role argument has no merit; like comparing apples and oranges, discussing how an actor plays a role over having a writer make characters he/she never created, and is not in the head of, say and do things they might have normally never done ... yet again, all for the sake of monetarily taking advantage of a well-known brand instead of just being original and innovative and taking a chance the money will follow.

With this practice, publishers and the greedy relatives of the deceased author are hedging their bets as much as possible, selling new crap to an established audience they believe will settle for just anyone continuing with beloved characters and settings that should be left alone.

Merriam-Webster definition of "special": distinguished by some unusual quality. This practice takes away from what made these writers' work special, and (again) implies anything but if another writer can just take over and the fans don't care ...


message 31: by Ron (last edited Jul 29, 2014 09:58PM) (new)

Ron (ronb626) | 3701 comments Donald wrote: "With this practice, publishers and the greedy relatives of the deceased author are hedging their bets as much as possible, selling new crap to an established audience they believe will settle for just anyone continuing with beloved characters and settings that should be left alone..."

This is opinion. I don't believe something is "crap" just because I don't like it. If others do like it, does that mean that they like "crap?"

In the case of Spenser and Jesse Stone, I like both the Atkins and Brandman books that I've read. I don't think they are crap even if the survivors are trying to cash in on them. I find the books enjoyable and very much the opposite of crap.

If anything is crap, it's giving an opinion based on ones tastes and stating that opinion as if it was a fact.

Different strokes for different folks.


message 32: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments It will be interesting to see if Benjamin Black writes more Marlowe novels. I haven't seen anything indicating he will.

I assume Ace Atkins - who's done three Spenser books now - will continue.


message 33: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 187 comments To throw another author in the mix there's V.C. Andrews too. The books she actually wrote I think are so much better then the ones that have been ghost written since her death. Though I admit she is a bit different since she didn't write strictly about a certain character.

Honestly, I think it is best to leave characters and the books alone once an author has past or stopped writing. Why mess with the original? Typically the new person doesn't really improve it or is a big letdown to fans of the series.


message 34: by Ron (last edited Aug 01, 2014 06:12PM) (new)

Ron (ronb626) | 3701 comments Jennifer wrote: " Typically the new person doesn't really improve it or is a big letdown to fans of the series."

What about those that don't feel that way? While I certainly miss Robert B. Parker writing both the Spenser series and the Jesse Stone series, neither Ace Atkins' Spenser books or Michael Brandman's Stone books, are a letdown to me. They both seem to have captured the essence of the characters and their books, that I've read, are good. More importantly, I like them.

This topic has become, maybe was destined to be, very polarizing. Too many put up opinions as if they knew that to be a fact.

Books, as well as other forms of entertainment, are what the beholder sees in them. Just because I don't like a book, or movie, or TV show, doesn't mean that someone else is any less of a person for them liking that book, or whatever.


message 35: by David (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments Well said, Ron.


message 36: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronb626) | 3701 comments Quillracer wrote: "Well said, Ron."

in his best Elvis impersonation...

Thank you. Thank you very much...


message 37: by Joseph (new)

Joseph  (bluemanticore) | 27 comments Leigh wrote: "It is so tragic when a writer dies in the peak of his series. (Well, it's sad in so many other ways, but sad for his readers in this way.) I'm saying like Steig Larsson and Robert Ludlum etc. I m..."

Another like this that comes to mind is Lilian Jackson Braun. She unfortunately was very ill near the end and so her books were not as good as they had been and the very last book was written by a ghostwriter and was absolutely horrid, would have been better if it had never come out. But the publisher came out with it anyway because they have a major point for some other writer trying to write the franchise, money money money. And these books will sell because while some readers who know the series well won't touch the new books with a ten foot pole, there are some people who will take a chance on the new author as well as new readers who will start up with the new author doing the series. And really, this is not what bothers me the most, it's the authors who are still living yet have other authors writing their series and they do pretty much nothing more than put their names on them to sell the books. I really detest people taking credit for other people's work.


message 38: by Ron (last edited Aug 02, 2014 01:25PM) (new)

Ron (ronb626) | 3701 comments Long before his death, Robert B. Parker wrote, or continued, a book by Raymond Chandler, Perchance to Dream. Parker stated that he did it out of love for the writing of Chandler, and, as I remember, that he felt the series needed completion. It was, in essence, a sequel to The Big Sleep.

So, my question, in light of this polarizing discussion, was he wrong in doing so?


message 39: by David (new)

David A. (quillracer) | 2191 comments Parker actually finished Poodle Springs, a novel Chandler had started before his death, and published it in 1989. Parker then wrote Perchance To Dream (pub. 1991) as a sequel to The Big Sleep. I don't know if he created it entirely on his own or worked from notes Chandler had made about the story.

I've read both and thought Parker captured the essence of Phillip Marlowe as Chandler envisioned him.


Olivia "So many books--so little time."" | 679 comments I'm all for a character's being continued after an author's death as long as the books are as good as or better than the author's. I enjoy those that were written after Spenser passed on, Felix Francis's books. and Lustbader's take on Bourne. Also V.C. Andrew books.


message 41: by R.G. (new)

R.G. Belsky | 51 comments Thanks, Olivia. I feel pretty much the same way. Although obviously many people on this thread disagree!


message 42: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 71 comments Debbie wrote: "How can an author take someone else's characters, write a story and expect it to turn out the same? It's never going to happen. When an author dies, let their work die with them. I won't read them."

Didn't a few people do James Bond books after Ian Fleming's Death?
For the most part, I feel the Estate and Publishers need to leave the characters alone after Death. Even if it is a beloved character and still had things to Do and Say. The exception to this is when an author has authorized LEGALLY a new writer to continue. I find it rather disloyal and selfish of a READER to expect More.


message 43: by Gary (new)

Gary Sundell | 66 comments The first non-Fleming Bond book was "Colonel Sun" written by Kingsley Amis. Other authors followed.


message 44: by Gary (new)

Gary Sundell | 66 comments I happen to enjoy the Robert Goldsborough Nero Wolfe novels. Do August Derleth's Solar Pons stories count as a Sherlock Holmes continuation? Basil Copper continued the Pons series.


message 45: by Gary (last edited Sep 11, 2015 03:49PM) (new)

Gary Sundell | 66 comments Colonel Sun was the first non-Fleming Bond and was written by Kingsley Amis. Several authors including John Gardner followed.


message 46: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 6435 comments I really don't think this is so bad. Some characters are so loved that people want to see them again. Many of the books are very well done.

I can think of many books where there are literary characters or historical figures are featured.

There are also satirical books.

I really like Carrie Bebris' mystery series featuring Mr and Mrs Darcy (thanks to Miss Austen). There's also Laurie King's series featuring Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes.

Also, sometimes the Estate hires a specific author to write a new book. For instance, I heard the Eoin Colfer has been hired to write a new Douglas Adams book.

And, then, sometimes the next generation continues the series: Dick Francis' son Felix, Tony Hillerman's daughter Anne, etc.


message 47: by Randy (last edited Oct 01, 2015 02:47PM) (new)

Randy | 4 comments Good question. I'm in the camp of "if you don't like it, don't read it". I noticed that some of those who are against it comment on greedy family members and publishers taking advantage of the author's work after they've passed. I'm wondering, how does anyone know if the author didn't make arrangements prior to their death to continue a character? Would this make a difference?


message 48: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 71 comments Randy, I agree.
A smart and savvy author needs to prepare ahead if time. For instance, if J.K. Rowling wants her legacy continued, it needs to be in legal form NOW, like a Will.


message 49: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 6435 comments Wendy wrote: "Randy, I agree.
A smart and savvy author needs to prepare ahead if time. For instance, if J.K. Rowling wants her legacy continued, it needs to be in legal form NOW, like a Will."


Some authors have. I think Agatha Christie's estate controls her creations, for instance.


message 50: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 71 comments As far as I know, Charles Schultz of Peanuts comics did something.. he did not want the comics to be ruined


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