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Find more Trends in Crime Fiction Series
It’s never easy to say good-bye to someone you love, whether it’s a grandparent, a beloved pet, or your favorite author. And while the desire to keep that loved one close at hand is understandable, it may not always be healthy: a psychologist would probably tell us to move on. But our inability to do just that is certainly healthy for publishers’ bottom lines, as some of the most successful fiction franchises bear the names of authors who have long since shuffled off this mortal coil. Why do we have such a hard time letting go? Hard to say but the current craze for zombies may shed some light on our desire to keep authors publishing long after they’re dead.
By my count, Ludlum wrote and published something like 22 novels before he died in 2001. Since his death, though, he’s been remarkably prolific, with 5 novels credited to him; 6 Bourne sequels, written by Eric Van Lustbader; and 9 books in the Covert-One series, written by other authors. With The Janson Command (February 2012), Paul Garrison even started a new Ludlum series out of an old—but still posthumous—stand-alone (The Janson Directive, 2002). Doing the math, we’re only two books away from having more Ludlum titles published since his death than during his lifetime! And, just in time to even the scales, The Bourne Imperative is slated for July 2012. (Early word had it that this book was going to be titled The Bourne Upset, which just wasn’t nearly as dramatic.)
Robert B. Parker
Parker published approximately 65 novels during his lifetime, most of them in two series: Spenser and Jesse Stone. He died in 2010, and the following year, Sixkill, the last novel in his famous series about the Boston PI Spenser, was published on the heels of an announcement that his widow and his sons had granted permission for other writers to continue his famous Spenser and Jesse Stone series. (Ironically or fittingly, however you look at it, Parker had done this himself when he finished Chandler’s Poodle Springs and wrote a sequel to The Big Sleep.) Jesse Stone is now written by Parker friend and collaborator Michael Brandman, while Ace Atkins was tapped to take on the iconic Spenser. How are they doing so far? Well, if you take our word for it—and you should—Atkins and Brandman are going to have to raise their games if they want to avoid tarnishing the memory of a beloved mystery author.
Mike Hammer burst onto the scene, gun in hand, in I, the Jury (1947), and the series continued for decades until Black Alley (1996). Before Spillane died 10 years later, he left a variety of unfinished manuscripts, including some Hammers, in the hands of collaborator Max Allan Collins. A prolific writer in his own right, Collins has a new cottage industry on his hands as the keeper of the Spillane flame. Reviewing The Goliath Bone (2008), which Spillane intended to be the final entry in the saga, we wrote, “Don’t be surprised if some out-of-sequence Hammers show up in the future.” The Big Bang (2010) and Kiss Her Goodbye (2011) followed soon after. Next up is Lady, Go Die! (May 2012), a sequel to I, the Jury. And it looks like there will be even more to come.
One of the most successful and enduring of the dead-guy franchises, of course, is Fleming’s James Bond series. Ian Fleming wrote a dozen Bond novels before he died in 1964. The series was continued by Kingsley Amis (!) writing as Robert Markham, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson. Sebastian Faulks wrote one (Devil May Care) and Jeffery Deaver wrote one, too (Carte Blanche). There’s even a Young Bond series, by Charlie Higson. And, in April, Ian Fleming’s estate announced that William Boyd (Waiting for Sunrise, 2012) will write this next Bond. Set in 1969, it will be published in fall 2013.
Famously, Larsson died without seeing the triumph of his mind-blowingly successful Millennium trilogy, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008). There’s no word yet on whether we’ll see more of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Larsson allegedly outlined 10 books, and his longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, says she has half of the next manuscript and could write the other half herself. Larsson’s father and brother, however, own the rights to his intellectual property. Will they license the rights to the asocial computer hacker Lisbeth Salander? Only an idealist would bet against it.
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