The Good, the Bad, the Sequel

The recent announcement that the late Robert B. Parker’sSpenser” and “Jesse Stone” mysteries will live on under new authors is just the latest in a long line of series continuations. Mystery writer Ace Atkins is writing a Spenser novel for Spring 2012 publication, while Hollywood producer Michael Brandman will bring Jesse Stone back in a novel this September.

Series continuations under later authors have been both lauded and damned. As the one who extended the life of Rex’s Stout’s famed private eye Nero Wolfe with seven novels in the 1980s and ’90s, I got both praise and derision–praise from readers who were glad to have more tales of Wolfe and his loyal right-hand, Archie Goodwin, and derision from those who either lamented that “you haven’t got it right” or who felt fictional characters should be allowed to die with their creators.

Otto Penzler, longtime mystery publisher and bookstore owner, falls into that latter camp. Quoted in an April Wall Street Journal article about the Spenser continuations, Penzler said he has “a philosophical opposition to people picking up other writers’ series.”

In many instances, the estate of the creator approves a continuator. Such was the case with the new Spenser stories, which were approved by Parker’s widow, Joan. The estate of Margaret Mitchell has okayed multiple sequels to her iconic “Gone with the Wind.” Several writers including my friend Raymond Benson got the green-light from the estate of Ian Fleming to do more James Bond stories. And I received the blessing of the Rex Stout estate in my continuations. Interestingly, Parker himself also was a continuator, completing the unfinished Raymond Chandler manuscript of “Poodle Springs,” a Philip Marlowe story. He also wrote “Perchance to Dream,” a sequel to Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”

In another recent development, novelist Jamie Freveletti has been invited by the estate of the late Robert Ludlum to continue Ludlum’s “Covert One” series. So the beat goes on, and it is a good bet we have not seen the last of continuators rising up to carry on the adventures of fictional characters that have engendered and strong and fiercely loyal followings.


4 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, the Sequel

  1. Well I, for one, was sorry to see the end of your Nero Wolfe books. I thought they were a very fine effort and true to the spirit and feel of Rex Stout’s originals. Of course they were a little different, so were Rex Stout’s books over the years. They changed all the time.

    So thank you for those that you did. I wish you’d do more. In the meantime, I’m glad there are so many originals (plus yours) to go through. By the time I manage to get through them all, every few years (on the third time now — what with so many other books to read and all) I’ve forgotten most of the details so they’re all new again!

    Best Wishes
    Ron Davis

  2. I’ve read all of the Parker continuations — the Jesse Stone one(s) are pretty good, the Virgil & Hitch not bad, and the Spencer: jeezy-peezy, how bad can it be? The dialogues between Spencer and Hawk sound like a cross between the crows of Dumbo and Amos’n’Andy.

    Just finished the Polo Grounds book and really enjoyed it, although it seemed a bit short; I’m hoping my local library can quickly come up with a copy of Archie Meets NW — I wasn’t aware that it had come out.

    I’ve really enjoyed all of your NW continuations — don’t stop!

  3. I have just finished the baseball park book, as always it was great. read the prequel a few months back, please write more.
    one author that I would like to see have his work continued is James Doss,charlie moon’s books.
    he passed before he could answer all the cliff hangers he had started, so there are questions.
    want is funny,all the British programs you like I also like and have collected over the years.
    not sure about the change in the midsomer mysteries just watched the first of the cousin
    in an earlier episode. will give him a chance but….
    plan to read your Snap Malek book. here in this small rural town walmart is the only book
    store so I will have to order it.
    thank you

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