I don’t particularly like Sue Grafton’s books, but I do admire her — she left her legacy as is, her series unfinished, and would not allow anyone to step up after her death and keep her characters alive.
Too many authors didn’t make that decision before they died, so their heirs made it afterward. For example, some classics are being brought back to life when authors today write unsanctioned sequels to beloved favorites, such as those who pretend to channel Jane Austen or Daphne Du Maurier.
One of the few times posthumous writing was warranted was when Robert Jordan died before he could finish his modern classic, the fourteen volume Wheel of Time series. Another writer was hired to work with Jordan’s wife and Jordan’s copious notes to finish the series. Can you imagine going through decades with all those thousands of characters and millions of words only to be left hanging on the wheel without a resolution? So yes, it had to be finished. But once it was, it was done. There will be no more Robert Jordan books.
But some stories and authors’ names that do not need to be kept alive are still going for no other reason than to milk the money machine.
Some fellow is now writing Michael Crichton’s books. And another fellow is keeping Robert Parker’s Spenser alive. Who needs these books? They are not the author’s words, not the author’s vision — just some pale vision of the vision.
A new thing now is for the literary name is passed to the next generation. Michael Palmer’s son is now writing Michael Palmer books. Lee Child’s son will be taking over is father’s series.
And what the heck is going on with James Patterson? The way he’s spawning co-authors, his name will be one of the last words uttered when the earth falls into the sun.
This is what happens when an author’s name becomes a brand. I never used to pay attention to authors’ names except as a way of finding more books to read, and neither did anyone else, at least not to the extent that holds true today. The title was the main thing; the author’s name almost an afterthought. But branding and modern publishing changed all that. Now it’s the author who’s paramount, and no one cares what drivel is passed along to the reading public under the famous brand. (I got caught with a Michael Palmer book written by his son because the famous name was in huge letters, the title in a smaller type, and the writer’s name all but swallowed up in the graphic on the very bottom. So not nice!)
It used to be as one author’s star waned, another’s would rise, but what’s happened to all those non-rising stars? What will happen to readers when the brands finally are laid to rest? Not that it matters. There are plenty of books for me to read, and when there aren’t any more books that I like, I’ll write more of my own.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator