Sunday, August 02, 2015

Series Continuation Titles

© by Gerald So | | 7:00 A.M.

As I wrote last week, I'm open-minded about series continued after their original authors die. One thing about continuation novels that did bug me, though, was how some were titled. The examples that hit closest to home were the continuations of Robert B. Parker's series, such as Robert B. Parker's Lullaby: A Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins.

This bugged me because, while the major characters are Parker's, the plots of the continuation novels come entirely from their authors, not Parker. The one unfinished novel Parker left was the Spenser holiday novel, Silent Night, finished by his agent and literary executor Helen Brann, and credited as Silent Night: A Spenser Novel by Robert B. Parker with Helen Brann.

Then, yesterday, I was cataloging the latest continuation titles for my Parker discussion group, Spenser's Sneakers, and ironically found the "Robert B. Parker's" in the continuation titles a quick way to distinguish them from those Parker himself wrote. No other parse of the title information is as simply cataloged as the original author's name being in the main title (not the subtitle): Kickback: A Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins, Kickback: A Novel of Robert B. Parker's Spenser by Ace Atkins...The most acceptable runner-up, still a mouthful, is Robert B. Parker's Spenser in Kickback by Ace Atkins.

Another interesting case are the Tom Clancy continuation novels. Some years before his death, he was already employing co-writers or ghostwriters, but the titles released since his death in 2013 are listed on his website as "Tom Clancy [Title]: A [Character] Novel by [Continuation Author]. Unlike the Parker spinoffs, the Clancy continuation novels don't use the phrase "Tom Clancy's" so as not to be confused with series he co-created and the fact he sold his name to Ubisoft for video game marketing purposes.


Max Allan Collins said...

You may find my continuation of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (and other) novels of his of interest in light of your essay. Mickey, for various reasons, began and set aside numerous novels during his long career. Shortly before his death, he asked me to complete the Hammer novel he was working on, THE GOLITAH BONE, should he not be able to (I wound up doing that). A while later, he told his wife Jane to gather all his unfinished material and give it to me ("Max will know what to do").

There were six substantial Hammer novel manuscripts (usually around 100 pages, often with character/plot notes, sometimes with endings). There were another three or four shorter Hammer manuscripts in progress, in the 30 - 50 page area, sometimes with plot notes and in one case the ending. There was also a non-Hammer crime novel, DEAD STREET, and a sequel to Mickey's DELTA FACTOR, THE CONSUMMATA.

As of now I have completed the substantial manuscripts (the six Hammers, DEAD STREET and CONSUMMATA) and have embarked on the shorter ones, recently with KILL ME, DARLING. I've also done seven short stories from Hammer fragments too short to generate novels.

With the exception of DEAD STREET, we have shared byline. There is a lot of genuine Spillane content in these, and I feel this is a unique project in the genre -- no other writer of Mickey's fame and importance left behind a treasure trove like this.

I will likely never embark on a Spillane project that doesn't have considerable actual Spillane content. Several non-Hammer novels in progress may be converted to Hammer, if reader interest continues.

Whatever one thinks of Mickey -- and he remains controversial -- I feel in my biased way that my continuations are the most valid of the various ones on the market today.

Gerald So said...

Thanks for commenting, Max.

I attended a Bouchercon panel where you, Bob Randisi, and others discussed series continuation. I'm a fan of both Spillane and yours, so odds are I will enjoy your collaboration novels when I get to them.