Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Heir To Our Affections

Parker Peevyhouse (!) posts about books finished posthumously and a majority of her text is devoted to John Bellairs and, more so, Brad Strickland:
"This isn’t exactly an unusual occurrence, and it has also taken place in children’s publishing. The series that starts with the quirky and Gothic The House With A Clock In Its Walls, by John Bellairs, was completed by author Brad Strickland after Bellairs’ death. Strickland finished two manuscripts Bellairs had started before his death: The Ghost in the Mirror and The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder. He also wrote two more books based on Bellairs’ notes, and then wrote four more novels of his own using Bellairs’ characters.

...when I hear that an author is finishing a book or series created by another author, I get very suspicious. Is this an act of generosity to readers who want more...Bellairs? Is it a plan to take advantage of a dead author’s good name? We can’t know how...Bellairs would react to Strickland’s commandeering of his series–but we do know that these authors’ estates felt it wise to approve these new books.”

Strickland has done a commendable job at keeping John’s characters fresh and relevant, and in turn we’ve recommended some of his titles to those weary readers unsure if they should open up a novel that he compleated. On the flip side, we’ve come across some die-hard fans of Bellairs that refuse to read Strickland’s contributions at all (and we don’t know if this is based on having read any books or not).

The author concludes with this question: should deceased writers’ outlines and unfinished novels be developed by other authors, or should an author’s name be retired after his death? Are there any other authors that come to mind?

Book collector Russ Bernard shared his thoughts from his long experience in selling and collecting books:
One author that comes to mind is L. Frank Baum. His Oz series books were continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson and other authors after her long career. J.R.R. Tolkien's books and manuscripts were edited by one of his sons starting with the long promised The Silmarillion. I do not even want be begin on the large number of people who have taken up the role of Dr. Watson and continued the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, although most of these were done years after his death.

As for the question, should the author's name be retired after his death, I think I would have to defer to the author's wishes on that topic. To many author's their characters were very personal things. These are people that they very much breathed life into and made real for many people. I think this is especially true in the case of Sherlock Holmes. I sometimes wonder what Doyle would have thought of the hundreds of people who have made his character do many things he never thought to make him do.
What are your thoughts? Join the conversation at our forum.

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