The Continuation Artist

At various times we’ve had discussions on this blog about the pros and cons of another author reviving the Travis McGee series. Some don’t like the idea and others do, including yours truly. Heaven knows there would be plenty of highly qualified writers who could undertake the job, including Stephen King, who once made the offer. Of course, it remains moot. JDM’s son has made it clear there’ll be no such thing as long as he’s drawing breath. The opinions of JDM’s grandkids are not known.

But it makes me kind of morose to think of no new McGees, when I consider the fine job Ace Atkins has done with the Spenser series. The Parker estate is perfectly cool with keeping Spenser and Jesse Stone in business. Anne Hillerman has done a nice job keeping Chee and Leaphorn in the detecting game. Guess she likes the idea of extending her father’s legacy. Although it ended after a few books, Vincent Lardo did a solid job of helping Archy McNally tool around Palm Beach in his little red Miata. Lardo’s style was a bit different from Sanders’—more bundt cake than souffle—but still enjoyable.

I guess I don’t understand the opposition to new stories by successor authors. Fans get more stories, the agent and publisher are happy, the estate gets mucho moolah. Everyone wins. Why shouldn’t we have a reboot with Trav and Meyer? Say, set back in the ’70s or early ’80s? If you hate the idea of new McGees, fine, don’t read them. Should it ever happen, the prime directive, naturally, is: Don’t f**k it up!

But at present, of course, the anti-reboot forces are in the ascendant.

I’m bringing this up again because there’s a thoughtful piece in The Guardian by Sophie Hannah, the author who has revived Hercule Poirot for the Agatha Christie estate, discussing the phenomenon. Here’s what she had to say about the delicate job she’s undertaken three times so far:

There’s a name for novels like my Poirots and others of their kind: continuation novels. Often, at my events, people tentatively ask me things like: “So, are you Agatha Christie now?”. They don’t know the correct term for what I’m doing. No, I’m not Christie, and so I decided very early on that I would not in any way try to copy her writing. No writer can or should ever try to mimic the prose style of another, unless they are writing a parody or a pastiche.

I soon realised that if I was to write real, proper Poirot, then I needed to write about Christie’s Poirot, not to change or add to him in order to “make him my own”. Absolutely not, I thought. He is not my own. He belongs to Christie and to her billions of fans. My task – should I choose to accept it, which I soon did, because concocting a baffling mystery for the brilliant Belgian sleuth to solve was the most exciting creative challenge I had ever faced – was to bring the Poirot we all know and love a new case that would frustrate and puzzle him right up until he worked out the solution.

Her complete article can be found here.