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Death is Not the End: Legacy Titles in Mystery

DetectivePoodle Springs sounds like an intriguing title alone. The eighth novel in the famous Philip Marlowe series has two authors listed, Raymond Chandler, the original writer of the series, and Robert B. Parker. What’s going on here?

With only four chapters written, Poodle Springs was left unfinished in 1959 when Chandler died. For his 100th birthday in 1988, his estate invited Robert B. Parker, an accomplished crime writer by that time, to complete it. I can speak for all Chandler fans that we are lucky that he did. The character-mash lonely-wolf private eye archetype Marlowe we learned to love in classic crime stories such as The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye was given one more chance in Poodle Springs.

Another Marlowe novel was published in 2014 by Benjamin Black under the title The Black-Eyed Blonde, bringing back our restless private eye to life in the style of the original. Chandler is an acquired taste, if you liked the first eight, this will be a delightful read.

BooksThe latest addition is Joe Ide’s The Goodbye Coast, just added to the Recreational Reading Collection and is on its way to Chang Library via our super fast and super convenient delivery service for me to read. I’ll be fast to return it, I promise.

Circling back to the first author finishing Chandler’s book, history seems to be repeating itself. Robert B. Parker is known for creating his own unique sleuth, Spenser (with an “s”), referred to only by surname. Placed in Boston, the forty-sone stories written between 1973 and 2011 aged fairly well, including the equally tough, slightly (or more, the jury is still out) stereotypical Hawk, the other main character in the books, and made it into tv- and film series. However, the Spenser Netflix movie Spenser Confidential, with Mark Wahlberg as Spenser, was based on a continuation of the series. Acclaimed author Ace Atkins was authorized by the Parker estate to pick up the Spenser line adding ten more books, fitting right in. Double authors on the front cover again, a déja vu, all over again.

Another popular character created by Parker is Jesse Stone, a cop grappling with addiction, recovery, and reinventing himself. After the nine original books by Parker, eleven more novels have been published, the first three by Parker’s friend and collaborator, Michael Brandman, then six more by Reed Farrel Coleman. Mike Lupica picked up the series to add two more  in 2020 and 2021, who also continued Parker’s Sunny Randall series.

Cover artAnother famous detective revived is no one else than Sherlock Holmes. Endorsed by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle crime and screen writer Anthony Horowitz followed up with two fascinating books, The House of Silk in 2011 and Moriarty in 2014. Commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate, Horowitz also wrote three follow-up James Bond novels, Trigger Mortis  in 2015, Forever and A Day, published in 2018, and With a Mind to Kill this year.

The phenomenon that popular characters survive their creator’s death with the help of new authors is even more complicated when the series are written by more than one author under a single pen name, such as the recently resuscitated Nancy Drew series, which sold over 600 titles in eighty million books geared to young readers but enjoyed by many.  

Launched in 1930, the books featuring a young female amateur detective survived the Depression, World War II, and the sixties. With its later reincarnations, some of these stories are age appropriate to children as old as 8-12 and are equally loved by girls and boys today as by their grandparents. Read more on the series or browse the Rutgers collection.

Although we consider this phenomenon fascinating from many perspectives, such as adopting styles, assuming a new author persona, modernizing texts and contents to meet the expectations of the reader today, the point here is the rabbithole that you can go down when you start reading an author or genre and discover all this. Actually, this is a pretty rewarding one.