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Death is Not the End: Writing in Style

Ever wonder why you see a book by a beloved author published under a different name? Following up on Death is not the end: legacy titles in mystery, let’s look into some more complicated affairs when it comes to preserving the bequest of titles, characters, and plots inherited from a successful author.

The author of famous novels as Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and my favorite, Coma, Michael Crichton died in 2008 of cancer, a disease he kept secret until the last minute according to his wish. A bit later his assistant discovered the manuscript of Pirate Latitudes, an action adventure novel on one of the author’s computer written concurrently with another novel, which was published before his death. It became the first novel published posthumously, followed by Micro, a techno-thriller also discovered on the same machine, about one-third written. The unfinished manuscript became the foundation of the novel written by science writer Richard Preston. Invited by Crichton’s publisher, he managed to finish the novel in Crichton’s style from notes and research, and it was finally published in 2011. A third posthumous novel by Michael Crichton, Dragon Teeth, was published in 2017 using the manuscript his wife discovered.

Do you remember The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The famous psychological thriller was published in 2005, one year after its Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age fifty without a will. The international bestseller was only the first in the Millenium trilogy, a series continued by another Swedish writer, David Lagercrantz, to the initial dismay of readers. An indication of its success and potential is the fact that the rights were sold to Karin Smirnoff in 2021 to continue the series with three more books.

Additionally, access to Larsson’s personal archives brought another surprise book. Reanimating Larsson’s research and attempts to solve a real-life murder, former Swedish diplomat, writer, and journalist Jan Stocklassa published a creative nonfiction title in 2019 about the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme called The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin . Critics seem to agree that Larsson fans shouldn’t miss this book.

Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp-series was not entirely written by the author either. The popular counter-terrorism operative continued to live on after Flynn’s death in 2013. An acclaimed author, Kyle Mills had the honor to take over the series and added seven more through 2021 to the great pleasure of his fansInterestingly, Mills is also the author of three books from the Robert Ludlum’s Covert-One series (2011-2015), so he undoubtedly knows how to follow in another author’s footsteps.

Speaking of Robert Ludlum, the author of the Jason Bourne series died in 2001. However, since then several books have been published under his name written by other authors. It’s not unusual that the role of the author, screenwriter, and director merge, resulting in a whole slurry of books, feature films, tv-series, video games, and more. The Bourne Sacrifice, published in 2022, is the latest addition.

Cover artAnother example, known from the eponymous TV-series, is Jack Ryan. A character created by Tom Clancy in the 1980s also continues to live on in nineteen new titles adding to the previous eighteen of the Ryanverse, i.e., the franchise that keeps Ryan’s universe alive. Written by several authors posthumously, these books contribute largely to the success. The latest is called Zero Hour.

The show must go on. But, some series never had the chance to get completed.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comedy science fiction written by Douglas Adams, was and is incredibly popular. Assuming a great variety of formats including an original radio play, books and comic books, stage performances, computer games, and a movie, it continues to entertain and inspire millions. The original plan of the author was to add a sixth book to end the series on a slightly more upbeat note. However, Adams died before he could finish it. The sixth novel, And Another Thing, was eventually written by Eoin Colfer with additional unpublished material by Douglas Adams.

And the one that got away: in Sue Grafton’s ABC Series, featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone, the alphabet ends at Y. One of the first authors who dared to make her sleuth female as early as 1982, Grafton passed away in 2017, leaving the alphabet hanging. The plan was to end the series with “Z” Is for Zero, but she died before she could even begin working on it. Her daughter once said that Grafton would never allow anyone to write in her name. I respect her wish, but will miss reading novel Z for ever.

Titles mentioned and available from Rutgers University Libraries