Serious 2020 News About Several Fiction Series

For fiction readers who are into popular series, this has been an interesting year.

One major development was Lee Child announcing that he would gradually step away from writing his mega-selling Jack Reacher thrillers because of his age (a not-that-old 65). Child and his younger brother Andrew are co-authoring a few more Reacher books — including next month’s The Sentinel — before Andrew takes over completely. That’s the plan after Child, starting with 1997’s Killing Floor, churned out roughly one novel per year starring the wandering/charismatic/justice-seeking loner Jack.

I’ve read most of the Reacher books, and found them riveting. But will I continue to read them after Lee Child bows out? Unsure. I’m not a big fan of a series being passed on to a different author. Heck, I loved Stieg Larsson’s page-turning Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) but decided not to read the new installments by David Lagercrantz. The late Stieg certainly had no say in picking that successor.

Then we have J.K. Rowling. Once absolutely beloved as the author of the stellar Harry Potter series, Rowling has recently gotten into hot water with intolerant views about transgender people. Which brings us to her newer series — written under the Robert Galbraith pen name — starring the fascinating private investigators Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. I was a huge fan of the first four books, released between 2013 and 2018, and the fifth one came out this month. But Troubled Blood includes the character of a male serial killer who dresses in women’s clothing — making it almost seem like Rowling is rubbing her transphobia in readers’ faces. So I might not read the new book, even as I contemplate the irony of Rowling writing her crime series under a man’s nameโ€ฆ

During the first part of the pandemic this year, I continued Diana Gabaldon’s mesmerizing Outlander series by reading the second-through-eighth books, which average 1,000-plus pages apiece. The eighth novel (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) came out in 2014, and the eagerly awaited ninth one (Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone) is expected late this December. As the time-travel-laced story continues, I can’t wait to see what happens with 20th-century doctor Claire, her 18th-century Scottish warrior husband Jamie, their daughter Brianna, their son-in-law Roger, and other memorable characters in a series that began in 1991.

Back in May, a prequel to Suzanne Collins’ massively popular The Hunger Games trilogy was released. While I haven’t yet read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (dystopian fiction is not at the top of my list during this dystopian year), I did feel the 2008-10 trilogy was depressingly terrific.

Coming in November is Fortune and Glory, Janet Evanovich’s 27th novel starring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

In early February 2021, we’ll see Walter Mosley’s Blood Grove, the 15th book starring private investigator Easy Rawlins. (If 2020 had 14 months — it does seem like a lonngg year — Blood Grove would be out in time to be a legitimate part of this post. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Any thoughts on fiction series and their 2020 aspects?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started, award-winning โ€œMontclairvoyantโ€ topical-humor column for The latest piece — about a wretched election ruling — is here.

54 thoughts on “Serious 2020 News About Several Fiction Series

  1. Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
    Where knowledge is free;
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
    Where words come out from the depth of truth;
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
    Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

    Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If Lee Child can actually manage to walk away from his creation, i will be both sad and impressed. AC Doyle grew tired of Sherlock enough to kill him off over a waterfall, but was forced by popular pressure to revive him. It is to our great benefit that he made several more excellent mysteries with his deer-stalkered detective.

    it is more likely that pride of ownership and authorship might win out, which I would welcome as a fan of the strategically unobtrusive giant of a loner, but as you know, I only need Mr. Reacher in specific circumstances– airports mostly, or anywhere one must wait with patience and reserve. It helps to see a huge fellow triumphing over impossible odds in such times, as I am a small fellow whose inclinations are to complain mightily and get nowhere accordingly, except perhaps to a small room reserved for the uses of airport security personnel.

    Still, I would like to see Child away from Reacher, enjoying life and the spoils of his series without regard to his posterity, happy enough to see what his brother can do once he is done looking over his shoulder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY. Excellent point — if Lee Child can indeed walk away from Jack Reacher, it would be sad and unusual and gutsy. Of course, who knows if he would come back at age 80 or something and try another solo-written Reacher book. Life could get boring for an author not THAT old; maybe Child has a non-Reacher project or two up his sleeve.

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      • Don`t know Dave…but i`ll certainly give the new author a try.
        Looks to me The Sentinel, Mr. Lee is training his brother .
        Now Reacher is aging, is the new one make him young again, I don`t want that , yet I want him to beat the con don into a pulp.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, bebe! I’ll certainly read the co-written Reacher books. The solo ones after that by Lee Child’s brother? Will see.

          I agree that I wouldn’t want Reacher to be younger again, except maybe in another prequel or two.

          Trump would be no match for even an aging Reacher; “Con Don” would have to add a Reacher deferral to his draft deferrals…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave, all these wonderful series mentioned, and still no new “A Song of Ice and Fire”! I wonder if Martin will ever get around to finishing those books. I must admit, some of the expectation has worn off now that the TV adaptation is finished.

    Your blog this week makes me realise that I don’t really read series any more, though I gobbled them up when I was younger. I don’t understand the appeal of either Lee Child or Diana Gabaldon, but I’m so glad you’re enjoying them. I read the first two “Outlander” books, and am curious to know where the story goes to include a book called “Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone”?

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    • Thank you, Susan, for mentioning the “A Song of Ice and Fireโ€ series! I read the first one (“A Game of Thrones”) and liked it a lot, but I guess not quite enough to move on to the second. I wonder if George R.R. Martin is suffering from a bit of burnout and/or writer’s block after producing many pages, many intricate plot lines, and many complex characters between 1996 and 2011.

      The title of the upcoming ninth “Outlander” book is indeed intriguing. Diana Gabaldon hasn’t hesitated to kill off some significant secondary characters (while putting the main characters through hell much of the time). Wish I had a communication channel with bees… ๐Ÿ™‚

      (If I’m remembering right, bees are kept where Claire and Jamie eventually settled in rural North Carolina. I think the couple ended up in NC in the third or fourth book.)


  4. You article made me think about the series I have read over the years, some better than others. Of course, there are the series that are an absolute slog to get through. (Note: One person’s slog is another person’s delight.) One of my favorite series, not mentioned in the comments, is “The Barchester Chronicles” is Anthony Trollope. An early reviewer wrote, “I wish ‘Framley Park’ would go on forever.” While I am not all that keen on a series continuing forever, I do like a nice set of five.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, vanaltman! Great points! Series can indeed vary a lot in quality, and a series length of five (or a few more) books would also work for me in some cases. I haven’t read a lot of Trollope (I’m currently reading his British contemporary Wilkie Collins), but I probably should revisit his work at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to admit I’m not much of a series person as an adult. As a kid it was quite different. You know how much I love Anne of Green Gables (although even then I never read the whole series, I’m just now getting around to that!) I also loved the Ramona Quimby series, and I was a HUGE Goosebumps nerd as a kid. Now as an adult, with the endless amounts of good books at my fingertips with Amazon and online library rentals, it takes a lot to get me to commit to a long string of books, especially since books in a series tend to get longer as the series goes on. I think the last series I actually read all the way through was Harry Potter – and I think only because they were such easy reads I could breeze through them very quickly. I never read Rowling’s detective series, since I had many other authors to explore and I was ready to move on. I had thought about trying to read them for awhile, but still haven’t gotten around to it, since detective novels aren’t my favorite genre. I’m also a huge fan of LOTR, which I have read multiple times and watched the movies over and over again, even though they are all really long haha. There are a couple series I tried to get into – like Outlander. I was a bit put off by all the sexual violence though and put it down half way through the first book. Just not my cup of tea ๐Ÿ™‚ I also tried reading the Courtney Series by Wilbur Smith, but got bored and stopped about half-way through the third book. Then the same with Hunger Games haha. I think the problem is obviously me. I have too short of an attention span! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thank you, M.B.! The “Anne of Green Gables” series is excellent, although no sequel packed the punch of the first book.

      And — yes — kids’ series were and are definitely a thing. The ones you mentioned, as well as The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, etc.

      The “Harry Potter” series of course was/is beloved by children, teens, and adults. Heck, seven books might be a good number to end a series at rather than go into the 20s in number of novels in a series. Of course, the “HP’ books had an overall story arc, while some series have almost stand-alone story lines for each book.

      I love “The Lord of the Rings” books, too! And “The Hobbit.” ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Agreed about Anne! I only read the first two or three as a kid. The rest are all good, but that first one is the one that always pulls my heart strings so hard! ๐Ÿ™‚ And Lord of the Rings I feel like I just get something new out of it every time! Such a good series

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        • I agree — the first “Anne” is about as good as it gets, while the sequels ranged from excellent to good. Meaning the first one was super-excellent. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Also agree that “LOTR” offers a lot when reread! I think I’ve read the trilogy five times, though the fifth time was quite a while ago.

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  6. Ooh catch up with your new baby while I am here. The Mr is a great fan of Lee Child… I don’t know how he will take to the series being passed on either. Like you he never read the continuation of the Stieg books. So he may bow out. While i get an author wanting to pass on a beloved …and money making …character and series..everything has a shelf life. The best TV series are the ones that saw that instead of beating the remains to death week after week. Quite while you’re ahead in other words. Otherwise you are asking someone to take on your passion, for your work, your belief and your dedication and discipline. This almost has the scent of, ‘it is a money spinner’ about it. But hey, who knows? Easy Rawlins now? Can’t wait.

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    • Thank you, Shehanne! Great that “The Mr.” is a Lee Child fan! Though it seems like the Reacher novels would have a majority-male fandom, I know many women who really like them, too. It helps that Jack is a feminist in his way.

      With the Millennium Trilogy, I think there was a situation where Stieg Larsson’s longtime partner was not part of the deal to continue the series after Larsson’s death, which also turned me off to reading the successor author. (Not totally sure of all that; going from memory.)

      Yes, in most cases, it’s best to let a series go when the author dies or when things start getting tired/repetitive even if the author is still alive. (Many comic strips also continue way too long after the original creator dies.) It really is almost all about money.

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  7. Did you ever read the trilogy by P.C. Wren which begins with Beau Geste? It was published in 1924 and set in a time period before WWI. I remember reading Beau Geste in my teens. It was a brilliant adventure novel about three English brothers who enlist separately in the French Foreign Legion following the theft of a valuable jewel from the country house of a relative. Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal followed. Over the past few years I had been searching for these books to no avail until I found the complete set via Amazon Kindle. The first page brought me back in time to when I read the books for the first time: โ€œThe eye was jaundiced, thanks to the heat and foul dust of Bornu, to malaria, dysentery, inferior food, poisonous water, and rapid continuous marching in appalling heat.โ€ P.C. Wrenโ€™s biography is very interesting as well. Another great post, Dave! I look forward to Sundays!!!

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    • Thank you, Clanmother! I haven’t read “Beau Geste,” but it sounds compelling and is now on my list for whenever I can regularly use my local library again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you were able to finally find the trilogy again and reread. It’s so interesting to revisit books after a number of years and see whether or not we still like them as much. Even if we don’t, the experience can bring us “back in time,” as you note. From the excerpt you posted, P.C. Wren sounds like a vivid writer. And his life DOES sound fascinating (I just read his Wikipedia bio).

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  8. Series really need to have at least one really well-developed character–someone readers come to think of as a friend. That also provides an opportunity for the author to develop the character and give them an arc that carries through however many books there are in the series. I guess that happens with the Harry Potter books but maybe not with Hercule Poirot (says I, who has read precisely one book from each of those series).

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    • Thank you, Audrey! I totally agree about series needing at least one really well-developed character. (More, of course, are also welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      And you make a great point that a series star sometimes grows/changes/matures over the course of a series while others remain kind of the same. I guess that can partly depend on whether the protagonist starts the series as a kid, whether a series advances in time or stays in the same time period, etc.!

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  9. I haven’t read a series in years. The one I remember reading was Robert Parker’s Spenser mysteries, but it reached a point where I got bored with the series. It was probably a case of a good thing that went on too long and just ran out of gas.

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    • Thank you, Liz! I’m also more of a stand-alone-novel reader, but have enjoyed some series. Unfortunately, I never tried the Spenser mysteries. I agree some series get a bit tired, but if they start off great and turn into “okay” it can still be nice to keep reading in certain cases. There’s something comforting about (occasionally) starting a novel in which one already knows the main character(s).

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      • I enjoy the longer arc of a series, but it has to be a really good one. There’s the immersion factor plus inter-generational features. The alternative is reading an author’s entire oeuvre if I’m really impressed. There are of course so many really unforgettable stand alone novels that stay with us forever. Different strokes…and all that ๐Ÿ™‚ I need to investigate some of these, Dave.

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        • Thank you, Mary Jo! Yes, it certainly helps when series are really good. And “the immersion factor plus inter-generational features” are a big draw.

          When authors have a long time span in series (not always the case) it’s fascinating to see whether younger characters can be made as interesting as the original stars and whether they can “take over” the series or remain supporting characters.

          Like you, if I really like an author — whether she or he writes series or not — I try to read every (or almost every) novel they wrote. And I agree that the “best of the best” novels tend to be stand-alone ones.

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    • Thanks so much, rajatnarula! I read some series, but only a few — and don’t always read each and every installment. And, yes, they work well for some authors — if a series is popular, the next book is a guaranteed best-seller. Plus series enable authors to really explore characters in-depth over a number of books — and maybe get a TV series version (as with “Outlander”). Of course, there’s also the danger of getting into a rut and repeating one’s self to some extent over many books.

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  10. Just checked I am number 837 0f 75 copies in our Public Library, although as we know Dave every year Lee Child`s books are released in October.

    Well Dave, we were so worried that Mr. Child was going to end Jack Reacher by killing him. At least that is not going to happen, Jack Reacher will live on.

    Now there was a plan for a television series , now with COVID – 19 that won`t be possible either.

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    • Thank you, bebe! Wow — that’s a long waiting list! And, yes, a Reacher book comes out like clockwork every fall.

      Jack does indeed seem destined to live on.

      I didn’t realize there was a TV series possibility in addition to the two movies already made! With the not-tall-enough-for-the-role Tom Cruise…

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      • There was a talk but nothing materialized from it.

        There was also a talk of John Grisham`s Racketeer , I loved the book. The author needed a black actor, and he was stuck on Denzel Washington, but nothing happeded to it.
        I think Denzel is too old for it.

        Just fouund it…but very strange, never heard of it..Strange…

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I noticed recently that James Lee Burke has published ‘A Private Cathedral’, the 23rd Dave Robicheaux novel. I only recently finished reading Book 4. Burke seems to be doing pretty well at his advanced age (he’s 83). I saw a recent YouTube Zoom interview with him and Stephen King and they’re both chugging away. I’m just curious how he’s handled the issue of aging. Even in Book 4 Dave is close to 50 but he is certainly a man of action. I can’t imagine someone else taking over that series because I can’t imagine anyone else writing those books as well as Burke does.

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    • Thank you, Brian! Still writing the Dave Robicheaux novels at 83 is VERY impressive. And it would be good if that series, or any other series, is NOT continued by someone else.

      Lee Child has also wrestled a bit with Jack Reacher still being a man of action in the character’s late 50s. Of course, some series authors freeze their protagonist’s age or have them age VERY slowly. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Of course, when you create a character like Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, you start off centering things around an old person who strategically uses other people’s assumptions about her lack of worldliness and the possible ravages of age to her advantage. And she was never one for wrestling a gun out of a murderer’s hand, or tackling anything more formidable than a big ball of yarn. Still, she proved exceptionally long-lived, appearing first in 1930, and last in 1976. an old spinster lady from giddy-up.

        What a compliment it must have been for Joan Hickson, my favorite Marple, to have asked by Agatha Christie to consider playing her.

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        • Thank you, jhNY! Great observation about how Miss Marple used people’s low expectations of her to her advantage. Reminds me a bit of Dorothy Gilman’s created-later Mrs. Pollifax, who was underestimated as a spy because of her being an older, non-descript-looking woman.

          And, yes, a HUGE compliment for Joan Hickson courtesy of Agatha Christie.


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