I'm piggybacking on a comment by Daniel Hatadi in Sandra Ruttan's discussion about killing off series characters. Daniel said he favors the six-book series and (paraphrasing here) gets bored if a series goes on and on. I don't feel that way at all. I l prefer series to standalones as long as the characters continue to develop from book to book. As both reader and writer, I am fascinated by the process. (That's probably also why I'm a shrink.) I want to enter a protagonist's world and watch it accumulate richness and complexity over time, just like real life, but with fewer dull patches. ;) Authors whose series haven't tired me yet include Marcia Muller's, Dana Stabenow's, Laurie King's, Margaret Maron's, Reginald Hill's (though the last few books have been a little too clever for their own good), Laura LIppman's, and I could name others. So whaddya think? Which side are you on, and why? Liz

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I do prefer series books, in general. I like watching the characters evolve, and there's a sense of catching up with old friends. If I'm hooked on a series I must get the next book right away. Standalones have no real sense of urgency for me to read, personally, although I think Laura Lippman's standalones are superb.

I don't think there should be an arbitrary number for cutting off a series. I really do think it depends on whether or not there's more room for growth and the author still has the interest in writing the character. Would I want to do 26 books with one character? Right now, that sounds daunting and not at all appealing, because I like trying new things. I look at people like Val McDermid, Ken Bruen, who've done more than one series and standalone books and diversified and grown, and as an author, that appeals to me. I want to put new challenges in front of myself constantly. I also want to write police procedurals, at least one PI book, hardboiled, standalones... As much as I love police procedurals I'd be bored to tears writing nothing but.

I also like the 'loose non-series connect' of using characters in different books.
Well, I'm like Sandra on this. Let it go on if it stays fresh. I think that requires the protagonist to age and the cast to change. Perhaps also the setting and the type of case.

However, an author's investment in a series is, as I've said before, immense. In my case it also involves decades of research. Too much rides on each book.

So I, too, am prepared to diversify -- with a straight historical novel (perhaps trilogy) and a historical thriller -- until I see how the series does in the future.

If I got tired of it, though, I would stop it. So far (5 published, 2 finished) I'm not at all bored with it.
I tend to like series books as well. If you find a character you like and enjoy in one book, chances are you'll like subsequent books. Standalones are always an unknown quantity aren't they.

As for how long a series should run. I suppose it depends on the writer and whether he can keep the characters fresh and not have them revisit old ground. Ian Rankin is one I always race to pick up his next book. It will be interesting to see whether he will continue with Rebus in some other form after Exit Music.

I feel some authors don't now when to stop though and then we have books that just repeat themselves. Janet Evanovich is the first name that springs to mind. After the first three or four, it's just a continuing round of oddball characters, cars blowing up, flirting with Ranger and Stephenie being fairly inept at finding the bad guy.

Some, like Patricia Cornwell seem to get into soap country with increasingly less believable private lives of the characters. It's a pity there isn't some mechanism whereby a whistle blows when a character has gone as far as they can.
I am a great lover of Series Books It's like visiting old friends and finding out what they have been up to, but it is up to the Author what to do with their creations look at Colin Dexter he had to kill off Morse so he didn't have to write any more in the Series.

I can imagine that some Characters become a pain in the butt for some Writers and they want to create new lives and new scenes even take a step into a new Genre.

We the Readers must respect the choices the writer makes and welcome the changes in direction they may want to take.
Good examples from Sunnie. Evanovich has no intention of letting Stephanie Plum grow emotionally or choose between Joe and Ranger, and I stopped reading after several books for that reason. On the other hand, I still return to some classic cozies, notably Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver series, when I want a comfort read. Not sure what this means--that they don't make soothing mysteries like they used to? I also keep sneaking back to Robert Parker's Spenser after vowing not to because they're always the same. I still dutifully read Sue Grafton, but I'm getting awfully tired of 1982. And I'm still thrilled to pick up a new Marcia Muller, because not only has Sharon McCone matured and deepened, but the world she lives in has evolved in a convincing way. Sharon's involvement in a progressive legal cooperative where she worked and lived semi-communally made sense in the 70s, and her growing business with its high-tech component and diverse crew of employees makes sense now.
I think the key is whether the author can continue to write fresh stories with essentially the same cast. Parker seems to have run out the string with Spenser, but Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books were still getting better when he died. Dennis Lehane stopped the Kenzie/Gennaro series because he didn't have anything he wanted them to do; he may or may not return. So I guess my definitive answer is, it depends.
As long as the writer is still stimulated and loves the work and as long as the readers keeping anticipating each novel, why not let it run it's course? I just feel badly when an author is trapped into feeding the demand, and is unable to concentrate on different and more energizing projects. Val McDermid is a classic example of being able to juggle both series and stand-alone. They are always quality and I honestly don't care what she puts out...it's sure to be amazing. Then again, Cornwell doesn't know when to let go when a series becomes either too outrageous to appeal or too predictable. She manages to do both at once lately! When a series goes wrong, it needs to go. I have trouble with complacency.
After a while you run into the problem of believability. Could one person go through what some series characters do-- beatings, shootings, having their lives and the lives of their loved ones threatened, and often having to dispatch the bad guy with their own hands--and not be crazy as a loon after about the tenth or eleventh time? How much punishment can one hero/heroine take without either becoming catatonic or turning into a monster? It's a problem I wrestle with in my own series--Jack Keller spends a lot of his time trying to keep from going mad, and he's not always successful.

All that said, there are a lot of series I love: Ian Rankin, Laura Lippmann, Lee Child, etc. etc.
Absolutely true, and I have dropped a number of series that are still running strong because they didn't change and I didn't believe that any human being could experience that much violence in a single year and escape each time. I think if it takes a year per book to get in print, then the character should at least have aged and changed a year also. In other words, I have long since given up on the alphabet series, and I also don't read Evanovich any longer.
Believability: It's funny that Evanovich and Cornwall can stretch credibility too far yet Ed McBain wrote his 87th precinct books over a 40 year period and the characters aged hardly at all and still kept pace with the times. Perhaps that is a tribute to McBain's ability to keep his characters fresh and quirky enough for that elastic time shift not to matter. Never did for me, anyway.
You're right, Sunnie. McBain grew his characters just enough to maintain the readers' interest, and for them to keep up with changes in society and technology, while still remaining comfortable touchpoints.

It seems odd to write this, considering the career and accolades he had, but I think McBain is badly underrated. His name rarely appears in discussion threads, either here or at the BN site, and his books are rarely mentioned when folks are bandying titles about. McBain was able to juxtapose humor and tragedy as well as any writer, and his plots almost always had that rare confluence of surprise and inevitability. Finishing a McBain book would prompt a sigh and satisfied feeling from me more than any other writer, except maybe Chandler. And McBain was as good as ever when he died, maybe even getting better.
Well, with that accolade I'll try McBain again. But he is highly praised in mystery circles and I've tried and been underwhelmed. Maybe it was one of his early ones and it struck me as outdated.


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