We've probably talked about this before. But it still plays around in my head since I want to write one or two. . maybe three. . separate series myself.

When does a detective/police-procedural/historical detective series begin to get long in the tooth? Worn out. Kaput.

I'm thinking of the long running series of Ed McBain's 87th Princinct. Or Tony Hillerman's Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series. Of course there is James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series. Or Earle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason series.

Do you think its possible to continue writing excellent books in a series, book after book? Or are there going to be clunkers on the way?

What are the signals you, the author, must see in making a decision to retire a series? Any thoughts?

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Is it possible? Sure. I thought McBain's 87th Precinct novels were actually getting better when he died. Elvis Cole and Joe Pike keep trucking along.

Is it likely? Probably not. Even Robert B. Parker, who I would have called my favorite writer at one time, ran the Spenser franchis into the ground so far I don't even consider reading his newest books.

It all depends on the writer, and the character. There's no hard and fast rule. I suspect if the author has to think too long about a good story idea that fits the cast, or is at all tired of writing about them, it's time for at least a hiatus.
Since for most series, only one title per year appears, the reader isn't terribly likely to get tired if he/she really likes the first and second book. Hillerman did not wear out for me, though I grant you that the books are a little uneven. Ed McBain I never liked well enough. And Earle Stanley Gardner was absolutely repetitive. Even the Nero Wolfe books repeated the same situation again and again. Christie did it too. Wolfe's gatherings in his office with all the suspects lined up got to be nauseatingly predictable. So, repetition will wear the series out quickly, but a well-written series with round characters is far less likely to fall into that trap than something that's churned out quickly to sell another book. It's up to the author to keep it alive and changing.
When they started imitating themselves, looking to the past for what worked then instead of keeping it fresh.

I think sometimes a series has a natural life span, and that what it has to say will ultimately exhaust itself unless it is really exceptional.
For me the series is no longer interesting when I sense the writer has become overly formulaic and sloppy in the writing process, just churning out one more repetitive story.

Until that point, I'll continue reading any series I really enjoy. I could have kept reading Giles Blunt's "Cardinal" series till the cows came home, I loved it that much. Everyone I recommended it to loved it too. But Giles, a Canadian writer of tremendous stature, had other things he wanted to accomplish. I don't know whether he'll come back to the series after a stint away, but I hope so. His 2 stand-alone books, "No Such Creature" and "Breaking Lorca" were definitely worth his stopping his popular series, at least for awhile.
Blunt is good. Are the new books crime fiction?
They are crime fiction in the true sense -- there are crimes and they are fiction, but they really fall more into the Lit category. "No Such Creature" was a hilarious road trip with deep dark elements -- a great book. His real masterpiece, though, in my opinion was "Breaking Lorca". Sorry, fellas, I hate to say it, but I cried. I don't do that often anymore, tough old bird that I am.
I think everyone's pretty much nailed it. I would say that from a writer's point of view maybe it's time to hang it up when you're just doing it for the paycheck. If it's not just about the most fun you've ever had without coca derivatives, it's probably time to move on to the next project.

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