Friday, July 17, 2009

When You've Had Enough

On Saturday I'm off to the Crime and Justice Festival, a good excuse to go and indulge in my passion for crime fiction. Among others, I'll be listening to Stuart MacBride and Barry Maitland talk about their books and characters, and drinking coffee and trying not to buy too many books. My friend G and I swap books sometimes, and swap recommendations constantly. It's great to find a new author whose work you love, and then read their backlist as well. But now and then I wonder about those writers who have been going a long time, whose main character is being trotted out for the 15th time, and whether they feel tired.

I've blogged before about the pressure of a series, especially one where you are expected to produce several books in a short period of time. I read a comment in the review pages the other day about Michael Connelly - the writer said Connelly's publisher must love him because he writes a new book every nine months without fail. That said, the new one is not about Harry Bosch (who's had many outings) but Jack McEvoy, who first appeared in The Poet. This was the first of Connelly's books I read, and it captured me immediately. I went on to read Trunk Music and Concrete Blonde in quick succession.

The ScarecrowBut nowadays, is a Harry Bosch novel capturing me in the same way? Is Connelly putting the same passion and hard work into his writing? Would it show on the page if he wasn't? Could I tell? I think readers can tell - take Patricia Cornwell. I don't know what happened to her writing, but I know that for me, as soon as she started writing in present tense, she lost me. I have to confess I have now stopped buying Janet Evanovich (although I might borrow from the library). For me, it's too much of the same old, same old.

But how do the writers feel? Do they groan when the publisher says, "I want another one of those, and we need it by 1 May"? Or are they still keen on their characters and have a secret pile of story ideas they can't wait to get to? Maybe that's a question I can ask at the festival... But one thing I have to say about Connelly's new book The Scarecrow - the background of print journalism and the way in which the internet is superseding hardcopy newspapers was fascinating, and what is even better is that Series 5 of The Wire uses the same context as one of its main plot threads.


Kristi Holl said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but series work got hard for me. The first series of six books were the hardest--and near the end I started daydreaming about killing off the heroine (which really wasn't nice, as she was a nice child!) But I was so tired of her by then. I think if you write series, it's easier if you alternate: a series of maybe four books, then a stand-alone or two of some kind before more series. But as you said, sometimes the publisher calls the deadline shots and you don't have that choice.

Sherryl said...

Kristi - I wonder if children's series are different? There is a perception that you can churn a whole bunch of them out fairly quickly because the word count is lower. But we all know it's not that simple! The pressure for several in a row destroys the fun. And it can be very hard to keep up the quality with an editor breathing down your neck. You do a fantastic job!

Sheryl Gwyther said...

I, too, am a great fan of Michael Connelly, especially the Harry Bosch stories. I've read them all, except for The Scarecrow - maybe putting off the thought that it might not 'come through' in the same way.
Maybe I'll give it a go now.
Looking forward to what you'll say about the 'Crime and Justice Festival'. Cheers

Sherryl said...

Sheryl - did you read 'The Poet'? Because 'The Scarecrow' is a follow-up to that, not a Bosch story.
I really enjoyed it.