Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some Thoughts On The Switching Of Horses Mid-Stream

The lovely people at Penguin sent us an ARC of the up-coming Dick Francis novel, Dead Heat, although the reviewer elves noted a rather unusual development in the accompanying press release, to wit:
“ … And more than ever there is a special twist. With forty novels under his belt, Dick feels that the time has come to begin handing over the family business. Felix, the younger of Dick’s two sons, has long been involved with managing Dick’s many publishing commitments and has helped with the research for several previous novels, not least with Twice Shy which drew on Felix’s experiences both as a physics teacher and as a marksman. Felix, in Dead Heat, has for the first time taken a central role in the writing of the book. Over the last year, Dick and Felix have worked closely together, developing plot and character details for this novel, and hopefully many more to come. The result is the searing intrigue-filled blockbuster, Dead Heat, which heralds a new era for the Grand Master of thriller writing.”
Erm, exqueeze us? Shouldn’t that read, “ … a new era for the son of the Grand Master of thriller writing”? And while we’re asking questions ... Is there a danger here that Penguin are taking reader / brand loyalty a step too far? Since when has writing novels been considered ‘a family business’? Isn’t the joy of reading all about immersing yourself in a world created by the unique mind of a writer? Or are we just being naïve / pedantic / obtuse (delete as applicable) here? Answers on the back of €20 book tokens to the usual address, please.


knwick84 said...

I don't suppose you've noticed how Clive Cussler has started working with his son, or Susan Conant has started working with her daughter. It's been done.

tessa said...

I've read all the Dick Francis books. Loved some, enjoyed most, the last one -- not so much.

I agree with you, writing isn't a family occupation, but there are quite a few examples of where it's close: Mary Higgins & Carol Higgins Clark, James Lee & Alafair Burke, Frank & Brian Herbert.

The Clarks have collaborated on a book. Brian Herbert is continuing the DUNE books.

Maybe this book will be terrific. Probably not. I just hope it's not terrible.

Damien said...

I'm not sure where I heard it, but the rumour I had heard was that it was Dick Francis' wife who did much of the writing of a "Dick Francis" book.

That being said, your "son of" assertion is surely more appropriate.

And as for the unique mind of a writer, take the James Patterson conglomerate as an example of an "author" who garners great fan loyalty.

Declan Burke said...

Cheers for the input, folks.

I guess the answer to my final question is that I'm being deliberately naive, obtuse and pedantic.

Without prejudicing the book before I read it, I'm pretty sure Felix Francis will offer a similar level of satisfaction as Dick Francis.

But the issue isn't whether it's been done before, or done well, it's whether it's right to take reader loyalty for granted.

And so long as the reader gets value for their money and time, I suppose that's a moot point.

Peter said...

In this era when James Patterson, Tom Clancy and probably others have have ceased being names and become brands, I find it almost heartening that Francis is keeping things in the family.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

tessa said...

It happens even with an individual author. Reader loyalty will only go so far. I have "automatic buys," authors who I love and look forward to reading. So much so that I'm out there that first week.

But -- they're only allowed two "stinkers." One book off I can figure is due to writing on deadline, etc. If the second is off, I might read them again, but it's from the library, not the bookstore.

A writing "franchise" only works if it satisfies those
loyal readers. Consider Robert Ludlum, who probably invented franchise writing, and who now continues via Eric Lustbader.