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The dangers of picking up other peoples’ work

March 27, 2012

Robert B. Parker inspired me to write. My uncle said he heard my voice when he read my collection of Spenser novels. I can clearly remember the day Parker died–I found out when I was at Barnes and Noble in Winter Park (or close to it), waiting to take Jamie Morris’s Woodstream Writers group that week.

Oh my GAWD! Someone other than Tom Selleck could break Mr. Masters' new camera!

When I found out that Ace Atkins had been tabbed to continue Parker’s works–and characters–he became my least favorite writer. Having someone else write Spenser would be like having someone else play Thomas Magnum. Or like creating a Star Trek movie with all new people playing the original roles. Hate isn’t nearly strong enough a word to describe my view of any author, director, or actor who would attempt such a thing.

Except I saw the new Star Trek movie–and I tried really, really hard to hate it. And I couldn’t. I don’t hate Chris Pine (Kirk) or Zachary Quinto (Spock), and I thought Karl Urban was magnificent as McCoy. And as Uhura, I thought Zoe Saldana really would have Mr. Adventure eating out of her hand (you have to see Star Trek III…). And I started to re-think my old-school, purist approach. If JJ Abrams could successfully retool Star Trek, then lots of things are possible.

Today I read the Pubisher’s Weekly review of Ace Atkins’ first Spenser effort.

Even the most fanatical Parker fans would be hard pressed to identify any aspect of this Spenser novel that doesn’t read as if it were penned by Spenser’s late creator…Atkins hits all the familiar marks—bantering scenes with Spenser’s girlfriend, fisticuffs, heavy-duty backup from the dangerous Hawk…At the same time, he breaks no new ground, avoiding the risk of offending purists and the potential rewards of doing something a bit different with the characters.

I haven’t read Ace Atkins’ version of Spenser yet (it doesn’t get released until May). But this one review has shifted me from “No way in hell, not if I paid for it with your money.” to “Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

The review hints at a lack of courage in not trying something new with the characters. Atkins has courage that even Spenser would admire for making the effort. And–as a fanboy–I don’t want something new with the characters. I want to know that Atkins gets it. I want to know that he understands the characters the correct way, and isn’t looking to turn Spenser into something he never was. I don’t want someone else’s interpretation of Spenser. I want Spenser.

If Atkins can deliver on that, then it’s time to try something new with the characters. In this one case, creativity and a fresh perspective isn’t something to celebrate. It’s something to manage carefully and introduce slowly.

It’s not the sequel to Gone with the Wind. Hopefully, it’s better than that. Atkins already has my (grudging) admiration for daring to take on such a venture. If he pulls it off, he will have my money for as long as he stays true to the characters.

What about you? Has anyone continued one of your favorites? What was the result?

  1. celticadlx permalink
    March 27, 2012 10:56 am

    I have a hard time with authors that I love writing “with” other people. I just stay purist on that and only buy the books they write alone. I think it comes from feeling that those ‘other’ writers shouldn’t be hanging on to someone else’s star, if you know what I mean. I feel they should write on their own merit, like the rest of us! I know that’s not a very friendly way to feel, but, oh well. That’s how I feel. I know someone took up and wrote Louis L’Amour’s books after he passed away, and quite a few other writers have done that even before they died because they didn’t want to write anymore. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll “get tired” of writing and be able to hand it over to someone else as well! Can’t say I wouldn’t love being that well known!!

  2. March 28, 2012 3:52 pm

    I hear there are not a lot of origional stories, so that means not much is origional. However, talent shines whether it is origional or not.

    I loved the new “Star Trek,” and have watched it many times.

    Remember the old “Wild, Wild, West” TV series with James T. West being played by Robert Conrad? I watched those shows all the time. When Will Smith starred in the movie, I thought, they made Jim West black? But it worked. Great movie. Talent rises to the surface.

    I expect a black James Bond someday, purists be damned.

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