Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: career and peak

From: Jeremiah Healy (
Date: 20 Nov 2001

As "participating author of the month," I have a few comments on the
"no-more-than-seven" in a series view. Frankly, I thought my seventh Cuddy book, SHALLOW GRAVES, was the best to that point. It dealt with modeling and the Mob in Boston, and mixed mystery puzzle and novel of character about as well as I could muster. However, I continued to have new ideas for the Cuddy series, and the eighth, FOURSOME, set mostly in rural Maine, was about as different a whodunnit as one could imagine after its predecessor. The ninth book, ACT OF GOD, was profiled in NEWSWEEK, the tenth, RESCUE, was a Main Selection of the Mystery Guild, the eleventh (INVASION OF PRIVACY) and twelfth (THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER) were both nominees for the Shamus Award (which, as many of you already know, is a peer, not fan, award from the Private Eye Writers of America), and the thirteenth, SPIRAL, was nominated for the Flamingo
(Best Mystery Set in Florida).

I think the major problem with ANY series, of whatever length, is not so much avoiding redundancy in plot (there are only so many homicide motivations) as avoiding it in characters. The problem for a lot of long-running series is that the author keeps recycling the same repertory company of characters, either literally or functionally, so that the reader sees very little new in a succeeding book. Personally, I have a theory on why this repetition of characters occurs: Once you are successful enough to become a "full-time" writer, you by definition are cut off from a lot of the "real" world, "day-job" stimuli of meeting new people who can BE credible characters as realistic players in a mystery novel.


Best from Boston,


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