Re: Writing the same book, over and over (was) RARA-AVIS: Chandle r or Hammett

From: Miles Archer (
Date: 05 Dec 2003

on 12/4/03 5:17 PM, Larson, Craig at wrote:
> Yet I keep on reading
> Burke and await each new book eagerly.

Yeah, well, I can understand liking a book/author for the overall experience, and enjoying visiting the world created, even if, or perhaps, because, it's familiar, yet interesting and evocative. I read a couple of Burke's; liked them; then said: "Okay, been there, done that." When I read a new book by someone I've read before and think, half way through, maybe I've read it before, that's when I realize I've grown tired of their schtick.

Part of it is marketing, in that publishers want series characters that
'lock in' a certain fan base; and many readers enjoy the familiarity of the series. I enjoyed Stout's Nero Wolfe, knowing that what I was going to read was sure to be familiar in many details. I never took the stories
'seriously', that is, I read them as clever diversions, not in any way a seriously intriguing literary experience, which is where I might put Burke, for ex. Same with most of Christie. Cute, but not any meat to them. Souffle, rather than stew.

In Burke one starts to see the familiar elements: wife trouble; family endangered by 'mad' criminal; rather long introspections by the detective that have more to do with his internal world than any practical attempts to solve a crime; the spiraling pacing of the plot that imparts a sense of action even when nothing much is actually happening. (I also confess to finding Burke a bit confusing and hard to follow, which, in a mystery story, seems to me to be a bit of a drawback. Sometimes I feel worn out trying to figure out just what the hell's going on.)

Of course, if you're writing a successful series, you've got to be some kind of idiot to stop doing it just because you're repeating yourself. The bottom line is that it's the readers that keep it going. The moment they desert the characters, it's all over now, Baby Blue.


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