I was having a chat with Bookgasm Bruce off-List about
reading series in order, and thought the theme might make for
a discussion topic here.
I'm still a crime fiction neophyte compared to most of you
here, but I have been accused of being overly slavish about
my desire to read series "in order."
Bruce's note to me suggested that I may have been unclear in
my last post here. The point I was trying to make is that the
Bond (Fleming) and Parker (Stark) novels do follow each
other, and so there's a real value to reading those series in
order of publication. However, based on my experience the
Shell Scott and Mike Shayne books more or less stand alone.
(I'd love to be corrected on that if I'm wrong.)
The Bond series is of particular interest in this regard, and
I'm glad to see that the newest edition puts numbers on the
spines. While I have not yet gotten there in my re-read of
the series, having just re-read THUNDERBALL, I am aware that
there is a tight connection between THUNDERBALL, MAJESTY'S
SECRET SERVICE, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, and MAN WITH GOLDEN GUN.
(Next up for me is the "palate cleanser" of SPY WHO LOVED ME,
which is an example in one of my favorite themes,
"unconventional genre novels," but that's a topic for another
I assume we could add other series to the "stand-alone" list:
Fair's Cool and Lam, Stout's Nero Wolfe, and MANY others
including the Hardy Boys. I also assume that there's no harm
in reading Himes' Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones out of
order. I can't say about Moseley's Rawlins as I've only read
the first one. I read about the first 6-7 of Parker's
Spenser, and can't say if they really needed to be read in
order--I suspect reading further in the series would answer
that question, but I am feeling like I may not have much more
energy for Spenser given how much other stuff there is out
there for me to discover--Parker seems capable and
comfortable, but not especially compelling.
It seems to me, about halfway through the series, that
there's a slight advantage in reading Lansdale's Hap and
Leonard series in order, but maybe not a great one. (A
character central to the second novel is introduced in the
first--or maybe that's third and second?) [By the way, was
the latest in this series, CAPTAINS OUTRAGEOUS, really never
released in MMPB?)
I have been told that about 2/3 of the way through the series
JDM's Travis McGee novels start to build on each other,
including significant character development, but I'm only as
far as QUICK RED FOX in that series. Thus far, I don't see
any real advantage to having read the books in order.
To make matters worse, I recently discovered Tim Dorsey (not
much mentioned here?) through his
Elmore-Leonard-on-Crystal-Meth FLORIDA ROADKILL. I have been
advised that the "Serge" series, of which this one is the
first, actually has a "chronological" order that is different
from the "publication order," much like the (off topic)
"Flashman" series by George MacDonald Fraser.
Anyway, I wondered if this question would be one for the
RARA-AVIANS to weigh in on, assuming the group hasn't done so
already: Which crime series do you think REALLY should be
read in order, and which don't matter?
I have recently been thinking about doing a systematic
re-read of Hammett and Chandler, whom I've not read in 20
years, so any advice on how to re-read those (I am assuming
publication order) would be especially appreciated.
Best, Mark Nevins
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