Re your comment below:
"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.)"
I'd say you were right about Shell Scott, but that's the only
series about which I'd say that's unequivocally true all
through the series.
The Mike Shayne series, at least in the very beginning, is
one that should be read in order. In the first half-dozen or
so books, we see Shayne meet a beautiful young woman, fall
deeply in love with her, marry her, become widowed when she
dies in childbirth, move away from Miami to get away from the
memories, resettle in New Orleans, meet a new girl, and,
eventually move back to Miami with his new romantic interest
who becomes his secretary, but whom he never marries.
At that point, your assessment might be a little more true.
The series, after years of developing in many different
directions, settles into a firm groove and stays there. There
are relatively few references to past events and less
continuity from book to book. This is especially true of the
later books in the series, which were ghost-written (or at
least, ghost-collaborated) by many different writers other
There's a value, I think to reading most series in order.
It's been suggested that the Nero Wolfe and Continental Op
series are, essentially, stand-alones from story to story,
but I'm not sure I agree.
In the Wolfe series, we see historical events impinging on
the stories. Hence, the series starts as Prohibition is being
repealed, then moves through the Depression, World War II
(during which time Archie gets a military commission), the
Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, and, finally, Watergate.
We learn about Wolfe's past bit by bit, and events in past
books affect events in later ones. In the early '50's, there
is a "Holmes/Moriarty" trilogy, pitting Wolfe and Archie
against a master criminal known as Arnold Zeck, paralleling
the similar trilogy involving Bond and Blofeld, that should
definitely be read in order.
Even in the earliest Op stories, past events affect later
stories. Early on, for example, we meet a rookie Continental
agent named Bob Teal, whom the Op is bringing along and
taking a fatherly interest in. When, in a story called "Who
Killed Bob Teal?," the Op is assigned to identify Teal's
murderer, having read the earlier stories makes the Op's
emotional involvement in the case more understandable, and
more effective, than coming to the story without having seen
the developing relationship.
My advice? When in doubt, if possible, read it in
Having said that, it should be acknowledged that some authors
make it difficult to do this. Bernard Cornwell's series about
Napoleonic British Army Officer Richard Sharpe, for example,
are not written in chronological order, and so are difficult
to read in chronological order. Some of the most recent books
in that series are set as Sharpe's military career is just
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