Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Visit with Old Friends

By R.J. Harlick

"Sophie Hannah continued Poirot and Sebastian Faulks continued Bond. What character would you most like to write about, if the estate asked you?"

A tricky question. Like Meredith, I’m not a big fan of sequels written by someone other than the author whose characters have become almost like friends. I feel it verges on sacrilege for another author to take on the voice of characters created by someone else particularly when the original author likely had no say in the matter. I suppose that’s why it often doesn’t happen until the copyright has run out.

But let’s face it, it happens all the time when books are transformed into film and TV series and few get upset. Rarely does the author have any say in how their creations are portrayed after they pass them over to the scriptwriters and directors. While some avid fans won’t like the film versions, for the most part they capture a whole new coterie of fans, even if the characters bear little resemblance to those of the books.  At least these authors have the opportunity to agree to their characters taking on another life in someone else’s hands.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of fun and think of characters that I would like to see live again in a good book. Though I’d never presume to be that author. A good Sir Author Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes immediately comes to mind. There are now so many different film and TV versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson that it’s difficult to remember the original characters. It would be fun to resurrect them as the characters Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created.

Yup, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are two other characters I’d love to see live again, but I gather from Art it has already been done.  Though John D. MacDonald wrote over 21 novels starring Travis McGee, I wouldn’t say no to another visit with him on the Busted Flush and a chance to explore another Florida byway. By the way, guess where I got the idea to include a colour in the title of my Meg Harris series? My homage to John D.  But as much as I’d like to see Travis live on in another book, I am glad to read that John D’s heirs have refused to let another author try his or her hand with the salvage consultant.

I can’t forget Patrick O’Brian’s Captain Jack Aubry and Stephen Maturin. I’d love to set out on another voyage with him on a 19th century ship of the line to distant lands and distant seas. And while we are on historicals, the most intriguing character I have ever read is Dorothy Dunnett’s Francis Crawford of Lymond.  His antics through 16th century Europe and the Ottoman Empire were mind-boggling. Another adventure with him would be the icing on the cake. Dunnett’s Johnson Johnson mystery series was rather fun too.

A chilly morning in the wilds of Quebec today. -31C or -24F. A good day to stay inside.  But it follows a magical night. The full moon transformed the world outside my log cabin into a shimmering silvery cathedral.  It was also a good night to howl. The coyotes were braying full force when they woke me in the wee hours of the morning. I think I will keep my two dogs close to me today.  

Enjoy it, everyone.


Paul D. Marks said...

Good point, RJ, about books/characters getting translated into movies and changing. Though a lot of people do prefer the book versions. But every once in a while the movies actually make an improvement on the book. Every once in a while...

Susan C Shea said...

Ha! I just watched (part of) Reacher last night. Talk about a travesty of an author's character.Tom Cruise had to stop smiling and, without that pearly grin, he's just nuthin.' I'd feel sad for Lee Child except that I heard his response was he was crying all the way to the bank!

RJ Harlick said...

I feel the same way about Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire. I love the character portrayed in his books. The character portrayed in the series, is a totally different and I find less likeable person. But as you say Susan, no doubt Craig is crying more like cackling all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

As much as I loved the Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason series (they were the first mystery / crime novels I read), I don't think another writer would necessarily capture the flavour of the old novels.
I remember feeling huge disappointment with Scarlett - the sequel to Gone With the Wind, although it was well received and on the NY Times best seller list.