Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What about you?

By R.J. Harlick

Do you prefer to write a series or a stand-alone and why?

Although I think I answered this question not too long ago, I thought I would give it another go, this time from a different perspective; as a reader.

I write a series, because I love reading series. When a character engages me, I like to follow their lives as they romp from book to book. Picking up the next book in a series is like visiting an old friend. I do read standalones, and have enjoyed many, but my first choice will always be for a book that is part of a series.  

I suppose you could say it started with my initial foray into mystery reading when as a child I picked up my first Nancy Drew book. I’m not sure how many I ended up reading, but let's say it was a lot. Although Nancy more or less remained the same person from book to book, I didn’t care. I liked her antics and the fact she always caught her man or woman as the case may be.  

My girlfriend’s mother had a whole set of Agatha Christie's, which we proceeded to devour. While I enjoyed her standalones, the books I enjoyed the most were the ones from her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series.

Other British authors whose series characters I have enjoyed over the years have included P.D. James’ Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse, Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford. But I will admit I did try some of her standalones written under her Barbara Vine’s pseudonym and really loved them. Though she’s an American author, I’ll also include Elizabeth George’s Inspector Thomas Lynley in this list. But I wish she would stick to him and not have Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers take over as the main protagonist, as has happened in the last few books.

Canadian series characters I like to spend time with include Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks, Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn, Barbara Fradkin’s Inspector Green and Giles Blunt’s John Cardinal.

In the depths of winter, I loved nothing better than to transport myself vicariously to the heat of Florida with John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. In fact, I chose to use a colour in my Meg Harris series titles as a homage to John D. I particularly love spending time in Wyoming with Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire and of course I can’t forget Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch or the good times spent with Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in the South-west.

Before I finish I should mention the two Swedish series I enjoy, Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander and Camilla Lackberg’s Erica Falck and her husband, Detective Patrik Hedström.

So what about you? Which do you prefer reading, standalones or series? And which books have resonated with you?


Paul D. Marks said...

Great list, Robin. Some of my faves are, well, maybe not so original: I like Marlowe and Ross MacDonald's Archer. Also Bosch. And I really like Carol O'Connell's Kathy Mallory. I tell a lot of people about Mallory and they seem to either love her or hate her. I guess that's what makes horse races. I also read a lot of other series characters, but these are come of my faves.

Meredith Cole said...

I remember being so upset when I found out that I'd reached the end of all the mysteries Dorothy Sayers had written... But there are other series where the characters never change and after 12 plus of them I've become bored with them. So, as with anything, it always depends on the writer!

RJ Harlick said...

Paul, I'll have to check out Carol O'Connell. I'm not familiar with her. Meredith, I know what you mean about series in which the main character never changes. They can indeed become rather tedious. The Sayers books I liked best were the ones involving Harriet Vane, because of the hint of romance, but they were few in number.

Kristopher said...

I am always surprised by the number of well-read folks who don't know Carol O'Connell. The Mallory series is excellent and has won some awards. Not sure why this is the case with this particular author.

As for Elizabeth George, I completely agree with you. They used to be instant reads for me, but somehow they are different now, and while I do still read them - and usually enjoy them - it's not always a rush.

Of course, I'd have to say Louise Penny is the one author who I hope never ends her series. Those characters are like family and to lose touch with them would hurt to much.

TracyK said...

I put off reading the last Poirot and Miss Marple for years because I didn't want to come to the end of the series. Granted, neither character changed much (if at all) over the course of the books, but I still loved them. I felt the same about Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries - but, of course, in those books the characters changed dramatically. I guess it's like Meredith said, it depends on the writer.

Susan C Shea said...

I enjoy excellent series, but as a reader I like the frisson of danger in a stand-alone: After all, there's nothing to keep the author from killing off the protagonist, is there?