How do authors keep interest alive in a long-running series?
Readers of Donald Westlake's comic Dortmunder novels know that Dortmunder and his gang begin planning each heist with a meeting at the O.J. Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue. We know the impassive bartender Rollo and the bathroom doors marked "Pointers" and "Setters." We also recognize the addled cast of regulars who bellow hilariously garbled questions and answers at one another.
The thirteenth Dortmunder novel, What's So Funny?, preserves the traditional opening by eliminating it:
"When John Dortmunder, relieved, walked out of Pointers and back to the main sales floor of the O.J. Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue a little after ten that Wednesday evening in November, the silence was unbelievable, particularly in contrast with the racket that had been going on when he'd left. But now, no. Not a word, not a peep, not a word. The regulars all hunched at the bar were clutching tight to their glasses as they practiced their thousand-yard stare ..."That works for readers new to Dortmunder, who may wonder what the silence is all about, and it was delicious for me, letting me relive memories of previous trips to the O.J. Bar & Grill while jolting me with a delightful surprise.
This got me thinking of the things authors do to keep a long-running series new while preserving its best features. How do your favorite crime writers do this? Pick a series that's been around awhile, preferably for eight or more books, and tell me what the author does to keep it fresh.
(Click here and here for previous posts on how series change over time.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Comic crime fiction