I'd previously read some of Nebel's MacBride and Kennedy stories, featuring police Capt. Steve MacBride and his ubiquitous bane and sidekick, the alcohol-sodden reporter Kennedy of the Free Press. Tough Dick Donahue, a private-investigator Nebel creation who came along a couple of years after MacBride and Kennedy, had a reporter sidekick of his own named Libbey. But Nebel came up with the nice trick of making Libbey a more annoying character than Kennedy, and thus added a bit of variety while satisfying the public's taste for drunken newsmen.
The weekly and monthly pulps are long since dead, and with them, presumably, some of the conflicting pressure on authors to keep things fresh from story to story while at the same time maintaining the formula that holds a series together. Today’s closest counterpart to the pulps is probably weekly television, where the creators of, say, Law & Order, might jiggle the camera a bit more or less one week, or have Sam Waterston and gang vary slightly the pitch in which they delivered their somber, issue-of-the-week headlines.
Even though the pulps are gone, series are still a staple of crime fiction. How do authors change things up even while they stick to the series formula?
© Peter Rozovsky 2011