Series from the Perspective of Readers and Authors
We have had a poll on Series, and the preferred methods of reading them. Any which way, in my opinion. But, I would like to ask the questions, why should we read series, and what is their place in literature? My brother-in-law, a full professor of literature, would deride the concept. A series, by definition, relies on recurring characters or themes. In terms of literary invention, this can be limiting, since the character's universe is proscribed and his actions are predictable. The professor claims this is a crutch. Ah, but Balzac used recurring characters and so did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Recurring characters can become a lazy man's way of cranking out novels.
However, from my vantage point as a reader, I love interesting characters who reappear in books. Sherlock Holmes is a deep and fascinating character, as is Harry Bosch. A reader is reassured when a known character (e.g., Jack Aubrey) confronts a new situation. In Tami Hoag's Ashes to Ashes, an FBI special agent, John Quinn, is introduced. As close to a flesh and blood human being as you will ever find in real life. A great person, and a man with wounds, emotional and physical. He reappears in another novel, but Hoag did not develop him further. Are we being selfish as readers in desiring that our favorite characters live on to fight another day? What if life imitated art, and a novel like Misery became reality? Is there a part of me that is comparable to Annie Wilkes (the Stephen King heroine)? Anyway, the economic truth about publishing is that many writers must create series to survive. Sending their children to college or buying that expensive home in Malibu demands this concession. Even if the characters do not repeat, the genres do. We readers have become creatures of habit, favoring the familiar, even if the writer claims to have entered new territory. The publisher's advance is a pair of golden handcuffs, and who are we to argue with this proposition?