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Old 03-07-2018, 08:23 PM   #16
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[...] Some authors continue to churn out very readable books for their entire career, others fade away or stop writing. I have a number of authors on must buy list. Some stay on the list for a long time, others drop of the list after putting out a few clunkers. I suspect that is what I was really driving at. Do others approach books like that?
Fairly close, although there are more variations of career. For example there are one-hit wonders, and Harry mentioned David Eddings earlier - two series (The Belgariad and The Malloreon) that are so much fun but everything else of his that I've tried I can barely keep my eyes open?

And there are some authors that get special treatment from me simply because I like their voice, such as: Agatha Christie, John Irving, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman. (Stephen King used to be on this list but his voice changed.)

John Irving makes a good example of what I mean: he's a real favourite of mine despite quite an inconsistent hit rate (nothing I hate, but quite a large proportion of 3/5). I continue to buy and read everything of his because I like the sound of his voice in my head. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the authors in my special treatment list also write some truly excellent books.
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Old 03-07-2018, 08:49 PM   #17
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That list is a little sad, Ralph. There is no stage for "Master" in there - they go straight from Journeyman to "coasting".
I think the lack of a "Master" stage in such a listing is more a result of someone being able to scan over a body of work than of a lack of mastery on the part of the author myself. I mean say a author started in the 1880's and ran til somewhere in the early 1930's for example. Their later works are not yet in PD but the majority of them will be and it's easy to be critical of the body of another's work and say that this is where they reached their height and this is where they started to decline etc. It's not so easy though with a contemporary author.
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Old 03-07-2018, 09:17 PM   #18
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I think the lack of a "Master" stage in such a listing is more a result of someone being able to scan over a body of work than of a lack of mastery on the part of the author myself. I mean say a author started in the 1880's and ran til somewhere in the early 1930's for example. Their later works are not yet in PD but the majority of them will be and it's easy to be critical of the body of another's work and say that this is where they reached their height and this is where they started to decline etc. It's not so easy though with a contemporary author.
A lot of authors do seem to hit a point where their best works are behind them. I suspect that is part of the reason that so many big name authors use co-authors once they reach a certain age. I don't know that I would call it coasting, but eventually people just don't seem to have the drive and energy they had when they were younger.
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:02 PM   #19
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I think if any given author writes enough books, some of them are probably going to be better than others. However, a good author's worst book may still be better than the best work of a mediocre author.

I find it interesting that in Goodreads reviews for books in a long-running series sometimes one person says "this was not one of the better books in the series" while another person says of the same book "this was one of my favorite books in the series".
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:05 PM   #20
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A lot of authors do seem to hit a point where their best works are behind them. I suspect that is part of the reason that so many big name authors use co-authors once they reach a certain age. I don't know that I would call it coasting, but eventually people just don't seem to have the drive and energy they had when they were younger.
I don't know that it's just drive and energy either. A lot of it might be the way the author sees the world. A person born in 1935 won't see the world in quite the way that someone born in 1965 will see it. And time marches on forward always. So the perception of the way the world is (or should be) may be set in the brain. For example an author in 1928 wouldn't have their hero pulling out a portable phone most likely, but today it would be expected that the hero would. And readers would wonder why he didn't (unless it's something like historical fiction).
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:32 PM   #21
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I think if any given author writes enough books, some of them are probably going to be better than others. However, a good author's worst book may still be better than the best work of a mediocre author.

I find it interesting that in Goodreads reviews for books in a long-running series sometimes one person says "this was not one of the better books in the series" while another person says of the same book "this was one of my favorite books in the series".
I know for me, a lot of times I start a new author and their style or point of view just grabs me. Part of my opinion about that first book, and maybe a couple more, is just the pleasure of something new. Then it's not new, and it doesn't wow any more.

I think that can be how you end up with "not the best in the series", when it's really still quite a good book.

On the other hand, I can think of at least one series where some of my favorites in the series are not universally the most popular. I know why I like them, and sometimes it's those very things that others didn't like.
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Old 03-08-2018, 07:14 AM   #22
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A lot of authors do seem to hit a point where their best works are behind them. I suspect that is part of the reason that so many big name authors use co-authors once they reach a certain age. I don't know that I would call it coasting, but eventually people just don't seem to have the drive and energy they had when they were younger.
If the sentence I highlighted above is true, I suspect it may simply be that once successful or prolific authors get pressured to created beyond what they really want to do. But it's not a generalisation I trust. I can think of many authors where (IMO) the quality has/did not drop off; and other explanations present themselves for changing preferences:

It may sometimes be, as FizzyWater suggests, that we as readers lose some of the novelty factor of a new voice; or that, as HarryT suggested earlier, we as readers grow and change our preferences; or, as I observed of Stephen King, that the author grows and changes. (Or the many combinations and variations of factors like these.) Just because our preference has changed cannot always be ascribed to decreasing quality, however tempting we find it.
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Old 03-08-2018, 07:31 AM   #23
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If the sentence I highlighted above is true, I suspect it may simply be that once successful or prolific authors get pressured to created beyond what they really want to do. But it's not a generalisation I trust. I can think of many authors where (IMO) the quality has/did not drop off; and other explanations present themselves for changing preferences:
Some authors do go on too long. A classic example is Agatha Christie. Her last few novels were written when she was starting to suffer from dementia, and the writing shows it. It would have been far better had she stopped in her prime.
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Old 03-08-2018, 07:57 AM   #24
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Some authors do go on too long. A classic example is Agatha Christie. Her last few novels were written when she was starting to suffer from dementia, and the writing shows it. It would have been far better had she stopped in her prime.
It's funny, Christie is one of those I was thinking of when I said the quality did not drop off. With so many novels over a career, a glitch over a few novels at the end barely counts. I mean there were a few disaster novels (from my perspective) even earlier in her career (The Big Four - what was she thinking?), so who is going to quibble over a few at the end. Not me.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:16 AM   #25
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Reputation is a fickle thing. Why is it that Agatha Christie is still on the "Best Seller" lists, while Edgar Wallace, one of the most prolific thriller writers and bestselling authors of the 1920s and early 30s, and internationally known in his day (and, incidentally, the creator of "King Kong"), is probably unknown to most modern readers?
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:25 AM   #26
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If the sentence I highlighted above is true, I suspect it may simply be that once successful or prolific authors get pressured to created beyond what they really want to do. But it's not a generalisation I trust. I can think of many authors where (IMO) the quality has/did not drop off; and other explanations present themselves for changing preferences:

It may sometimes be, as FizzyWater suggests, that we as readers lose some of the novelty factor of a new voice; or that, as HarryT suggested earlier, we as readers grow and change our preferences; or, as I observed of Stephen King, that the author grows and changes. (Or the many combinations and variations of factors like these.) Just because our preference has changed cannot always be ascribed to decreasing quality, however tempting we find it.
Certainly, my preferences change over the years, but I tend to re-read a lot of books and find, for the most part, books that I really liked when I first read them, I still like them years later. There are some exceptions.

There are also some books that got a bit dated, shall we say. Heinlein had a character with the nickname Slipstick (i.e. slide rule for those of you too young to have used a slide rule for calculations). His lack of computers can be a bit jarring to modern readers. Asimov had the same issues. Heck, a lot of the writers from the 60's and 70's can be a bit dated, with their 60's and 70's approach to smoking and drinking. Pretty hard to find a current CEO who has a stocked bar in their office.

I do think that when you read books from earlier time periods, you have to let go of your modern sensibilities.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:41 AM   #27
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I do think that when you read books from earlier time periods, you have to let go of your modern sensibilities.
We had a very long thread on that topic recently, which demonstrated that some people are willing to do that, while others are not.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:43 AM   #28
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Reputation is a fickle thing. Why is it that Agatha Christie is still on the "Best Seller" lists, while Edgar Wallace, one of the most prolific thriller writers and bestselling authors of the 1920s and early 30s, and internationally known in his day (and, incidentally, the creator of "King Kong"), is probably unknown to most modern readers?
I would guess because Wallace died the mid 30's and Christie lived until the mid 70's. Thus Wallace missed out the big popularization during the 50's.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:44 AM   #29
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We had a very long thread on that topic recently, which demonstrated that some people are willing to do that, while others are not.
Which is why some people don't enjoy reading older works.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:49 AM   #30
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I would guess because Wallace died the mid 30's and Christie lived until the mid 70's. Thus Wallace missed out the big popularization during the 50's.
True enough. Goes to show, though, that "bestseller" status isn't necessarily a reliable indication of enduring success. Only time will judge whose popularity will outlive them and whose won't.

Last edited by HarryT; 03-08-2018 at 09:55 AM. Reason: Typo
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