Sunday, July 8, 2012

Son of Series; Series: Part Deux; The Series Returns

Curses to the agent or publisher that first said the words out loud, "Readers love series!" Armed with those words and the sales reports from Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Janet Evanovich, Jim Butcher, Jim Patterson, and other top selling series-authors, an entire herd of indy authors flooded the e-market with legions of books all labeled as "part of a series".

I am thrilled now to read a book that can stand alone, on its own two adverbs, without feeling like every page I turn is just setting me up for the story that will come along in the next book. Or the one after that. Even worse are those authors that believe that cliff-hanger endings are necessary for keeping their names in their reader's wish lists. I have made it a point to delete those authors from my looming pile of Kindle books waiting to be read. One cliffhanger book and you're out. If I enjoy your work, I'll search for you and I'll purchase more. Try to FORCE me to keep reading your stuff and you go to the back of the line. No matter how intrigued I might be.

And, I don't need to know there are sixteen other books in the series awaiting me. There's no need to title everything you write with reminders. Especially if all of those books to follow are just in your head or laptop and this book is your debut title. Worse than the cliffhanger...and heaven forbid they occur in the same finishing a book and searching for the author only to find that follow up books are still "coming soon." I forever wrote off the author that had the 'coming soon' blurb cheerfully touted on his website alongside a date of almost a year ago.

I do enjoy several series and I applaud the authors who were able to come up with not only the clever marketing scheme but also characters and situations believable enough and likeable enough to keep readers drooling for the next title. The best part about the best of the best series is that each book could be read by someone who had never read earlier titles and the experience would still be just as enjoyable. Granted they're more fun read from 1-? but it's not necessary for enjoyment.

* * *

Sue Grafton was the first series author that really caught my eye. She has kept me entertained from the first page of A is for Alibi through the last page of V is for Vengence (at only 72 years of age, Sue has plenty of time to get through "W, X, Y and Z is for" books and get started out with...? AA is for Aardvark? Actually, Ms. Grafton has already publicly stated that Z will be the last letter, and will be titled "Z" is for Zero. I am not sure I will ever read that one. I'd rather always know that there is one "out there" waiting for me. I would hate to know that my long-time life with Kinsey has to come to an end.)

I wish I knew P.I. Kinsey Milhone in real life. We would be best friends I'm sure, with so much in common including our penchant for old Volkswagens (my favorite of her books was "G" is for Gumshoe, because it featured her battered VW on its cover) and our personality angsts. Ms. Grafton has that rare ability to combine good writing with just enough blood and guts and anxiety to keep both dedicated cozy mystery readers and thriller afficianodos happy.

True Grafton fans have been vindicated in their dedication by seeing "alphabet books" in prominent places in movies and on TV: In a Sopranos episode, Tony was reading "G" is for Gumshoe in Carmela's hospital room; A Grafton book-signing was center stage for an episode of The Office; "R" is for Riccochet and "S" Is For Silence are both mentioned by Gilmore Girls. Ben, the protagonist of the TV Reaper series insists that his ideal mate would have an interest in the Grafton novels. When he thinks he's found her, she proves it by telling him that she's reading "G" is for Gumshoe. The alphabet books have appeared on the Big Screen too...Professor Hilbert is reading "I" Is For Innocent during his shift as a lifeguard in the film Stranger Than Fiction.  Even Stieg Larsson was a Grafton fan as evidenced by his inclusion of a character who reads "a mystery by Sue Grafton." (Do you have other such "product placements" to add? Where else have you seen the alphabet books?)

All set in Santa Teresa, California with the main character Kinsey Millhone, PI. Grafton gives credit to another of my all-time favorite series authors John D. McDonald (whose titles referenced colors) for the idea of writing a series of books with a title theme. The idea for using the alphabet came while she was reading The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabetical picture book of children who die by various means ... a satire focused on the fears of parenting.

  • "A" Is for Alibi (1982)
  • "B" Is for Burglar (1985)
  • "C" Is for Corpse (1986)
  • "D" Is for Deadbeat (1987)
  • "E" Is for Evidence (1988)
  • "F" Is for Fugitive (1989)
  • "G" Is for Gumshoe (1990)
  • "H" Is for Homicide (1991)
  • "I" Is for Innocent (1992)
  • "J" Is for Judgment (1993)
  • "K" Is for Killer (1994)
  • "L" Is for Lawless (1995)
  • "M" Is for Malice (1996)
  • "N" Is for Noose (1998)
  • "O" Is for Outlaw (1999)
  • "P" Is for Peril (2001)
  • "Q" Is for Quarry (2002)
  • "R" Is for Ricochet (2004)
  • "S" Is for Silence (2005)
  • "T" Is for Trespass (2007)
  • "U" Is for Undertow (2009)
  • "V" Is for Vengeance (2011)

  • If you're in the mood for a good mystery with great characters, good plots and story lines, believable situations and a nice mix of thrills and humor..."SRG" is for Start Reading Grafton! You can begin by clicking here for A is for Alibi (for the Kindle).

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