Sunday, December 30, 2012

Long Running Series

I'm always a little sad whenever I finish a book I really like. Sad that the adventure is over and I have to say goodbye to new friends. The wonderful thing about cozy mysteries is that they're usually series-so when you finish one, you know you'll meet up with everyone again for the next adventure.

Unfortunately, some series are short lived. In some cases, this result is not desired by the author either. The book doesn't sell well and the publisher won't publish further stories in the series. Happily, the advent of e-books and self publishing has allowed some authors to continue their series even when the publisher says no. Sometimes the series ends because, tragically, the author died. Barbara Burnett Smith wrote the Purple Sage Mysteries and had just started a new beading series, Bead on Trouble when she died. A second book in that series, Beads of Doubt, was published, finished by another author. 

Some series have a set ending by the author. Carole Nelson Douglas intends to go through the entire alphabet with her Midnight Louis series. After the first two books, Catnap and Pussyfoot, the titles follow the alphabet-Cat on a Blue Monday. She's currently on W with the 2012 release of Cat in a White Tie and Tales. Kate Kingsbury also had an ending with her Pennyfoot Hotel series; although that's not quite true in that four years after the series ended she began bringing those characters back in Christmas mysteries.

Long running series are great in that you truly get to know the characters. Seeing how the characters change and grow can be amazing and wonderful. At the start of the series by Elizabeth Peters we meet Amelia Peabody, a single lady in Victorian England who is finally free to travel. By the most recent book in the series Amelia is married with grandchildren! We've also seen the political and archeological changes in Egypt. Crocodile on the Sandbank was published in 1975 with A River in the Sky released in 2010. There are currently 19 books in this series.

So what makes a series long running? Although time does count for something (the Amelia Peabody series continued for 35 years and although the author is 85 years old, she's still with us-so there may yet be another book in the series!) to me it's the number of books in the series that makes it long running. For me, a series must have at least 10 published books in order to be considered a long running series.

There are problems with long running series. Unfortunately, I've found a few clunkers in some of my favorite series. I suppose when you write that many books, some are bound to be not as great. When it first started, I adored the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown; every book was great. Then there was a horrible clunker. I didn't give up on it, and Rita Mae Brown got back on track with some wonderful books which I recommend. There are currently 20 books in the series which began with Wish You Were Here in 1990 with the 21st scheduled to be published in June 2013. What's interesting is that the clunker sits half way through the series.

So what are some other long running series? Cleo Coyle currently has 12 books in her Coffeehouse Mysteries. Laura Childs has two long running series. The Tea Shop Mysteries started with Death by Darjeeling in 2001 and the 14th in the series will be released in March 2013. Her Scrapbooking Series just makes the cut with her 10th book in the series, Postcards from the Dead published in 2012. There are 17 books in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson series with the 18th to be published in February 2013. Two of these are actually novellas, found in holiday collections with stories with other authors, but still, more than enough to make a long running series. There are 16 books in Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Bear series. Kate Collins started her Flower Shop Mysteries with a 2004 publication. There are now 13 books. There are 17 books in the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton starting with Aunt Dimity's Death back in 1992 with the 18th due in April 2013.

As you can see, there are plenty of long running series out there-and many series which I hope will become long running. Do you have a favorite long running series? Which current series do you hope become long running ones?

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