The Other Side of You*

multipleseriesMany crime fiction authors write more than one series. There are a lot of reasons for doing that, too. For instance, the author may want to ‘start fresh’ if a series has gone on for a while. Or, the author may want to experiment and try something new. Sometimes, if an author’s first series has done well, a publisher may request that the author start another series. Whatever the reason, the choice to have more than one series raises a question: how to generate interest in what may be a lesser-known series.

In some cases, both (or, at times, all three) of an author’s series are well-known. For instance, one of Elly Griffith’s series features Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist who teaches at North Norfolk University. Her expertise is frequently tapped by the police, mostly in the form of Harry Nelson. Griffiths fans will know that she also has another series, the Max Mephisto novels. These novels are set in the 1950’s, and feature Mephisto, who is a magician by profession. Both series are highly regarded. In this case, you might argue that Griffiths’ success with the Ruth Galloway series meant that there was an audience likely to be interested in the Max Mephisto series.

Robert B. Parker first gained a reputation with his Spenser novels, which he wrote between the mid-1970s and 2013. In fact, he may be best known for those novels. But he also wrote other series. Beginning in the late 1990s, he wrote a series featuring Police Chief Jesse Stone, and another featuring PI Sunny Randall. He even took the risk of having Stone and Randall join forces, both personally and professionally. Those series may be less well-known than the Spenser novels, but they are well-regarded.

Beginning in 1970, Reginald Hill became best-known for his series featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Sergeant (later DI) Peter Pascoe. As fans can tell you, the series ran for decades, and was successfully adapted for television. Starting in 1993, Hill created another protagonist, small-time PI Joe Sixsmith. He’s quite a different character to Dalziel (and to Pascoe). He’s an unassuming former lathe operator who also sings in a choir. Among other differences, this series isn’t as gritty as the Dalziel/Pascoe series can be. It’s also likely not as well known. But it’s certainly got fans.

That’s also the case for Kerry Greenwood. Her Phryne Fisher series takes place in Melbourne in the late 1920s, and features socialite Phryne Fisher, who becomes a ‘lady detective.’ Phryne is wealthy, elegant, and has access to the highest social circles. She’s quite independent and free-thinking, too. Greenwood’s other series, which began in 2004, is a contemporary series, also based in Melbourne, that features accountant-turned baker Corinna Chapman. Like Phryne, Corinna is independent and intelligent. But this is a very different series. Chapman is very much ‘the rest of us’ in appearance and income. Like most people, she has bills to pay, and doesn’t live in a sumptuous mansion. Both series feature regular casts of characters, and tend to be less violent and gritty than dark, noir novels are.

If you’ve read any of James Lee Burke’s work, my guess is that you probably read from his Dave Robicheaux series. That series features New Iberia, Louisiana police detective Robicheaux, and is one of the best-regarded series in American crime fiction. It’s a long-running series, and has gotten all sorts of acclaim. But it’s not Burke’s only series. He’s also written a series that feature the different members of the Holland family. This series is written as a set of standalone books that feature the different members of the Holland family. For instance, there’s Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland and his cousin Billy Bob Holland (who is a former Texas Ranger and now an attorney). Their grandfather was another lawman, also named Hackberry Holland. There’s also Weldon Avery Holland. He is another of the original Hackberry Holland’s grandsons. Several of the Holland family novels are historical, and are almost as much saga as they are crime novels. In fact, some question whether some of them are crime novels. In that sense, they’re quite different to the Robicheaux stories.

Fans of Ann Cleeves’ work can tell you that she’s done the Jimmy Perez Shetland novels, as well as the Vera Stanhope novels. These series are set in different parts of the UK, and feature different protagonists with different backstories. Both are very well regarded, and both have been adapted for television. But, before either of those series was published, Cleeves wrote another series featuring Inspector Ramsay of the Northumberland Police. She also wrote a series, beginning in the late 1980s, featuring retired Home Office investigator George Palmer-Jones and his wife, Molly.

And then there’s Vicki Delany, who writes the Moonlight ‘Molly’ Smith series, a contemporary police procedural series set mostly in British Columbia. She’s also written historical crime fiction featuring saloon and dance hall owner Fiona MacGillivray. That series takes place at the end of the 19th Century, in Dawson, Yukon Territory. Delany has also just started a new series. This one takes place in Rudolph, NY, and is a lighter series featuring shop owner Merry Wilkinson.

There are, of course, other authors, such as Elizabeth Spann Craig, who write multiple series. Sometimes, those series are equally well-known. Other times, one series is much better known than the other.

Now, here’s the question. If you’ve really enjoyed an author’s work in one series, does that prompt you to go back and look for another series by that author? Does it depend on whether the two series are concurrent? Or on whether they’re similar (e.g. both cosy series)? I’d really like your opinion on this. Please vote, if you wish, in the poll below. I’ll let it run for a week, and then we’ll talk about it again.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a title of the song by the Mighty Lemon Drops.


Filed under Ann Cleeves, Elizabeth Spann Craig, James Lee Burke, Kerry Greenwood, Reginald Hill, Robert B. Parker, Vicki Delany

40 responses to “The Other Side of You*

  1. Reblogged this on Jane Risdon and commented:
    Always a fab blog to read with some much of interest and to learn. Another blinder from Margot. Thanks so much.

  2. Fabulous read and interesting. Thanks so much. I like to think an author has more than the one lead character or series in them and would seek out anything else they’ve written if I like their work. Enjoyed most of the writers listed. Thanks 🙂

  3. R. T.

    Series do place demands upon me. I obsess over reading all from first to last. Sometimes I get discouraged and disappointed. Only Colin Dexter never disappointed me.

  4. I’m certainly a fan of the Joe Sixsmith books and probably wouldn’t have read them if I hadn’t already been a fan of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels. And as a longterm fan of Peter May’s work, and a longterm reviewer of him back to before his famous Lewis trilogy, I know that lots of people have backtracked to his earlier series from comments and reactions to my reviews of some of his earlier series. In fact, his new book is resurrecting his Enzo files series after quite a long gap, presumably because of the renewed interest after the success of the Lewis books. I’d like to see more authors branch out into different things – in the past, many authors used to write in several genres, like Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, or of course Agatha Christie

    • They did, FictionFan, and I’ve always liked that about their work. As to Peter May, that’s a perfect example of what I had in mind, so I’m glad you mentioned him. I’ve read the Lewis books, and Entry Island, but not (yet) plunged into the Enzo files. I want to, though, and you’re exactly right as to why. I got interested in his work from reading the Lewis novels. I think that happens with a lot of authors, including Reginald Hill. In fact, I’ll bet a lot of more recent interest in the Sixsmith novels has come from the success of the DP books and television adaptation. That’s one reason that I like it when an author’s website includes all of the series s/he’s written, It lets the reader-converted-to-fan seek out other work by the same person.

  5. I think that switching from one series to another or from a series to standalones can rejuvenate an author if he/she feels they are getting a bit stale or bored of their characters or backdrop. And that works equally well for the reader. I knew Nicci French from their standalones, but reading the Frieda Klein series will undoubtedly have helped others discover their earlier work. As Fiction Fan says, I wouldn’t mind them trying out other genres as well. I rather enjoyed JK Rowling’s attempts to write realistic social fiction and then crime fiction (I will give Cormorant Strike the time of day and read it, but it’s not necessarily my favourite crime series, if you know what I mean).

    • I do know what you mean, Marina Sofia. And I agree that it’s interesting to see how Rowling has handled an entirely different genre. I give her credit for that, even if that series is not one where I go rushing out to pre-order. And I’m glad you mentioned the Nicci French team. That’s another great example of one series (the Frieda Klein series, in this case) getting people interested in other work the authors have done. It’s interesting, I think, how an author will write a series that does, perhaps, all right, but not particularly well. Then, that same author tries something else that takes off like a rocket. It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what will capture people’s interest at a given time, and what won’t.

  6. Sorry, that should have been Cormoran Strike, of course. Soon to be incarnated by Tom Burke on TV.

  7. If I enjoy an author’s work, I’d definitely read their other series. But it bears the question: What if the two series are in different genres? That might be interesting to explore, as well. Nonetheless, for me it comes down to style and voice. That’s what attracts me to a new-to-me author, and that’s what I’m seeking in their other books.

    • Oh, that is interesting, Sue. I know plenty of people who loved Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and for that reason, wanted to read her first Cormoran Strike novel. Would it have made a difference if that novel were in the same genre as they Potter novels, instead of crime fiction? Hard to say, but a fascinating question. And I know what you mean about style and voice. The things that attract is to an author in one series are likely to be the ones that interest us in that author’s other work.

  8. Terrific post, Margot. Coincidentally, Miss Nearly-Eleven and I are planning on watching the first episode of Miss Fisher’a Murder Mysteries’ (Cocaine Blues) on DVD tonight 🙂

  9. It is amazing how many authors write multiple series. Charlotte MacLeod wrote 4 series concurrently, two under the name Alisa Craig. I think that the two under her own name are the best known.

  10. Margot: I think Michael Connelly is one of the most successful at dual series with the Harry Bosch books and the Mickey Haller books. Making them half-brothers could have felt contrived but I am now enjoying their interaction but it has meant the series situation is even more complex when they appear in the same book.

    And Vicki Delany has also written the Lighthouse Library series under the name of Eva Gates.

    • Thanks, Bill, for reminding me of the Lighthouse Library series. You’re right, of course, and I should have mentioned that. I agree with you about Connelly. He’s been so good at creating and maintaining multiple series, and he’s made Bosch’s relationship with Haller feel natural.

  11. I have voted but it was a tough question for me – I love Dalziel and Pascoe, and have enjoyed Reginald Hill’s standalone novels but have yet to pick up one of his Sixsmith series, and yet I eagerly snapped up Elly Griffith’s Max Mephisto series having already enjoyed Ruth Galloway, perhaps the different era helped? Referring to FF’s comment I haven’t wanted to read the Enzo series by Peter May because the Lewis Trilogy was so good so on reflection perhaps the more I love one series the more reluctant I am to change to another…

    • That’s really interesting, Cleo. And I understand what you mean. If you have a real fondness for a series, you like things as they are. So you may not be eager to start another series, where things are different. You may not like it as well. You make an interesting point about the two Elly Griffiths series, too. They are different (different eras, different sorts of protagonists, and so on). Perhaps the less similar the two series are, the more of a risk one takes by trying the new series? It’s a fascinating issue you’re raised.

  12. For me it just depends on the books usually – some writers like McBain adopted a different persona seemingly so the connection might be too thin. On the other hand, all of Robert B. Parker’ s seemed clearly his to me- also depends on whether they use a pseudonym as that suggests it might be deliberately different. Thanks Margot.

    • That’s an interesting point, Sergio. Sometimes authors do use pseudonyms and other strategies to make two series as different as possible. And that impacts the experience of going from one to the other series. On the other hand, other authors very much keep their personas, which I think also has an effect. Thanks for bringing that up; it’s interesting ‘food for thought.’

  13. If I enjoy an author’s work, I’ll definitely look at another series by them even if it’s listed in a different genre. While these all fall into the same genre, Stuart Woods has three different protagonist that I have enjoyed following over the years – Stone Barrington, Holly Barker, and Will Lee.

    • That’s exactly the sort of thing I had in mind with this post, Mason, so thanks. And it’s interesting how some authors do branch out into different genres. But, as you say, if you’re a really dedicated fan of an author, I can certainly see how you’d want to see what you thought of that author’s other work, even if it’s not in the same genre.

  14. kathy d

    I want t try both of Peter May’s other series because I liked the Lewis Trilogy so much, and still get post-good-book slump just thinking about. But I read Coffin Road which is set on the Isle of Lewis and Harris and one character overlaps with the Lewis books.
    This is a tough question. I love the Corinna Chapman books by Kerry Greenwood. But I tried a Phrynne Fisher book and couldn’t get into it. But I adore Essie Davis who really is Phrynne Fisher in the TV series.
    And although I like the Ruth Galloway books, I don’t think I’d like the other series by Elly Griffiths.
    And I do like both series by Michael Connelly, and I like John Grisham’s books with overlapping characters and stand-alones.
    I’ve read all of Sara Paretsky’s novels but what I love are her V.I. Warshawski books.
    And I don’t like Fred Vargas’ Three Evangelists’ books as much as I like the crumpled, brilliant Commissaire Adamsberg.
    So, it’s hard to prejudge. I would read book reviews to see what another series is about, and if it sounds good to me, I’ll try it. But there are no guarantees.
    Donna Leon writes the Guido Brunetti series set in Venice. They’re among my favorites. But I have had no interest in reading her stand-alones.

    • You’ve given really good examples here, Kathy, of authors who’ve written different series. It really isn’t an easy issue, is it? There are some cases where both series are just so appealing that you can’t resist them. And then, there are others where you fall in love with one series, less so with the other. Or, you may even dislike the other. And, as you say, it’s hard to tell exactly what your reaction will be. I think that’s one good reason to at least try a book from a top author’s other series. You never what you may discover.

  15. This is an interesting one. I read all Parker’s books because I loved his style and I didn’t think that would vary from series to series. However one thing that does effect me is levels of violence. For example I read Val McDermid’s Lindsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan series and enjoyed them but then I read the beginning of The Mermaids Singing and thought no, I’m not going there. It was too violent. I’m not at all good with scenes of torture etc and in fact less and less so the older I get. I just don’t want the images in my head. So I didn’t go anywhere near that series and I didn’t finish Mermaids.

    • You’re not alone in that, Vicky. I don’t like excessive violence, either, even in the work of authors whose other series I’ve enjoyed. And it’s interesting that some series – even by the same author – vary greatly in their use of violence. As to Parker? Yes, I agree: his style is terrific in all of his series.

  16. Nice poll!

    I do tend to read favorite authors’ other series, but I usually have a favorite. I love Hamish MacBeth more than Agatha, for instance.

    And thanks for the mention. 🙂 In my experience, readers frequently *don’t* read the other series (these are readers who’ve written to me to say so..and to ask for more books in the series they do read). If they *do* read all the series, they tell me they have a clear favorite.

    • It’s a pleasure to mention your work, Elizabeth. And it’s really helpful to have your insights on this. I think you’re right that people generally do prefer one of an author’s series over the other(s). I know that’s true of me. And you have a great example with M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth/Agatha Raisin series. I like both, but I do like Hamish more. What I find just as interesting is your readers who tell you they like one of your series very much, but don’t read the others. I’ve done that, too. Makes me wonder a bit what draws people to one or another of an author’s series. Hmm……thanks for the ‘food for thought.’

  17. I think it’s almost a different answer for every different author! I love Dalziel and Pascoe, but really really didn’t enjoy Sixsmith, which surprises me still. Laurie King very successfully ran a contemporary police series, and also her historical books about Sherlock Holmes & Mary Russell between the wars. I was forever changing my mind about which series I preferred, which is quite a complimenit I think.

    • I think so, too, Moira. And you’re probably right about the impact of which author it is. I know that’s true for me. There are some authors where I eagerly read everything they do as soon as I can. There are others where I pick and choose more, enjoying one series more than another. I suppose that has to do as much with personal taste and author style as with anything.

  18. Howard

    Mike Lawson has become one of my top favorite authors in the field. His series of novels featuring Joe DeMarco are great reads. Then he decided to write another series about a female character, Kay Hamilton. He published these books under the name “M.A. Lawson,” and I would never have known about them, except that I plucked a book from the New Fiction shelf at the library and saw Mike’s picture. So I also read this series and like it.

    I emailed Mike and asked him why he did this, after building up such huge cred under his own name. He didn’t respond, although we have exchanged messages in the past.

    • How interesting, Howard, that he would have chosen that approach. There could be any number of reasons, too, so I won’t speculate on why. It’s really interesting, though. I’m glad you enjoy both series; that’s always a bonus.

  19. Howard

    I almost hesitate to plug a writer as successful as John Sandford. I admit freely to loving all his “Prey” novels that feature Lucas Davenport, even though having so many serial killers roaming Minnesota is a bit of a stretch. He also wrote a series about a computer hacker, Kidd, which are very good. Kidd is even featured in a couple of Davenport novels. A few years ago, Sandford began a spinoff series featuring Virgil Flowers. I gladly admit to also loving these books. Sandford is a great writer; his books move along, I love his characters, and he frequently interjects little moments in them that make me laugh out loud.

    • Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, Howard. I have a list of authors, too, whose work I plug, so no need to hesitate. And some of those I plug are awfully successful. You’ve offered some great suggestions, for which thanks.

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