Sue Grafton made her wishes clear: Her best-selling mystery series would die when she did. No other writers were to continue the alphabetical saga of detective Kinsey Millhone, who entered the world in 1982’s “A is for Alibi” and carried on through 2017’s “Y is for Yesterday.”
“As far as we in the family are concerned,” Grafton’s daughter Jamie Clark said, after her mother’s death on Dec. 28, “the alphabet now ends at Y.”
But not all adventures die with their authors. Sometimes their estates assign a writer to perpetuate the franchise — for better or worse.
“To start with, there’s the chance you’ll fall short of the standard set by the late author,” Peter Cannon, a senior editor at Publishers Weekly, told The Post. Such was the case with Margaret Mitchell’s classic, “Gone With the Wind.” Many decades later, the sequel “Scarlett” sold well but was a critical failure. Another attempt at resurrecting Mitchell’s old South — “Rhett Butler’s People” — was what Cannon calls “a total disaster.”
“You have one flop, and that’s the end of it,” he says of that and the abortive attempt to continue P.G. Wodehouse’s beloved Wooster and Jeeves books. (“I think the idea was to introduce a new generation to Wodehouse’s work, but I doubt it won him many new fans,” Cannon said of Sebastian Faulks’ 2015 “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells.” Alas, no.)
More successful, he says, is the James Bond franchise, still going strong after at least six writers — 007 devotees all, beginning with Kingsley Amis — have had a hand in perpetuating it. And while passionate fans of the late Stieg Larsson have declared that his Millennium Series should have ended when he did, Cannon says, there’s a reason why David Lagercrantz was asked to continue Lisbeth Salander’s saga after 2015’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” sold so well.