In July 2005, I logged in to my computer and saw that one of my very favorite series ended.
Ed McBain, author of the 87th Precinct series of books (56 of them I believe) had passed away and Fiddlers, which came out a few months later, was the last case for the detectives of the 87th Precinct.
To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. I still remember standing in Barnes and Noble, looking at Fiddlers on the shelf, thinking, “this is it.” I’ve read the entire series, and some books more than once, and still, 14 years later, don’t like the notion that the series is over.
A little history
It was 1990. I was in the Coast Guard stations aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba. She was a medium endurance cutter and would go out on patrols lasting roughly two or so months at a time. That meant lots of downtime, which for me, always meant lots of reading.
I picked up a tattered paperback that had been laying around for a couple of patrols. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien. I was mesmerized, and just kept right on reading.
And let me say I loved the Russell Crowe movie and always envisioned the books would make a great Netflix series. Hint. Hint.
For me, the books were a slow read. I usually would read the book twice as the detail was so extreme and the nautical terminology – even for a sailor – was hard to swallow.
But it was worth it.
In 2000, O’Brian died. His 21st and last book in the series, simply titled 21, was published a few years later.
For me, the story ended at book 17, The Commodore. I love the story – and I view it as one long story, and maybe I’ll continue reading, but the simple fact is I don’t want to read 21. I don’t want Aubrey and Maturin’s adventures to end.
Hit me, man
I absolutely devoured the Keller series, Lawrence Block’s stories about a stamp-collecting hit man.
A while back, after the fifth installment, I read something that made be believe the series is over. Unlike McBain or O’Brian, Block lives on, writing away, but apparently Keller is too preoccupied with his stamps to go off to kill someone else.
It’s sad and over way too soon.
I love series fiction, particularly in the world of mystery. Elvis Cole/Joe Pike remains a favorite, as do the above stories. Same goes for fantasy – fantasy readers love series, including some very long series.
That said, I’m not sure I could survive some of them. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld was what? 45 novels? Then there’s the Deathlands series (one of my mom’s favorites oddly enough), which comes in at well over 100 books by a variety of authors.
In the end, the real problem with a series is it has to end. You spend so much time with the characters. You get to know them and fall in love with them, then one day, it is all over, though you have the old stories to go back to over and over, like tales at a family reunion remembering some loved one who has long passed.
Blatant Self Promotion
My latest, The Shack and Other Short Stories, is available from your favorite bookseller. I describe this as a mini collection of fairly short short stories, all crime or mystery related, focusing on the gray areas of morality.