What Happens When They Die?

Recently, I had a chat with a patron about an author who had died…but was still producing books. After looking for a book by Robert Ludlum on the shelves, I realized the book he was looking for was actually written by another author, but carried on the legacy of the original author’s books. This, of course, confused the patron to no end. First, he didn’t know the Ludlum had died, and second, he had no idea why someone else would be writing his books.  Yes, it can be confusing.

In this case, Robert Ludlum was a prolific author of the action packed Bourne Series, along with many others. When he passed away in 2001, he left a huge following, and the publishers were reluctant to leave them hanging. In comes several other authors who picked up the series and have been writing ever since in the style of Ludlum’s originals.  If you drop by Ludlum’s website, it’s interesting to note that there are current entries, updated regularly. Playlists inspired by the series, old interviews and movie trailers, and lots of input from fans. It’s as though Mr. Ludlum is still around and writing.  Amazing!

The wife of author Robert B. Parker recently had this terrible decision to make when he passed away: to let his famous detective Spenser continue on using other writers, or to let him go as well. After much discussion with Parker’s publishing house, they decided to carry on and let Spenser remain. Parker’s latest book WONDERLAND was released earlier this year and will probably become as popular as all of his others. It seems that people don’t mind when another author takes over, as long as the writing remains familiar. There’s a great article here about Parker’s “afterlife”.

There are other authors who have passed away but hadn’t published everything in their catalog yet, such as Michael Crichton. Many times, the publishers will have someone edit the drafts and publish as though the author were still alive, all profits going to the author’s family/spouse/charity of choice etc.  It’s a great way for a company to keep earning off a big author, and a way for fans to feel like they haven’t missed out.


This can be wildly debated, however, as we saw in the case of the untimely death of Stieg Larsson and his GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series. Larsson didn’t leave a will, and was not married to his partner of 32 years, so according to Swedish law, Larsson’s estate was inherited by his father and brother. His common-law partner still has the uncompleted 4th book in the series on a laptop that she has refused to give up, and will only do so if the law allows her full rights to manage the series.  It doesn’t look like this is going to happen any time soon, and so the world will have to wait.

How the new authors are accepted is anyone’s guess. While they are probably hired to continue on in the same style as the author they’re taking over for, I’m sure their own style also appears. Hopefully, readers accept it right away and are just happy the series will continue. Often, I think, readers don’t even notice the change, especially if they aren’t keeping up with the news or looking at an author’s website. That seems to be the case we see most often here. As long as the books keep coming out, people are happy.

Do you follow a series written by an author who has passed away? What are your thoughts on the new authors?


4 thoughts on “What Happens When They Die?

  1. I’m still reading new books by Hemingway. He recently just added some more chapters to his classic memoir he beautifully named A Moveable Feast. Don’t worry, he explains the typo in “moveable” in the preface this time. This just coming off his latest Africa novel too. He’s like the Tupac of writers.

    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, his trilogy was certainly a ground-breaker for writers not from Great Britain or North America.

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