Where are James, Morgan and Kit when you want them?
Here am I, with this d**n blog post to put together… I ask you, ‘series’?
“Write about your favourite series,” said she who must be obeyed. (Sorry, C.J. – couldn’t resist that one!)
What does any boy-child (stuck in a man’s body) do in times of trouble? Call on his childhood heroes, of course!
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Enter Kit – and Greg may just be with me here – Kit Kinnison, Lensman extraordinaire! Or was it Morgan, first? Morgan Kane, gun-slinger! But, hold on, talk about genre-hopping, the name may have been James, James Bond – shaken but not stirred, my dear!
Which of these classic heroes stepped into my bedroom first? Which had me marvelling at their exploits before the others? I remember not.
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(…Pause, as the author stops to break out the supply of chocolate stashed in the ready-to-hand refrigerator! …That’s better!)
Anyway, lest I be accused of digressing – to change the subject, or otherwise play for time until inspiration about “series” strikes me – I shall continue.
E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Classic Lensman series; Kjell Hallbing (aka Louis Masterson) – author of over 80 Morgan Kane books (although my collection only got to the first 27 or so); and Ian Flemming’s James Bond, provided my principal diet of reading material, from as early as I can remember reading books without pictures, to my entry into the adult world of work. There, sadly, amongst the stresses and strains of working life, my recollection of series reading fades into obscurity.
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Ask me what it is about those books that I should remember them and I cannot recall a single story… Concepts? Yes. That each provided me with enjoyment? Yes.
But if I were to critique them as I have come to know the word critique, then I would most probably destroy an illusion. And, besides, I would have to read a whole shed-load of books again! I can, however, remember that the Morgan Kane series, when neatly stacked in order on my bookshelf, displayed a great view of the hand-tooled leather gun belt I’d always wanted to own!
Is it simply that we always remember our first time? (Painful or not!)
There were other series, certainly. As I matured and found the odd moment of time during and between marriages… (That’s another story!)
I’m being subjective here, but let me see… There was the superb Tai Pan and Noble House of James Clavell’s Asian saga, and Eric Van Lustbader’s character, Nicholas Linnear’s various outings.
Now, my problem is that, for a writer, I actually consider myself a poor reader - at least these days.
“If you are going to write, you have to read a lot,” said the invisible age-old writing sage, hovering just behind my left ear.
Where does that leave me?
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My problem is that I decided, some years ago, to do some academic “stuff” – research! It got me a PhD, in which I studied a great many books – hundreds in fact - but not novels. And never cover-to-cover. Research, almost quite literally, killed my ability to sit and read a novel. Now, I am so creative with ideas that leap of pages at me that I have to sit down and write more!
So when the thought of having to write about my favourite series hit home, I said “HELP”.
And Greg reminded me of the classics – well my classics anyway.
But, being a part-time scholar, I just had to spoil things and ask myself a question. “Just what is a series,” I said.
“A number of things that follow on one after the other or are connected one after the other. The sum of the terms of a sequence,” said the great voice of internet wisdom. (Because it’s quicker to Google than to pick up a big book on words, these days – sad, but true!)
But I would like to leave you with a thought. Perhaps all that is needed to connect the books in a series is precisely what is left out of them.
It is the trail of gaps, the lack of adjectives, and the limitation of descriptions and economy of language in well written prose and dialogue that the good authors manage to leave behind. It is, what I would say, the “absent other” in the text of a well written book that allows us, as readers, to create our own interpretations, realise out our realities and place ourselves at one with the story that imbibes, in us, a desire to read the next book by the same author. We wish to experience the same feeling, again, as we read in a first book, whether or not the author has displayed an overt tendency to serialise through the continuation of an interesting character, place or time.
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Perhaps, what I recall from those adventures of James, Morgan and Kit, is the sheer pleasure they gave me in allowing me to find my own way into their world. What, to me, makes them a perfect series is the interconnectedness of absence!
So, as I close this post, and look to where my own writing is taking me… Will my character Finn Jackson reappear in many more books? Or will someone else step into his shoes? Only time will tell… :)