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Some of today’s best-selling authors are dead

Post Mortem

Read in Ned | July 20, 2017

By Susan Gerhart


“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”    –John Donne


Some of the best-selling authors in the US today have one thing in common: they are all dead. Sometimes it’s a manuscript that was “found” in a bottom desk drawer; other times, the author’s estate has hired someone to write in the departed’s name and style. Whatever the results, the bottom line is the bottom line: money.

Robert Ludlum (d. 2001), author of the Jason Bourne series, has written five books since his demise, all channeled by fellow author Eric Von Lustbader. The most recent, The Bourne Initiative, finds our hero grievously wounded and hiding from American agents who are intent on killing him before, they believe, he launches a nuclear strike that will destroy the US.

Flowers in the Attic was V.C Andrews’s (d. 1986) wildly popular first book. She followed that with thirty more tales of Gothic horror and incest, at least fifteen of which were written by Andrew Neiderman after she died. Andrews’s newest book, The Mirror Sisters, is the first in what is promised to be a series from the late author. Haylee Blossom Fitzgerald and Kaylee Blossom Fitzgerald are identical twins whose mother rigidly controls every aspect of their lives which she decrees must be identical in all ways and at all times. As high schoolers, the twins begin to assert their differences, one of which might spell the difference between life and “a fate worse than death.” All of Andrews’s books are now published in mass-market paperback format.

Mega-selling author Michael Crichton (d. 2008) has published three books since he died. His latest, the “recently discovered” Dragon’s Teeth, is the fictionalized story of the Bone Wars of the late 1800s when there was great national excitement over the finds of the rich fossil beds in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. Othniel C. Marsh and Edward D. Cope were paleontologists and bitter rivals who ultimately destroyed themselves while trying to destroy each other. Yale student William Johnson joins Marsh on his latest expedition to Wyoming. The young man arouses Marsh’s suspicion, and Marsh abandons him in the “lawless and vice-ridden” town of Cheyenne. Adrift, Johnson makes an astounding discovery on his own, but it might cost him his life.

David Lagercrantz has done an admirable job writing as Stieg Larsson in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are together again to investigate the death of Frans Balder, a computer scientist who has returned to Sweden to care for his autistic son, August. Salander has empathy for the boy and takes him under her wing to protect him. While looking into the hacking of the NSA database, Salander realizes that her long-lost twin sister, Camilla, is involved in the criminal enterprise behind Balder’s assassination.

The dead author who has sold the most books written and published posthumously is Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss (d. 1991). What Pet Should I Get was “rediscovered” by the author’s widow. Likely written in the 50s or 60s, it’s the story of siblings who visit a pet store to choose a new pet. But what should it be? Like all Seuss’s stories, there is a moral here: it can be hard to make up your mind, but sometimes, you just have to.

Full disclosure: with the exception of Larsson-Lagercrantz, I don’t read dead authors or anything by someone with the last name of Lustbader.

See you around the stacks.

Susan Gerhart is a volunteer at Nederland Community Library.

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