Thursday, 12 April 2012

Sometimes it's best to leave things alone

I’ve been reading on the BBC website that William Boyd is to write a new James Bond novel. Jeffery Deaver and Sebastian Faulks have already trodden a similar path, and Charlie Higson has written a series of Bond prequels. And then there’s And Another Thing ... Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6) by Eoin Colfer. Is it a good idea for a different author to take over an established body of work?

I’ve recently read The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz. I loved it. It was just like reading Conan Doyle. But I’ve also read Death Comes to Pemberley by Baroness P. D. James, her follow-up to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. With the greatest respect, I found it curiously unsatisfying – neither t’other nor which. The mystery element wasn’t that mysterious, and the Austen element felt too self-conscious, as though the author kept telling me: ‘Look! I’m writing like Jane Austen!’ But what do I know? I doubt the Baroness will lose any sleep over my comments.

When I was at school, my redoubtable English teacher Mrs Hudson set us the homework task of rewriting Great Expectations from Estelle’s point of view: quite a feat for a bunch of 12-year-olds. It was an interesting academic exercise, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t enhance Dickens’ work!


  1. I'm not to sure myself... They maybe in the style of.... but they're never as great and wonderful as the real thing, just their idea using the author's character, style and setting.

  2. Yes, when you put it like that it sounds a bit lazy.

  3. I think the modern way of wanting to "copy plus" everything shows a distinct lack of imagination. The same is true of music; very few covers hit the spot like the original. I'm starting to sound like Dad.

  4. It's curious. With books, I want the author voice to remain, even when a new writer takes over. But with music, what's the point of a cover version if it sounds just like the original?