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If you have read any of the books detailed on these pages then do get in touch. Do you have a favourite book written by one of these authors, which I have not reviewed? Contact me via my contacts page and tell me. I might then try and review it next!.
When is an author not an author ?
This is a question that has been puzzling me for some time. I can't decide whether it is irritating, or me getting older and grumpier. So what has caused me to stop and think about this strange question. The answer is the sheer number of books coming out from the estates of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Ludlum died in 2001 and Clancy died a little more recently in 2013. Yet from both these authors a huge number of books keep appearing.
When Robert Ludlum died, it was announced that 2/3 books he was working on would be finished by other authors - fair enough, but it now seems to have gone beyond the premise. The number of books published since his death is now approaching the point where more have been published after his death than he produced during his lifetime. A similar position is happening with the Tom Clancy novels. I can understand that an author might have some notes planning a direction of a series so that the series or character doesn't suddenly take up origami, but the situation with both these authors now has moved on. At what point do we as readers say - hey - this can't be a Ludlum or Clancy novel.
Clive Cussler also uses co-writers, but he is at least alive and kicking, so the level of input is not really known, but Clive himself is no spring chicken, and in recent years we have had a surprising surge in output. The novels vary in quality, and style, but there is just enough uniqueness to say it is a Clive Cussler novel. This can hardly be said of some of the Ludlum books.
A good example of this is the Bourne Series. The original trilogy was taught and edgy (and at times extremely violent), the later books have taken the character and turned him into some sort of demi god, who seems to seek out the violence that he wanted to avoid. All of the supporting characters have gone, leaving an alien Bourne, and a very weird organisation that goes far beyond the Treadstone of the early books. There is also the fact that Bourne is able to do all the things a young man can, but who in reality is now around 60.
Dick Francis has also died, and his mantle has been taken up by his son Felix, however there is no pretence that the stories come from the pen of Dick Francis, although they are described as a 'Dick Francis novel'. Whilst I can understand this device to introduce the first couple of stories, the books stand up on their own account, and have gathered their own following. There is probably less horse racing in the stories - but then Dick wrote the odd story that had a very limited connection to racing - but they are good sound novels.
This reminds me, that a few years back Alistair Maclean ( a top author in his day) died, and a short series of six books were published, but it came to a halt when a complaint was made to, I think, trading standards, because it wasn't clear enough that the books were not written by a third party. What would happen today - in case you're interested the 6 books were rather good.
So what does this all mean. Well I am considering dropping both Ludlum and Clancy from my reading list, I haven't yet decided, but I am seriously thinking of this, so that I can make space for two other authors, Robert Fabri, and Simon Scarrow. Both write stories set in the Roman era, and the Scarrow novels following the adventures of Macro and Cato are both exciting, and at times humorous. Fabri has written a series based on the Roman general Vespasian - who also appears in the Scarrow novels (which has been confusing in the past), these follow the life of Vespasian from farmer, and will eventually lead to him becoming Emperor.
Keep an eye out for future news.
11 November 2015
The above links to the authors will take you to an individual home page. From this home page you will be able to get some background information on the author. The home page may lead to several other pages as well as reviews of the books themselves. In general to get back to the books home page go to the authors home page and click on the relevant icon.
Why do I read books ?
I read books mainly for enjoyment, escapism, and to give my imagination something to do. I like nothing better than to get comfy in a chair with some classical music playing quietly and read for a couple of hours. Usually the time is enhanced with an alcoholic beverage. I must admit that my reading is somewhat restricted to technological thrillers / crime thrillers, as you will have gathered from the index of authors.
I am not adverse to other reading and have read the Icelandic Sagas, translated by one of Icelands most famous residents Magnus Magnusson. This first volume is truly epic, and not for the faint hearted. I have also read The Arabian Nights (original translation).
Will books be replaced by computers ?
I hope not and I certainly don't think this will happen for years to come if ever. The advantage with a book is that it doesn't need batteries, or an electric source to use. You can read a book in all manner of positions, and not need to worry about screen reflections or about dropping it. It has no noisy fan to disturb the atmosphere. If you drop the book and damage it, it is only a few pounds to replace, unlike the hundreds to repair or replace a computer.
I really feel that people like Bill Gates who predict the end of the printed book do not read for pleasure. I also have to admit to not liking to have to read large amounts of text on screen even though I am a computer enthusiast, and would certainly not try to read a 500 page novel on screen.
Who is my favourite Author ?
I tend to go in phases. For a very long while it was Tom Clancy. However Clancy does seem to be in the doldrums at present. With Red Rabbit I thought that he was picking up again, but his latest effort 'The Teeth of the Tiger' is very lame. Bernard Cornwell remains my favourite author at the time of this update (25/1/04). His writing remains consistently high even though I was not keen on the last of the Grail trilogy. To date his best novel by far is Stonehenge, and far surpasses the more famous Sharpe novels.
Do I like screen adaptations of novels ?
I have to say in general no. The Clancy adaptations whilst very glossy certainly, lose a lot of there appeal. In the main, the novels of most of my favourite reads are far to complex to easily convert, with sub plots having to be dropped. The best example of a film turning a great book into a joke was Clive Cusslers 'Raise the Titanic'. The book is full of adventure with spies, gung ho action and great characters. The film seemed to lose all of the subplots along with the main plot as well. The characters were deeply uncharismatic, boring and wooden. I have watched the film twice and both times fallen asleep!!
On the other hand the Sharpe novels, converted into a long running UK tv series was remarkably well done and reasonably faithful to the books. The casting of Sean Bean as Sharpe could not be bettered.
If you want to get into an author - read the book first and let your imagination fill in the detail, then perhaps see the film. There is no better medium for a book than your own imagination.
The Rating System
All the books reviewed are rated on a scale of 1 to five 'bookies'. The minimum standard for an author is three 'bookies', anything less and it's below par. Anything above means better than average.
Please note that in scoring the books, I am not comparing author with author, as in general it would be very unfair. Clancy writes complex novels, with subplots, and a huge amount of technical detail, whilst Dick Francis writes on a more human level with usually just one plot.
If you have read any of the novels listed, and disagree with my reviews why not send me a guest review. Any received will be published. All I ask is that language is moderated. Please see the Feedback page for further guidance.
A key to icons used
16 May 2010