Some follow-up novels are written by others after the original author has died. It happened to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, and Mario Puzo’s Godfather. Do you ever feel: When I’m gone, that ain’t happening to me, pal?
I understand what you’re saying, and I’m totally in agreement. There have been a lot of sequels to the Sherlock Holmes stories, there have been sequels to Dracula, there’s even a movie in development called Demeter, which is about the trip Dracula takes between Transylvania and England. Now, it might make a tremendous movie, but in a lot of cases I think of those books as, ‘Hey, come on! You’re eating this guy’s dinner! Go find your own dinner!’
Is there ever a scenario where it is cool for someone to pick up where another writer has left off?
Well, John D. MacDonald wrote this series of novels about a guy named Travis McGee and they all had colors in the titles: Pale Gray for Guilt and The Quick Red Fox. The last one was called The Lonely Silver Rain. And John died [in 1986] while he was having a heart bypass operation. His wife had passed on, and he had one child named Maynard who lived in Australia. I thought, ‘What a shame, because there are all these wonderful Travis McGee books, and yet the story kind of ends and leaves you hanging.’ I wrote Maynard a letter because I had an idea, and I said: ‘I would like to write a final Travis McGee novel. I have an idea in mind, and it’s called Chrome, and it will put a button on the series. I don’t want any money for it. I’ll write the book and we’ll give the royalties to charity.’ Maynard MacDonald wrote me a letter and said, ‘I’m very touched by your offer, but I think we ought to leave things as they are because there was only one John D. MacDonald, and he’s passed.’ At the time I was a little bit pissed, but the more I think about it, that was right.