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Authors that stick the landing.

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I know this intro is a bit of a non-sequitur, but stick with me. I just finished playing the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and after seeing the "true" ending I was a bit underwhelmed. Since I view stories in video games a bonus rather than a prerequisite, a bit of a flat ending doesn't really impact my option of the game itself so long as the main conflict has a conclusion.

This got me thinking about the format where I'm the least forgiving when it comes to bad or abrupt endings, which is novels. Perhaps it's because the time investment is much longer than a movie or maybe it's because the written word doesn't have the leeway that being interactive grants video games, but in my opinion things more or less hinge on the way the the book ends. Since more often than not that will be the thing that will make the reader decide if it was worth the time they invested in reading it.

So out of curiosity I'd thought I'd start a thread and ask which authors do you think are the most consistant in sticking the landing of their books and which most often fumble the final pages?

For me the person that stands above everyone in making each ending feel like a rich dessert after a wonderful meal is Terry Pratchett. In most of his books I find everything comes to a head in an almost perfect way and then lingers on the aftermath just long enough for me to feel like I got to say an individual goodbye to each of his characters. The only time I've not felt this way about his novels was when I read the very first discworld book the Color of Magic (which should be permanently bound with his second discworld book, the Light Fantastic, since it picks up from the literal cliffhanger of the first and brings everything to a much better close) as well as the last few novels he wrote before passing away from Alzheimer's disease.

The one author that I think fumbled the ending the worst compared to how fun the book was to read up to right before the ending was Legend by David Gemmell. It fumbled the ending so bad that I never read another book by the author.
Edited by Tim K - 5/13/17 at 1:26pm
post #2 of 15

Perfect final line. Excellent book (and alternate world novel) before that.

 

Yes, the tagline on the front cover definitely caught my attention and I'm glad it did.

 

post #3 of 15

Few authors embody the expression "it's the journey, not the destination" as well as Stephen King does, yet there's barely a book of his that I've read that hasn't left me with at least a tinge of regret over the time spent - Revival is a recent that did stick the landing quite beautifully. Ironically, he usually ends his short stories and novellas really really well.

 

As for guys who do stick the landing, I don't think there's a single Don Winslow novel I've read that's left me unsatisfied.

post #4 of 15

Salem's Lot has a great ending imo, but in general he does not stick the landing....

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylon Baby View Post
 

Salem's Lot has a great ending imo, but in general he does not stick the landing....

 

THE SHINING

THE DEAD ZONE

FIRESTARTER

 

They all stick.  

 

On the other end, THE DARK TOWER series....

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratty View Post
 

 

THE SHINING

THE DEAD ZONE

FIRESTARTER

 

They all stick.  

 

On the other end, THE DARK TOWER series....

 

The revised The Stand ends much better with the desert island ending. The whole 'as long as there is evil in the hearts of men', I suppose.

 

'Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.'

 

If they manage to finally make The Stand again, I hope for two things:

 

1) They steal the introduction from the 1994 mini-series with Don't Fear the Reaper as the camera tracks through Project Blue.

 

2) They get Matthew McConaughey to play Randall Flagg now that he's playing the Man in Black in The Dark Tower.

post #7 of 15
Mathew McConaughey playing both Flagg and Stu.

Would be one for the ages!
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
I've always been of the opinion that they should cast a little bit against type for Flagg and go with someone who doesn't ever play a villain. Not that McConaughey wouldn't be a good choice, but he has played enough sleazy roles that I don't think he'd fill the role quite in the way I want to see it filled. I feel the part of Flagg demands a casting choice for the villain as radical as the choice of Henry Fonda was for Once Upon a Time in the West. Flagg should come across as wholesome and one of the good guys the first time someone sees him. I'd say a 90s Tom Hanks would be perfect, but since we can't go back in time perhaps Chris Evans would work since it would make the audience have to come to terms with the actor that plays Captain America being the antichrist.

Back to the topic at hand, I can't say that I've read enough Stephen King to have an opinion about his endings. For me I've have always felt that the books I've read of his almost all left me with the feeling like not enough has happened in the narrative to warrant the number of pages, but I've always hesitated to fully criticize him because he's so popular that I'm willing to admit to myself that I could just be missing something.
post #9 of 15
I just finished "Firestarter." I thought the ending was explodey enough.
post #10 of 15

I mentioned in another thread how I had stalled out on reading James Ellroy's latest, Perfidia, because it wasn't very good; I finally did get to the end, and... still not good.

 

But Ellroy was once a great one for endings-- which is funny coming from a novelist who always insists that the notion of "closure" is bullshit-- and for last, evocative lines. (From The Big Nowhere: "Three dangerous men, gone for parts unknown.")

 

One of the reasons that his American Tabloid is maybe the greatest novel of my lifetime is that the last, short chapter, and final line, are so goddamn perfect; it's actually a shame that the book has sequels.

 

Sticking with the crime genre, I always enjoyed the endings to Dutch Leonard's books, which never seemed to come to a culmination so much as ran out of things to say. And, as though Leonard realized that, he would close things out with some sideways observation or line of dialogue-- it was almost never what you'd expect, and nearly always worked. If I remember right, the last line of Get Shorty is about how difficult endings are to come up with.

 

As far as King goes, I haven't  read a new novel of his in a while (the last may have been Insomnia, of all things), but I guess he developed this rep for not sticking the landing in that time. Aside from Tommyknockers, which is terrible all around and had a truly shitty ending, I remember all the stuff I read when I was coming up wrapping up in a pretty satisfying way. (And the ending to Pet Sematary is an all-timer.)

post #11 of 15

There was a famous case where Micky Spillane objected to changes his editor or publisher made or something like that. He eventually got his way on this when he deliberately designed one of his books to end with the final line being.

 

"[character name] was a-" and pointedly leaving out the last word with the draft he sent in.

 

They're all like "was a what?", what???? WHAT????

 

I believe he had no further problems in that department after that.

post #12 of 15

With the majority of science fiction (which is most of what I read), it's more about the setup/concept than anything else. You can grab a reader's attention with a great setup, whereas "It comes together really coherently!" doesn't exactly light up a book jacket.

 

Jack Vance comes to mind when I think of good endings. A lot of his novels are very intricately constructed to lead up to the ending, especially the five Demon Prince books.

 

The first of the two Cugel books, The Eyes of the Overworld, has my favorite Vance ending-

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Cugel is dropped off at the beach his quest started on, no closer to his objective than he was before. He starts walking again, and the book is over. It's a hilarious and devastating setback for our anti-hero.
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim K View Post

I've always been of the opinion that they should cast a little bit against type for Flagg and go with someone who doesn't ever play a villain. Not that McConaughey wouldn't be a good choice, but he has played enough sleazy roles that I don't think he'd fill the role quite in the way I want to see it filled. I feel the part of Flagg demands a casting choice for the villain as radical as the choice of Henry Fonda was for Once Upon a Time in the West. Flagg should come across as wholesome and one of the good guys the first time someone sees him. I'd say a 90s Tom Hanks would be perfect, but since we can't go back in time perhaps Chris Evans would work since it would make the audience have to come to terms with the actor that plays Captain America being the antichrist.
     

 

I remember back in the 80's, King did an interview in Fangoria magazine and suggested Richard Pryor as Flagg. That would have been...something.

post #14 of 15

This thread made me think of George Pelecanos. Especially The Night Gardener has a great ending, how it ties up all the loose ends. And kinda doesn't, because that's one of the points of the story. I also realised that I've given away all of the several hardcover copies of King Suckerman that I bought from a sale (4e each, IIRC). Great book and a great birthday / Christmas present, but would've been a good idea to keep one for myself.

post #15 of 15
Guy Gavriel Kay pulls off this neat trick where he ties up all the macro plot elements but leaves the characters with places to go. So the sweep of history is covered but there's often still a choice for the protagonist left hanging in the air.
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