Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Series"ly, folks . . .

Stephanie Plum, Harry Bosch, Kinsey Milhone . . . Harry Potter, Sookie Stackhouse, Bella Swan, Harry Dresden . . . Jack Reacher, Gabriel Allon, Alex Cross . . . Mitford, Thrush Green, Middle Earth, Winterfell . . .

For those of you who eagerly await the latest installments of your favorite series, there are always new arrivals at RPL. Right now there seems to be a holiday rush of thrillers and detectives:

Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone is back with V is for Vengeance.
Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher, The Affair, has been wait-listed for a month.
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is in trouble again in Explosive Eighteen.
John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers is in for a Shock Wave.
James Paterson is ready to Kill Alex Cross.
The Drop is next month for Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch.

Can’t keep track? Check out http://www.blogger.com/goog_74332351 , a website designed by a fantasy series lover to “Track your series”.

Series have been popular as long as they have been around (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot), particularly in children’s literature, where familiar characters become friends and fantasy worlds seem as real as the backyard.  I remember walking out of my branch library with a stack of Moffat books as long as my arm, and I believe I read them all in a week. I did the same with Pippi Longstocking, the Rescuers, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. When I discovered a new series, I gobbled it all up at once: from the beginning, in order, and with nothing in between.

As an adult I also enjoyed reading series, for a while. I tired of Sue Grafton’s alphabet at around  L (is for Lawless). Ayla’s adventures in Jean Auel’s romantic version of prehistory no longer interested me by the time The Land of Painted Caves was finally released eight years after Shelters of Stone.  Dismas Hardy (John Lescroat) became just one more lawyer, and no longer a particularly interesting one. I now avoid most series completely, suspecting that I will lose interest sooner rather than later, and not wanting to start something I know I won’t finish.

There are a few exceptions to my series avoidance. Kate Atkinson’s private investigator Jackson Brodie, introduced in Case Histories, is the protagonist of four books so far (which have been made into a 6 episode BBC miniseries, now available on DVD.)  I followed Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus all the way through his retirement in Exit Music, and now await the continued police work of his younger colleague Siobhan Clarke. I have my fingers crossed that Lev Grossman turns The Magicians and its sequel The Magician King into a series (how many books make a series?)  

I have also found that I enjoy listening to some series, although I don’t read them. I read The Sorcerer’s Stone, but listened to Harry grow up in Jim Dale’s extraordinary performances. The first four books in David Baldacci’s “Camel Club” series were fun (and I love Baldacci’s favorite reader, Ron McLarty), but by Divine Justice its quirky heroes and conspiracy-driven plots had, alas, became too predictable even for half-attended audio. I have kept up with Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller in Michael Connelly’s popular series, and am looking forward to listening to the the fourth (and final) installment of Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked Years” saga, Out of Oz, its 23 discs on order here at RPL.

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