I Am Only A Rat In A Maze, Like You, And Only The Dead Go Free

Speaking of John Sandford, within this Wall Street Journal article entitled The (Really) Long Goodbye (subhead: He’s got a gun, a badge—and rheumatoid arthritis. The iconic detectives of best-selling authors from Michael Connelly to Ruth Rendell are fighting a new foe: old age.), Mr. Sandford makes an appearance:

Best-selling crime writer John Sandford says he planned to end his popular “Prey” series, starring Minnesota investigator Lucas Davenport, by killing the protagonist. His editor, Neil Nyren, warned against it, arguing that Davenport’s death would destroy backlist sales of his earlier books. Mr. Sandford now feels trapped in the series, 21 books in. He’d like to write science fiction or nonfiction, but readers keep demanding more Davenport books.

“There’s enough money on the table that it’s difficult to quit, even though that would be the right thing to do,” Mr. Sandford says. “In a lot of ways, it’s just a successful product. If you’re making Band-Aids, you don’t want to stop making Band-Aids, because they’re selling well.”

Mr. Sandford slowed down time so that Davenport ages just two or three months a year. But after 22 years, Davenport is approaching 50. In his new best-selling novel, “Buried Prey,” Mr. Sanford flashes back to Davenport’s early years as a rookie cop. “It allowed me to put some sex back in the novels,” Mr. Sandford says.

On one hand, I can understand how, after 20 years, a popular series character might be a pair of golden handcuffs. However, I don’t think I can countenance complaining about not being able to write other things, especially given that “John Sandford” is a pseudonym and he could write and try to publish anything he wanted. He could even discontinue the (multiple) series for a while as he branched out.

But the Prey series are bankable for his publishing house and for his agent (if he has one). So the entirety of The System wants him to continue with the series he’s tired of. He doesn’t have a guaranteed publisher, perhaps, for his space operas or histories of the settlement of the northern plains (or whatever).

So if he were to write what he wanted, he might have to work to get it into print, and it might not sell to a level to keep John Sandford earning what he does for the Prey books and it might get him the acclaim that he gets for them. But there’s nothing stopping him from trying. Nothing but himself.

It’s unseemly to complain about one’s success.

And let’s be honest, there’s still sex in the novels. A bit much, really, for my evolving tastes. I’m almost afraid of how much there might be in a book where he’s not restricted to Lucas Davenport’s monogamy.

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