Sunday, October 19, 2003

I See Dead Authors: Authors Who Write from Beyond the Grave
by Marlo Verrilla
Latrobe Bulletin
Latrobe, Pa

I see dead authors. In my job it’s hard not to miss them. No, they are not lurking in the basement with quill in hand creating some masterpiece, but they might as well be. Some dead authors have been publishing for years.

Suspense writer Lawrence Sanders died in 1998 yet just published a new book this year called McNally’s Dare. It seems his character, Archy McNally was so popular, the public couldn’t stand to have him die with his creator, so poor Lawrence has to file 1099 forms from the great beyond. Actually, author Vincent Lardo took over the character with McNally’s Dilemma, which was published in 1999. Lardo has published four books since then under the Sanders name: McNally’s Dare, McNally’s Chance, McNally’s Alibi and McNally’s Folly.

Louis L’Amour, the greatest western writer ever to live, wrote three books a year for more than 30 years during his career, so it seems natural that a little thing like death couldn’t stop his writing obsession. He began his memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, while suffering from pneumonia and was editing it the day he died. Since then his publisher, Bantam Books, continues to release his work. The company has re-released many of his books, such as four Hopalong Cassidy novels, but a new original book, With These Hands, a collection of short stories, was published in 2002.

Many other authors died before many of their works were published. Poet Sylvia Plath, died in 1963, with only The Colossus and The Bell Jar in print. Other works were published posthumously, such as: Ariel, Winter Trees, and Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. Other books about her continue to be published. The movie, Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, hit theaters last week in limited release.

The above three authors are like many dead authors releasing books. They have either had their work taken over by someone else or someone found their work and published them after they left this earth. Yet, there is still one other type of dead author that exists, or rather doesn’t exist.

To the shock of kiddies everywhere, Franklin W. Dixon, great author of The Hardy Boys series, is not a real person. In 1927, publisher Edward Statemeyer came up with the idea of a private investigator’s two sons who get mixed up with mysteries of their own to solve. He assigned the story, or stories, as he intended it to be a series, to Leslie McFarlane, a Canadian journalist. McFarlane wrote every book until 1947’s The Phantom Freighter, but by the 1950s, the series had become dated to readers. In 1959, the series was rewritten to reflect a more progressive and faster society, as well as remove some derogatory ethnic references. Some readers liked the change, but others were outraged, thus leading Applewood Books to reprint facsimiles of the original series. These books with the original words and illustrations hit the market in 1991.

The Hardy Boys also had another incarnation in 1986 with the Hardy Boys Casefiles that offered more contemporary action. All in all, the following authors wrote The Hardy Boys series over the years: Leslie McFarlane, Andrew E. Svenson, Harriet S. Adams and James Duncan Lawrence.

So, my fellow book enthusiasts, be careful what you read, you just might be getting messages from the beyond. Dead authors exist and they will keep writing despite the laws of physics.

The following dead authors can be found at the Ligonier Valley Library: Douglas Adams, Louisa May Alcott, V.C. Andrews, Jane Austen, Frank Baum, Max Brand, Catherine Cookson, Brian Daley, Emily Dickinson, Zane Grey, Robert Heinlein, Ernest Hemingway, L. Ron Hubbard, Caroline Keene, Robert Ludlum, Eugene O’Neill, Virginia Rich, Harold Robbins, Eliott Roosevelt, Rex Stout, John Kennedy Toole, Anthony Trollope and Gertrude Chandler Warner.

The above list was compiled by Stacy Alesi of the Southwest County Regional Library in Boca Raton, Florida. She is known on the Web as the Bookbitch and can be found at

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