I, doubtless in common with anyone who has persevered through the stronger and weaker works of any prolific author’s career, have been moved at times to reflect at what point a long-running series becomes good before it starts to tail off in quality through the challenges of sustaining such an output.
How Emil and the Detectives (1929) by Erich Kästner came to my attention is something I’ve long forgotten. I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning it, yet it seems to have constantly been in print while also being made into a movie and adapted for the stage. And I didn’t even know if it qualified as a detective novel for younger readers. So the only thing to do was to read it myself.
In the early 1900s, Edward Stratemeyer devised the Stratemeyer Syndicate of children’s books, where multiple volumes of the same series could be written by various authors and published under a common nom de plume. Two of its more famous alumni were The Hardy Boys by ‘Franklin W. Dixon’ and the Nancy Drew mysteries by ‘Carolyn Keene’.
I’ve mentioned before how I grew up reading a lot of SF — Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula Le Guin, Larry Niven, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith — and how certain authors like Philip K. Dick, Sheri S. Tepper, and Connie Willis still delight me in my dotage.
As the current glut of Golden Age detective fiction reprints is making us all aware, copyrights can be a tricky thing. An author’s intellectual property is the characters and plots they create, and allowing others to have access to them is correctly something which is very closely guarded.
Since starting this blog, I have made the acquaintance of The Three Investigators, the Five Find-Outers, and several other juvenile sleuths, the majority of who have been an absolute delight to encounter; today, I add Leroy ‘Encyclopedia’ Brown to that list.