The "Star Wars" of books, you might say
June 20, 2014 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Are there any prominent examples of authors who wrote the middle book (or even the last book) in a trilogy first? Non-fiction preferred, but will take fiction examples, too.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is quite what you are looking for, but of the Narnia books, The Magician's Nephew was written sixth, but is first in Narnia's timeline.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Asmiov's Foundation series didn't have the middle book written first, per se, but like Narnia, the series wasn't written in in-world chronological order.
posted by k5.user at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2014

The second Deryni trilogy is set about 200 years prior to the first. Later trilogies bounce all over in time.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:56 PM on June 20, 2014

The sixteenth-century French writer François Rabelais wrote and published Pantagruel, about the education and adventures of the eponymous giant hero; its success led him to write Gargantua, about Pantagruel's father, afterwards. He then wrote two (or three*) more books that follow Pantagruel in their internal chronology.

*The authorship of the Cinquième livre has been debated ever since its publication.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:07 PM on June 20, 2014

Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books jump all over the world's timeline.
posted by alms at 1:14 PM on June 20, 2014

Best answer: Volume 1 of the first part (Grand Strategy) of the official British history of the Second World War wasn't published until 1976. The last two volumes (5 and 6) of the Grand Strategy section had been published in 1956 and all the other volumes in the section had been published by the time volume 1 of the section appeared.
posted by Jahaza at 1:16 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Non-fiction preferred, but will take fiction examples, too." Did you mean this, or did you get it backwards?

Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam series starts in the middle, the next book skips to the beginning, then piggybacks the events in the first book and ends after it. Haven't read the third yet but I'm pretty sure it picks up where the third left off.
posted by Mchelly at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2014

Anne McCaffrey's Pern series was not written in chronological order. One of the great things about that series when I read it as a young teen was that later on you got to really go back to the beginning of the "world".
posted by PlutoniumX at 1:55 PM on June 20, 2014

Response by poster: Did you mean this, or did you get it backwards?

I meant it.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2014

C.S. Forester wrote eleven books in his Hornblower series; if I remember correctly their publishing dates were:
#6 --- 1937
#7 --- 1938
#8 --- 1938
#9 --- 1945
#10 --- 1946
#1 --- 1949
#2 --- 1951
#5 --- 1953
#11 --- 1958
#3 --- 1962
#4 --- 1967
posted by easily confused at 3:26 PM on June 20, 2014

Some examples I thought of, not sure if they are really "notable" (in fact some may be pretty obscure).

-Kage Baker's fantasy series starts with Anvil of the World, and then the next book The House of the Stag is a prequel exploring two of the cameo characters from the first. (then the third book has nothing to do with either)

-Avram Davidson's "Vergil Magus" trilogy is I THINK in reverse chronological order. The second book is definitely set well before the first. The third I'm not totally sure; in my defense, they are REALLY odd.

-Steven Brust's "Taltos" books jump forward and backward in time IIRC... I think Taltos, Dragon, and Yendi are all set BEFORE Jhereg, which is the first book he wrote. It's been a while on those so I might not be getting that quite right. (And then he wrote a whole prequel series at the same time, yeesh)

I'll check back again if I think of any more... this has tickled my brain.
posted by selfnoise at 5:12 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dragon actually has action at two different times - Wikipedia calls it both second and fourth chronologically.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:49 PM on June 20, 2014

The Redwall books are another example. The first 3 books (which admittedly weren't really a "trilogy") were published middle first.
posted by duffell at 6:15 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All - Thanks for the great suggestions so far. Keep them coming!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:58 AM on June 21, 2014

The Dalemark Quartet, Diana Wynne Jones, where the 'earliest' book was the third to be written.
posted by glasseyes at 9:21 AM on June 21, 2014

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