Authors whose works continue to be written after their deaths
January 22, 2023 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Tom Clancy remains creatively active after his death (as in this previous ask). But are there other authors or artists whose estates have simply continued to publish under ghostwriters-collaborators and the 'brand'-IP of the author or their pen-name? Who?

I draw a distinction here against characters and narratives in the public domain who have a place in public culture beyond their original authors, or who are beyond authorship—Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Cthulhu-mythos stories, Blackbeard, Sun Wukong etc.—and I'm interested specifically in attempts to ghostwrite an author whose work remains an owned and exploited 'name'.
posted by Fiasco da Gama to Writing & Language (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
John Bellairs
V.C. Andrews
posted by Melismata at 8:19 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

Robert Ludlum
Frank Herbert
posted by dis_integration at 8:30 PM on January 22

JRR Tolkien.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 8:40 PM on January 22

Heron Carvic.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:47 PM on January 22

This was common in newspaper comics for many years (still is, apparently, I just don't read the funny pages anymore). When I went to look up examples I found this TVTropes which is a typically exhaustive accounting of this type of thing in all forms of media.
posted by potrzebie at 8:48 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Stieg Larsson
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:49 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Janet Dailey
Vince Flynn
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:52 PM on January 22

Dune books still keep coming out. Robert B. Parker still has books coming out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on January 22

Gertrude Chandler Warner (The Boxcar Children)

Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time)

Do you count pen names that were never intended belonged to a single real person, like Franklin W. Dixon (The Hardy Boys) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)?
posted by likedoomsday at 8:55 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]

Some grasping chancer had the temerity to peddle a "sixth Hitchhiker's" book eight years after Douglas Adams' death.

Sebastian Faulks, weirdly, has put out a James Bond novel and a Jeeves one.
posted by runincircles at 8:56 PM on January 22

Response by poster: Do you count pen names that were never intended belonged to a single real person

Absolutely yes. I would love to imagine an eternal pen-name just churning out romance novels or crime stories century after century
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:57 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

For pen-names that have never belonged to a single real person. There's Erin Hunter, which is a pseudonym a group of six or seven authors use for the children's series (and its multiple spin-offs) Warriors. I also think Daisy Meadows the author credited for the Rainbow Magic series is also a pseudonym for a group of authors.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:33 PM on January 22

I fully believe that Erin Hunter will still be writing Warriors books after all the original authors have passed on.

Ann M Martin only wrote the first 35 Babysitters Club books but her name is on the whole series. She's still around and writing, but retired from writing about the Babysitters Club many years before the end of the series.
posted by potrzebie at 10:07 PM on January 22

Skimming, it looks like the first
Royal Book of Oz (1921) is the fifteenth in the series of Oz books, and the first to be written after L. Frank Baum's death. Although Baum was credited as the author, it was written entirely by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Beginning in the 1980s, some editions have correctly credited Thompson,[1][2] although the cover of the 2001 edition by Dover Publications credits only Baum. The original introduction claimed that the book was based on notes by Baum, but this has been disproven.
Checking the cover of book 16, it looks like the Oz books written after that are clearly attributed to their actual authors, although they mention Baum came up with Oz.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:17 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

The Astérix comic books are still "signed" prominently by R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo, even though the original authors died in 1977 and 2020 respectively. The current authors appear on the cover too, but written in smaller case.
posted by elgilito at 12:29 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Todd MacCaffrey continued Anne MacCaffrey's Pern series. From the wiki article:
the editor at Del Rey asked me to write a "sort of scrapbook" about Mum partly to prevent Mum from writing her autobiography instead of more Pern books. That was Dragonholder [1999]. The editor had also pitched it to me that someone ought to continue Mum's legacy when she was no longer able. At the time I had misgivings and no story ideas
(am side-eying the "let's prevent the woman writing her autobiog" thing)
posted by paduasoy at 1:25 AM on January 23

Wikipedia offers a long list of authors with pen names - and you can scan it for cases where the same name is used by more than one actual author. Barnes and Noble have a page of books which were continued by somebody else after the author's death - but still with their name.
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 AM on January 23

Jill Paton Walsh who finished Dorothy Sayers' last novel (Thrones, Dominations) quite well I thought but then went on to write a series of pretty awful continuations.
posted by tardigrade at 3:21 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Dick Francis
Clive Cussler (I'm assuming that a) he's dead, and b) nobody wanted to turn off the money pump)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:39 AM on January 23

Robert Parker's Spencer books are attributed to the new author, but on the cover Parker's name is bigger than either theirs or the title.

Similarity, new authors have continued to write Bond novels, with permission from Ian Fleming's estate.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:11 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Sophie Hannah writes books featuring Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:13 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series has been continued by Robert Goldsborough but under Goldsborough's name.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:13 AM on January 23

I see someone already said it, but the sheer scope of V.C. Andrews' output has to be detailed: Cleo Virginia Andrews wrote five books, started two others, and had a science fiction novel in a drawer. Since her death, Andrew Neiderman finished those two she had started, wrote two more all on his own to finish off a series, and then went on to write eighty-nine brand new novels under the V.C. Andrews pen name. The fact that an author's name is a distinct item of value exists because the IRS successfully sued the Andrews estate.
posted by Etrigan at 5:45 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]

Clive Cussler died a couple years ago. It looks like his "posthumous" output has been novels with his name in the title, but clearly credited to other writers, including his son Dirk. (Dirk Cussler had already co-written a number of Dirk Pitt novels with his father before he passed away.)
posted by kindall at 6:17 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Please reassure me that Tolkien's writing is still at least somewhat JRR's, or at a minimum with some words by Christopher.

I feel this is like what JWZ refers to as "brand necrophilia". I actually liked Clancy (in an airport novel sense) until it was clear he had been completely disconnected from the writing process - which became even more right wing, if that's even possible. And I'm still sore about the Ludlum I bought and didn't notice the *very* fine print.
posted by scolbath at 6:24 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

scolbath, Christopher Tolkien edited his father's notes and put them into coherent format. So for the most part, the posthumous Tolkien books are JRR's words, made readable by Christopher (and Brian Sibley, after Christopher's death).
posted by lhauser at 6:41 AM on January 23

Excellent - I was doing some frantic googling when I saw Sibley's name on Fall of Numenor.
posted by scolbath at 6:47 AM on January 23

It's been long rumored that L. Ron Hubbard did not write the pretty atrocious sci-fi series Mission Earth, which was published after he died.
posted by Mid at 6:54 AM on January 23

There has been one posthumous Olivier B. Bommel story, but its cover fairly clearly lists "Text: Henk Hardeman Graphics: Henrieke Goorhuis, after Marten Toonder". It'll probably stay a one-off.

Toonder was a master of prose who has introduced several neologisms and standing expressions in the Dutch language, and the new author even introduced a few of his own there although those haven't caught on like the originals have. But that obviously happened because of their recurrence.
posted by Stoneshop at 7:36 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

After the death of Margery Allingham, her husband Phillip Youngman Carter completed her final novel, Cargo of Eagles and then wrote a couple more novels starring her detective, Albert Campion. More recently, Mike Ripley finished PYC's final Campion novel and has written quite a few more.
posted by dizziest at 7:38 AM on January 23

Maxwell Grant (The Shadow stories.)
Kenneth Robeson (Doc Savage stories.)
posted by SPrintF at 8:34 AM on January 23

Jill Paton Walsh who finished Dorothy Sayers' last novel (Thrones, Dominations) quite well I thought but then went on to write a series of pretty awful continuations.
posted by tardigrade

Jill Paton Walsh was an excellent writer, who died in 2020. I think she was a better writer herself than Sayers, at least when I look at some of her early work. There is a not insubstantial chance that you have a double ghost writer situation going on here. She had a contract to write the Sayer's novels but once she was locked into the contract and the marketing budget was finalized, she herself may have resorted to ghost writers to enable her to have manuscripts to send on to the publisher by deadline.

There are any number of living successful writers who do not write most of their own novels anymore. You can tell by the stylistic changes and the word frequency. Stephen King is one who didn't switch to ghost writers (at least not the stuff I have most recently read of his) but this is epidemic with romance writers. This is especially common with long running contracts where the author comes up with a precis of each book and a structure to tie the series together. If the author needs to meet publisher deadlines at that point, there are plenty of people who will switch from writing papers for university and high school students, to writing novels with guidelines as detailed as "...2000 to 2250 words to describe a murder scene, 1000 words to describe an attempt on the detective's life, 1000 words to introduce "Sydney" who is later to be in a sexual scene, etc." Their trade requires them to have no distinctive style of their own, and it really, really shows.

I am guessing that sometimes the publisher doesn't even know when they farm the writing out, and other times when the publisher requires the author to work with certain contract ghost writers.

I think writing may be in a transition stage where it is going from collaborative groups of un-credited authors writing under one name, to where some of the writers in those groups will be AI in the next decade or so. But now I am very deep in speculation!
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:46 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Stephen King is one who didn't switch to ghost writers

King is interesting because he's his own ghost writer, ie, as Richard Bachman.
posted by SPrintF at 11:39 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

In the tradition of Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene, "Tabor Evans" was a house name used on hundreds of sexy Westerns from 1978 to 2015
posted by Epixonti at 5:01 PM on January 24

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