Help me find something to read before Discworld runs out!
November 4, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Fiction series spanning 30+ years? I'm almost done re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Before that, I read Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series. I love the fact that both these authors are still writing about characters they invented in the 70's and 80's. What other authors have done this?

Oh, and I'm a sucker for anything set in England around the 1900's. Nothing scary or depressing - this is for light bedtime reading.
posted by selfmedicating to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series fits the bill. It's a series spanning 40 years in real-time.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:46 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well, I suspect you've already heard of them (!) but the first Sherlock Holmes story was serialised in 1887, and the last in (I believe) 1927.
posted by Luddite at 9:54 AM on November 4, 2007

Have you already read Making Money? I do wish Terry would write faster, even though he churns out the books pretty quickly.

You might try the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. The first one is from the early 90s, so that doesn't quite meet your 30+ year timeline, but they're hefty, fat books and great bedtime reading. The storyline spans at least 30 years, I think.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:54 AM on November 4, 2007

Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series is set in Victorian England (late 1800s/early 1900s). The first one was written in 1979 (The Cater Street Hangman), and the most recent will be released in 2008.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:04 AM on November 4, 2007

P.G. Wodehouse started writing about Jeeves in 1919 and was still writing about him in the 70s.
posted by grumblebee at 10:09 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman probably fits the bill. The first one was published in 1969.
posted by markdj at 10:10 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Patrick O'Brian's famed Aubrey–Maturin series fits the 30-year bill to a T. The first book, "Master and Commander" was published in '69 (though I've also read '70) and the last book, "Blue at the Mizzen" in '99. (An unfinished book was published posthumously in 2004).
posted by grumblebee at 10:14 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

There are tons of mystery writers who would qualify, although most of the ones I can think of off-hand might be too heavy or depressing for you. Ruth Rendell has been writing about her detective, Reginald Wexford, since the mid-'60s. Reginald Hill has been doing Dalziel/ Pascoe books for almost as long. Both Wexford and Pascoe's families feature heavily in the books, which I guess makes them a little Peabody-esque.

I don't think A.S. Byatt quite made 30 years, but she published four books about Frederica Potter and her family over the course of about 25. The first one is The Virgin in the Garden, which is set in the early '50s, when Frederica is a schoolgirl. Still Life takes place in the mid-'50s, when Frederica is at Cambridge, and Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman are set in the '60s. They're not light reading, either, because they're big, complex novels of ideas, but they're pretty entertaining.
posted by craichead at 10:17 AM on November 4, 2007

Charles Hamilton (a.k.a. Frank Richards) started writing stories about the fat schoolboy Billy Bunter in 1907 and was still writing about him in the 50s.
posted by grumblebee at 10:20 AM on November 4, 2007

The first book in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever was published in 1977, and the last book came out only a few weeks ago. It doesn't strictly follow your request, though, as the focus changes from character to character over time, but close. And it's really good, albeit not everyone's cup of tea.
posted by gemmy at 10:48 AM on November 4, 2007

This kind of thing seems to be pretty common in genre fiction. Donald Westlake has been writing crime fiction about John Dortmunder and the one-named Parker for closer to forty years now, and, on the other side of the law, Robert B. Parker has been writing about his detective, Spenser, for just as long.
posted by box at 10:51 AM on November 4, 2007

Updike's Rabbit series? Philip Roth's Zuckerman books?
posted by sock it to me monkey at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2007

Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion books have been going since the 1960s.
posted by meehawl at 11:00 AM on November 4, 2007

Not quite the longevity as some of the series mentioned here, but Terry Brooks has been writing since 1985 or 1986, and save for his Magic Kingdom series, all his books are set in the same universe.
posted by phaded at 11:02 AM on November 4, 2007

Sue Grafton started writing the alphabet murders series, starring Kinsey Millhone, in 1982 and it is still going strong. Started with A is for Alibi and she's up to T is for Trespass now.
posted by smoakes at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2007

These are great suggestions. I'm leaning toward either Wodehouse or the Nero Wolfe books. I had no idea Wodehouse wrote about Jeeves for so long.

I've reread the sherlock holmes stories so much they're falling apart. And Making Money is next on my list.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:05 AM on November 4, 2007

What about The Cat Who... series by Lillian Jackson Braun, or the alphabet series (A is for...) by Sue Grafton?

And the Nero Wolfe books are fabulous - just don't read them on an empty stomach, or you'll be forced to get out of bed and whip up a gourmet meal before you can get to sleep.
posted by Addlepated at 11:10 AM on November 4, 2007

Ruth Rendell has been writing about Inspector Wexford since the 1960s.
posted by essexjan at 11:15 AM on November 4, 2007

He died a couple of years ago but Ed McBain wrote about Steve Carella from the 1956 until the last 87th Precinct novel which was published just before he died in 2005. In the first novel, Carella is a mid-30s WW2 veteran. By the last novel he's just turned 40, although each individual novel is set in the year in which it is actually written.
posted by essexjan at 11:27 AM on November 4, 2007

Robert Parker's been writing his toughguy detective Spenser since 1973. I can't vouch for the later ones, but the first 7 or so are decent enough hardboiled stuff.
posted by mediareport at 11:32 AM on November 4, 2007

I'm leaning toward either Wodehouse or the Nero Wolfe books

Both. Seriously great light reading there. I found that it took a few books for Rex Stout to hit his stride, but it

I would be remiss not to mention that there are over thirty-three Hercule Poirot noves, including the excellent Murder of Roger ...oh dear.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2007

bleh, so much for proofing.

"I found that it took a few books for Rex Stout to hit his stride," but when he does, there are few authors who are more entertaining.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2007

Orson Scott Card wrote Ender's Game in 1985. He has since written five books and numerous short stories in 'The Ender saga', as well as a short novel released this year, called 'A War of Gifts: An Ender Story'.

'The Shadow Saga' starts with Ender's Shadow, written in 1999, and is a parallel story to Ender's Game. There are three additional books and one forthcoming in this saga.

Ender's Game is one of my favorite books, but to be honest, I didn't care for the books following Ender's Game in the Ender Saga. Go for the Shadow Saga instead. I haven't yet read A War of Gifts.
posted by cactus at 12:48 PM on November 4, 2007

If you like detective novels, you might also consider reading John Sandford. He has written 17 novels in the Prey series between 1989 and 2007, and 4 novels in the Kidd series between 1989 and 2003.
posted by cactus at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2007

I can't believe I'm the first to mention Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, a 12 book series published over a 25 year period. Some argue that it is in fact a 12-volume novel.

Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series is excellent as well. In fact, I've heard it likened to A Dance to the Music of Time.
posted by Kattullus at 1:25 PM on November 4, 2007

A Dance to the Music of Time (for example) is quite different from the Jeeves series (for example) in that, in the former, the characters develop and live a life, from childhood through to old age and death, whereas Jeeves and Wooster are ageless in a timeless world.
posted by londongeezer at 1:45 PM on November 4, 2007

If you enjoy science fiction, you'll love Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2007

PD James has been writing Adam Dalgleish mysteries since the sixties. There are very few of the serial mystery authors that I like, but I highly recommend her; the quality of writing is much better than what can often be expected from the genre.
posted by frobozz at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2007

I really do think Powell's Dance are extraordinary and show the development of time and character that makes this kind of project so fascinating.
posted by OmieWise at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2007

Thank you everyone!! I am particularly excited about A Dance to the Music of Time, though everything on here looks great.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:25 PM on November 4, 2007

"Perry Rhodan is the world's most prolific science fiction (SF) series, published since 1961 in Germany.

Perry Rhodan is unabashed space opera, picking up (or reinventing) virtually every theme that has ever appeared in science fiction. While critics outside the genre and many within have habitually savaged the series, its multi-decade commercial success has become a literary phenomenon in itself. If nothing else, Perry Rhodan provides a mirror of the contemporary zeitgeist, reflecting concerns such as the 1960s Cold War, 1970s New Age, and 1980s peace movement in its story line. The series and its spin-offs have captured a substantial fraction of the original German science fiction output and exert an undeniable influence on German writers in the field."

It was also translated into english, but I guess it would be hard to find these days...
posted by kolophon at 6:00 PM on November 4, 2007

Clive Cussler had his first Dirk Pitt novel published in 1973 and the latest was published last year. They're pulpy marine Indiana Jones books basically. I didn't see the movie based on Sahara last year, but I heard it was pretty awful. If you did, people who like these books say it shouldn't colour your view of them, for what that's worth.
posted by Nelsormensch at 6:02 PM on November 4, 2007

Robert Jordan just recently passed away, and was working on the 12th book in his Wheel of Time series. Apparently he left outlines for his wife to finish the final volume. I don't know if that fits your question, but it certainly is a long running series.
posted by zardoz at 7:31 PM on November 4, 2007

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series is 7 books long, the first one published in 1978 (in book form, it was serialized first) and the latest published just this year. I just found out about it tonight listening to Maupin being very entertaining on BBC's World Book Club (link to podcast). That podcast convinced me to put Tales of the City on my mental to-read list.
posted by Kattullus at 7:41 PM on November 4, 2007

Your one correct answer is: Go get some Wodehouse. If you like Pratchett, 1900s England, and light bedtime reading, it's pretty much a perfect storm. And don't worry about limiting yourself to Jeeves books; Wodehouse has other serieses too, which are all lovely.

I was also going to recommend Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, detective stories.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:55 PM on November 4, 2007

I've recommended Angela Thirkell before, and she certainly fits British, light reading, long-lasting series. She started in the early 30s and continued late into the 50s.
posted by anitar at 6:35 AM on November 5, 2007

Sorry, you can't mention O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels without mentioning C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, which had a publication history spanning exactly 30 years (1937-1967) and covers the English Navy during the same period of history. Hornblower was an influence not only on O'Brian, but on David Weber's Honor Harrington science fiction series (as well as Star Trek, I've heard).

Also, it's just a single book, and it's not fiction, but I just finished reading Erick Larson's "Thunderstruck," a new account of the Crippen murder in 1910 London, juxtaposed with the development of Marconi's wireless. Not heavy reading, and the two stories together show how a single sensational murder put the new technology in the forefront of the public consciousness.
posted by lhauser at 10:41 PM on November 5, 2007

Antonia Forrest's children's books about the Marlow family. The first was published in 1948 and the last in 1982. Wikipedia. Obituary. Website. I find the books emotionally involving, well-written and funny.
posted by paduasoy at 1:22 AM on February 13, 2008

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