Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Return of the Writing Dead

Thriller author Vince Flynn passed away last year after a battle with prostate cancer. His hero, the tougher-than-nails CIA operative and former assassin Mitch Rapp, was a not-always-nice guy who had zero problem with doing unto others before they did it unto him, and sometimes doing unto others who might possibly have been thinking about contemplating doing unto him. Flynn gave Rapp some dimension and depth, and every once in awhile let him think about the consequences of his actions as well as his permanent disdain for anyone who sat behind a desk. That depth, plus Flynn's strong style and deft handle on action scenes, made the Rapp books a big-selling series.

Publisher Simon and Schuster was loathe to let such a property ride off into the sunset, especially since Flynn had a novel in production when he passed, so they and Flynn's estate have tapped Kyle Mills to finish the 14th Mitch Rapp novel, The Survivor, and then produce two more.

It's hard to know exactly how to greet this news. Some reanimated characters work. A whole lot don't. The ones that seem to have the hardest time are those in which the actual novels' success owed as much to writing skill, style and the author's own creativity in dialogue, scene-setting, language or some other aspect of the craft. The undead versions may have the same names and do some of the same things, but the difference is obvious and it is not to the replacement authors' advantage.

Flynn's strengths were in his explanation of Rapp's laser focus on his task, his unflinching willingness to be brutal to get that task done and his ferocious loyalty to those who had earned it. Those things can probably be echoed by another author. Stylistically, Flynn's strengths were clear descriptions and prose that didn't divert from its purpose of storytelling and a little scene-setting. That's probably also easier to duplicate than, say, witty, snappy and smart-mouth dialogue such as Robert B. Parker gave his protagonists. Continued Rapp wouldn't necessarily need a great author, but it sure as heck needs a good one.

Unfortunately, judging from the one book of his I have encountered so far, Kyle Mills is not a good author. Maybe five years have improved him. We will have to hope so, I suppose.

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