When I am Dictator – Literary Necrophilia


I opened a delivery of books this morning and found, amongst other things, a book entitled Mr D’Arcy’s Great Escape, written by an American lady of the name Marsh Altman.

Yes, my friends, the literary necrophiliacs are at it again, once more disinterring the bodies of great and wonderful characters and heaving against them with their pale and spotty flanks, trying in vain to reverse Frankenstein’s gestation by dragging the spark of life out of an inanimate body.

This book is yet one more in the seemingly endless series of supposed sequels to or continuations of Pride and Prejudice. I neither know nor have the stomach to investigate how many times such a thing has been perpetrated, and will leave it to another to carry out this unpleasant and thankless task, much in the manner of the man who first came up with a comprehensive list of all the different Earths in DC Comics’ pre-Crisis Multiverse.

Looking at the blurb to this volume,I learned that Mr D’Arcy’s Great Escape offered High Adventure, Derring-Do, Unjust Imprisonments, Continent-crossing clashes and, that most Austenian of concepts, Globe-Trotting Asian Assassins.

As this is purportedly the first of a no doubt lengthy series of exploitive rip-offs lovingly constructed excursions into the beloved world of Jane Austen, I look forward to Ms Altman’s next offering, in which Mrs Elizabeth D’Arcy will undoubtedly be bitten by a radioactive spider, knit herself an immodest red and blue costume, and go swinging between the skyscrapers of the City of Bath.

When I am Dictator, there will not be such things. Any person harbouring notions such as this will be slaughtered out of hand as soon as they get within fifteen yards of a printers, and generous bounties will be disbursed upon production of the stripped-out hard drives from their laptops.

And we shall all settle down with a good book.

14 thoughts on “When I am Dictator – Literary Necrophilia

  1. Am I to take it, then, that I cannot count on your support for my upcoming ‘Fanny Hill in New York’?

  2. Funny you should say that.
    Only the one though, he’s a dwarf with a wooden leg that shoots poison darts.

  3. Hmm. On balance, at the moment, I’m leaning towards the position that, When I am Dictator, you should publish abroad. Of course, you could always stay and rely upon my benevolent nature…

    1. Naah, don’t think I’ll chance it.
      Actually this sort of thing has been done well by MacDonald Fraser in the Flashman books.
      I hope you would spare him.

      1. Hey, Colin, you’re talking to a major Flashman/Fraser fan here.

        The difference is that Fraser took a minor character in a classic novel and transformed him into a hero is his own right, a rampant adventurer, an acutely accurate historian and a fantastic symbol in one go.

        Had he started writing sequels to Tom Brown, Fraser would have been guilty ofthe despicable pursuit I call Literary Necrophilia. Sadly, it doesn’t only apply to classics such as Jane Austen: there’s a new HItch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy novel out, and what about all those sequels to James Bond – who remembers a single one of them?

        I don’t actually see anyone ever wanting to write a fourth Richard and Susan novel if I decide not to (and I can’t foresee a circumstance where I would) but nobody is going to take my characters and fuck around with them after my death.

        If Jane Austen didn’t consider a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, nobody should be allowed to go near it.

        Satirical usage – have you ever read any of Jasper fforde’s Thursday Next novels? – is another kettle of fish. That I don’t mind.

  4. Agreed, it’s pretty parasitical. But these awful hacks must be doing it with the agreement of publishers.
    Flashy, of course, is a literary creation. His cowardice is a wonderful conceit and the only time he acted with bravery was when he had taken weed.
    Damn good way to learn history too.

  5. That’s as may be, although those in the public domain are free for anyone to dig up and use. For those where the corpse-fucking is permitted, and in the case of James Bond, solicited but publishers and copyright holders, I remain a strict constructionalist. What possible interest could I have in an HHGTTG novel written by someone not Douglas Adams, even if he has genuine writing credentials like Eion Colfer? It doesn’t come out of Douglas Adams’s head, it’s meaningless. The only purpose is to rip off idiot readers for more money out of the franchise. It reduces the genuine work to an inanimate franchise, devoid of any life.

    Only if, during his lifetime, the original creator has encouraged other writers to make unrestrained use of his creations, WITHOUT his direct approval, is the practice even borderline permissable.

    I do draw a distinction with characters of mythic proportion, like Frankenstein or Dracula, who have subsumed the specific literary invention within something larger, or Superman and Batman, who are shared creations, constantly remakable.

    As for the rest, why don’t you show some originality?

  6. This Jasper Fforde sounds interesting, I’d never heard of him. I will certainly look out for his work.
    There is a lot of good stuff out there and it is a fucking outrage that Jordan outsells them all put together

  7. Got to be careful which Jasper Fforde’s you read, Colin.

    As well as the Thursday Next series (currently running to six books, which should be read in sequence, start with The Eyre Affair), there are two books in the Nursery Crime series, which are respectively awful and moderate, plus Shades of Grey, which starts a trilogy: interesting premise executed dully.

    It’s odd to find a writer who can write fascinating, clever, funny books in one series, but who misfires so grievously as soon as he moves off that series.

  8. As an ex-Rankin fan, I know what you mean. His Brentford novels hold up, most of the rest don’t. So far the Thursday Next books don’t fail to entertain.

    1. Have you read any of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s work?
      Two great books, ‘Angel’s Game’ and ‘Shadow of the wind’ set in Barcelona.
      Apparently he’s now a script writer in Hollywood so it’s unlikely there will be any more.

      1. I’ve read both, though I much preferred The Angel’s Game. They were supposed to be a set of four, so it’s a shame if he won’t continue.

        But William Goldman managed to combine screenplays and novels, so there’s hope.

        And if you’ve not read Goldman, you really should get his two volumes of memoirs, Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?

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