Don't mess with your readers, says Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. The only reason people care about Ian Rankin is because of Rebus, he writes, in response to a Herald article about the author, with the provocative title 'Killing characters is the real crime for fans'.
In the Herald piece, Colin Waters reports Rankin's announcement of his new series and opines that "the omens are not good", on the basis that Colin Dexter wrote no more after Morse, J K Rowling has yet to write anything significant after Harry Potter and Agatha Christie killed off Poirot because she did not like him.
I don't think any of these examples are relevant: Dexter pretty much retired after many years of Morse novels; Agatha Christie wrote many successful novels (series and non-series) before and after giving up on Poirot; and J K Rowling is not a crime-fiction author, conceived Potter as a seven-novel series, and is hardly a Salinger-like case yet. On the other hand, there are plenty of counter-examples of commercially successful authors who write more than one series and/or who write series and stand-alone novels: Val McDermid, Peter Temple, Ruth Rendell, John Harvey, Jonathan Kellerman, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Andrew Taylor, Harlan Coben, Karin Slaughter, Patricia Cornwell and so on.
Be that as it may, Waters concludes that "Rankin has resisted the temptation to revive Rebus" but that if he does write another book featuring his famous detective, "the motive will be…..no great mystery". Give the guy a chance! The last Rebus book, Exit Music, was published only a couple of years ago and there have already been two novels since - last year's Doors Open, which as top-selling UK paperback last week could hardly be doing better, and the upcoming (aptly titled!) The Complaints.
I predict that Ian Rankin will be crying all the way to the bank whether or not he decides to revive Rebus – he's a good writer and people like reading him. (His pre-Rebus novels were not successful when first published, but even though they aren't as good as the Rebus novels, they certainly were commercially successful when they were republished after the author found fame with Rebus – himself not immediately successful – it took a good few years for Rebus to catch on with the wide readership he currently enjoys.)
I was going to make this a two-part post and have a go at another (unrelated) strange attack, but given the length of this post already, I'll return to the topic of "Complaints" another time.