It’s hard to imagine that after a decade, I’m giving up on a series that I’ve long adored, one that helped open up an entirely new avenue of reading for me.
And yet, when Dead Reckoning goes on sale tomorrow my long-time May tradition won’t come to pass. It’s not that I plan to wait for the the 11th book in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries to be released in paperback, it’s that I don’t plan to buy it at all. Sigh.
None of the books in the series sit on my all-time keeper shelf, although Dead Until Dark, Club Dead, Dead as a Doornail, and From Dead to Worse came closest. I even liked 2009’s Dead and Gone well enough, but 2010’s Dead in the Family put a nail in Sookie Stackhouse’s coffin, in part because Harris’ cast of characters (human and “monster”) has grown too unwieldy.
I think Harris has been forced by her own success to up the ante and grow Sookie’s world ever larger in a manner similar to romantic suspense authors fifteen or so years ago when their violence became ever more gruesome.
But it’s not just that. Reading genre fiction for me is like a journey. When I started reading romance, it was only historical romance. When that got a little stale, I added contemporaries. A couple of years after that I started to read category romance, and then trad Regencies. For a long while this mix satisfied, but staleness eventually began to set in again when I had the good fortune to discover and glom onto urban fantasy.
Sookie, Anita, Merry, and Riley satisfied me...and then I read a book that upped the ante. It was Lori Handeland’s Any Given Doomsday (which I wrote about a few weeks ago in the first of my two “savant” pieces). I described to customers at the bookstore the addition of demonic elements, of biblical and Native American mythology, as “urban fantasy on steroids.” Ever since, reading regular urban fantasy hasn’t quite been the same. And though a sub-plot in many of the Riley Jenson novels—my favorite urban fantasy series until Handeland's came along—involved creating a race of super preternaturals, it too lacked the wow factor of a good old-fashioned apocalypse. Richard Kadrey, Lori Handeland, and now Jennifer Lyon do for me what Charlaine Harris no longer can.
Giving up on this long-running series isn’t something I take lightly. Earlier in the year I thought I’d be giving up another, even longer-running series—J.D. Robb’s In Death series—but Treachery in Death was good enough to take it off the hit list, and frankly, I’m glad, because seven of the books in that series do sit on my all-time keeper shelf.
It’s not as though any of Robb’s books were bad, but they weren’t necessarily great or even really good any more. I’m the type of person who’d rather cut her losses and get out before a downward slide than stick around and watch it. Last fall I recommended Indulgence in Death with some exceptions, but noted that the series seemed at a tipping point.
That was before Possession in Death came out in The Other Side, Robb’s annual anthology with some of her closest writing pals. I liked it less, found it barely above average, actually, and noted on my blog that I planned to give her one more chance to win me over. She did with Treachery in Death, saving me from what would have been an actual period of mourning over the loss of Eve, Roarke, Peabody, and the rest.
Good thing, too, because last year was tough enough. I started pre-mourning LOST when the first of the final season’s 18 episodes aired. Doc Jensen’s weekly analytical extravaganzas on ew.com only made things worse. Unlike many, I liked the finale, and a year later, the only protected hours of programming on my TiVo are the pre-finale wrap-up, the finale, and Jimmy Kimmel’s post-finale show.
LOST was more or less a solitary experience, while The Sopranos was something my husband and I shared since the first episode in 1999. Although the finale aired almost four years ago, I will never forget the surprise ending, when I yelled “what the fuck?” and grabbed the remote to make sure our satellite hadn’t gone out at the Worst Moment Ever. I soon realized David Chase had purposefully ending the series by cutting to black.
Instead of sharing in the outrage over Chase’s handling of the final moments of his show, I had a similar reaction to it as I did to the final episode of LOST...and it’s how I’ve approached Mad Men since downloading a free iTunes preview of it a month or so before it debuted on AMC.
As a viewer or reader of their entertainments, I’m along for the ride and I’ll follow the producers/writers for as long as I choose to...or until they choose to fade to black. It’s their vision, and I either choose to take part in it or I don’t. If they start to lose me as some point—for some reason—I grant them a grace period to once again woo me. Sometimes they succeed, as Mad Men did with The Suitcase, what I consider the best of the series’ episodes in a less-than-stellar season. J. D. Robb did it with Treachery in Death. But I won’t be there for Charlaine Harris’ Dead Reckoning. I’ll miss my May tradition; hopefully another one will soon replace it.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.