As I am in the process of completing only my second DI Yates novel, I hope that I shall not need to worry about whether I have exhausted his potential for some time yet. However, how writers manage to keep on presenting the lead character in a series in a fresh way is something that I find fascinating. Conan Doyle, wanting to save his mind ‘for better things’, killed off Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, only to resurrect him in response to public demand. Peter Robinson gives DI Banks a rich personal life, an often racy account of which forms a sub-plot in each of those novels. Ian Rankin announced that the seventeenth Rebus book would be the last and then changed his mind: Standing in Another Man’s Grave was published in November. I’m sure that Rankin’s revival of Rebus, like Doyle’s of Sherlock Holmes, was created in response to popular demand and that Rebus still has a rich future ahead of him, thanks particularly to Rankin’s inventive plot skills.
Some characters (no names, no pack drill!) do, however, seem to me to have run their literary course and should be allowed to die or retire. Surely their creators must realise this? Yet it takes a brave writer not only to know that the time has come to kill her/his cash cow, but also to do the deed.
I’m sure that, once it is done, authors mourn the hero or heroine who has been so much part of their inner life for so many years. I do, however, have more than a little admiration for an author who does not allow a relationship with a popular character to become too comfortable!