Have you noticed how many writers, later in their careers, have less to write about but need more words to do it in ? I wouldn’t say his happens with every writer but it happens often enough for me to have noticed it. A good example is James D. Doss, the author of the Charlie Moon mysteries. The charm of these books lay in the author’s asides and the way in which the different characters articulated their thoughts. Particularly funny was Daisy Perika, Charlie Moon’s ancient aunt, a curmudgeonly, irascible, cunning yet lovable sort who carried on conversations with an imaginary goblin type creature called the pintukupf. However, towards the end of Doss’ writing career, the strength of the Charlie Moon books became their weakness. The author’s ratiocinations and the characters musings became longer and longer until they took over the book. The last novel in the series, The Old Gray Wolf, written just before Doss passed away, was practically unreadable.
I’ve noticed the same thing with several other authors, among them Tom Clancy, W.E.B. Griffin, Robert D. Parker , Stuart Woods and P.C. Doherty. It is perfectly understandable because it is very, very difficult to come up with fresh ideas after a while. Some, who are authoring a series of novels about a central character, stick to a formula that they know will be successful with their devoted readers. A good example is John D. McDonald, the creator of the Travis McGee series about the laidback Florida adventurer who lives on a houseboat, The Busted Flush, and makes a career out of rescuing damsels in distress and keeping a percentage of the money he recovers. Each novel ends with McGee sailing off into the sunset with the rescued fair maiden, nursing her back to full recovery by bedding her frequently. This theme no doubt struck a chord with readers , especially male readers, who made McDonald one of the best selling authors in the seventies and eighties.
Without this strategy, what else can authors do when they run short of ideas? One device is to make the books appear longer than they are by including a lot of dialogue which results in fewer words per page and more pages , thicker books. In Doss’ case, he fluffs up his book by having his characters think out aloud, at length.
There are some authors who are able to maintain the quality of their books to the end of their writing careers. One of them was Jon Cleary(1917-2010) , the Australian author of the Scobie Malone mysteries set in Sydney, who was active well into his late eighties. There aren’t too many like him.