As I mentioned in my weekly updates, I spend a lot of time reading. If Im neck-deep in one of my own projects I tend to ween off a bit, especially from writer's w/ strong voices, just to preserve my own in my mind. (Imagine trying to write new music while listening to the radio…it just wouldn't end well). In between though? 2-3 books a week on average. New authors, old standbys, crime thrillers, westerns…doesn't matter. You give me a strong voice and at least one or two characters to latch on to and I'll ride it out with ya til the end.

That being said, I have noticed an enormous growing literary trend of using “co-writers.” And by co-writers I mean “an established author that begins farming out the actual writing to underlings and slapping their names on it for the sake of collecting a paycheck.” A friend and I were discussing this the other day and she asked me what my thoughts were on the practice.

In a word…deplorable.

To me, the first one to really broach this topic was Louis L'Amour. Make no mistake, I am a big L'Amour fan and grew up reading all of his stuff right after my pop was through plowing through them. To this day there are two enormous stacks of his books in a cupboard at home. However, I remember finding it odd at the time and incomprehensible now that he was somehow putting out new material decades after he passed away. His family always claimed that they were merely publishing manuscripts that he had written and never gotten a chance to release. Hmmm…..

The more likely scenario? Someone else was writing, putting his name on it, watching royalties roll in.

While L'Amour was ahead of his time, the past decade has seen this process explode. James Frey. James Patterson. Janet Evanovich. All working authors putting out skads of books a year, barely a trace of which they've actually written themselves. Even worse? People like Sir Ian Fleming and Robert B. Parker, both of which are long since passed, continuing to write new novels surrounding well known protagonists.

To be fair, I enjoy a good character line as much as anybody. You give me a new Jack Reacher novel (do NOT let the movie throw ya off the scent here…the writing is excellent) and I will stay out of your hair for at least the next 4-6 hours. In Fleming's case, I believe the world is a better place with James Bond in it. (Skyfall proved that) But writing brand new works, and still packaging them under the source writer's name and heading?

This sort of practice would be akin to the new Iron Man movie coming out with Robert Downey Jr's name and likeness on the poster, only some unknown thespian-in-training actually playing the part in the movie. Don't tell me millions of movie goers wouldn't feel gyped.

In some ways, I can support this sort of practice for the purpose of bringing new and exciting writer's to the forefront. If packaging w/ an existing commodity such as Clive Cussler makes that easier, so be it. Im all in. On the flip side though, just hiring faceless hacks to continue writing like another author just seems wrong.

I don't know…maybe I'm wrong. And maybe I sound more sanctimonious than I intend in writing this. But I know I, and many fellow writers I know, do write because we love telling stories. If the point ever comes when I need someone else to write them for me, I'd like to think maybe it's time

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