First among sequels
What’s common between classics like Pride & Prejudice, Gone With the Wind and the James Bond and Harry Potter series? They all have spawned sequels by different authors
Sonali Seth

Back in the sixteenth century, renowned French oracle Nostradamus predicted the future of the world as no one had ever done before. He forecast the rise of tyrants, natural catastrophes, wars, assassinations and terrorism in times to come. Most of his prophecies, including that predicting Princess Diana’s death and the 9/11 attack on America, have come true. Over the last four centuries, several attempts have been made to do a sequel to the Nostradamus magnum opus, Les Propheties by a number of authors. Though most have turned out to be mere fiction, the very fact that the feat has been attempted frequently speaks volumes of the greatness of the French seer. As the written word takes centre-stage all over again, sequels have become mega business. Many well-known authors are picking up novels of some most celebrated writers to continue from where they left.

Reviving Wodehouse

In 2008 the estate of Ian Fleming, the celebrated author of James Bond series, asked Faulks to do a sequel on Agent 007, nearly four and a half decades after the original author’s death. The result was Devil May Care which became an instant bestseller with over 44,000 hardback novels flying off from bookshop shelves within four days of its release 

In April, avid readers greeted with caution the announcement that Sebastian Faulks, one of Britain’s best-selling authors, is to write a new Jeeves and Bertie Wooster novel, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. The book, according to the publishers, is an attempt to expand the humorous series written by P G Wodehouse and will be the first-officially sanctioned one since the great humorist’s death in 1975. It is scheduled for publication worldwide on November 6, 2013. The Wodehouse Estate has said in a statement: “We are thrilled that so skilful and stylish a novelist, and so perceptive and discerning a reader, has agreed to bring to life the immortal characters Jeeves and Bertie Wooster for the enjoyment of today’s audience..”

James Bond sequels

Interestingly, this is not the first time Faulks is attempting a sequel. Back in 2008, the estate of Ian Fleming, the celebrated author of James Bond series, asked Faulks to do a sequel on Agent 007, nearly four and a half decades after the original author’s death. The result was Devil May Care. James Bond sequels have attracted other writers like American author Jeffery Deaver and British authors like Kingsley Amis and William Boyd.

Deaver’s 2011 sequel Carte Blanche shows Bond in the post-9/11 world as a veteran of the Afghan War. He gets an alert from his headquarters about an impending attack by terrorists. Agent 007 is given a carte blanche to avert the disaster. The first literary successor to Ian Fleming was the late British writer Sir Kingsley Amis. In 1965, he wrote two books revolving around James Bond. The first was a literary critique  The James Bond Dossier and the second that he wrote under the pseudonym Bill Tanner was called Every Man His Own 007. Three years later, he authored the first full-fledged Bond novel Colonel Sun. Rumours have persisted in the literary world that Amis unofficially completed The Man With the Golden Gun which Fleming was writing before his death.

Commissioned works

Why do authors slip into the skin of great masters? The most common being that many lesser-known writers and publishers feel that riding piggyback on great masters can guarantee them a hit. Well-known authors seldom attempt such sequels unless specifically commissioned by the estate or the publishers of the deceased writer as in the case of Sebestian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, Kingsley Amis and William Boyd. Some do sequels with the permission of the author or his or her estate while others just pick up the threads and continue from where a great work had ended. Some succeed while most fail which is why readers are sometimes not even aware that there is a continuation of a great novel by another author. Not many know that Margaret Mitchell’s iconic 1936 novel Gone With the Wind spawned a sequel in 1991 titled Scarlett by the late Alexandra Ripley. The book was panned by critics but it was adapted as a mini television series.

Continuation novel

Celebrated author Jane Austen, who wrote one of the most widely read books of the world, Pride and Prejudice too had a continuation novel. The 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by American best-selling author Seth Grahame Smith follows the plot of the original where the two main protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are amidst a plague of zombies. The book details how they fight back and win. The runaway success of the book encouraged the author to put a spin on Sense and Sensibility, another of Austen’s masterpieces, re-titling it as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.


For many authors masterpieces provide a rich canvas of words and characters and stories to draw upon. Irish author Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula too has been the subject of many sequels, the most serious being Dracula: The Un-Dead by his great grand nephew Dacre Stoker and co-author Ian Holt. Though the bone-chiller received mixed reviews, it is the only official sequel to the original classic. Similarly, Sherlock Holmes has been the subject of many sequels but the 2011 mystery novel The House of Silk by British author Anthony Horowitz is the first officially sanctioned sequel by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Set in 1890, it replicates the spirit of Conan Doyle's stories.

Potter fan fiction

However, there are some sequels that rile the author. The dispute between J.K. Rowling and American author G. Norman Lippert comes to mind instantly. In 2007, the Harry Potter creator threatened legal action against Lippert for publishing the online novel, James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing, an unofficial sequel of the Potter series. The matter was resolved amicably when Rowling was told it was ‘fan fiction’. Set 18 years from the point where Rowling’s last novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended, Lippert’s book revolves around James, the son of Harry Potter. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Lippert has gone on to do three more books, James Potter and the Curse of the Gatekeeper, James Potter and the Vaults of Destinies and James Potter and the Morrigan Web. Rowling says she is honoured that people would want to write about the world she created.

Godfather cloned

“Great writing will always attract praise and sequels,” says American author Ed Falco, whose 2012 book The Corleone Family is based on an unproduced screenplay of Mario Puzo, the author of Godfather, who died in 1999. The book is a prequel to the Godfather, and received mixed reviews. It catapulted Falco into becoming a popular fiction writer.

That explains why continuation books are such a runaway success.

The Director's Cut

Hollywood films too have sequels

• The foremost among them must be Sylvestor Stallone’s 1976 film Rocky which was one of the biggest boxing dramas ever made. It won John G. Avildsen an Oscar for his amazing direction. Surprisingly, Stallone did not consider him for the next three Rocky movies but took on the director’s mantle himself. When the last Rocky movie was launched Stallone recalled Avildsen who delivered another knock-out box-office punch.

Despite the thundering success, the 1978 Superman directed by Richard Donner, producer Ilya Salkinds fell out with the director and replaced him with Richard Lester in the 1980 Superman ll and the 1983 Superman lll. He was replaced for the 1987 Superman lV by Sydney J. Furie.

The seven films in the Batman series have had three different directors in Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan. All, from 1989 to 2012 have been smash hits.

George Lucas is a part of the Star Wars folklore but not many know that he has directed only four of the seven movies. The three biggest successes of the series have had three different directors. The 1980 superhit The Empire Strikes Back was directed by Irvin Kershner, The 1983 blockbuster The Return of the Jedi by Richard Marquand and the 2008 The Clone Wars by Dave Filoni.

• Four of the biggest movie-series of the new millennium have had three different directors. The Bourne Identity in 2002 was directed by Doug Liman, the 2004 The Bourne Supremacy and the 2007 The Bourne Ultimatum by Paul Greengrass and the 2012 The Bourne Legacy by Tony Gilroy.