Unsanctioned: Sequels To Classic Novels Written By Different Authors

A literary trend I've never been able to support is that of sequels to classic novels written by different authors. Even when the author's estate actually sanctions these sequels, I will never consider them canon. I've read a few of them out of sheer curiosity and a penchant for masochism, and I cannot recommend a single one. 

Alexandra Ripley's Scarlett, the sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, immediately comes to mind. While it should be interesting to follow Scarlett to her ancestors' land in Ireland, the novel is remarkably unremarkable, an 800-some odd page exercise in tedium. Ripley even managed to sap the life out of Mitchell's prickly heroine, turning the legendary hellion into a well-behaved, dowdy homemaker. 

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is guilty of inspiring a staggering number of unsanctioned sequels, including M.K. Baxley's The Cumberland Plateau, Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife, Ted and Marilyn Bader's Desire and Duty, and any number of vampire-related sequels. I've only read Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and found it rather trashy, and I can't imagine any of the others are much better.

Recently Eoin Colfer wrote a sequel to the already sequel-heavy Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series called And Another Thing..., David Benedictus supplemented the Winnie the Pooh trust with Return to the Hundred Acre Wood and Bram Stoker's grandnephew Dacre Stoker published the book Dracula The Un-Dead. There are sequels written by different authors to Treasure IslandSherlock HolmesWar of the WorldsRobinson Crusoe and many, many more.

I simply can't muster up any enthusiasm for this medium. I feel that writing a sequel to another author's characters is in poor taste. Certainly the original authors had plans for those characters, secret plans hidden deep within their hearts that have now manifested into something else, someone else's future for their creations. 

What bothers me most about these sequels is that they inevitably spell out the happy endings left to our imagination by the original authors. We can imagine that Darcy and Lizzy will live in wedded bliss. I have a pretty good feeling that Scarlett would have gotten Rhett back one day. But these sequels can't trust us to be satisfied with the ambiguous. They must make the happy endings concrete and tangible - even when the original author didn't intend it.

Let's embark on an exercise, shall we? I'll start. I'm going to conceive of a few unsanctioned sequels to some of the most sacred novels of all time, and then you guys join me in the comments with your picks. 

The Great Carraway, sequel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway travels back West after Jay Gatsby's funeral, where he gets in on the ground floor of plastics and begins to build up his fortune. Ten years later, he moves back to West Egg and purchases Gatsby's mansion, where he then throws elaborate parties with the intention of wooing back Jordan Baker, whom he has never forgotten. Jordan is now married to a gruff man named Rob who is having an affair with a woman named Shirley, and the events of The Great Gatsby repeat themselves with new characters, except that no one dies and Rob happily steps aside so Nick and Jordan can be together forever.

The Fruits of Love, sequel to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Tom Joad becomes an agent of The New Deal, fighting oppression and promoting equal rights wherever he goes. When Ma Joad dies, Rosasharn takes her rightful place as the dreamy matriarch of the family, and with Tom's help, the Joad Family ekes out a suitable living in California. Rosasharn meets and falls in love with a fellow migrant from Oklahoma, and they have many fat babies together. The Joad Family lives in comfort, love and happiness for the rest of their days, rising above the Great Depression and the trials of their past with a can-do attitude and some jolly good luck. 

The Mockingbird's Song, sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Scout grows up and marries Dill, and they have cute little kiddos together. Boo Radley moves into their house and raises the children as if they were his own grandkids, and through years of affection, he slowly becomes more gregarious and confident. Atticus is elected town judge and he continues to fight for civil rights and justice the rest of his days. Jem becomes a professional baseball player and a national celebrity. Tom Robinson cheerfully haunts the happy family as the perky ghost in the attic. 

Okay, now it's your turn! Speak up in the comments.

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alisia's picture
alisia from Byron, NY is reading The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt August 27, 2012 - 11:48am

Lord of The Flies - 

The remaining children are rescued by soldiers. The sequel to this novel follows them on a rigorous journey back from savageness. We open with the boys aboard the ship. The adults are still quite indifferent and the group of savages have threatened Ralph to keep his mouth shut. Ralph desperately wants to share the tale of Piggy's death, but he's unable to, under threat from the boys. Upon return Ralph realizes that the savageness of his classmates was always there, boiling under the surface. He begins to notice a savagry about day to day life he hadn't noticed before. He sinks into nihilism.  

The boys work with teachers and coaches, learning to be human again. Their wildness is hardly taken seriously by adults. Instead, they laugh at their savagry and treat learning like a game. Soon Ralph is taken under a young nurse's wing. She looks after the boy and encourages him to talk about what took place on the island. As Ralph works up the courage to tell her the truth, the boys (led by Jack of course) stalk the halls of their dorm at night. Slowly, more and more boys begin to respond to the teachings of society and soon only Jack is left standing. He refuses to change his ways and respond to normalcy.

Ralph confeses everything and the adults are shocked to learn that the children were capable of such savagry. They begin to realize that the children are in need of more intensive therapy. Ralph is able to work through his post tramatic shock with the young nurse, who has taken him under her wing. As he gets better, Jack gets worse. At the end of the novel, Jack is being dragged - kicking and screaming - into a mental institution. He'll always be wild. 


Also, isn't writing a sequel to someone else's novel basically fan fiction?  

Nathan Keniston's picture
Nathan Keniston from Mexico, Missouri is reading Devil's Waltz by Jonathan Kellerman August 27, 2012 - 12:09pm

One instance where I disagree with you comes to mind, even though I'm not sure one would call them a sequel so much as a spin off. That would be Carole Nelson Douglas's Irene Adler series, which is based on Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. I think that she does an excellent job delving deeper into the lives of characters that Doyle didn't do much with.

Marc Ferris's picture
Marc Ferris from Carmel, California is reading Animal Attraction by Anna David August 27, 2012 - 12:35pm

Moby Kurtz: The Revenge.


The legendary whale, and the mad Ivory hunter return from the dead to torment European international trade. Marlow tracks down Dr. Van Helsing, and an ancient Ishmial in hopes they can team up to save the world from the extraordinary undead menace.


I will totally write this book for $9000 up front, and a case of Oreos.

eirikodin's picture
eirikodin from Auburn, NY is reading Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler August 27, 2012 - 1:54pm

As we lay dying, the sequel to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

The Bundren family finally make it back home after their horrible trip.  Cash dies of infection due to breaking his leg, Dewey dies of infection only after trying to abort her baby the old fashioned way, and the rest of the family eat some rancid meat left over from the very wet trip through the river.  Upon discovery of the death of this horrible and idiotic family another family makes the trek to bury them next to Addie and loses their bodies in that same flooded river and says "screw you guys I'm going home."  Upon hearing news of the demise of his family Darl is slapped perfectly sane and goes on to live a very fruitful life knowing this wouldn't happen if his family were still with him.  

I gotta say that some of these sequels aren't any better than movie parodies and I'd rather shoot myself in the foot than attempt to write a sequel to someone elses work.  There is no niche when it comes to rewriting someone elses work.  There is a word for that, I think its called plagiarism.  I suppose there is a price I'm willing to sell out my integrity for though.

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 August 27, 2012 - 4:33pm

Naked Lunch II: Trouble in Paradise

Bill Lee wakes up and declares, "Oh, it was all a dream!"

The rest of the book is about Lee teaming up with Dr. Benway to fight an evil drug czar in the Interzone who sells his smack to wayward teens. They prevail, sending the czar to prison and establishing a low-income rehab center.

There are no orgies whatsoever.


Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine August 28, 2012 - 9:10am

The Bible: The New New Testament

Jesus gives up on right-wing religious zealots who misinterpret his teachings and decides to let them dictate the latest batch of scripture. Hilarity ensues. Dark, depressing hilarity.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch August 28, 2012 - 9:33am

What do you think of books that reenvision an earlier book, but do it in an original way and result in quality literature? Grendel, by John Gardner, is a retelling of Beowulf from Grendel's perspective. Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea to tell the story of mad Bertha from Jane Eyre. Then there's the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, taking 2 characters from Hamlet and giving them an existential and comedic twist. All of these are not exactly sequels or prequels but giving a completely new direction to some old characters. 

Miranda McCausland's picture
Miranda McCausland from Guelph, Ontario, Canada is reading Pretty Neat August 28, 2012 - 10:13am

A few years ago the Great Ormond Street Hospital commissioned a sequel to Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie so that they could maintain the copyright Barrie had gifted to them for sick children. The result was a novel called Peter Pan in Scarlet. The author managed a similar classic british humour voice, and the book was pretty satisfying as a sequel for a fan. I still wouldn't consider anything the original author didn't write as canonical. Also, the original was kind of written like the author retelling a series of adventures in Neverland as they were experienced by those children, while interjecting his own adult thoughts over. The new novel actually had a plot and an overall story arc and even a twist ending, so while the voice was very well done, the structure was very modern comparitively. It's like comparing Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with Tim Burton's version. One is simply a girl's curious journey through a strange land, and the other has a prophesy and a war and morals or something...while I have gone off on a tangent I think the point I am trying to make is that the sequels are trying too hard and the classics are classic for a reason.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore August 28, 2012 - 11:25am

Dolores Haze. 71-year old Lolita never died during childbirth all those years ago, it turns out. And now the septuagenarian has developed an appetite for young men. No, really, an appetite

Ramses Machiavelli's picture
Ramses Machiavelli from The Dark North is reading Kawaidan August 30, 2012 - 3:09am

The Cuckoo Comes to Roost. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Sequel

Having escaped from Pendleton Hospital Chief Bromden starts a new life back on the Reservation, but it’s not long until hallucinations and voices start again.
This time they are telling him what he did for McMurphy was the right thing to do. But he needs to help the others. He needs to save them.

So he sets out on a quest to track down all the other patients in their new lives. Picking them off one by one.

Nurse Ratched learns of this so she sets out with the black boys to go on the hunt for the murderous Chief. It turns out Nurse Ratched and the black boys were always more than just orderlies at the hospital; they are a crack team of veterans from the Korean war who help track down dangerous mental patients, Black boys is actually there teams codename, the chief who was always thought to be deaf picked up this code name by being around while they discussed their previous operations. 

Unfortunately for all the characters from One flew over the cuckoos nest they always seem one step behind the chief, as he brutally murders them one by one. Nurse Ratched and the black boys soon learn that the Chiefs ultimate plan is to destroy Pendleton Hospital killing all the current inmates at the same time.

Nurse Ratched and the Black boys arrive at the asylum but realise that the Chief has already beat them there and is inside somewhere. As they look for him they find he’s murdered all the staff and has started to spread Gasoline every where ready to burn the building. Slowly the Chief picks off several members of the black Boys as they search for him, but the surviving members of the squad trap him in the Wash room and shoot him several times. He goes down only to get back up again, and again. It’s not until Nurse Ratched shoots him point blank in the head with a shotgun; totally obliterating his cranium that he dies. Afterwards we learn that while the Chief was free he had an affair with a woman called Deborah Myers, who is pregnant. The closing line of the book is Deborah Myers saying ‘If it’s a boy I’ll call it Michael’

Ramses Machiavelli's picture
Ramses Machiavelli from The Dark North is reading Kawaidan August 30, 2012 - 3:21am

Spade and Archer by Joe Gores is not to terrible. But then thats a prequel, so it's just padding out what we are alread told in the Maltese Falcon.


Generaly i think these unofficial sequels are a bad idea i think Holmes and Bond have probably suffered the most at the hand of these. Although i did enjoy The Tangled Skein by David Stuart Davies. But thats because it was Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula.