The 17-Year Itch: Or, Waiting for the Sequel

I have a love/hate relationship with sequels. With very good books, I always want more. In nonfiction, this could be something like Edmund Morris’s biography of Theodore Roosevelt, which came out in 3 separate volumes spanning several years. For fiction, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles comes to mind. I loved the first two books in the series, but have been waiting a long time now for The Doors of Stone.

There is also a difference in reading a completed series, and reading each volume as it appears. Think of the wait a person would have if they read Will Durant’s Our Oriental Hertiage when it first came out in 1935. The 11th and final volume didn’t appear until 40 years later in 1975. Or consider the wait someone would have if they picked up a copy of Jefferson the Virginian by Dumas Malone in 1948 and didn’t get to read the final volume, The Sage of Monticello until 1981. I read all six of those Malone book over the space of two years. A forty year wait makes the 7 years since the last Kingkiller book seem small.

There is something to be said about consistency. Take the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. About this time each year, a new Reacher book appears. A books has appeared, consistently since 1997. Having already read the first 22 books in the series, I am already itching for Past Tense, the 23rd book in the series, at the end of November.

For me, the longest wait for a sequel has been over 17 years as I write this. Back in 2001, I came across Gary Giddins’s biography of Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby: The Early Years: 1903-1940. Crosby is my all-time favorite entertainer. I love his music, I enjoy his movies, and I was delighted to find a new (at the time) biography about him. I dove right into the book, and I wasn’t disappointed. The title also made me happy, for it implied that this was the first a a multivolume biography. And so I waited.

And waited.

Years passed, then a decade with no sequel in sight. I would search online and find rumors that maybe a book was being written but there was no publisher for the book. Then maybe no sequel was being written after all. It was impossible to tell. Then, late last year, the rumor appeared to be confirmed that a second book had been written and would be coming out sometime in late 2018.

I am thrilled to say that day has come. I pre-ordered the book on Amazon as soon as I saw it, and today, the book is coming in the mail. I have already received my “Your order is on the way” notice from Amazon. Before long, I will have in my hands Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946 by Gary Giddins. And it only took 17 years of patience.

Bing Crosby Swinging on a Star

Actually, this gives me hope. If I can wait 17 years for the second volume of a Bing Crosby biography, then I can be equally patient for The Doors of Stone or The Winds of Winter. I certainly don’t hold the wait against the authors. As a writer, I know how hard it can sometimes be to get a story just right. But as a reader, when something is that good, I want more as soon as possible.

Perhaps this is another symptom of the instantaneous gratification that so dominates our society. I wonder if Durant readers were equally impatient between 1935 when Our Oriental Heritage came out and 1939 when The Life of Greece was published?

I imagine there is no need to tell you what I will be doing this evening. I imagine it will only take a few days to get through the new Bing Crosby bio. Which brings me to my final complaint about sequels. I empathize with people who are willing to wait for an entire series to come out before they read it–although I don’t have the willpower to do it myself. That’s because, after 17 years of waiting, it will take me 2 or 3 days to tear through the book–and if there third volume, then the waiting begins all over again, with the clock reset to 00:00:00:00.

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