"The sequel is a rip-off, pure and simple," said a lawsuit filed in a Manhattan district court last week on behalf of the 90-year-old Catcher in the The Rye author, JD Salinger. The author went to the courts after learning that 60 Years Later: Coming Through The Rye by a fan calling himself John David California was to be published in September.
It's not often that the reclusive author makes public pronouncements, but then again, his desire to stop the publication of a work that purports to be Catcher In The Rye's sequel is understandable. The new book features a character apparently based on Salinger's teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield, as a 76-year old escapee from a retirement home. Writers, and particularly their families, don't like it when other authors publish a work that effectively uses their ideas to get a leg up. Call it a tribute, a sequel or a prequel - it ruffles literary feathers every time.
In 2001, when Lauretta Hugo, the wife of the great-grandson of Victor Hugo, discovered a journalist intended to publish a follow-up to Hugo's Les Miserables, she fumed: "The distortion of works of heritage for commercial ends must be stopped. It's time to defend culture and creativity against the savagery of free enterprise, which seems to want to tarnish everything and reduce every cultural product to the level of the market place."
Unfortunately, the trend - which has been around at least since James Joyce ripped off Homer with Ulysses - is unstoppable. Sometimes, the results can be ugly. Maybe Salinger is right to be worried. Seven of the worst literary spin offs: Scarlett Author: Alexandra Ripley Blurb: Frankly my dear, you shouldn't give a damn. What's the gist? The "most anticipated sequel of the 20th century" was drubbed by critics for being convoluted (it's 896 pages long), too close to a modern blockbuster for comfort and a cynical attempt to cash in by Margaret Mitchell's estate. They denied it, but the TV rights were sold for $8 million (Dh30m). The mini series starred Timothy Dalton.
See also: Rhett Butler's People (Donald McCraig); The Wind Done Gone (Alice Randall). They said: The New York Times described Scarlett as "cultural cannibalism". An Unequal Marriage: Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later Author: Emma Tennant Blurb: That sound you hear is Jane Austen rotating in her grave. What's the gist? An Unequal Marriage is yet another update of the Austen classic (Pemberley was Tennant's previous, much more successful sequel). Twenty years after they wed, things have not gone well for Elizabeth and Darcy. He's aloof and cold and Elizabeth is trapped in a loveless marriage. Plus, their son has married a barmaid. Where's Mr Bingley when you need him?
See also: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Seth Grahame-Smith) Humor and Humility (Genevieve Wilmer), Jane Austen in Boca, A Novel (Paula Marantz Cohen) They said: "A badly written soap opera." - Eras of Elegance.com The Adventure of the Laughing Jarvey Author: Stephen Fry Blurb: TV's favourite manic depressive "does" Sherlock Holmes. What's the gist? Fry, recently described as "a stupid person's idea of a clever person", pads Paperweight, his accurately titled collection of old newspaper articles, with this pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle. The plot involves Sherlock Holmes and a missing manuscript. Were manuscripts on the author's mind as he hurriedly finished this slim tale?
See also: The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (Michael Dibdin); The West End Horror (Nicholas Meyer); The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (Raymond Smullyan) They said: "Something of a mixed bag." - The Times The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code Author: Carl E Olson Blurb: If you are looking for an even easier read, look no further. What's the gist? This 300-page refutation sets out to prove in microscopic detail that the Da Vinci Code - which, let's not forget, is a work of fiction that has sold seven million copies - is not true. But before you can say "pointless exercise", it turns out the Catholic Church has done much the same.
See also: Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code (Bart D Ehrman); De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (Amy Welborn); The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction (Hank Hanegraff) They said: "The title of this book says it all." - Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago. The Tales of Beedle The Bard Author: JK Rowling, 2007 Blurb: The world's most successful author pens a spin-off title that no one can read.
What's the gist? When JK Rowling wrote her first non-Harry Potter book, she decided against taking unnecessary risks. The book, a collection of five wizardly fairy tales, got a mention in her final blockbuster, Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows. The print run was limited to just seven copies and only one was put on sale. Rowling called it her goodbye to her multimillion pound Potter franchise; everyone else called it a shrewd marketing exercise.
See also: Any unofficial Harry Potter spin offs are ruthlessly put to the sword by Rowling's brigade of lawyers. They said: No review copies were made available. Cosette/The Time of Lost Illusions Author: Francois Ceresa Blurb: It's Les Miserable 2, says the author. Oh no it isn't, says Victor Hugo's estate. What's the gist? Victor Hugo's family were so angry when the French journalist Francois Ceresa published a sequel to Hugo's masterpiece, Les Misérables, that they took legal action to ban the book and sought almost £500,000 (Dh2.93m) in damages from the publishers Plon for undermining the author's "moral rights". Cosette sold 65,000 copies in its first week of release.
See also: The Temptation of the Impossible (Mario Vargas Llosa) They said: "A colourless melodrama." - Le Monde The Story of Heathcliffe's Journey Back To Wuthering Heights Author: Lin Haire Sargeant Blurb: Filling in gaps in the original that didn't need filling in. What's the gist? A literary professor blunders into the self-contained romantic world of Emily Bronte and "corrects" various plot points in the original work. Explaining what Heathcliffe was up to when he disappeared for three years, said Seargeant's critics, was "farcical".
See also: The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights (Monty Python's Flying Circus); Literature and Evil (George Bataille) They said: "A travesty." - Entertainment Weekly