10 May 2007

I'll Rest When I'm Dead?

New this spring is this biography of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Sr., with Matt Christopher's name at the top.

Earnhardt died in 2001. Christopher, however, died in 1997.

Not that you'll find anything about the author's death (from complications following brain surgery) on his official website. The "About the Author" page is a splendidly sly combination of an old interview and references to Christopher as author of the most popular sports books for kids--which of course he still is.

I know Christopher was prolific, writing scores of middle-grade novels based on America's most popular sports. But surely there are limits to his productivity.

The Amazon page for the new book credits Glenn Stout as another writer, the only one who could actually have done the writing. Stout's name also appears on Amazon's pages for other "Matt Christopher Sports Biographies." I recognize him as a commentator on the Red Sox and desk editor of the Best American Sports Writing volumes, and he's written on other subjects. But I sure don't see his name on that book cover.

(Ironically, I started on my path through these Christopher websites after receiving a message about Skullduggery Pleasant, which only pretends to be a story by a dead man.)


Susan T. said...

That is downright odd...and very interesting. Talk about a long shelf life...

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, I think it shows how we've come to expect our books to be connected to an individual author when that's rarely a concern with other products we buy. But when authors become brands, the value of their names can far outlive them. Of course, people have been attributing stories to popular but dead authors since Homer.

david elzey said...

The author-as-brand thing isn't new, just a natural extention of the syndicate pseudonym (Caroline Keene for Nancy Drew, Franklin W. Dixon for Hardy Boys, Ellery Queen for, uh, a couple guys who wrote about and as Ellery Queen) so I don't think this is really all that shocking.

And since Matt Christopher books are sports related, and anything sports is bound to attract boys, and since the prevailing attitude about boys and books is "As long as they're reading..." I guess we should just let the fiction stand.