Second in the Series

One of the things to which I attribute the success of the Second Annual 25th Book fair is the number of focused collections we had. We are seeing some collections come in already, and among these is a collection of series fiction.

Oh, did I mention that already? Let me check Monday’s column. No, no: that was about children’s series books. I also received, entirely independently, someone’s collection of TV series books.

In the trade, these are known as tie-ins. These are not novels that were turned into movies or TV series, like Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, which became The Six Million Dollar Man, or Thorne Smith’s The Passionate Witch, which someone turned into Bewitched. No, these are TV series which became novels: stories commissioned by the owners of the series, either based on episodes or just brand new rales featuring the characters. This kept up excitement about the series when you couldn’t watch it. (This was before YouTube or NetFlix or even before videocassettes, kids.)

This collection doesn’t have EVERY series ever novelized, but it has plenty of ‘em, both memorable and forgotten: I Spy, Bonanza, Mission Impossible, The Man from UNCLE, Lucan, The Invisible Man, Marcus Welby M.D., The Young Rebels, Time Tunnel, Star Trek, Star Trek: the Animated Voyages, Rat Patrol, Garrison’s Guerillas, The Twilight Zone, Hawk, Get Smart, The Flying Nun, The Facts of Life and so on and so on.

Collectible? What do you collect, friend? If you’re a Burt Reynolds fan, don’t you need novels from his cop show, Hawk? If you’re interested in how the Old West was portrayed in popular culture, you need these Bonanza novels, don’t you?

Oh, you meant collectible AND worth money? Well, that all depends. Some of these series were brief, both on screen and on the page, but others went on and on: Dark Shadows and Man from Uncle ran to a couple of dozen volumes each. And it is a peculiarity of the buying public that Man from UNCLE #1 sold hundreds of thousands of copies, whereas #23 in the series didn’t get quite so much attention. So sometimes the higher numbers are the ones worth money, as opposed to the trend in, say, comic books, where for a time the industry concentrated on publishing ONLY first issues of comics.

You need to check the author as well. There were men who specialized in novelizations, whose names you’ll see over and over: William Johnston, one of the kings of the novelization (Get Smart, Happy Days, F Troop, Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Michael Avallone, one of the great fiction machines (Boris Karloff Presents, The Patridge Family, Cannonball Run, A Woman Named Golda), Robert Weverka, Marilyn Ross, etc. But if you hunt, and do a little research behind the house names, you can find people who are famous for other work, and their escapades in TV tie-in fiction has a little added value. If you collect science fiction writers of note, you’ll want Fred Saberhagen’s Star Trek and E.C. Tubbs’s Space: 1999 books. Mystery writer Walter Wager, under the name John Tiger, wrote seven I Spy novels, while Richard Deming, under his own name, did both Mod Squad and Dragnet. The highly collectible hardboiled paperback veteran Harry Whittington did one of The Man from UNCLE books. And even the wildly collectible Jim Thompson, famous for his psychopaths and sociopaths, indulged toward the end of his career, turning out a novel for Ironside.

Their best stuff? Maybe not, but surely worth a look. (Every now and then, by the way, I hear that Michael Avallone’s books about private eye Ed Noon might be turned into a series, which begs the question of who will write the novelizations. Michael Avallone also wrote gothic romances under the name Edwina Noone. Really, once you start looking into this stuff, you can’t stop. But that’s what the Book Fair is here for: to feed your addictions.) 

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