Some partnerships are husband/wife teams. That’s the case with one of the most famous crime fiction teams, Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. This duo created the memorable series featuring Stockholm homicide detective Martin Beck, beginning with 1965’s Roseanna. The series went on to become one of the more popular police procedural series, and you could argue that it was the forerunner of the modern Swedish crime novel. Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Beck is a committed – you could even say driven – investigator who often puts his work ahead of his home life. He works with a dedicated team of detectives, each of whom brings something to the case the team is investigating. Sjöwall and Wahlöö also used their series to comment on the social, economic and philosophical realities they saw in Sweden, but more than that, the series is known for its careful attention to the daily ins and outs of police life. Each member of this team also did individual projects, but as a duo, they created one of crime fiction’s best-known fictional detectives.
Sjöwall and Wahlöö are not, of course, the only husband/wife writing team. Archeologist Kathleen O’Neal Gear and forensic anthropologist W. Michael Gear have also collaborated on a number of books, many of which are historical novels focusing on Native Americans. One of their series, the Anasazi series, is a mystery series featuring archeologist William “Dusty” Stewart and forensic anthropologist Dr. Maureen Cole. The three books in this series, The Visitant, The Summoning God and Bone Walker, explore a set of mysteries from two perspectives: the modern perspective of Stewart and Cole, and the 13th Century perspective of Warrior Chief Browser and his deputy and friend, Catkin. The series begins with the discovery of the ancient remains of eight women who seem to have died violently. As Stewart and Cole uncover the truth about the women’s deaths, Browser and Catkin also investigate. The twin investigations follow parallel lines, and in the end, we find out from both perspectives what happened. The other two novels in the series also take place along two timelines. One follows the Anasazi people in their last years. The other follows the modern-day archeological team that’s searching for the truth about the ancient remains they find.
The Gears have also written many books and scholarly projects individually, as well. In fact, each of them has an impressive individual list of accomplishments.
The famous fictional character Ellery Queen was also created by a duo. Cousins Daniel Nathan (alias Frederic Dannay) and Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky (alias Manfred Bennington Lee) began this series with 1929’s The Roman Hat Mystery, and went on to write a long series of novels and short stories featuring New York Police Inspector Richard Queen and his son, Harvard graduate, novelist and inveterate puzzle-solver Ellery. Most of these novels focus on intellectual puzzles, “locked room” mysteries and other, more cerebral challenges. “The Queen Team” collaborated for 42 years, and their creation has been featured not just in novels, but also in many film and television adaptations.
Another long-term writing partnership was the duo behind Emma Lathan. Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart. These two novelists met while they attended graduate school at Harvard. With their backgrounds in economics and finance, it’s not surprising that their creation works in the world of banking. Their sleuth, John Putnam Thatcher, is a senior vice-president with the powerful Sloan Guaranty Bank. The Thatcher mysteries often focus on international finance, banking fraud, and other monetary crimes that end up in murder. The twenty-five Thatcher novels were written from 1961 until Latsis’ death in 1997. By today’s standards, some of the banking procedures and financial daily routines may seem quite outdated. However, the plots behind those dealings still keep the reader’s attention, and the characterization remains strong.
Not all writing duos create a series together. Some write just one or a few novels. For instance, there’s the writing partnership of Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. Each of these authors has written individually and with other collaborators. Together, they wrote five thrillers. One of them, The Glass Inferno, served as part of the inspiration for the famous 1974 movie, The Towering Inferno. Like the movie, this novel concerns a brand-new high-rise building and the effects on everyone, including the firefighters, when it burns. Scortia and Robinson also co-wrote The Nightmare Factor, a medical thriller that takes up the question of what happens when a lethal virus is unleashed among a large group of people. You could argue that this novels was the forerunner of the modern medical thriller, such as those written by Michael Palmer. This partnership didn’t span the decades that the “Queen team” or the Emma Lathen partnership did, and their books were not “tied together” as a series is. You could argue, though, that these novels laid the groundwork for modern thrillers.
More recently, Swedish author Liza Marklund has also collaborated with other writers. She’s perhaps most famous for her solo series featuring Stockholm investigative journalist Annika Bengtzon. However, she’s also co-written two books with organizational consultant Lotta Snickare. Those books aren’t crime fiction; rather, they focus on gender issues. Marklund has most recently co-written a mystery, The Postcard Killers, with James Patterson.
There are other “writing duos,” of course, that space doesn’t permit me to mention here. Interestingly enough, some of the Golden Age authors such as Agatha Christie aren’t known for their collaborative efforts. Instead, their fame comes more from their solo work. Of course, in Christie’s case, a few of her plays have been adapted as novels (with permission) by Charles Osborne, and there have been other adaptations of some of her novels. However, these haven’t been writing partnerships in the way that, say, Sjöwall and Wahlöö were.
What do you think? Have you enjoyed series created by writing teams? Which ones?
p.s. In case you were wondering, the 'photo shows me and one of my writing partners ; ).