When Authors Work Together
Having been involved in two volumes of ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, in which a worldwide epidemic is given a factual genesis and relayed in the form of emails, notes, recordings and other methods of communication, I know how difficult it is to get right. Funnily enough, the easiest part was fitting my part of the story with the other authors, partly because I shared the heavy lifting in the creation of the backstory.
But there have been plenty of past examples of authors collaborating. ‘The Perfect Murder’ is a bit of a cheat, as it’s really short stories grouped together as advice to the editor on how to murder his wife, but it’s a smart selling tool and a fun read. ‘The Floating Admiral’ is a fourteen-strong author novel that works like a game of Consequences, written in 1931 by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and GK Chesterton among others, all members of the Detection Club. Each of the authors provided their own solution in a sealed envelope, all of which appeared at the end of the book, with Agatha Christie’s ingenious conclusion acknowledged at the time to be ‘enough to make the book worth buying on its own’.
It was so popular that it warranted a sequel, but ‘Ask A Policeman’ has a great twist. Taking four famous detectives from its authors, who included Dorothy L Sayers and the mad Gladys Mitchell, the stories were switched so that each author wrote in the other one’s style, which gave them plenty of room for sharp digs at their rivals. The result is even more enjoyable than its predecessor.
Two tasty facsimile editions have just been reissued by Harper Collins. The Detection Club continued until 001 but seems to have vanished now. Members were required to take an oath;
‘Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?’