Earlier today I had a post that detailed a proposed deal that would have had Ray Banks and Ken Bruen collaborating on a project. Unfortunately, due to contractual issues, the project will not go ahead as planned, which was why I ended up deleting the post. Though it would have been a lot of fun to read the final result (and no doubt a good time would have been had by both gentlemen) I'm not terribly surprised the deal fell through. But it also brings up what has become one of the most popular questions asked at booksignings and is on the wishlist of many fans: bringing together two favorite authors and their signature characters in the same book or story.
It's the kind of hypothetical musing that belongs in the same spectrum as the inevitable "who would win a fight, Batman or Superman (or insert favorite action hero/comic book character/protagonist here)?" debates that rage in collegiate bars. Good fun, and I've even engaged in this kind of musing myself (I still recall a late night conversation in a West Village Bar about whether Charlie Parker would get on better with Sam Jones or Tess Monaghan. We were too drunk and/or tired to reach a conclusion.) So it's not surprising that writers would get together over a pint or few and have similar good-natured conversations along the "whatif" line. Sometimes they even go so far as to make subtle hints or hat tips within each other's books (which is what happened with Michael Connelly's LOST LIGHT and Robert Crais's THE LAST DETECTIVE. Donald Westlake and Joe Gores did the same kind of thing a few years before.) But a full-fledged collaboration? It's just too damned complicated to make work.
Here's why: because in most cases, it's not just two individual authors getting together. They have to clear it with their agents, usually two different ones. Then the editors have to get on board, and more often than not, the two writers are contracted to different publishing houses. If movie rights have already been sold involving the characters that would collaborate, that complicates matters even further. Let's use the Connelly/Crais example I mentioned. In that case, Elvis Cole was not mentioned by name in Connelly's book, and neither was Harry Bosch mentioned in TLD. Crais and Connelly have different agents (Aaron Priest and Phil Spitzer, respectively) different publishers (Doubleday, Little Brown) and Bosch has been sold to the movies, while Crais refuses to sell the Elvis Cole novels to Hollywood. So if Cole's mentioned in LOST LIGHT, does he fall under the auspices of the movie deal and is thus "sold" to Hollywood after all? Would mentioning Bosch in TLD screw things up movie-wise as well? And then there are all the other complications I haven't even thought of yet.
Which was why this article in the Scotsman over the weekend made me snicker, because it's a classic example of misunderstanding the issue. Unsurprisingly, lots of folks have quizzed Ian Rankin on whether Rebus would ever get together with Harry Bosch (or Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks) in a novel. And Rankin's response is a testament to the "talks" he's had with said authors about a hypothetical collaboration:
On his official website Rankin has written: "Many readers ask if Rebus might ever team up with another fictional cop, with Harry Bosch being favourite tag-team choice.Granted, I suppose such things could happen because a) Connelly and Rankin share UK and US publishers and b) Rankin and Robinson share the same agent. But even so, it's pretty damned unlikely and probably more trouble than it's worth.
"It’s something crime writers talk about during drinking bouts - I’ve discussed it with Peter Robinson, Michael Connelly and others. It might happen one day as a short story, but as a novel? Who knows?"
No doubt folks will persist in their whatifs regardless. Just as long as it doesn't degenerate into fan fiction...