Is It Time to End ‘Bell Mountain’?

The Bell Mountain Series - Reformed Reviews

Agatha Christie kept writing Hercule Poirot for many years after she got tired of him, mostly because readers wanted him. Ditto Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes: when Doyle killed off Holmes, readers practically rose up in arms and forced him to bring Holmes back. And Edgar Rice Burroughs kept writing Tarzan long, long after he’d lost all interest in the character… because Tarzan paid the bills.

Lately I’ve been hearing from people who say enough’s enough already, please, no more Bell Mountain books! Happily none of them are my editors or publishers. But if the readers are tired of my books, what excuse would I have to keep on writing them?

Twelve of the books have been published, with No. 13 waiting in the wings and No. 14 being written. No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever, has not been well received. Even though it has giant hyenas in it.

A few comments don’t constitute a groundswell of non-support. Then again, several books ago, I wasn’t getting any “too much” comments at all.

So I have to decide what’s right to do. I pray for guidance. I listen to what readers have to say.

(No! I am not going to switch over to Oy, Rodney…)

13 comments on “Is It Time to End ‘Bell Mountain’?

  1. I can’t comment on the Bell Mountain series Lee, but a sci-fi series like Dune would be awesome if you ever decided to do something different.

    1. Lee, because I haven’t been following the Bell Mountain series from the beginning. So it wouldn’t be fair to give my opinion.

    2. Well, you could always start reading it.
      Did you start reading it halfway through? I did that with the Chronicles of Narnia, and found myself asking “Why do they listen to this Aslan character?” And then I read a little farther and said, “Oh.”

  2. How will you ever wrap up all those different plot lines and account for all the characters in one book???

    1. The problem is that Bell Mountain is a kind of history, albeit fictitious history, and history tends to be sloppy. How would Livy have wrapped up the history of Rome?

    2. Well, your post seemed to place yourself among those writers who were getting tired of their series but kept going only because their readers wouldn’t let them stop. (Oops.) 😉

  3. I wouldn’t let a few comments sway you.

    The only things I’ve written are a handful of short stories and a few songs, so story arc and character development are not problems I’ve experienced, firsthand. I will say that I have seen concepts stretched pretty far and there is a danger of that happening in any creative work. I think that much depends on how well the characters are developed. I’ll use two TV shows as examples.

    The Beverly Hillbillies was based on a somewhat exaggerated concept, of a poor hillbilly that strikes oil and ends up fabulously wealthy. It was a fish out of water concept and got its laughs from the four family member’s ignorance of the modern (by 1962 standards) world. The pathos was that their values remained intact and they were not corrupted by their wealth. The downfall was that the jokes wore thin and you can only do so many sight gags about people not understanding washing machines, doorbells, billiard tables and the like before the audience sees it coming a mile away. By the end of the series, they had run out of ideas and the side-splitting laughs were becoming evermore rare.

    In the same time frame, the Andy Griffith show relied less upon high concept, but was actually fairly plausible; the story revolved around a young sheriff in a small town, recently widowed and his adventures in keeping his little town innocent and how his homespun wisdom always won out over that connivings of the city slicker outsiders. In many ways, they inversions of the same overall concept, one about innocent and simple folk in strange surroundings while the other was about an insular world of innocent and simple folk, and the efforts of one virtuous man to prevent the encroachment of an outside world with inferior values.

    Both shows are loved today, but I think that the Andy Griffith show has withstood the test of time better than the Beverly Hillbillies. I would credit that mainly to the moderation shown, both in developing the concept and in how far the producers and writers would reach to get a laugh. The Andy Griffith show always was believable and related well to the experiences of average people. The Beverly Hillbillies always strained believability and the characters were painted much more broadly.

    As far as I can tell, Obann lives inside of you as a real place. It’s a fantasy world that has taken on a life of its own. I have not read the entire series, but what I have read attests to the underlying reality of the concept. It is a parallel reality concept, but maintains a relationship with reality. King Ozias strikes me as being Obann’s King David. I can see Martis, I’d know him if I met him.

    This is valuable and should not be wasted or handled with less than full respect. Perhaps the best thing I could offer is to be careful not to develop the habit of revisiting past plot points gratuitously. Leave them in the minds of readers and only revisit a past event when it has to happen in order to advance the plot. Readers don’t want to have to memorize all sort of fictional trivia in order the keep up with the plot. More than anything else, if it require a lot of force and effort to graft into the existing plot, it may be better to leave a bit of flexibility in this fantasy world.

  4. I’ve read up through #8. I read mostly non-fiction. Lately I have been having books sent to me so I am working on those. I plan to read all the Bell Mountain series no matter how many books it happens to be – they are great, especially for pre-teens and teens. Alexander McCall Smith’s “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” is at 20 books and I assume going strong, so I think you should at least go for 20 as a goal.

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