Classic Characters by Modern Authors

Classic Characters by Modern Authors

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is back from the dead, 93 years after his first appearance in the world of literature! Yes, it’s really true. Bestselling and award-winning author in the psychological crime genre, Sophie Hannah, has been granted permission by the Agatha Christie estate to create a new story for Poirot, and her new novel ‘The Monogram Murders’ is out September 9th 2014. Just like Agatha Christie, two of Sophie’s novels have been adapted for television, illustrating her flair for gripping plot twists and intriguing characters.

The story is set in 1920’s London, somewhere between The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) and Peril at End House (1932). When a bizarre encounter with a frightened woman claiming she is about to be murdered is followed by three murders- each victim found with a cuff-link in their mouths- Poirot finds himself with the pieces of a very strange puzzle. We’re convinced by Sophie’s ability to write a superb murder mystery- but can she capture the odd mannerisms, clever quips and extensive thought processes in the little grey cells of this famous Belgian detective? We certainly intend to find out!

In the meantime, our excitement for the first re-working of Agatha Christie’s Poirot has got us thinking about other classic characters that have been revisited by modern authors recently:

Doctor Who

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who last year, Penguin published a series of 11 novellas (one for each manifestation of the Doctor) as eBooks on the 23rd of each month. Each of these short stories was written by a different children’s author to add a fun twist of imagination to the Doctor’s story. We loved the idea of bringing in a variety of authors to reinvent the well-loved character, sure that each of them would capture a different aspect of the Doctor. What we weren’t expecting, was such a considered approach to how each manifestation of the Doctor is different, and how their relationships with their companions brought out those traits and variations that we love. Whether it was the unique relationship between Ace and the Seventh Doctor (portrayed by Sylvester McCoy) in Malorie Blackman’s depiction, or the use of Peri as narrator for Richelle Mead’s story about the Sixth Doctor (portrayed by Colin Baker), each author made an impressive attempt to capture the individual aspects of their Doctor and companion.

Outside of Penguin’s series, a number of Doctor Who series have been written including the Time Trips collection which also made use of a variety of well-loved authors. Doctor Who is the most versatile character around (transforming from Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi should tell you that) but likewise, his characteristics are ingrained into the actors that have played him and are of great importance to fans. Taking on a Doctor Who story is no small feat, but we have to say the mixed bag of representations out there never cease to peak our interest.

The Austen Project

There was outrage among book fans after The Austen Project was announced, with Austen fans in particular worried about how their favourite author’s work would be revisited. The project would see six bestselling authors take one of six Jane Austen’s novels as a starting point for a unique re-telling of Jane’s work. Providing insight into society with novels that mostly focused on the universal themes of relationships and love, we can certainly see how Jane Austen’s work may lend itself to some modernisation.

Never one to judge a book by its cover, we eagerly anticipated the author’s names and the titles they’d be tackling and to our great surprise Joanna Trollope was the first author to step up to the plate with her re-working of Sense and Sensibility in October 2013. Despite the initial resistance to The Austen Project, Joanna’s work was well received and balanced a respect for and knowledge of Jane Austen’s work with her own contemporary flair well. Incorporating modern notions such as social media into the original story of heartbreak and coming-of-age, Joanna refreshed the story without subtracting from the elements that made the original so endearing and powerful in the first place. She clearly knows the original plot and characters well which gave her contemporary twist the support it needed.

Since then, the project has gained greater respect within literary circles. Val McDermid released her take on Northanger Abbey at the beginning of 2014 and Alexander McCall Smith’s version of Emma is due out in November of this year. Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Mansfield Park are expected to be the next well-loved titles to feature in The Austen Project over the coming years- we can’t wait to see how they’re blended with today’s world.

James Bond

If there’s ever a fanbase always ready for one more novel- it’s fans of Ian Fleming and James Bond. Since Fleming’s death in 1964 there have been multiple adaptations of James Bond’s character, to the point where their numbers have now outgrown the number of Ian Fleming’s novels. The franchise has certainly continued to grow with films still being released today, which has led some critics to ask when enough will become enough. Despite this, James Bond is still incredibly popular, particularly due to his association with Great Britain and ‘Englishness’.

William Boyd is the most recently talked-about author to tackle the well-known character with his novel ‘Solo’. Sticking with the elements we always expect from 007- danger, women and a well shaken martini- Boyd heightens the action and modernises some of James’s vices to make a more compelling read for today’s audience. His characters are perfectly Bond-esque and his choice to eliminate parts of Bond’s character that aren’t so relevant today (his attitude towards women for example) modernises the story without losing the key aspects that make Bond- Bond.

Other modern takes on classics you may enjoy include:

Anthony Horowitz- Sherlock Holmes


Sebastian Faulks- Jeeves and Wooster

Which classic would you love to see modernised, and who would you have write it? Let us know in the comments box below.

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