Can an author be “too” prolific? That’s the thesis that an opinion piece in the New York Times examines. Looking at authors like John Creasey, Ursula Bloom, Barbara Cartland, and even Agatha Christie, the author of the piece muses on the possible connection between level of output and quality. Do authors who turn out hundreds of novels in their lifetime write schlock?
It’s a good question, though the examination is perhaps rendered a little unintentionally laughable by the fact that the author of the piece is none other than Stephen King. King is one of the foremost names in the horror genre, and rightly so—when he is at the top of his gang, he is fantastic. But since he effectively got too big to edit later in his career, King has nonetheless also become known for turning out badly-edited bookstoppers, sometimes more than one of them in a year.
King himself is not unaware of the irony, but he offers the excuse that he was simply too driven not to write, and suggests that other prolific writers like Max Brand and Isaac Asimov—who certainly few would accuse of lacking in quality—were the same way.
The biggest thing I would add to King’s comments is that taste is necessarily subjective. I’ve read works by some of the authors King pooh-poohs, such as Creasey (in fact, I took four of his books down from my shelf to photograph for this story), and enjoyed them immensely. How does he know that those writers he looks down on didn’t feel the same? Furthermore, if Creasey wasn’t a good writer, and enjoyed by his readers, would he have been able to sell the 500+ novels he turned out in his career? Really, it’s kind of rich that King has room to look down on anyone.