I’m in the midst of writing my fourth DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel, which is based, of course, on the TV series that starred Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan. There were a lot of creative choices made on the show, for the convenience of production, that I’ve carried over into the books (like Mark Sloan and his adult son Steve living together in the same house). I’ve wondered just how much I should begin deviating from the show to accomodate the broader opportunities of a novel.
I’m not fooling myself… most people who are buying my DM book are doing it because they loved the show and want to repeat the experience…not because they are looking for a clever whodunit. The books will always be seen as TV tie-ins, no matter how well-reviewed they might be in their own right. But how much can I tinker with the characters, format and situations without alienating that core audience? And how much should I in order to keep the series fresh and engaging for the readers?
I don’t have answer… but my gut tells me to take the NERO WOLFE approach. Over the decades that Rex Stout wrote the books, virtually nothing changed in the lives of the characters… except, every now and then, he’d shock you with an unexpected situation (Wolfe has left the country!) or revelation (Wolfe has a daughter! A trusted operative is a killer!). But things would always return to the status quo… Wolfe and Archie back in the brownstone, solving crimes.
Maybe I should have Steve move out of Mark’s house… and then move right back in.