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  • Aside from the numerous examples cited below, the sudden appearance of a co-writer in later volumes of a book series generally associated with a single author, is usually an indication that some form of Author Existence Failure has occurred (though not always death) and that another writer is carrying on in the name of the original author.
  • Seemingly healthy Douglas Adams died completely out of the blue from a heart attack in 2001, aged 49, before he could make up for the Downer Ending of Mostly Harmless with a sixth book of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He never got to see the film finally escape from Development Hell based on his scripts, and he was partway through writing the third Dirk Gently novel, The Salmon of Doubt, which was assembled into a relatively cohesive narrative from a number of early versions he left behind.note  The book also has a collection of interviews, magazine columns, short stories, and many other otherwise-uncollected bits of Adams. He talks about how he was thinking of changing The Salmon of Doubt into a new Hitchhiker's novel rather than the Dirk Gently one it was being written as. Eight years later, the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's series, And Another Thing..., was written by Eoin Colfer (of the Artemis Fowl series) with full support from the Adams estate.
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  • Robert Adams, author of the Horseclans series, died before the series could be wrapped up.
  • James Agee is generally regarded as one of America's greatest and most lamented writers after his second novel, A Death in the Family, was published posthumously (winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1958). Two novels, a handful of screenplays and some of the most influential film criticism of the 40s, cut short at age 45 due to depression and chronic alcoholism.
  • Dante Alighieri is supposed to have died with the location of the final portions of The Divine Comedy unknown. His ghost is said to have appeared to his son letting him know where the manuscript was. In a strangely related example, Dorothy L. Sayers died before completing her translation of the Divine Comedy; it was finished by Barbara Reynolds.
  • V. C. Andrews actually became more prolific after her death in 1986. She wrote only seven novels while alive, while the ghostwriter currently working under her name has written close to seventy original novels.
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  • Fantasy author Robert Asprin died leaving several projects in various stages of completion. He was already co-writing his Myth Adventures books with Jody Lynn Nye, and she has continued the series solo. (Or at least written one new novel after several years' delay.)
  • Jane Austen first averted this fate for Persuasion: she originally planned it for the three-volume length of her other novels, and one can even see her building up for what would probably have been the cliffhanger for the second volume, but then she became terminally ill and hastily ended the novel early. However, she left a fragment of another two novels, Sanditon and The Watsons, unfinished. They've been completed by other people more than once.
  • Stephen King (who is still alive) was "outed" as Richard Bachman before he completed what would have been Bachman's next book: Misery. The novel was therefore released under King's own name, but Bachman's death from "cancer of the pseudonym" didn't silence him. Two more novels by Bachman were released: The Regulators (1996) and Blaze (2007). Both books were supposedly found in a trunk in the attic of the Vermont home Bachman shared with his wife, Claudia Inez. One wonders how many more Bachman books have yet to be "discovered."
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  • Donald Bain was the primary author for the Expanded Universe novels based on Murder, She Wrote, with his wife co-writing books 44-46 and his daughter also co-writing some earlier ones. While he and his grandson Zachary Bain Shippee were working on book 47, Bain died of congestive heart failure; Jon Land completed the book (which was published in 2018) before continuing the series, with Shippee as a consultant.
  • When young-adult author John Bellairs died, he left behind two unfinished manuscripts and outlines for two other stories. The finished versions of those four books, completed by Brad Strickland, were so well-received that Strickland has since been commissioned to write several more books in the series.
  • James Blish died before he could complete his multi-volume series of short stories adapting scripts from the original Star Trek: The Original Series. His wife, J.A. Lawrence, completed Star Trek 12, the collection Blish was writing when he died, and Lawrence later completed Blish's work by adapting the Harry Mudd episodes (along with an original novella) as Mudd's Angels.
  • The argentine writer Liliana Bodoc, author of The Saga of the Bordenlands, passed away in 2018, leaving incomplete a new tetralogy she was writing, called Tiempo de Dragones, of which I only publish the first two books. He had also written another book called Venado, with illustrations by the artist Gonzalo Kenny, with more stories set in the world of The Bordenlands. There were plans to write two more books, possibly called Sombra and Fuego, but those plans have been interrupted.
  • Roberto Bolaño died in 2003, shortly after submitting to his publisher the first draft of the novel that would become known as 2666. He had completed four and a half parts of the five-part anthology. This percentage of the novel being complete, as well as notes for the unfinished section that were found in his desk (notes that included the title of the story), allowed it to be published the next year. It has since been proclaimed by many critics to be Bolaño's greatest work.
  • Subverted in Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Averroes' Search": when Borges has a Creator Breakdown, he doesn't believe anymore in the characters of this story, forcing a No Ending.
  • Pierre Bothero, a French writer of four separate series that all intertwined (usually referred to as Ewilan's Quest, after the first series), died shortly after writing a book introducing a fourth world, two new societies, and a plenitude of new characters to the mythos, and writing a somewhat cliffhanger ending at the end of this book.
  • The Cat Who Smelled Smoke was to be the thirtieth volume in the popular The Cat Who... mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun. It was to have been published in 2008 but was put on hold due to the author's failing health. When she passed away in 2011, the book was canceled entirely, and so the series will remain unfinished.
  • Charlotte Brontë was in the process of writing her fifth novel, Emma, when she died in 1855. In 1980, it was completed by Constance Savery and published as "by Charlotte Bronte and Another Lady". In 2003, it was again finished by author Clare Boylan and published as Emma Brown. The first novel she'd written, The Professor, was published after the public still wanted more after the author's tragic early death.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog author Norman Bridwell passed away on December 12th, 2014, with two Clifford books left unpublished. Hopefully, they'll see the light of day soon.
  • Chris Bunch, author of the Seer King and Star Risk, Ltd. series and co-author of the eight book space opera Sten, passed away (fittingly for a soldier) on July 4th, 2005. Bunch left notes for the final volume of the Star Risk series and it was completed by Steve and Dal Perry, both known authors in their own right, as a tribute to Mr. Bunch. The ending of Bunch's Corsair leaves the reader with the sense that there will be an additional book forthcoming to explain some missing backstory. Unfortunately, this book was never published and it is unknown if there are any notes to enable another author to complete Bunch's vision.
  • Olive Ann Burns wrote one novel, Cold Sassy Tree, and died after writing about fifteen chapters of the sequel. The existing chapters were published as Leaving Cold Sassy, unfinished.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Skeleton Men of Jupiter", the last story in the John Carter of Mars series, was intended as the first in a series of novelettes with an ongoing plot, so the story ends with the plot unresolved. The followups never got made, and ERB died a few years after the story's publication.
  • Octavia Butler hinted before her death that she planned to continue her Hugo Award-winning two-volume Parable series with several more titles, Parable of the Trickster, Parable of the Chaos, and Parable of the Clay. However, she died shortly after publishing one more novel, an unrelated standalone called Fledgling whose ending also left room for a possible sequel.
  • Lord Byron died with his masterwork, Don Juan, unfinished. That the last completed canto is a return, after some that are a bit of a mess, to the narrative verve of the first couple makes this all the more annoying.
  • Albert Camus' quasi-autobiography The First Man was an unfinished manuscript in a briefcase in the car crash that killed him. There are also fragments.
  • Cao Xueqin died before he could finish off and publish The Story of the Stone (a.k.a. Dream of the Red Chamber). It breaks off at chapter eighty, although it isn't entirely clear to what extent this is because he died. Current versions usually use an ending provided by a different, somewhat inferior, writer.
  • Truman Capote had planned for Answered Prayers to be his magnum opus, but he died with only three chapters written. He seemed to have lost his will to write it in his last years, though there are still Capote scholars looking for any more of it that he may have had (while they have been unsuccessful, they did find the first novel he ever wrote, Summer Crossing, which he had claimed to have destroyed).
  • Giacomo Casanova died before he could finish his 12-volume autobiography.
  • Jack Chalker set up a huge cliffhanger with Horrors of the Dancing Gods with separate smaller cliffhangers for each of the three main characters and a purported Living MacGuffin that turned out to be a Sequel Hook instead. Leading some to wonder why, since the series had been effectively concluded already at the end of the previous book.
  • Raymond Chandler died after having completed only four chapters of the eighth Philip Marlowe novel, which he had given the working title The Poodle Springs Story. Thirty years after his death, mystery writer Robert B. Parker (author of the Spenser series) was commissioned to finish the novel, which was released under the title Poodle Springs.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer died after completing only a handful of The Canterbury Tales he had planned. He also quit working on several poems, any one of which could be considered a great and masterful work; in attempting to think past some medieval, he made several stabs at collections of tales (usually older ones translated into Middle English, with his own embellishments), of which The Canterbury Tales were the latest and greatest, and experts (as is their duty) have several theories on why more than one of his earlier poems are apparently unfinished.
  • Chrétien de Troyes, medieval composer of Arthurian romances, died before finishing Perceval, notable for being the first appearance of the Holy Grail. There are at least three continuations to the original romance, and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is an expansion and conclusion of the story. This is interesting because Chrétien's original ideas about the Holy Grail appeared to be quite different from what later writers envisioned and it's odd to wonder What Could Have Been if he had finished it. Toward the end of his Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, de Troyes also left his scribe Godefroi de Leigni to finish it. The reasons why he did so are unknown, but he may have fallen ill and been unable to complete it himself.
  • Tom Clancy's last novel Command Authority is the last in the 'next generation' of warriors in his Jack Ryan series. Rest In Peace.
  • Carl von Clausewitz died of cholera before he could complete On War, which was supposed to be the summation of decades of reflecting on the nature of war and how best to wage it. His widow Marie, who had been closely involved with the writing process, was able to collect his existing writings and publish the book, albeit in an unfinished form; she died in turn barely three years after sending the last volume to her publisher.
  • Joanna Cole, creator of The Magic School Bus, died at 75 of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on July 12, 2020, just after completing The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution, which is set to be released at the end of the year.
  • Michael Crichton was about a third of the way through a contracted novel with Harper Collins at the time of his death. This was completed from his notes by Richard Preston and released as Micro. He also had a completed manuscript, Pirate Latitudes, which was published a year after his death. Another completed manuscript from the 1970s, the historical fiction novel Dragon Teeth, was later discovered and published in 2017.
  • The death of Brian Daley in 1996 didn't keep three more Robotech novels (which he co-wrote with James Luceno under the name Jack Mckinney) from coming out. The last three novels were written by Luceno alone but still using the Mckinney pseudonym. Unfortunately, fans did notice a difference.
  • The Amber Brown books were written by Paula Danziger but came to an abrupt conclusion after Danziger passed away from complications of a heart attack in 2004. Fortunately, Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy continued the series beginning in 2012.
  • The author and illustrator of the Llama Llama picture books, Anna Dewdney, passed away in 2016 with many ideas for the series still unpublished. However, she left all of her unpublished material with her longtime partner, Reed Duncan, and many titles in the series are still planned to come out or were already released following her death. Though some are material based on the Netflix Animated Adaptation, others are Dewdney originals.
  • Philip K. Dick was working on a novel called The Owl in Daylight at the time of his death. His widow Tessa later published a book by the same title; notably, she ignored his sketchy notes on the characters and drew on his considerably more developed notes on the book's proposed themes.
  • Charles Dickens died before he could finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Since the book was published in serial form, a lot of people were left hanging on that one. A musical based on the story was later made, but rather than trying to figure out what ending Dickens had in mind, it just used Audience Participation to decide how things ended. There was also a novel called The D. Case which included the full text of the original book, with a Framing Device of several famous fictional detectives being called together to determine the ending. It's been made into several films including a 1935 one with Claude Rains. Charles Dickens allegedly told his son that Jasper did it before he died.
  • Gordon R. Dickson died after completing the 9th of an unknown number of books in his The Dragon Knight series, leaving Jim Eckert's journey from 20th Century grad student to Master Magickian incomplete. The 11th book in his more famous Childe Cycle series, Antagonist, was completed by his assistant and friend David W. Wixon and published in 2007.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky intended The Brothers Karamazov to be the first book in an epic story titled "The Life of a Great Sinner", but died four months after publishing it. Given that The Brothers Karamazov is widely considered Dostoevsky's greatest work, the fact that more was planned has bibliophiles smarting to this day.
  • Claudia J. Edwards died shortly after writing the first of three books in the Eldrie the Healer series.
  • Harlan Ellison passed away on 6/28/2018. The Last Dangerous Visions, 45 years delayed, is therefore highly unlikely to ever come out. As for his unfinished works, Ellison famously claimed that after he died:
    "My wife has instructions that the instant I die, she has to burn all the unfinished stories. And there may be a hundred unfinished stories in this house, maybe more than that. There's three quarters of a novel. No, these things are not to be finished by other writers, no matter how good they are."
  • The eighth and final book in the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch was not published before his death. According to The Other Wiki, the manuscript was completed, but not published.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald died before finishing The Last Tycoon, having only completed draft versions of the first five chapters and the beginning of the sixth. It was published the next year, in 1941, with a summary of Fitzgerald's notes for the unwritten second half of the novel compiled by his friend Edmund Wilson.
  • Ian Fleming's final James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, is regarded as unsatisfying by many fans. It was the draft he had completed at the time of his death and lacks many of the characteristic "Fleming" touches he would have added with subsequent revisions. Perhaps because of this, over the years a myth arose that noted author Kingsley Amis actually completed the book, but this has since been debunked. (Amis did, however, go on to write the first post-Fleming Bond novel, Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham.) It has also been suggested that the draft published was indeed Fleming's final approved draft.
    • Fleming had intended his short story "Octopussy" to be part of a larger short-story collection along the lines of For Your Eyes Only, but died before he could complete any more stories (fragmentary notes have survived but it's unclear whether these were intended for short stories for potential future novels). "Octopussy" was later compiled with an earlier uncollected story "The Living Daylights" for a posthumous release, which was later expanded to include additional stories. In 2015, Anthony Horowitz published the Bond novel Trigger Mortis which incorporated previously unpublished story elements devised by Fleming.
  • C. S. Forester died in the middle of yet another Horatio Hornblower story, Hornblower during the Crisis. It was published by The Powers That Be, along with the author's notes on finishing it.
  • French philosopher Michel Foucault destroyed most of his unpublished manuscripts before his death from an AIDS-related illness in 1984, and his will prevented anything he missed from being published, most notably the fourth volume of his History of Sexuality, though his partner, Daniel Defert, eventually allowed it to be published.
  • George MacDonald Fraser created an elaborate fictional C.V. for Flashman, and despite 12 volumes in the series having been published at the time of Fraser's death in 2008, there are still large whacks of Flashman's career that have yet to be publicized. Among the most glaring omissions are his time in Australia as a prospector (which apparently involved serving some time in jail), his time as an aide-de-camp to His Imperial Majesty Maximilian I of Mexico during the Second Mexican-French War (which ended with Maximilian being shot), and his service in the American Civil War (during which he fought on both sides and was awarded the Medal of Honor).
  • Historian Douglas Southall Freeman both exemplifies and averts this trope. He sent out the sixth volume of his biography of George Washington to the publishers on the day he died. Alas, there was a seventh volume (later written by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth) yet to be completed.
  • Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell died halfway through writing the final installment of Wives and Daughters, the book many believe was her best work. Her editor had to leave a note assuring the readers that the two romantic leads do indeed get together. However, he also told them that Gaskell was planning to separate them for a whole year before the planned happy ending. The BBC miniseries for the book took the shorter route of having the heroine run after the hero and interrupting his confession of love with just a "Yes".
  • English author David Gemmell died with his novel Fall of Kings only 3/4s finished. Fortunately, he had made detailed notes on each chapter beforehand, and his wife was able to complete the novel (the finale to a trilogy) using them.
  • The serially published novel The Golden Demon only had its 6th volume released in Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper when its author Ozaki Kōyō died. His student Oguri Fūyō wrote the last volume.
  • It is said that Nikolai Gogol wrote Dead Souls (his only novel) to be part of a series, wherein the characters are eventually redeemed. After completing the first book, he was so depressed that he felt he couldn't redeem these characters, took what he had completed of the second volume, threw it into a fire, then subsequently took ill and died.
  • William Goldman had been talking for years about Buttercup's Baby, a sequel to The Princess Bride. It was still in development when he died on November 16, 2018.
  • The Kinsey Millhone series of books was left incomplete with one novel left to go following the death of Sue Grafton in December 2017; per her wishes, the series will remain incomplete.
  • Ken Grimwood was reportedly writing a sequel to his 1986 "Groundhog Day" Loop story Replay when he died in 2003.
  • Roots author Alex Haley passed away while writing Queen, a sequel to Roots. It was finished by David Stevens.
  • Czech humorist Jaroslav Hašek died while writing part four of a planned seven-volume novel series The Good Soldier Švejk, making it one of the few war novels where you never see any kind of war. Then Robert Kurka died before finishing his opera based on it. Moral of the story: don't work on Švejk.
  • Robert A. Heinlein started a novel in 1955 but never finished it. Almost 20 years after RAH's death, Spider Robinson finished the novel under the title Variable Star.
  • C.J. Henderson died of cancer in 2014 before he could finish reissuing his Teddy London novel series; he had also been in the process of adding new books to it, along with novels starring other Occult Detectives.
  • Frank Herbert died in 1985, leaving his Dune series unfinished, though Herbert had been tacking books onto the series for some time. After his death, his son Brian Herbert, along with Kevin J. Anderson, wrote a handful of sequel and prequel books to the series.
  • The death of mystery writer Joan Hess in 2017 put an abrupt end to her Claire Malloy and Maggody series of humorous Arkansas whodunits. This was particularly awkward in the latter, as it leaves series sleuth Arly Hanks perpetually waiting at the alter and pregnant.
  • Eric Hill, creator of Spot the Dog and inventor of the Lift-the-flap book, passed away on the 6th of June, 2014, with a few books set for posthumous release according to Amazon. It's also reasonable to believe that a ghostwriting team has been set up to take his place.
  • At the time of Reginald Hill's death in January 2012, one more Dalziel and Pascoe novel had been announced for release in August 2013.
  • Evan Hunter (also known as Ed McBain, the pseudonym he used for his crime fiction) left several works unfinished with his death:
    • The novel Becca in Jeopardy, the second in his planned Women in Jeopardy series. The unfinished novel has not been published.
    • Hunter's death also ended McBain's long-running 87th Precinct series. Hunter had once expressed an intention to write a final 87th Precinct book called Exit, to be published after his death, but no such book has materialized.
    • McBain himself was hired to complete a mystery novel Craig Rice had left unfinished at her death. The first half was completely finished, but no drafts or notes for the second half could be found. So McBain had to solve the mystery before he could complete the book.
  • Aldous Huxley's Ape and Essence has a bizarre in-universe example, with the framing device being the discovery of the manuscript of a story which ends with the characters discovering the now-deceased author's grave.
  • Shirley Jackson died with her last novel, Come Along with Me, barely begun. After her death, her husband published the existing material (six chapters, three in draft and three revised) along with several short stories and some non-fiction material.
  • Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall novels, died of a heart attack on February 5th, 2011. He had planned to never stop writing the series, and the last book he'd been working on, The Rogue Crew, was left complete but unpublished at the time of his death. It was released three months later.
  • W.E. Johns, prolific author of the Biggles series of books, managed to die not only in the middle of a book, but in the middle of a sentence. Johns' last novel, Biggles Does Some Homework, was thus abandoned in 1967 on the note: "With considerable reluctance Bertie backed away from ..." It was published, eventually, in 1997, still as incomplete as it had been at the time of Johns' unexpected heart attack. Epic.
  • Diana Wynne Jones was working on a fourth book in the Wizard's Castle series before her death in 2011. Although series completion is thankfully not an issue with that series (like her Chrestomanci series, Wizard's Castle is a series of individual stories connected by a few recurring characters), it was nonetheless a disappointment, as the series had received a recent popularity boost thanks to Studio Ghibli's adaptation of the first book. Her final book, The Islands of Chaldea, was finished by her sister Ursula and published posthumously.
  • Robert Jordan died before he could complete the "definitely, probably final" 12th book of The Wheel of Time series, but he left behind extensive notes. Before his illness was discovered, he used to joke that if he died before the series was over, his will was going to dictate that his notes be destroyed. Fortunately, he relented and spent much of his remaining time leaving behind notes for whoever would finish the series. Following his death, Brandon Sanderson was picked to finish the draft. Although the work was split into three separate books, it was released to much acclaim.
    • Darrell Sweet, the artist behind the US covers, passed away before completing the cover for A Memory of Light. Michael Whelan was hired to provide the final cover and chose to start from scratch rather than use Sweet's unfinished artwork.
  • A lot of Franz Kafka's stuff was unfinished, including the novel The Trial and a bunch of short stories. He still had fragments. What's more, he never intended to publish any of it; his papers were to be burned unread upon his death, and we only have them today because no one followed instructions. Many people have speculated that Kafka left his papers to Max Brod because he knew Brod would under no circumstances obey his request to have the papers burned.
  • When he died in 1983, children's book author/illustrator Ezra Jack Keats was working on a retelling of the Japanese folk tale The Giant Turnip. The book went unfinished, though some illustrations appear in his 2001 treasury Keats' Neighborhood.
  • John Keats managed to become one of the most influential poets of the Romantic era by the time he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. Many believe he could have been among the greatest writers in history if he had lived long enough. One candidate for his potential magnum opus is The Fall of Hyperion, an epic poem left unfinished when he died. Keats himself wrote a poem about his fear of dying before achieving his full creative potential, "When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be".
  • Andrew Keith, who co-wrote the Wing Commander III novelization and False Colors with William Forstchen, passed away in 1999 before he and Forstchen could work on a planned sequel to False Colors that would have bridged the gap between that book's end and the start of Wing Commander IV.
  • Narrowly dodged by Stephen King, who had finished only four out of seven books in The Dark Tower series when he was struck by a van and sent to the hospital with severe injuries. He later references this, at least indirectly.note 
  • Sixteen-year-old high school student Robert Kornwise was in the process of writing a fantasy novel, Through the Ice, when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 1987. His friends sent his unfinished manuscript to Piers Anthony with a plea to help their deceased friend get published; Anthony finished the work and released it in 1989.
  • With the death of Kaoru Kurimoto, some readers initially thought the Guin Saga would never have an ending. However, the main story had actually ended somewhere around volume 100, with the continuing volumes being various side stories and prequels. It was recently announced that other writers would finish these based on notes she left behind.
  • Stieg Larsson died of a massive heart attack in 2004 after having completed the third book of his supposed-to-be-decalogy Millennium (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). All of the completed novels were only published after his death.
  • The death of Mary Jane Latsis, half of the writing duo known as Emma Lathen, brought the John Putnam Thatcher series to an end.
  • Husband-and-wife team Joyce and Jim Lavene began writing together in 1999, and wrote about seventeen Cozy Mystery series and several other books (over 70 titles altogether), until their deaths in October 2015 and May 2016, respectively, put an end to their various ongoing series. The third book in their Retired Witches Mysteries series was published posthumously.
  • The death of Ellery Queen collaborator Manfred B. Lee left a novel, The Tragedy of Errors, unwritten. The very detailed outline by Fredric Dannay was eventually published.
  • Madeleine L'Engle left unfinished a novel called The Eye Begins to See about the adult Meg Murry O'Keefe. There has been no word on whether the incomplete novel will be published, or whether it sheds any light on the question of what happened to Charles Wallace Murry as an adult.
  • C. S. Lewis left unfinished upon his death a manuscript of The Dark Tower, which would have been a sequel of sorts to The Space Trilogy. It was published in its fragmentary form with some of his unfinished short stories. His notes also indicated he was planning to write another The Chronicles of Narnia book called Susan of Narnia.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The ancient Roman writer Lucan was still writing his epic Pharsalia (The Civil War) when he had a heavily foreshadowed Author Existence Failure. The first parts of the epic are very heavily pro-Nero. Then he had a falling out with Nero, and the rest of the epic is very anti-Nero. Nero was not the kind of ruler who tolerated this behavior. He was part of Piso's conspiracy against Nero and had to commit suicide at age 25.
  • John D. MacDonald died leaving the major revelation at the end of The Lonely Silver Rain, the 21st book in his Travis McGee series, to frustrate his fans. Rumours of a manuscript (Black Border for McGee), intended to be published after his death as a conclusion to the series, were denied by his publisher and his widow.
  • William Manchester passed away in 2004, leaving his stellar three-volume biography of Winston Churchill one volume short. Fortunately, he had begun collaborating on the final volume with a long-time friend, journalist Paul Reid, who took up the project after Manchester's death. It was published in November 2012.
  • Karl Marx's magnum opus, Capital, is this. He first started it with a book titled A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which he later summarised in the first chapter of Capital. However, he only managed to publish one tome in his life, the first one. The other two tomes were edited by his longtime friend Friedrich Engels. But Marx was also working on another tome, a fourth one, which not even Engels would finish. That task would be taken first by German socialist Karl Kautsky, who published it on his own accord as "Theories on Surplus Value" (this is where Marx quite literally critiques the economists of his time one by one). Later, Russian bolshevik David Riazanov managed to grab the manuscripts and published them thoroughly. But then, as per Marx's own annotations, he would have later followed Capital with works on land and the state, a feat he never managed to finish, leaving most of his works on economy scattered on his manuscripts known as "Fundamental Elements for the Critique of Political Economy" or Grundrisse.
    • Similarly, Engels's correspondence mentions that, after Marx's death, he started working on his biography, but Engels died before he even got to finish a chapter.
  • Leon Trotsky left some biographies unfinished before he was murdered. At the time of his death, he was writing a biography on Joseph Stalin, and years earlier he actually managed to start a biography on Vladimir Lenin, but on the latter he only managed to write Lenin's youth. His exile contributed greatly on him never finishing it.
  • Horror novelist Michael McDowell died before completing his final novel, Candles Burning. The book was completed by novelist Tabitha King. Both King and her husband (yes that one) are professed admirers of McDowell's work.
  • Confessions of Felix Krull is subtitled: "First Part of the Memoirs"; it remained the only part due to Thomas Mann's death the following year. However, as he himself noted, the novel makes a great read on its own.
  • Inverted by George R. R. Martin. He's not dead, and actually is mildly offended by people who think he may die before he finishes the final two books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. However, it is a matter of record that Martin discussed, at least in broad strokes, his plans for the final books in the series with the producers of the TV adaptation, Game of Thrones, just in case - though the fact the TV series bypassed the books also made this a practical consideration on its own. This was further compounded by the 2016 death of George Martin, the music producer of Beatles fame. More than a few websites used the wrong Martin in their picture, causing confusion amongst Beatles fans and heart attacks amongst fantasy fans.
    • Parodied in this catchy little tune by Geek & Sundry. 'George R. R. Martin, please write and write faster / You're not going to get any younger you know!'
  • Anne McCaffrey managed to avoid this with the long-running Dragonriders of Pern series by collaborating with her son, Todd, on a few books before turning the franchise over to him entirely. So even though she passed away in November 2011, Pern survives. Their final collaboration has been finished and 'in the can' for quite some time. The publisher is sitting on it for unknown reasons, perhaps to avoid a release that could be construed as capitalizing on her death. There's also the "final" Pern book she worked on for years, with a working/joke title After the Fall Is Over. No word on whether or not Todd will finish it.
    • Since her passing, Todd has released one book, completed during her lifetime, and Gigi McCaffrey released one in 2018, set mid-Ninth Pass.
  • Barbara Mertz (AKA Elizabeth Peters) died in 2013 with her last novel, The Painted Queen, unfinished. Joan Hess finished it after Mertz's death, for publication in 2017, to considerably negative reviews. (While it's unknown if Hess intended to continue filling in the gaps in the timeline, she herself died in 2017 as well, precluding her from doing so.)
  • Victor Milán passed away from cancer in the middle of writing his last series, The Dinosaur Lords, with only three of the planned six books completed. Nothing has been said as of yet on whether or not anyone will step in to finish it.
  • Nicholas Monsarrat left unfinished his two-volume historical novel The Master Mariner. The second volume was published incomplete.
  • Author/producer Perry Moore died in 2011 of a drug overdose, leaving any possible sequels for his award-winning Hero unfinished. He also had plans to get a TV show of the book and write another novel about werewolves.
  • Vladimir Nabokov died before finishing The Original of Laura. What remains is a series of notecards with isolated scenes and plot which only his family and a few selected scholars have seen. He requested that the notecards be burnt in the event of his death, but his son, believing that the story was Nabokov's best, agonized for 30 years before deciding in 2008 to publish it.
  • Andre Norton died with several unfinished projects. One manuscript, A Taste of Magic, was handed off to Jean Rabe before her death. The fate of others, including the Elvenblood collaboration with Mercedes Lackey, remains a mystery.
  • Patrick O'Brian, author of the Aubrey-Maturin series, died after finishing the first three chapters of the 21st book. The Powers That Be published it anyway. It was surprisingly well-received. O'Brian had previously foreshadowed in his books that he had no intention of ending the series, with two characters discussing how many nearly-great stories through history would have been better off with no ending whatsoever.
  • Robert C. O'Brien, author of the Newbery Medal Award-winning Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, passed away shortly before finishing his post-apocalyptic children's novel Z for Zachariah. Luckily, his wife and daughter (authors themselves) finished it based on the notes he left behind and published it posthumously. His daughter, Jane Leslie Conly, went on to publish two more NIMH books.
  • Peggy Parish, author of the Amelia Bedelia children's series, had completed twelve books by the time she died of a ruptured abdominal aneurysm in 1988. When fan mail continued to pour in from children asking for the next book and other children's authors contacted the family with offers of continuing, Parish's nephew Herman took over the series, with his first book releasing in 1995.
  • Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones books had been generally released once a year but suffered a long Schedule Slip and the next one in the main series wasn't released until 2012. Park passed away in late 2013 and it was revealed that she had a long battle with ovarian cancer.
  • Robert B. Parker, writer of the Spenser novels (as well as three other series novels and the occasional western, plus the completion of Raymond Chandler's last novel, as referenced above) died in his office chair, at his typewriter, in January 2010. Parker was known to write very fast and to write ahead, but there's not been any news from his editor at Putnam as to what might have been on the spike. In late 2010 a Stone/Randall novel crossover,was published, and as a final book, it ends things well, with the two main characters, who had been struggling with personal issues, making a good effort to find happiness with each other much the way Spenser and Susan had in the Spenser novels. Since the series were mostly ongoing, there's nothing specific really missing, but those who were enjoying the various Spenser/Stone/Randall crossovers were hoping really hard for a nice three-way. Authors did end up continuing each of these series.
  • Mervyn Peake died when Titus Alone, part three of his Gormenghast trilogy, was still in early drafts. His widow, Maeve Gilmore, submitted his manuscript to the publisher with notes on how it could be improved. Unfortunately, the publishers took these notes as the intended changes themselves and published the novel as is. The novel was later re-edited by Langdon Jones into something (presumably) closer to Peake's intended version. In 2010, a manuscript of the fourth novel, completed by Gilmore, was discovered by the family. It was published in 2011 as Titus Awakes.
  • Nicholas Pekearo intended The Wolfman to be first in a series involving a "detective werewolf" and his unique crime-solving method. He was also a police officer, and unfortunately, he was gunned down in the line of duty, chasing the gunman armed with nothing but his hands and courage.
  • H. Beam Piper committed suicide before he could finish Fuzzies and Other People. The manuscript was lost for 20 years (and thought destroyed), so they had two different authors write sequels, which were contradicted when Fuzzies and Other People was finally published.
  • Tragic poetess and author Sylvia Plath committed suicide a month after The Bell Jar, her only novel, was published in Britain under a pseudonym. Most of her poetry went up in a bonfire when Plath was in a rage one day, and ex-husband Ted Hughes destroyed most of her journals, his reasoning implying that her final journal entries revealed that she had gone off the deep end and become a madwoman who couldn't be saved from suicide. Plath hinted she was in the middle of writing a sequel before she passed away.
  • Completing the wooden-navy trifecta (with Forester and O'Brien), Dudley Pope, author of the Ramage series, died just after his eponymous hero's career had taken a fresh turn. Ramage and the Dido put Lord Ramage at the helm of a shiny new 74-gun ship of the line, and a strong hint at the end of the story that he was about to be sent on another mysterious adventure; but what that was will never be known.
  • Sir Terry Pratchett died on the March 12th, 2015. His final novel, The Shepherd's Crown was close to being finished, and was published as he left it. (The plot is complete, as Pratchett habitually wrote his books in a non-linear manner, and revised drafts of different sections repeatedly, but parts of the novel are clearly unpolished compared to other sections.) Sir Terry had mentioned in interviews that his daughter Rhianna, who's intimately familiar with Discworld and a writer herself, would take over the franchise once Pratchett Senior wasn't able to write anymore. However, Rhianna has clarified that "taking over the franchise" means maintaining quality control over adaptations and merchandise, and ensuring that no one other than Sir Terry writes more books, including her. On August 30, 2017, Pratchett's assistant fulfilled the author's request by having a steamroller crush the hard drive from Pratchett's computer.
  • Marcel Proust died before finishing In Search of Lost Time. The final book was published mostly unedited, and contradicts some things that happened in the earlier volumes. C. K. Scott Moncrieff then died before he could finish translating it, and Stephen Hudson had to finish the job. The last three books were all unedited and published posthumously. However, all of them were in an almost-completed form, including the last page of the last book. Although some of the small contradictions went through as a result of Proust's death, at least we got a completed series written by his own hand.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh began compiling an anthology called The Historie of the World about the history of ancient Greece and Rome while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was successful in completing the first volume, but his execution in 1618 prevented him from ever finishing the series. This trope was parodied over three centuries later by Mel Brooks (who is himself still alive) with the aptly titled History of the World Part I.
  • Arthur Ransome had an unfinished Swallows and Amazons book when he died. Nicknamed Coots in the North, it had the Blacketts meeting the Death-and-Glories and makes one weep for What Could Have Been.
  • Z.A. Recht died with the third book in his Morningstar Strain trilogy unfinished.
  • The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series finished in 2009, but author Louise Rennison had seemingly begun (or been commissioned to write) a new book following Georgia as a young adult; which was advertised for pre-order on several websites and due to be released in 2017, but cancelled after Rennison's death in March 2016.
  • Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was executed before he could finish Makamisa, the third installment to the Noli Me Tangere series.
  • Kate Ross (Katherine Jean Ross) was a mystery writer/attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. She died of breast cancer at just 42, after publishing only four novels (and two short stories) in her award-winning Julian Kestrel Regency-period mystery series. As one fan says in her Amazon.com Listmania description, "After revealing her hero's past with exquisite subtlety for 3 3/4 books, she suddenly tells us everything about him in the last few pages of the fourth one because she knows she's dying. So this is a very short list of great books."
  • When Richard Scarry passed away in 1994, the Busytown series didn't get any new stories until the late 90s.
  • Several of Dr. Seuss' books were published posthumously - he was able to write but not illustrate Daisy-Head Mayzie and the lesser-known My Many Colored Days, while Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! and Gerald McBoing-Boing were finished using the notes and fragments of rhyming verse Seuss left behind.
  • Shen Fu's Six Records of a Floating Life, the autobiography of a Ching Dynasty minor bureaucrat which also chronicles the life of everyday people during the period, was left unfinished by the author's demise.
  • Shel Silverstein's last poems and sketches have now been published, posthumously. Although he cannot see your face, as you flip through his poems a while, somewhere in a far off place, he hears you laughing — and he smiles.
  • Cordwainer Smith died at 53, leaving behind notes and unfinished manuscripts for a number of stories. A few were completed by his wife Genevieve Linebarger (and at least one written by her out of whole cloth), while others remain as tantalizing fragments. In the epilogue to his collection Space Lords Smith had written "I am glad to report that I expect to type many hundreds or thousands of pages before I, in my turn, stop". This is dated April 1965, just 14 months before his death.
  • Edmund Spenser died after completing only six of his planned 24 books of The Faerie Queene, meaning said queen never once makes an appearance.
  • John Steinbeck spent the latter years of his life creating a modern English translation of the original Le Morte d'Arthur, but died shortly after finishing Lancelot's story.
  • In early 1990s, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky set out to write a final Noon Universe novel. Unfortunately, Arkady Strugatsky died before the novel could be completed. Boris Strugatsky chose to shelve the novel rather than finish it — as he explained in the subsequent interviews, he could not bring himself to complete it.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray left his final novel, Denis Duval, unfinished.
  • Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War breaks off abruptly partway through the eighth book. Fortunately Xenophon picked up where Thucydides left off, so we know how the war ended. Athens lost.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien died with his life's work, the history of the First Age of Middle-earth, in a fragmentary, unfinished, self-contradictory state; his son Christopher combined several of the main fragments into a publishable work, The Silmarillion. Christopher later published more of the unfinished stories, poems, and notes from his father's large collection in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, the 12-volume History of Middle-earth series, and The Children of Húrin. Several statements J. R. R. made during life would seem to indicate that he didn't want any of his unfinished works to ever be published. Fortunately, his son disagreed and we now have a relatively good understanding of how incredibly detailed Tolkien's world really was, and what his creative process looked like.
  • Sue Townsend, author of Adrian Mole, had planned to release only one or two more books due to poor health; but died in 2015 just as she was beginning another one. Her publisher confirmed that she had shown them "a few wonderful pages" and apologised that the book would now never be released.
  • Mark Twain left behind three unfinished versions of his novel The Mysterious Stranger which are referred to, in chronological order, as "The Chronicle of Young Satan," "Schoolhouse Hill," and "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Translated from the Jug."
    • A version of the novel was published in 1916 by Albert Bigelow Paine as "The Mysterious Stranger," based on the first version, with substantial alterations and an ending taken from later versions. "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger" is the only version where Twain actually wrote an ending, and is considered the definitive version. (It is effectively a full novel, but considered by scholars to not be as polished as Twain would have wanted.)
    • All three versions were published, unaltered, in 1969; with the last re-published in 2005. The last version shows Twain at his darkest, clearly highlighting his growing depression, and hostility toward organized religion.
    • A scene from The Mysterious Stranger also somehow made its way into the 1985 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain (the infamous "Satan" sequence.) Talk about your Small Reference Pools.
  • The ancient Roman poet Virgil died before he could finish editing his epic poem The Aeneid. Some short passages and placeholder lines remain, as well as some incongruities with the characters. He left instructions for it to be burned, though a literate slave read it and saved it because he recognized the merit of the work. The ending is often considered contradictory to the hero's nature, resulting in medieval poets and scholars writing terrible conclusions with a "book 13."
  • David Foster Wallace committed suicide when his antidepressant meds lost their effectiveness and his depression became severe. He left his last novel The Pale King unfinished. It was published in its unfinished state in 2011. For several years before his death, Wallace published fragments of The Pale King as stand-alone short stories in several magazines. Given that Wallace's previous novel was a monster of a book, these fragments didn't give much of the overall plot away (especially since, as mentioned before, many are presented as stand-alone stories, not pieces of a larger novel).
  • Robert Anton Wilson died after completing only three books in his projected 5-book epic romance The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. There has been some talk that his friends and/or children might finish the story based on his notes, but only time will tell whether that's possible. Wilson himself refrained from publishing the fourth book even two decades after the third came out.
  • Although there wasn't much carryover between the Blandings Castle books, the death of P. G. Wodehouse left the aptly-named Sunset at Blandings — which he knew was going to be his last — completely unfinished. And, judging by how complicated the plot was getting, the ending was going to be great.
  • Willard Huntington Wright (writing the Philo Vance novels as "S.S. Van Dine") died before he finished the last novel. However, he'd finished the core of the novel — what was undone was the elaborate descriptions and foreign quotations the series was known for. His publisher printed The Winter Murder Case as is, making it by far the shortest of the Philo Vance novels.
  • Roger Zelazny died before completing some of his books.
    • Donnerjack and Lord Demon were completed from his unfinished manuscripts by Jane Lindskold and published.
    • Then there's the two-book Changeling Saga: Changeling, which ended with a minor Sequel Hook, and Madwand, which ended with the armed Big Bad on the loose. More of an Orphaned Series, since Zelazny hasn't touched it since 1981 and died in 1995. He wasn't keen on working on it further.
    • Chronomaster started as a plot for an Adventure Game that was finished after Zelazny's death. His apprentice Jane Lindskold finished the work on the game and adapted it in a book form.
    • In a similar vein, Zelazny himself finished Psychoshop after the death of its primary author, Alfred Bester. The book was then published after Zelazny's own death. Science fiction writers are apparently superstitious: it's rumoured that, given the toll the book had already exacted, the publisher experienced some difficulty finding a writer to pen an introduction for it. Greg Bear, who wrote the introduction, remains among the living.
    • Psychoshop is remarkably Zelazny-like, while Lord Demon ends on a jarring note (by being very different from his style). Chronomaster novel also suffers from being rather un-Zelazny.
    • Finally, The Chronicles of Amber series was concluded properly with the 10th book, but a number of short stories appeared suggesting a new big plot. The one that would require at least a major novel, or better the third pentalogy. And maybe a son to Merlin. Those remain unfinished (except for the prequels by another author).

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