- Wife of the Gods
- Children of the Street
- Murder at Cape Three Points
- Gold of our Fathers
- Death by His Grace
- The Missing American
- Death at the Voyager Hotel
Hey, what’s up with the cliffhanger?
Even before this week when the latest Darko Dawson novel, DEATH BY HIS GRACE, was released in hardcover, a bit of a controversy developed among reviewers who received the advance copies. It concerned the cliffhanger ending, which some found upsetting. Library Journal predicted in their review: that “Series fans may be stunned by the suddenness of the unexpected cliffhanger ending.” They were right! One of my readers told me I was “so wrong” to end it the way I did, to which my editor at Soho Press tersely commented, “[Kwei,] you have a right to end a book however you want.”
Some readers like a conventional and neatly tied-up ending to a book, but such endings have begun to appeal to me less and less for a couple reasons. The first is that life is messy and rarely wraps up nicely. I know that novels are fantasy or “escape,” but my novels are based in reality and the realities tackled can be rather heavy and dark. Murder, my subject matter, is dark and horrifying–unless it’s a Miss Marple cozy in which the village vicar was killed politely in the vestry. There’s never any blood there. There’s plenty in mine.
Second, I’m rather shifting to what I call “the Netflix model.” My stories in the future are going to be “Netflix ready,” in other words, adaptible to one or more seasons of three or more episodes. The Netflixers among us know how many great suspense and mystery thrillers on the small screen have ended in cliffhangers. One of my personal best examples is The Fall, with Gillian Anderson and the mesmerizing Jamie Dornan. The end of Series [Season] 2 left me with my mouth open and my eyes big as saucers. But I loved it!
At the moment there’s a raging debate about the finale climax of Season 7 of Game Of Thrones. Clearly, my novels are not epic fantasies, but I think you get my point that in series, cliffhangers are often par for the course. As I shift my writing slightly to being screen-ready, readers should know that there may be more cliffhangers in store. In fact, my next novel, tentatively titled Dead American, will almost certainly end in a cliffhanger.