Most authors of blockbuster books face heightened expectations when they come up with a sequel. But not many face it at the level that Scott Turow is seeing with the release of “Innocent,” a sequel to 1987’s “Presumed Innocent.”
Turow didn’t just write a book with “Presumed Innocent,” he was credited with the popularity of an entire genre. The Los Angeles Times said he propelled legal thrillers to the top of the bestseller list, “paving the way for successors such as John Grisham.” The book sold 4 million copies. Turow, who is still a practicing lawyer as well as author, said the story of main character Rusty Sabich was over – but more than 20 years later, he changed his mind.
"When you write books, something grabs at you, and it's often years later that you understand what it is you're trying to do, and what it is that's moving you," he told the L.A. Times. "For whatever reason, it felt like I just needed to check back in with this guy."
Early reviews suggest that readers are lucky he did.
The Washington Post called “Innocent” an “intelligent, thoughtful novel: a grownup book for grownup readers.” The New York Times finds the first few chapters implausible, but otherwise says fans of the first book will not be disappointed. USA Today praised it as going beyond genre, saying “in the jaded world of best-selling authors, Turow has always seemed refreshingly uncynical. He's not just cranking out formulaic moneymakers. Tracing Rusty’s path allows Turow to explore serious issues including aging, marriage, raising children and death.”
Have any other authors faced comparable expectations when returning to game-changing characters? The sequel to “Gone with the Wind” took more than a half century, but Margaret Mitchell didn’t write it, which nullifies its significance in my mind. No one faced anticipation like J.K. Rowling, but she got her sequels done within years, not decades.
What are your candidates? And, 23 years later, do you still want to hear more about Rusty Sabich?
Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com.