It’s trite to say that writing is a solitary occupation, but it’s usually true. However, there is more scope for collaborative writing than is often appreciated, and I must say that I very much enjoy writing in collaboration, and I've written several books (including one novel, The Lazarus Widow) with one or more other writers. After all, if it worked for Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney and Bacharach and David, why can’t it work with novels?
In the crime genre, there have been quite a few notable writing teams over the years. Two cousins working together made the name of Ellery Queen famous, while in Britain, the names Manning Coles and Francis Beeding concealed pairs of writers. In the 60s and 70s, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo wrote the Martin Beck series, while in the States, two female writers combined to produced the finance-based Emma Lathen mysteries. Behind the pseudonyms of Patrick Quentin, Jonathan Stagge and Q. Patrick hid Hugh Wheeler – better known later for his work on musicals – and a variety of associates. Dick Francis collaborated with his wife Mary on his racing thrillers, although her name did not appear on the books – it’s different now that he is writing with his son.
Nowadays there are plenty of examples of writing teams. Nicci French is a notable husband and wife pairing, while Charles Todd writes with his mother Caroline. There are even crime writing twins – the Mulgray Twins.
‘Round-robin’ novels involve an especially elaborate form of collaboration, where a story is told by a succession of different authors. The Detection Club’s The Floating Admiral is a very famous example, but there are plenty of others, including a 19th century curiosity, The Fate of Fenella, whose contributors include Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. Intriguingly enough, I was asked a while back to contribute to a round-robin novel. Whether it will see the light of day, I’m not sure – but it’s an appealing idea.