Run-On Sentences Illustrated


Based on what people say to me (some of them whining), we live in the age of the telegram.  Or do I mean the Tweet?  Brevity is crucial, and the spaces between the words are more important than the words.  That, at least, is some of the grumbling I have heard from colleagues who are unhappy about having their scenes pruned.

We all have those scenes we just love to death.  We don’t want to deprive our generous readers, who have paid their good money and committed their precious time to purchase and read our efforts.  They do deserve the best!  Why deprive them of our wonderful work?

I’m overstating, of course, though I admit to a twinge when I concluded that a perfectly delicious scene of one of my MC’s, who was an impressive but sometimes sobersided fellow, in which he drank an entire bottle of liquor and had a drunken reverie that had had me rolling on the floor, almost literally, was not needed in my story.  Sigh.  It is hard.

…but what if you are so adored an author, you can write monstrous scenes – monstrous in length and complexity, I mean – with no one curling a lip?  Or – let’s daydream really outrageously – what if we are so idolized and admired, we can churn out a sentence of nearly a thousand words – and have it printed?  What about that?  Did it ever happen? 

Victor Hugo, hands to face

Yes, it did.  And to salve the sensibilities of all authors who hate to see a single deathless word deleted, I am putting up here the stuff of which daydreams are made, courtesy of Victor Hugo, who is referring to the then (in his book, Les Miserables) King of France.  Hugo was quite the iconoclast, but my mind boggles that even he was able to pass off an eight hundred-plus word sentence with no one screaming bloody murder.  And I think he did it out of a sense of mischief.

Here it is, and lest the flow (flood?  torrent?  spate?) of words exhaust us all, I am interspersing it with depictions of the subject:, who is an historical character that I happen to admire very sincerely:

Louis-Philippe, King of France
“The son of a father to whom history will accord certain attenuating circumstances, but also as worthy of esteem as that father had been of blame; possessing all private virtues and many public virtues; careful of his health, of his fortune, of his person, of his affairs, knowing the value of a minute and not always the value of a year; sober, serene, peaceable, patient; a good man and a good prince; sleeping with his wife, and having in his palace lackeys charged with the duty of showing the conjugal bed to the bourgeois, an ostentation of the regular sleeping-apartment which had become useful after the former illegitimate displays of the elder branch; knowing all the languages of Europe, and, what is more rare, all the languages of all interests, and speaking them; an admirable representative of the “middle class,” but outstripping it, and in every way greater than it; possessing excellent sense, while appreciating the blood from which he had sprung, counting most of all on his intrinsic worth, and, on the question of his race, very particular, declaring himself Orleans and not Bourbon; thoroughly the first Prince of the Blood Royal while he was still only a Serene Highness, but a frank bourgeois from the day he became king; diffuse in public, concise in private; reputed, but not proved to be a miser; at bottom, one of those economists who are readily prodigal at their own fancy or duty; lettered, but not very sensitive to

letters; a gentleman, but not a chevalier; simple, calm, and strong; adored by his family and his household; a fascinating talker, an undeceived statesman, inwardly cold, dominated by immediate interest, always governing at the shortest range, incapable of rancor and of gratitude, making use without mercy of superiority on mediocrity, clever in getting parliamentary majorities to put in the wrong those mysterious unanimities which mutter dully under thrones; unreserved, sometimes imprudent in his lack of reserve, but with marvelous address in that imprudence; fertile in expedients, in countenances, in masks; making France fear Europe and Europe France! Incontestably fond of his country, but preferring his family; assuming more domination than authority and more authority than dignity, a disposition which has this unfortunate property, that as it turns everything to success, it admits of ruse and does not absolutely repudiate baseness, but which has this valuable side, that it preserves politics from violent

shocks, the state from fractures, and society from catastrophes; minute, correct, vigilant, attentive, sagacious, indefatigable; contradicting himself at times and giving himself the lie; bold against Austria at Ancona, obstinate against England in Spain, bombarding Antwerp, and paying off Pritchard; singing the Marseillaise with conviction, inaccessible to despondency, to lassitude, to the taste for the beautiful and the ideal, to daring generosity, to Utopia, to chimeras, to wrath, to vanity, to fear; possessing all the forms of personal intrepidity; a general at Valmy; a soldier at Jemappes; attacked eight times by regicides and always smiling; brave as a grenadier, courageous as a thinker; uneasy only in the face of the chances of a European shaking up, and unfitted for great political adventures; always ready to risk his life, never his work; disguising his will in influence, in order that he might be obeyed as an intelligence rather than as a king; endowed with observation and not with divination; not very attentive to minds, but knowing men, that is to say requiring to see in order to judge; prompt and penetrating good sense, practical wisdom, easy speech, prodigious memory; drawing incessantly on this memory, his only point of resemblance with Caesar, Alexander, and Napoleon; knowing

deeds, facts, details, dates, proper names, ignorant of tendencies, passions, the diverse geniuses of the crowd, the interior aspirations, the hidden and obscure uprisings of souls, in a word, all that can be designated as the invisible currents of consciences; accepted by the surface, but little in accord with France lower down; extricating himself by dint of tact; governing too much and not enough; his own first minister; excellent at creating out of the pettiness of realities an obstacle to the immensity of ideas; mingling a genuine creative faculty of civilization, of order and organization, an indescribable spirit of proceedings and chicanery, the founder and lawyer of a dynasty; having something of Charlemagne and something of an attorney; in short, a lofty and original figure, a prince who understood how to create authority in spite of the uneasiness of France, and power in spite of the jealousy of Europe, — Louis Philippe will be classed among the eminent men of his century, and would be ranked among the most illustrious governors of history had he loved glory but a little, and if he had had the sentiment of what is great to the same degree as the feeling for what is useful.” 

**   **   **

Inspector Javert Editorializes

I can only imagine the hue and cry (or, more likely, the spate of sneers) that would greet any writer who attempted to match that run-on sentence, deliberate though it must have been. I can’t imagine Stephen King attempting it.  I have read some books that seemed unending, but they were (mostly) equipped with paragraphs and reasonable sentences.  What boggles my mind, however, is learning that there is a 1,400 word sentence (not in a European language) that beats this one by nearly double.  It is enough to make even the most toughened character cringe.

Celebrations, October 3 2014

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a lady who wrote decided to set up a blog hop to celebrate the things that made her happy, whether or not they merited a 21-gun salute.  She ran the idea past her friends and co-bloggers and everyone agreed that it was a great idea.  And so the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop began.  Why don’t you join?  it might make you smile (See the bottom of the page for details)

A lot of nice things have been happening.  I rediscovered a lovely little CD I bought a while back and have been singing my made-up words to con te partira (time to say good-bye).  Here it is on YouTube.  (Do click to end the advertisement):

Interesting enough, though I don’t play an instrument, unless you count a Recorder, sort of, or a Kazoo, I’ve always been a little musical.  Music seems to ‘firm up’ things for me, or condense them.  This particular instrumental piece served as a sort of theme for my recent book Mourningtide (Book 2 of The Memphis Cycle), which chronicles a powerful man’s passage through grief at his eldest son’s death through a very stupid mistake.  The man, a king, makes his way through his loss and heartbreak and finds peace and love again.  Somehow, that tune expressed it for me.  Very hard to explain.  But now I have it back to listen to, remember and enjoy.  (I reread the story, too and I have to say that I liked it.)

I also received the delivery of the 10th Anniversary concert (Royal Albert Hall) of Les Miserables., along with a two CD set.  In this production they gathered the actors that they thought did the absolutely best performances of their parts.  One of them, a distinguished Australian actor named Philip Quast, played the part of Inspector Javert.  Quast has won several Olivier Awards (as prestigious in live performance circles, as an Oscar).  Unlike some in that production, though he had presented a splendid interpretation of the Police Inspector, Javert, he rethought the part, honed it, and delivered a breathtaking performance.  (see below – but do click to end the adverts)


Javert’s soliloquy.  I could wish they had done the hair and makeup differently.  A para-military type of that era would not have worn his hair long.  It was out of style and it was conducive to being seized (by the hair) and disabled.  But I digress in the way of writers of historical fiction: 

And listen to that passage at 2:38 where he holds that soaring note.

I do love baritones.

As I said, I have the DVD of the concert, which is nice and does Not feature the man in front of me at my first viewing of Les Miserables in 1988 with the head the size of a pumpkin, who kept sitting bolt upright and swinging his skull about during the most important songs.  I wanted to relieve him of his skull and hurl it out the window for him but, alas, the Civil War Navy Cutlass that my late father willed to me was safely at home.  He lived to annoy another theatre-goer.  (I did thank him after the performance…)

You can never find a good sword when you need one!

We must learn to bear our griefs and celebrate our joys.  In my case, the CD of that performance is currently in my car’s CD player and I have been belting out those two songs at the top of my alto lungs.  It has been delicious!  I had forgotten.

Driving along, pretending that I can sing well outside the shower stall – what greater felicity can there be?  Saturday coming lickety-split, that’s what!

What are you celebrating?

The buy link (Amazon US) if you are interested.

The (Not So) Gentle Art of Upstaging

Anyone who has been in the theatre as a performer is well-acquainted with the cardinal sin of upstaging:


: to take attention away from (someone or something else, such as another performer)

Full Definition of UPSTAGE

transitive verb

1 :  to draw attention away from <upstaging the competition>

An actor being upstaged by his sword

2 :  to force (an actor) to face away from the audience by staying upstage

You don’t have to stand upstage (toward the back of the stage, forcing the central character, who is supposed to have everyone’s attention, to turn toward you.  You can fiddle with something, whistle, wiggle – anything to make the audience watch you rather than him.
I have been in various theatre groups over the years, with some really electrifying parts – like the society lady of the 1890s with a drinking problem, whose final appearance involves her staggering from the house with a streamer of toilet paper stuck to her shoe, or the countess in The Sound of Music who uttered the deathless lines “Frau Schraeder is charming, Georg!”  I upstaged Captain Von Trapp in that scene by wearing underpants printed with red bicycles.  I did not know, then, that spotlights will cut through clothing and highlight things you would not think visible.  One of the stage hands asked me, after the scene, why on earth I had bicycles on my panties.
We were cautioned against upstaging each other, and given some examples of what it involved and why the one being upstaged was justified in throttling (usually in plays involving stealthy murder), stabbing (Shakespearean) or shooting (crime drama) the upstager.
The Great Tallu
Tallulah Bankhead was notorious for her upstaging antics.  Two stories illustrate them very well.
Tallulah Bankhead was getting nonsense from an upstart young actress who declared she could upstage Tallulah anytime. “Dahling,” said Miss Bankhead, “I can upstage you without even being onstage.
The next night, she set out to prove it.
While the upstart actress acted a long telephone conversation, Miss Bankhead made her exit – not before placing her champagne glass on the edge of the table, precariously balanced half-on, half-off.
The audience began to notice the dangling glass, and whisper in a hubbub. The actress was completely upstaged. And Miss Bankhead nowhere in sight.
Afterward, the secret was revealed: Miss Bankhead had put sticky tape on the bottom of the glass.
Tallulah always squabbled with her leading men.  One of them had his revenge.  She had arranged for a phone to ring on stage during his climactic speech.  He tried to ignore it, tried to cover it with a burst of speech.  He finally lifted it and managed a limp “Hello?”  And then he turned to Tallulah and offered the phone with a smile.  “It’s for you, Darling!”
I mentioned my experience with Les Miserables  in its first tour in 1988 in Philadelphia.  The actor who played the Inspector, Javert, was the original understudy for the part on Broadway.  He was handsome, had a wonderful presence, a good singing voice, and the body of a dancer  The audience loved him.  At one point in the play, he is spying on the students at the barricade and is unmasked by the little boy, Gavroche, who sings:

Good evening, dear Inspector,
Lovely evening, my dear!
I know this man, my friends –
His name’s Inspector Javert!
So don’t believe a word he says,
‘Cause none of it’s true!
This only goes to show what little people can do!

The students seize Javert while the student leader, who has the most superb breath control, gives instructions:
“Tie this man and take him to the tavern in there!
The People will decide your fate, Inspector Javert!”
And Javert, wearing a glisteningly white shirt with a tricolor sash about his waist in this production, had a fine, defiant speech that ended with the vehement wish that all traitors die.  And then, pinioned, he was hustled off the stage by two brawny extras.
We all liked Javert, and the actor, one Herndon Lackey, was doing a fine job and, aside from the part, was an enjoyable person to follow.  We wanted to know what happened to him, even those of us who had read Victor Hugo’s ‘brick’ in French or English.
Eponine bites the big one
The play continued.  The love-lorn waif and prostitute, Eponine, comes to the barricade and dies in Marius’ arms.   (Marius being the love interest.  For me, I wanted Javert) after singing a pathetic song.
Well, we saw that, but we also saw that Javert was being dragged up the side of the stage (‘stage right’, as you face the stage, meaning that it was to the left).  Mr. Lackey (Javert), being an experienced  actor and, apparently, a very loyal one, was resisting as much as he could.  The grimly determined insurgents, who were also rather oblivious, kept hauling him up toward the stage.  I suspect he hissed something because they suddenly all froze and stood motionless while Eponine died tragically in Marius’ arms.  She would have done better in Javert’s, at least in this production.  They stood like victims of Medusa, turned to stone, while she sang.  Once she was finished, they moved to the taproom and made Javert a prisoner.

Image (c) Crowanimation
The play wound on toward its close.  Javert killed himself, once he realized that duty required him to go after Valjean, while his heart told him that the man was too good to arrest. 
The last song was sung, the curtain calls and whistles were over, and I sat back, breathless.  It was a wonderful time.
What stayed with me, with that particular production, was the classic illustration of the gentle art of upstaging an opponent.  This time was not deliberate.  The actor did everything he was supposed to, short of yelling, “Yo, Bozos!”  (it was after all, in Philadelphia…) “Lay off!  She’s singing!”
The key is to be what you are, with no effort, with a completely straight face.  Don’t say (essentially) “A-HAH!” because you’ll be found out.

Heroes – Villains #1 Les Misérables

My first survey of characters will be from Les Misérables.  I have read the book in French and in English (and have run into some truly terrible translations – but that’s a note for another time), have seen the musical umpteen times and watched one movie based on it.  No, it wasn’t the one that came out in 2012.  I heard Russell Crowe’s singing and decided to pass.

Les Misérables is a sweeping story covering about thirty years, starting in Toulon prison in southern France, and ending  in Paris in 1832.  It tells the story of the ex-convict Jean Valjean as he makes his way through his life, pursued by the relentless Inspector Javert, who first encountered him in the prison.

Let’s look at them all:

Missing the Villains

Jean Valjean – the book might as well be named for him. I am surprised that it was not.  A convict who served nearly twenty years at hard labor at the prison of Toulon, one of the big installations for the French Navy on the Mediterranean, second only to Marseille.  Toulon was originally the base for the naval galleys, and they needed rowers.  Hence Valjean.  By the time the story opens, galleys are more or less passé.  His original ‘crime’ was to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family.  Continuing attempts to escape added to his sentence.    He has learned that the justice system is anything but, and having paid his debt to society, he is nevertheless still treated like a criminal.  He rebels.  The book chronicles his change of heart, his change of fate, and his dealings with those who had persecuted him.  

Javert – born in Toulon prison of a Gypsy prostitute and a galley convict, he was raised in the prison.  For him, the only way to escape the prison was to join the police.  He serves the Law.  It is not for him to show pity; his concern is that the law is upheld.  He met Valjean when the man was a convict.  He has a long memory.

Thenardier, Monsieur and Madame – husband and wife team.  They are swindlers, robbers, abusers.  At the start of the book they are in a smaller town.  By the middle of the book they are in Paris running a ring of hardened criminals involved in all sorts of crime.  Their daughters are prostitutes (pimped by their father, apparently) and their brothers were thrown out on the streets.

Fantine –a young  woman, seduced by a wealthy student and abandoned when she was pregnant. She entrusted her daughter to the Thenardiers to house and feed and love in exchange for a monthly payment while she worked in a city.  They used the child like a slave. Fantine loses her position and everything else when her ‘shameful’ past catches up with her and she descends into poverty, prostitution and, ultimately, illness and death.

Marius – a wealthy student and lawyer, involved with some friends who have revolutionary notions, which he has embraced wholeheartedly. He tries to do what is best.  He also falls in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter.

So, where do they fall?  Here is my take:

Protagonist:  Can you guess?  Jean Valjean.  The book follows his progress and the obstacles he encounters.

Hero:    Jean Valjean again, no surprises.  In addition to being the protagonist and main character, he is a very good man, the epitome of a ‘hero’.  His wholehearted turnaround to embrace his own reclamation is the watershed moment of the book.  Everything after that serves to challenge him and illuminate the way of goodness and heroism for him:  This song, where he hesitates between speaking the truth and returning to prison or keeping silent and allowing another to suffer:  Who Am I
He is true to form right up to the moment that he frees the formidable obstacle that stands between himself and a happy old age, and that is his …

Antagonist:  Javert.  He serves the law, and he is as unbending toward his own infractions as he is toward anyone else’s.  His focus on the letter of the law makes him determined to bring Valjean to justice.  In the play he seems to have a touch of religion and poetry (which gives us the splendid song  Stars
which hooked me for life). 

Javert is one of literature’s most famous suicides, and the cause of his self-destruction, after his rescue by Valjean, who had every reason to wish him dead, has been argued up and down for years.   I have my own theory… 

Javert is the antagonist.  Is he a villain?  
Not at all.

Javert was one of the obstacles that Valjean had to overcome.  Javert’s actions are nicely summed up in Valjean’s song when he frees Javert, who had been sentenced to be shot as a spy:

“You are free, and there are no conditions,
No bargains or petitions.
There’s nothing that I blame you for. 
You’ve done your duty: nothing more.”

And – going a little apart here, Javert’s suicide was his  way of fulfilling the law after seeing that there is something greater than the letter of the law and his duty.  The Law required that a lapsed parolee be returned to Justice.  Valjean had shown himself to be a good man.  The only thing that stood between Valjean and freedom or, if you like, the thing that would return Valjean to the galleys was Javert.  So Javert took himself out of the equation and allowed a good man to go free.  An antagonist, and an admirable man.  Not a villain.  
(The singer here, distinguished Australian actor Philip Quast, handles this difficult song beautifully.  Javert’s Suicide)  If you are a fan of fine singing, there are two passages, one starting at 2:34 and one at 3:53 that are simply breathtaking.

Villain: The Thenardiers win this hands down.  They stink and squabble, murder and corrupt through the entire book.  In Paris they control the crime in part of the city.  Torture, murder, kidnapping, robbery, prostitution – they do it all.  In the musical they are humorous…  Until you listen to one of their songs, here:  Dog Eat Dog

Nice person:  Fantine.

Jerk:  Marius.  A good many people who watch the musical want to thwack him with something firm because he seems rather spineless and moons about like a doofus.   In the book he achieves ‘Jerk-ness’ (just ask Javert) when he sees Valjean leading Javert off to his supposed execution.  He had had dealings with  Javert, and had some hazy notion of maybe speaking up for him.  The sound of the shot puts an end to that muzzy train of thought.  And for the rest of the book he looks oddly at Valjean for having executed the spy, as he thinks. 
Let us remember that Marius was participating in an armed insurrection, firing upon government troops, inciting riot and revolution and rebellion and other such things.  In this case, he is the pot calling the kettle black.

I have run into a lot of people who have trouble not equating ‘Hero’ with ‘Protagonist’ and ‘Villain’ with ‘Antagonist’.  As we have seen here, they are not necessarily the same.  By the same token, the male romantic lead can be an utter jerk, like Marius.  Or, at least, a spineless ninny who is prone to fuzzy thinking and snap judgments.

My next post will deal with Richard Adams’ book, Watership Down.  Heroes, villains, deus ex machinae, prophets – you name it.  And it is about rabbits!

Fanfiction, Formal and Otherwise

I went to a performance of Les Miserables back in November of 1988.  It was election day, and my two companions were coworkers who had become good friends.  One of them was a staunch conservative, the other a rabid liberal.  Both were delightful.  The show was now on tour and we decided to go together after enjoying a good supper in Philadelphia. 

It was a wonderful evening, and a bit of a landmark.  For the first time my two friends agreed on something political: I had told them that evening that I had written in Lyndon Larouche for president.  Naturally, I had not, but the look of horror on their faces was fabulous and I chuckled until the curtains parted and I was plunged into Les Miserables.

This was the first time Les Miserables (‘Les Miz’) had been on tour, and the cast (I now know) was top quality.  I knew the story, somewhat.  I watched, enthralled, as Jean Valjean rose above his unfortunate past as Inspector Javert, determined to bring him back to justice, followed hard on his heels.

The songs were splendid, but best of all was the truly poetic song sung by the Police Inspector, Javert.   Stars…  (here in French)  and a video below in English, where someone took Russell Crowe’s acting and matched it with Philip Quast’s singing: 

I had read bits and pieces of the book over the years, and had not been particularly impressed.  That evening, though, the story of revenge, mercy and redemption caught me.  I bought the book and read it in English and then in French, prepared to love it.

Instead, I was chilled.  The story had a grand scope, there were so many memorable

Image copyright Nyranor at DeviantArt

characters…but it also had a serious disconnect, quite apart from the truly terrible translation from French to English.  The characterizations did not ring true (to me) throughout the story.  Valjean, completely admirable from the moment of his conversion through to his magnanimous gesture to the man who had hunted him down through the years, became a wet rag at the end.  

And the character of Javert, the cop – Why on earth would the man who sang such a magnificent, poetic song in the play be the same fellow in the book who throws himself into the Seine after having been shown mercy?  It did not make sense.  

Looking back over a quarter of a century I realize that the theme of the musical was taken from the book – and then severely edited.  They improved on the book (not a hard thing to do, in my humble opinion) and took a different direction.

That left me, the writer, thinking ‘What on earth went wrong?  That shouldn’t have happened!  Why would Javert throw himself in the Seine?  He was saved!’  Temporary insanity, brought on by nearly twenty-four hours of combat and captivity, in fear for his life, in the middle of a riot, most likely.  Combat fatigue.  And…dare I say it?…Javert wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree.  Nor was Valjean, based on the way the story ended.

Pooh!  Just for the fun of it, I decided to rewrite the ending.  I enjoyed it, but the characters did not work.  Characters are living things in your mind, and they change until they fit.  I had tremendous energy at that time.  I was also not on the Internet, and I had not yet discovered Facebook and the other distractions that make the writing of a chapter a struggle at times.  I wrote hundreds of pages, scrapped them, rewrote them.  Characters entered – one in particular – took over, and after three years all vestiges of Les Miserables were gone. 

I was laughing about it with a friend not long ago.  She had been in on the original story from its very beginning, and she wasn’t shy about saying ‘That stinks!’ 

“Well,” she said, “You started out writing FanFic, and it took on a life of its own.  The original story is gone now.”

That made me blink.  FanFic?  Me writing it?  Really?

I had to break out the dictionary to see just what it was.   


That much I knew already.  I also knew that Fan Fiction based on a copyrighted book could not itself be copyrighted or sold by the author, since it was a derivative work.  Works in the public domain like Les Miserables, Sherlock Holmes, or the various works by Jane Austen, were fair game.  A visit to DeviantArt trying to research some images led to links to Fan Fiction based on Les Miserables.  Some of it improved a great deal on the story.  But some of it was truly poor.

I was interested to see, though, that almost all of the Les Mis FanFic centered around the Inspector having a change of heart, being fished out of the Seine, nearly drowning but being rescued – or such like – and becoming Jean Valjean’s friend.  The disconnect was repaired one way or another.

Was there other FanFic out there?  Indeed there is.

Fifty Shades of Grey originally involved Bella and Edward from the Twilight Saga. E L James removed it from her FanFic site and changed the characters’ names when people commented on the sexual nature of the stories.  Stephenie Meyer said that that genre was not for her, but expressed congratulations that James was doing well.

The original story on which the Fan Fiction is based is known as ‘The Canon’, and departures from it are generally noted.  Changes are called ‘revisionist’.  The Seven Percent Solution is Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction, and it certainly revises and expands on features in the stories.  

“Good heavens!” she gasped.

I stumbled on some Pride and Prejudice Fan Fiction involving Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett stranded in a little cottage during a downpour and improving the idle hour.  I must confess that I didn’t read much of that.  The sight of Lizzie Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy in the throes of illicit and damp passion was a little startling, especially since the story seemed to imply that they had been doing it for quite some time. 

I backed out of the Amazon preview, had a hearty laugh, and went off in search of another Austen novel.  I wonder what Jane would have thought of that one particular FanFic.

Some of it is beautifully written.  This FanFic, for example, involving Javert at the barricade and the fate of Gavroche, the urchin.

A number of the Austen spinoffs are beautifully done.  

And some are purely wretched.  Some, especially dealing with novels written a century or so ago, are full of errors that make any historian cringe.  In a piece of Les Miserables FanFic I was interested to see that the recuperating inspector – Javert – was given a pair of pants sewn for him as well as some freshly knitted socks.  I devoutly hope and pray that the good Inspector found that the trousers (or pantaloons) were a good fit, and that the stockings, reaching to knee height, were not too baggy.

So long as copyright laws are honored and an author has a say in what is said or done about his or her novel, I think it can be a good thing.  It certainly indicates that characters and situations in the original stories are hard to let go.  Or that the story had a problem that needed to be fixed.

…or something.