My post a couple of days ago about the Diagnosis Murder novel I read, plus the comments from Lee and Bill, made me think some more about TV tie-in novels. I won't pretend to be an expert on this particular sub-genre, but I've noticed something in the more recent ones I've read: there's very little physical description of the regular characters and not much background about them, either. This is particularly noticeable in the Star Trek novels I've read. The reader is expected to know what Kirk and Picard look like, as well as who they are and many of the details of their characters, before they ever read a word of one of the novels. Which means that somebody who picked up a Star Trek novel without ever seeing an episode of the TV series might have a hard time figuring out who these people are and what they're doing. I know, the odds of somebody reading a TV tie-in novel who's not already a fan of the TV show are probably fairly small, but it must happen sometimes. I think it probably happened more often in the past, when tie-in novels were commissioned before the TV series they were based on ever debuted, in some cases. Which means there were tie-in novels for series that didn't last very long, like THE OUTSIDER by Lou Cameron and JOHNNY STACCATO by Frank Boyd (Frank Kane).
All this makes me think of the original King of the TV Tie-in Novel. Max Allen Collins probably has that title today, but in the Sixties it was Michael Avallone who turned out more tie-in novels (and movie novelizations) than anybody else. The first Avallone novel I ever read, in fact, was a TV tie-in: THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. He also wrote novels for THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE FELONY SQUAD, HAWAII FIVE-0, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, MANNIX, THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (some of Avallone's best-selling books, in fact, were Partridge Family novels), and probably other series that I'm forgetting at the moment. When I read Avallone's MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. novel (bought brand-new off the paperback rack at Buddie's Supermarket) as a 12-year-old, I realized for the first time that a writer could have such a distinctive voice that his work can't be mistaken for anyone else's. And I liked that voice well enough so that for a long time after that, I picked up every Avallone novel I came across. Before that I read books for the characters (the Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, etc.) but paid little attention to who the author was. After Avallone, I was always more aware of who wrote what, even when there were pseudonyms and house-names involved.