Best-selling author Vince Flynn died just over a year ago, but his terrorist-fighting protagonist Mitch Rapp will live on in new books written by someone else, Flynn's publisher says.
Simon & Schuster and Flynn's estate have commissioned thriller writer Kyle Mills to complete Flynn's unfinished novel, "The Survivor," and to write two more books in the Rapp series. "The Survivor" is tentatively scheduled to hit shelves next year.
Similar deals have kept James Bond and other action heroes alive long after their creators. Flynn's longtime editor, Emily Bestler, told The Associated Press that continuing the Rapp series was a bittersweet experience. Rapp was featured in 13 of the 14 novels Flynn published in his lifetime.
"But I know that this is what he would want and know that his readers will be grateful," Bestler said.
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Flynn, who sold more than 15 million books in the U.S. alone and counted Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush among his fans, was 47 when he died June 19, 2013, in his hometown of St. Paul after battling prostate cancer for more than two years. Flynn had completed only the first few chapters of "The Survivor" when he died, Bestler said.
"He would be so happy to know that Mitch Rapp has a future and that Kyle Mills is the one who will be helping that happen," Bestler said.
A Flynn fan himself, the 48-year-old Mills knows what it's like to follow in another author's footsteps. He has written 13 books, including three in the style of Jason Bourne creator Robert Ludlum, who died in 2001.
To prepare himself, Mills said he re-read every one of Flynn's books in chronological order and took 150 pages of notes on everything from his writing style to his word choice. For "The Survivor," Mills said he plans to continue with the story threads left hanging from Flynn's last book, "The Last Man," published in 2012.
"I feel pretty confident that I can produce something that people will love, because my goal is to produce something I would have loved (to read) if I hadn't been asked to write and somebody else had done it," Mills said.
Throughout the series, Rapp survives brushes with death and battles terrorists who plot to detonate a nuclear warhead in Washington, D.C., in "Memorial Day" (2004) or who seize the White House and take hostages in "Transfer of Power" (1999). Plans remain in the works to make a Mitch Rapp movie based on 2010's "American Assassin," CBS Films spokesman Grey Munford said.
Mills grew up in Oregon, the son of an FBI man, and now lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He said he worries constantly about whether Flynn's fans will accept him.
"As a Vince Flynn fan, you come to know and love that character. As an author, you need to create that," Mills said. "I'd hate to pick up a Mitch Rapp (book) and not have it feel authentic."
In a statement, Flynn's widow, Lysa Flynn, thanked Flynn's fans for their "love, support and patience."
"Vince was very proud of his team and we are confident that Kyle Mills will be a great addition. God bless and keep the faith!" she said.