First-person novels/stories where the narrator dies (spoilers)

A lot of these books seem to be cop-outs of one sort or another. It seems, somehow, to be cheating to have a dead character continue relating a story. There are exceptions, such as Niven & Pournelle’s Inferno, where the character starts out dead - so there’s no real gotcha for the reader to deal with. That doesn’t really bother me, but having the narrator’s ghost come back to finish the story just seems cheap, to me. YMMV, of course.

The book that I’d thought of, first, had been the fourth book of Jack L. Chalker’s Lords of the Diamond series. In that series each book is a first person narrative of an agent sent to examine the problems that the four planets were having. In the fourth book, the agent sent to the fourth planet dies - and there ended his narrative. The rest of the book deals with the person who recieved all the reports determining the proper action to deal with the crisis.

Valis by Philip K Dick

The narrator dies halfway through

Before the Fact by Anthony Berkley (filmed by Hitchcock as Suspicion)

I think it’s regrettable that Cunctator mentioned the book that s/he did, and needlessly gave away one of the greatest twists in whodunnit literature. The OP refers only to narrators who die. The narrator in the book referred to does not die, so it is irrelevant. And even if the narrator did die in that book, it would be possible to mention this fact without ruining the whodunnit element of the story. I wouldn’t kick up such a fuss except that this is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, twist ever achieved in whodunnit fiction, and while the book is now quite old there is always a new generation of readers who shouldn’t have it spoiled for them.

Back to the OP… there is an Agatha Christie story which provides quite an interesting reply to the OP. The book does not have a first person narrator and is told in the normal third person ‘omnipotent author’ style… until the very final chapter. The final chapter is cleverly constructed as a letter left behind by someone. In effect, this person serves as a ‘first person narrator’ for the duration of this final chapter, comments on all that has happened in the book and provides the solution to the mystery. This narrator does die. Knowing this much about the final chapter doesn’t, in and of itself, spoil the story or the twist in the tale, but I’ve put the title in the Spoiler Box for the sake of Agatha Christie fans. If you have already read a Christie story that fits the description I’ve given, then you will know which one I’m referring to. If you haven’t, then you may prefer not to read the Spoiler Box even though, as I’ve said, knowing what I’ve written above does not spoil the story or the whodunnit element at all.

The bok is ‘Ten Little Indians’ or ‘And Then There Were None’

He didn’t die. He got turned into Ass, The bad guys sex toy. But the agent in charge sets it up so that Ass kills the bad guy and his 2 highest henchmen.

On a different note, what about the Castle Arrgh?

Me. sniff In the original manuscript of Podkayne of Mars, which is told in journal form, her brother, Clark, provides the final entries because Poddy dies. Heinlein’s editor declared this Too Intense for Juvenile Readers, so the ending was changed to Poddy just getting badly hurt, and Clark writes some entries for her while she’s in the hospital.

The modern paperback editions include both endings.

From Podkayne’s diary: "None of us goes around sobbing over the millions and billions of people who have died in the past . . . nor over those still living and yet to be born whose certain heritage is death (including Podkayne Fries herself.) "

Maybe. I am going through his stories, or at least the ones that are available online, and I will see if this is it. Thanks for the info.

Ok, don’t get any bad ideas about me, I read this book out of curiosity, to see why it had such a hold on white supremacists.

The Turner Diaries is a novel told in the form of journal entries, and the main character goes on a suicide mission at the end, to prove his racial loyalty to his fellows. The epilogue is provided by those he fought with, and tells how the supremacist eventually won the racial war.

Besides being ugly in spirit the book is a hackneyed, poorly written and plotted tale. Ugh.

I read it. I didn’t see what all the hoopla was about.

The book was put in a spoiler box, after all.

Another SF entry: Level Seven The narrator is one of the people in his country’s deepest command & control bunker. After a cobalt-bomb doomsday war, the radio messages from other shelters fall silent one by one as radiation penetrates deeper than anyone thought possible. Their bunker is the last. The final chapter is the narrator’s final rambling entries in his diary as he lays dying of radiation poisoning.

Didn’t a number of lovecraft’s stories end with the narrator about to die, or going insane?

I remember that the haunter of the Dark had the guy writing until the thing with the three-lobed burning eye killed him.

Just wondering, how did you arrive at that conclusion? I’ve read Valis twice and didn’t see anything like that.

The book Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut ends with the main character’s death only a few minutes away, and has one of the most haunting last sentences in fiction ever. Gives me goosebumps every time.

I just read one, a short story called “Wake-Up Call” by David J. Schow. Although it may not exactly count, because the narrator dies at the beginning, too. Basically, the premise is that in the future, personal debt is out of control, and people frequently commit suicide to escape their creditors. Because society can’t afford that, the government allows corporations to revive the dead and force people’s reanimated bodies to work off their personal debts doing dangerous physical labor. So, right from the beginning, our narrator is a zombie.

And from the sound of the ending, he may not have managed to kill himself for good then, either.

Well then, how about Chuck Palahniuk’s “Survivor”? It’s not a gotcha moment either, given the beginning but the narrator lives exactly as long as the book.

Don’t know if this qualifies, but in Silverberg’s Up the Line…

the narrator disappears mid-sentence as it’s assumed that the “time police” (or whatever they’re called, I forget) went back in time to the point before his story takes place and either stopped him from time travelling or “took care of him” to keep him from going.

Awww…my very first spoiler box. I’m so proud!

The first real mysteries I read was Ngaio Marsh’s Death at the Bar. Up to this time I only read anthologies of short stories. The narrator does a pretty good job describing the antagonists in the book up to the point when he becomes it’s first murder victim. :eek: :eek: :eek:

I hadn’t been more shocked since I read The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill.

Firelord, by Parke Godwin. It’s an Arthurian novel and it’s no spoiler to say Arthur dies at the end, but it is narrated by him all the way to and through his death and entry into the spirit world.

For television series, how about last year’s Desperate Housewives? The narrator gets killed early on in the series and narrates the rest of the season.

Of course, the movie Sunset Boulevard opens with a view of the corpse of the narrator floating in a swimming pool.