If you are looking for a gift for a bibliophile you can’t go far wrong with this wonderful book that I know I will treasure and refer to for years to come.
Christopher Fowler has collated ninety-nine authors who for one reason or another are no longer seen on the bookshelves of bookshops or libraries but somehow glimmer on our collective consciousness, and their works fluttered at the edges of many when he kicked this project off. Unlike so many such lists that are produced this collector of these forgotten authors has brought together a set of authors from the Victorian times up to the more recent, the entire range of genres taking in slapstick comedy through Sci-Fi, poetry, literary fiction and crime. Obviously with so many authors each one gets a brief mention detailing the often prodigious output, why they were popular and why they may well have fallen out of favour as the years rolled on.
As is likely with a collection of this kind there were many authors I knew, some whose name I’d heard of, but many that had never crossed with my life – the brilliance being I loved reading the author’s succinct comments about those I’d known while having a real interest in seeing what I may have missed out on with those unknown to me.
The second chapter covers Virginia Andrews which is included for those of us of a certain age, I honestly remember seeing this book in all the houses of my contemporaries for many years when they were the certain finds in charity bookshops.
It seems that the feverish hothouse atmosphere of life in the attic appealed to the temperament of teenaged girls, who clearly wanted to have their most macabre fears about sex confirmed and bought the books in their millions.
Many of the links indicate those authors whose work was used for TV or films or radio series including Leslie Charteris who wrote nearly one hundred of the Saint adventures:
Simon Templar, the man who used Catholic Saint’s names as false identities. He is the world’s greatest thief, but he uses his powers against despots and villains, although the police are forever trying to put him behind bars. He leaves his calling card at the scenes of his crimes, comprising a stick figure with a halo.
Some authors included were collectors who passed on the baton to others following their demise including Harry Hodge who was the author of Notable British Trials series which included one of the criminals, Madeline Smith, who has popped up in much of my reading around poisoners. Madeline Smith was put on trial for poisoning her lover with arsenic laced cocoa. A latter contributor to the series was John Mortimer who provided the 1984 collection.
Apart from the wonderfully surprising mix of authors interposed between the authors themselves there are chapters that cover subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Booker Winners, The Forgotten Disney Connection and my favourite The Forgotten Nonsense Writers which includes a wonderful piece about the trick book Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames – The D’Antin Manuscripts, the English-language nursery rhymes written homophonically in nonsense French. Even the manuscript’s title, when spoken aloud, sounds like “Mother Goose’s Rhymes” with a strong French accent, a copy of which had graced my bookshelf as a pre-teen but that I’d completely forgotten about.
This truly is a book that will resurrect unique memories for every bibliophile as well as providing a wealth of information as well as a long list of books to seek out from their forgotten place in English literature. I will leave you with another author in the Forgotten Nonsense Writers, Hilaire Belloc and his Cautionary Tales for Children:
squarely aimed at terrifying middle-class children into good behaviour with gruesome moralistic poems which included… and Matilda who Told Lies and was Burned to Death.
The latter a poem my mother was often found to be quoting to the young Cleopatra amid some transgression and for which hearing about Matilda yet again meant I probably should have had a heavy dose of counselling to omit the memories – sadly this book bought them flooding back but also noted
It rather makes you wish for modern-day versions: Darrell who Stared at his Phone and was Crushed by a Cement Mixer.
I was honoured to receive a copy of The Book of Forgotten Authors as part of the blog tour promotion – this review is my heartfelt and honest thanks to all involved.
A typical example of the late 20th century midlist author, Christopher Fowler was born in the less attractive part of Greenwich in 1953, the son of a scientist and a legal secretary. He went to a London Guild school, Colfe’s, where, avoiding rugby by hiding in the school library, he was able to begin plagiarising in earnest. He published his first novel, Roofworld, described as ‘unclassifiable’, while working as an advertising copywriter. He left to form The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, tag lines, trailers and documentaries, using his friendship with Jude Law to get into nightclubs.
During this time Fowler achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing an appalling Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, posing as the villain in a Batman comic, creating a stage show, writing rubbish in Hollywood, running a night club, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond.
Now the author of over forty novels and short story collections, including his award-winning memoir Paperboy and its sequel Film Freak, he writes the Bryant & May mystery novels, recording the adventures of two Golden Age detectives in modern-day London.
In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger In The Library award for his detective series, once described by his former publisher as ‘unsaleable’.
Fowler is still alive and one day plans to realise his ambition to become a Forgotten Author himself.