Thursday 12 October 2017

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler @Peculiar @QuercusBooks @riverrunbooks

Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead.So begins Christopher Fowler's foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.   Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner - no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.
These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.
This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler, published by Quercus / Riverrun Books in hardback on 5 October 2017.   My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Praise for The Book of Forgotten Authors

'A real gem, filled with old favourites and new discoveries, and written in a light, snappy, erudite tone, as satisfying as a full English breakfast at your local art-house cafe.'  JOANNE HARRIS

'A joyous saunter through the lives and words of yesterday's big names. Readers will love this fascinating book. Writers, too, though it reminds us of our likely fate.' CATHY RENTZENBRINK

'Christopher Fowler's cherisable book is as quirky and mesmerising as one of his novels; his detailed, loving excavation of a slew of unjustly neglected writers will have the inevitable effect of sending readers in search of these intriguimg lost names.'  BARRY FORSHAW

I'm delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler here to Random Things today, he's talking about the books that are special to him and have made a lasting impression on his life in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books ~ Christopher Fowler

A list of my favourite unforgotten authors would be frighteningly long, starting with Dickens moving through Mervyn Peake and JG Ballard, up to many living ones, so here are some lesser known writers whose works I've enjoyed.

For several years I’ve been running a column called ‘Invisible Ink’ in the Independent about authors who wrote the popular books which have vanished from bookshelves. Here are ten of my favourites.

Margaret Forrest
She wrote three novels, including the terrifying ‘Here: Away From It All’, then vanished. Her real name, it transpired, was Polly Hope, and she gave up because she was busy designing the Globe Theatre with her husband.

Nicholas Monsarrat
He wrote The Cruel Sea and many other excellent naval dramas, but controversy followed with ‘The Story Of Esther Costello’ about TV evangelism and fundraising; it upset the teaching staff surrounding the blind Helen Keller, who felt that its criticisms were levelled at them.

R Austin Freeman
He should have become as famous as Conan Doyle. His detective, Dr Thorndyke, a barrister and man of medicine who, armed with his little green case of detection aids, sets out to solve impossible puzzles, is as good as Sherlock Holmes, although he tends more toward the scientific.

Alexander Baron
His epic novel of Edwardian Jewish gangs, ‘King Dido’, remains a personal favourite; here is a tale that outlines, with infinite care, the causal link between poverty and crime. Its final pages are utterly heartbreaking. It’s one of the greatest and least read novels about London ever written.

JB Priestley
Surprisingly unread these days, ‘Angel Pavement’ is a detailed portrait of London seen by the employees of a veneer company, when the genteel firm is wrecked by a tough new employee. It's moving, funny, and weirdly modern.

James Hadley Chase
No Orchids For Miss Blandish’ was a tale of kidnap and rape that caused controversy and became a smashing success. A genuine one-sitting page-turner, it was unlike anything that had been published by an English author before, packed with surprises, non-explicit sex and violence.

Rachel Ingalls
She wrote novellas, a format which has fallen from fashion, but tales like Mrs Caliban pack a real punch. She’s been named one of the 20th century’s greatest writers but no-one I know has heard of her.

Hans Fallada
His life was even more disastrous and extraordinary than his books. 'Wolf Among Wolves' is considered his masterwork, but as an entry point try ‘Alone In Berlin’, a true story about an apartment building during WWII.

Dennis Wheatley
He went from crime and historical novels to tales of the supernatural before The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult’ was hugely popular in its time, and Hammer adapted his work, their best being The Devil Rides Out.
Churchill asked him to work out what the Germans were up to…another author whose real life you couldn’t make up. ‘

Gladys Mitchell
Gladys Mitchell’s detective Mrs Bradley was a wizened crone who tested the constraints of the murder genre by pushing them to breaking point. Like the more successful Miss Marple she provided insights into the cases the police overlooked. Unlike Miss Marple she could be a real bitch

Christopher Fowler ~ October 2017 

100. A typical example of the late 20th century midlist author, Christopher Fowler wa 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 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.


"Books have the power to calm, enlighten and energise, but it seems to me that of all the arts hey are at the most risk. The easiest way to make reading effortless is to make books a habit, so that they become a retreat, a sanctuary, a call to arms. The works of even the most obscure authors are still out there somewhere, and thanks to the dedication of publishers, collectors, sellers and readers, they are once more being found and enjoyed again.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @Peculiar
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1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this post. I have to get hold of Gladys Mitchell's writing - Mrs Bradley sounds ace!