Forgotten Authors: The Cult Spreads

Reading & Writing

Forgotten authors at w brighton Forgotten authors w brighton

I had never intended to produce my ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday as a book, but Mark Pilkington at the superbly offbeat Strange Attractor Press suggested that readers might like a guide of forgotten authors in a single handy little volume.

One criticism of the book has been that the entries on each author are too short, but while I could have opened them out, we would never have been able to get the volume published so easily – and more importantly, I wanted to whet your appetites for authors you hadn’t come across, not give you complete outlines of their work. Reading is about the joy of surprise and discovery.

So I’m very pleased that enterprising branches of Waterstones have been picking up the torch and pointing customers toward some of the rarer books on their shelves. In Brighton, this display has appeared, offering a good selection of the authors mentioned in the book.

I hope that we’ll produce a second volume, as I’m uncovering all kinds of astonishing authors who deserve to have a readership. It’s hard to find such writers by yourself without a bit of guidance, as many aren’t kept on shelves due to lack of space. One problem is deciding who is actually ‘forgotten’. The rule of thumb is that they’re out of print, by one person’s favourite author will mean nothing to someone else.

Recently a reader wrote to ask me to include Flann O’Brien. Now, I regard him as far from forgotten, and his books are all in print, but how many are aware of this dazzling Irish author?

All suggestions for inclusion to the usual place.

16 comments on “Forgotten Authors: The Cult Spreads”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    On the table directly above your book rests The Queer Trades by G. K. Chesterton, another favorite author: Father Brown, The Man Who Was Thursday, etc. TQT is a fine read and can be found as a Project Gutenberg EBook on line for a mouse click. Try it, you’ll like it.

  2. Martha Ullard says:

    Ernest Bramah? Memory is hazy but I think it’s in Kai Lung’s Golden Hours that he offers the immortal proverb, “Seek not to instruct your aged maternal relative in the art of extracting nutrition from the fruit of the chicken’.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Every time I’ve read a G.K. Chesterton I’ve enjoyed it. I particularly liked the Father Brown stories, which I first read in my teens. Books which remind you to keep your eyes and ears open are always a good thing.

  4. Mike Cane says:

    Harry Stephen Keeler.

  5. John says:

    What a world we live in if G. K. Chesterton is considered forgotten! Nice to see Frank Baker’s Miss Hargreaves on the table.

    I wouldn’t call Keeler forgotten. Not anymore. He’s written about all the time all over the internet (and even in the Wall Street Journal!) for the past 15 years.

    Here are some ideas of forgotten writers whose work is well worth hunting down: Claude Houghton, Nigel Morland (and all his pseudonyms), L.C. Davies, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Dorothy B Hughes, Charlotte Armstrong, Berkley Mather, Helen McCloy, John Blackburn, Lionel White, P. M. Hubbard, Joseph Shearing (aka Marjorie Bowen) and L.A.G. Strong. I better stop here.

    Some listed above are beginning to reappear in print, thankfully. Most of the writers I’ve listed, however, have none of their work currently in print. But there is always the world of used books awaiting eager readers of forgotten writers.

  6. Chris Lancaster says:

    The irony is that when it first came out, I had to buy Invisible Ink online, as my local Waterstones failed to find proof that it even existed! I think that I mentioned Alastair McLean as a possible ‘Invisible Ink’ subject some time ago. To that I’d add the similar Hammond Innes – and, if you felt like venturing into the world of childrens’ books there are plenty of possibilities there – Malcolm Saville springs to mind, and even WE Johns (although there’s been a few Biggles reprints in the past few years). There has to be an entire other book to be written on what is now perceived by many to be casual racism in childrens’ books of the past!

  7. pheeny says:

    Glad to hear the estimable Mark Pilkington is still going strong.
    I have been a fan of Strange Atrractor for many years

  8. Rh says:

    Margaret oliphant – the library window and beleaguered city stick in the mind… George Blake; the opening chapter of the Clyde makes and breaks an Edwardian spell… Bernard maclaverty for a more recent fall…

  9. Dan Terrell says:

    Would Julian Rathbone not fit in here? “With Knives I Know I’m Good”, “Trip Trap” and “Kill Cure” – all set in Turkey and very good. Many others, but he died several years ago and must be fading away, non?
    Certainly Michael McDowell’s six book set Blackwater I-VI starting with the Flood, etc. (“She soon would become a strange presence in the wealthy Caskey family and their town. Horrors, virtually unspeakable and nearly undescrible, follow.” Yes Sir, Mr. Oscar, ‘deed they do.”
    And Barry Hughart’s three ancient China novels: “Bridge of Birds”, “The Story of the Stone”, and “Eight Skilled Gentlemen.” A China that romantics wish they could have entered.

  10. snowy says:

    I can’t remember the British author I was thinking of who wrote 80 plus books, a contemporary of Sax Rhomer? just at the moment.

    So how about Richard Cox, best known for the novel ‘SAM 7’ which revolved around a terrorist attack on London using an airliner as a weapon.

    It came out in 1977 just at the end of the trend for disaster films. But long before the slew of tales by authors like Tom Clancy and others of that ilk.

    [I’ll be passing a W’stones later, I must remember to pop in and see if this is a national thing, though last time I checked they only had ‘Hell Train’ on the shelves.] 🙁

  11. Chandon Bleackley says:

    Are Nicholas Freeling’s books still in print? Although he was best known for writing the Van der Valk series of novels in the 1960’s, he did write a considerable number of other books as well.

    What about including Margaret Millar? It could be argued that she was every bit as good a writer as her more famous husband (Ross Macdonald).

  12. admin says:

    I’ve done Freeling and Millar – whose work I love – but thanks for all the above suggestions. They’ll be duly researched and will turn up in the column in due course.

  13. Paul D says:

    Not someone out of print as such–Jean Rhys. Best known for Wide Sargasso Sea,but the early pre war novels are wonderful;Voyage In the Dark,After Leaving Mr Mackenzie,Quartet and Good Morning Midnight.Writing to die for.

  14. Jo W says:

    No authors to recommend (that I can remember the names of) but can say that Waterstones in Croydon have no displays for Invisble Ink or the featured books. But of course we are talking Croydon here ,so ‘Nuff said!……………

  15. RH says:

    Alastair MacLean mention reminded me of another possible… Hammond Innes…

  16. Jan says:

    James Blish Chris i loved science fiction in my youth! James Blish was the business

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