Who Wrote The Most Books Of All Time?

Reading & Writing

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I have three new books out this year. People always accuse me of being prolific, but it’s just the way novels sometimes bunch up in publication, even though they’ve taken years to write. And in the grand scheme of things, I’m really a long way from ‘prolific’.

Harper Lee is being discussed all over the world for producing a prequel to her only novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, but few recall the name of the most prolific author in history. That title goes to the Spanish writer Maria Lopez, born 1927, who hammered out more than 4,000 novels. She’s followed by Brazilian pulp writer and thoracic surgeon Ryoki Inoue with 1,100 books. Kathleen Lindsay, born 1903, wrote 904 books under 11 pseudonyms. Her romances had terrible titles like ‘Wind of Desire’ and ‘Harvest of Deceit’. Georgette Heyer publically accused her of plagiarism, which I’m surprised she would have wanted to do at all.

However the first name we truly recognize comes in at No.5 – Enid Blyton produced at least 600 books, although JK Rowling may have finally surpassed her in sales. Discounting dime novelists and John Creasey (see columns passim), the first name writer to combine quality adult fiction with high output is Georges Simenon, with more than 500 mystery novels to his credit. The only other immediately recognisable names on the list are Barbara Cartland (280) and Alexandre Dumas (277) – this being the only time their names are likely to share a sentence.

There are other inexhaustible authors of passing interest; Kyokutei Bakin was an 18th century Japanese author who wrote one of the longest books in the world, a 106-volume story called ‘Hakkenden’ (‘Chronicle of the Eight Dog Heroes’). It took 28 years to complete and he went blind in the process, but it remains popular and has been adapted many times.

Also making the cut is Nigel Morland, born Carl Van Biene in 1905, who became the secretary of the almost-as-prolific Edgar Wallace. He began as a ghost writer, or what the French then called a ‘literary negro’, and set about creating his own detectives, including Mrs Palmyra Pym, who first appeared in ‘The Phantom Gunman’ (1935). As was once the fashion, his heroine was employed by Scotland Yard, who were happy to have a busybody running around their crime scenes, and she starred in her own film. SF writer Isaac Asimov also joins this exclusive club with well over 450 books to his credit. The list is not definitive, but now that authors are hired by copyright holders, employ their own staff writers and even generate algorithms to file articles, the days of the pulp grafter are over.

After all those books, my own output is starting to look a bit thin.

2 comments on “Who Wrote The Most Books Of All Time?”

  1. Vivienne says:

    Maria Lopez sounds astounding. Has anyone read one of hers? I worked with a woman once who claimed to have worked for Barbara Cartland as a secretary, taking dictation of her books. I was told she just rattled them off, without much of a pause, which sounds likely, although I have to say my colleague was a little given to exaggeration in other areas. I also heard that Dumas had a sort of studio, with young chaps filling in the descriptive stuff much like great artists using helpers to fill in the background of their larger canvases.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I also heard that the plots for Dumas’ best known novels were provided by someone else.

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