Don’t Forget This: It’s Out Now!

London

 

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The journey of writing a book doesn’t end on its publication day. It’s where the real journey begins. And I feel this is doubly so for ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’, which is out today.

Once there were popular novels almost everyone owned. Mum had Georgette Heyer, Dad had Eric Ambler, I had Dennis Wheatley’s ‘The Devil Rides Out’. They were the paperbacks that somehow shaped our imaginations and became touchstones in our lives. They were surprisingly influential and often hugely successful, but at some point they completely vanished from shelves and their writers vanished.  What happened to them? If these books were any good at all, why were these authors forgotten? Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

Every book lover has a favourite forgotten author. I decided to investigate further and was deluged with suggestions. The reasons for the disappearances  were often amazing. Once famous writers became alcoholics, switched genders, adopted false identities, lost fortunes, discovered new careers, got banned, married millionaires, died of shame, went mad, reinvented themselves, and sometimes lived happily ever after in blissful obscurity. I discovered that one dated a porn star, one got involved with a murderer, one was caught up in a sex scandal and one turned out to be Winston Churchill.

The forgotten authors have stories to tell which are as surprising than anything they created. They wrote books you’ve heard of but can’t quite remember, books that live on, passed down through families to end up in second-hand shops.

I set out on a ten-year mission to collect these extraordinary stories in ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’, whittling down 450 writers to 99 studies for this volume, and writing a dozen essays about others, from marvellous missing thriller writers to the world’s worst novelists.

I discovered for example how Walt Disney saved banned Jewish writers, and how Alfred Hitchcock discovered female suspense novelists. I tracked some down to their homes, where they told me the truth about what had happened to them. These are the authors who deserve to be remembered and enjoyed by book lovers everywhere. The selection is designed to inspire, to offer new reading ideas and let you take another look at authors you thought you knew.

‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ is available in a gorgeous gold hardback, price 14.99, and there are signed copies already in London at Forbidden Planet, Hatchard’s St Pancras, Goldsboro Books and those lovely folk at the London Review Bookshop.

29 comments on “Don’t Forget This: It’s Out Now!”

  1. BuckeyeB says:

    Wish I could justify flying off to hit the London bookshops…but it’s a rainy day here, perfect for prowling in my own backyard. One of my favorite unknowns has always been Zenna Henderson; I’m always on the lookout for her second-handers, ’cause I’m always passing them on.
    And now I’m on the look-out for yours, for the same reason!

  2. Ian Luck says:

    Back at work now – but thanks to A****n, my copy is on it’s way. Our bookshelf when I was a kid, had Eric Ambler, John Creasey, Ngaio Marsh (her name really threw me a curveball), Leslie Charteris. I was allowed to read anything in the house – I could read and write by the time I was three and a half; anything except the books written by Arthur Miller. When I was about seven, I had tonsillitis, and dad got me a book out of his own stash, which he said I might like as it had a map in it. I started it, and couldn’t stop. Some of it went right over my head, and there were words in it that were not in my dictionary, or were, but made no sense – a ‘Dyke’ is a bank that holds back water… I had the feeling that, were I to ask of any other meaning, there would be trouble. That book was ‘Goldfinger’, and I was hooked. Luckily, dad had the whole set. About a year later, my dad’s boss’ wife gave me a box of comics, as she did a few times a year, but this box was heavy. Very heavy. Under the comics were a load of paperbacks with lurid, teacher-bothering covers. They screamed out: “Welcome to the strange and frightening world of bad men, black magic, and jingoism – we present Dennis Wheatley!” For a nine year old, what was there not to like? Especially Black August, which was set in countryside near my home, and ends on the piazza outside my home town’s Town Hall. Dennis Wheatley, who actually said: “I’m not a great writer, but I can tell a story.” And by god, he could. The phenomenal sales of his early books attest to that. It’s easy to see nowadays, why he has fallen from favour – but, wrong or right, I do love his books.

  3. Ian Luck says:

    Oh, and you might be surprised that, although Wheatley is known as ‘The Black Magic Man’, only nine out of the 60+ books he wrote are explicitly about Black Magic. And of those nine, I would class the rather tedious ‘The Irish Witch’ as ‘tenuous’.

  4. Kit says:

    Do you know when it will be out in the US? Is it going to come out as an ebook? Thanks!

  5. Chris Webb says:

    I believe the g in Ngaio is silent, so it’s Naio.

    There’s a bit of a dig in one of the books about white New Zealanders who give their children Maori names, which implies she didn’t like her own name much.

  6. brooke says:

    @Kit– TBOFG ( hardback) can be purchased on Amazon US through other sellers; limited US sellers, more from either UK or Germany. US editions have lagged by one year. We must have words with Mr. Fowler’s publishers and agent.

  7. snowy says:

    To add to brooke’s recommendations above; Hatchard’s deliver worldwide, [they will even gift wrap it, if you ask]. Tell them I sent you.^

    [I am not affiliated to, or receive any emoluents from this enterprise, or any other hawker of parchments.*]

    [^ I won’t do you any good, I just like the idea of sowing momentary confusion in the minds of booksellers.]

    [* But I never refuse generous gifts or offers of cash, dead cheap and easily bought, me!]

  8. Steveb says:

    I can still remember very well the covers of my parents’ paperbacks (in the 1960s), they were gateways to mysterious worlds…
    They never say when, by Peter Cheyney
    The Hollow (‘she held the gun, but was she the killer’), by Agatha C
    The trojan horse, by Hammond Innes (the hero holding the bars in a sewer)
    My mum and sister also had endless Georgette Heyers, but they were of no interest to me!

  9. Ken Mann says:

    One writer I hope to catch up on is George E Rochester (a tip-off from my father) who was a more popular writer of aviation fiction than W E Johns. Biggles seems to have wiped the slate, in much the same way that Vera Lynn was apparently the only popular british female singer of the period if the popular press is to be believed.

    For about twenty years every second hand bookshop I ever visited had a copy of Fellowship of the Hand by Edward Hoch. One day they all just mysteriously disappeared.

  10. Mark Davies says:

    Can’t wait to read this!!!!

    I see Chris Webb is taking another trip down pendant avenue. The road that only people with too much time on their hands dare venture.

  11. Conrad Cork says:

    Is it OK to raise apparent problems here? Might be my misreading but for example:

    Did MacLaren-Ross really begin ‘I am going to kill a girl called Francis Wilder’ instead of Frances? (page 219)

    Tantalizingly on page 133 it says of the (wonderful) J. G. Farrell: ‘(more on him later)’. I can’t find any more.

    As I said it might be me, and I am happy to be shown my mistakes.

  12. admin says:

    The MacLaren-Ross came from an audio tape, so I didn’t realise the spelling was different. On Farrell, I had planned a long piece which was cut for length, but it will be in the sequel, I promise, and I do talk about him at public readings.

  13. Ian Luck says:

    I’m really enjoying your new book, but I must take issue with one tiny point: In ‘The Forgotten Disney Connection’, you credit ‘Pinocchio’ to Charles Perrault. It was actually written in the 1880’s by Carlo Collodi. I fear M. Perrault would have been dead a long time by then. Maybe he used a ghostwriter?

  14. Conrad Cork says:

    Thanks. If I find any other ‘uh?’ moments I’ll raise them here. Farrell is even more reason to look forward to the sequel.

    At the moment I’m just reading the ones I know about. Then I will systematically go through all of the others.

    BTW I owe Arthur Mee a lot for getting me actively curious, but that may be because I am so old.

  15. Vincent C says:

    Delighted to see Admin is talking about a sequel.

  16. Chris Webb says:

    “I see Chris Webb is taking another trip down pendant avenue. The road that only people with too much time on their hands dare venture.”

    I won’t comment on this as I may be accused of being pedantic. 🙂

  17. Helen Martin says:

    Fine, Chris Webb, so I don’t have to comment, either. We had a friend whose name was Ngaire and she was one of those New Zealanders, too.

  18. Ian Luck says:

    A great read – I read it in one sitting. And yes, I never really ‘got’ Beachcomber at all – I couldn’t see what was supposed to be funny in his writing. George and Weedon Grossmith’s ‘Diary Of A Nobody’ – now that’s a book that is still funny. Funny enough for ‘Viz’ to call their ‘Victorian Dad’ character Lupin Pooter. Oh, one small thing – I was reading the Bryant And May graphic novel again, and there’s a character carried off by a flying entity at one point. This character is in an ill-fitting suit and a pork pie hat. Is he, by any chance, modelled on the great Alexei Sayle in his ‘Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?’ phase?

  19. Lucy Lee says:

    Speaking of forgotten authors, here’s what was written about this book in the Oct. 6 edition of the Financial Review, focusing on the great Patrick Tanner/Patrick Dennis:

    “So he penned a sparkling new novel, first suffering rejections from 15 publishers before someone accepted it. Auntie Mame was a smash. It lasted 112 weeks on the bestseller list and was filmed with Rosalind Russell, then turned into a stage musical by Jerry Herman and filmed again in that form with Lucille Ball.”

    The forgotten authors in this passage are Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the playwrights who first dramatized “Auntie Mame,” and then engaged Jerry Herman to collaborate with them on the Broadway musical “Mame.” Lawrence and Lee wrote the libretto for the musical. This article fails to mention the playwrights and skips over the Broadway history of the play and musical.

    Patrick Dennis insisted on writing the forward to the published edition of the original play, pointing to what Lawrence and Lee accomplished in bringing his novel to the stage.

  20. Roger says:

    Is J.G. Farrell forgotten, though? Not well-enough-known, I’d agree, but his three great novels have been in print since they were published.

  21. Debra Matheney says:

    Foxed Quarterly is worth a gander for forgotten writers. Lovely walk down nostalgic lane. They also publish editions of golden oldies like Dodie Smith’s childhood memoirs. The books are very well made and lovely to own.

    I await my copy of your work from Amazon USA!

  22. Jo W says:

    Yeah! I’ve been to FP today and got my ‘Signed’ copy of Forgotten Authors. 🙂
    Thanks for the info,Chris Webb,I too got a cool £2 off 😉
    Time to start reading. 🙂

  23. Vincent C says:

    Congratulations on Hannah Beckerman’s review in the Guardian: “a bibliophile’s treat written with verve, diligence and the author’s evident passion” and Charlotte Heathcote’s in the Express: “[Fowler] is a fine author in his own right . . . . With wit and concision, Fowler gives us biographical sketches of his 99 authors, and his book teems with fascinating stories and astonishing reversals of fortune.”

  24. Conrad Cork says:

    Time for a grovel. Above I said I couldn’t find J.G. Farrell. Well, although not referenced in the index there is a section on him starting on page 290, among the Rediscovered Forgotten.

    So glad to have been wrong in the first place.

  25. Mike Campbell says:

    Congrats, Admin, on a lovely book. I’m sure it’s meant to be “dipped into” but I couldn’t stop myself from reading it straight through – a veritable page-turner. On a personal note: I thought Winifred Watson and her novel “Fell Top” rang a bell – and it did; it was my father Patrick Campbell who did the radio play adaptation mentioned. Broadcast 28th October 1937 on the BBC Home Service! I think it was his first radio credit. (And for older readers – no, he’s not the Patrick Campbell who used to be on Call My Bluff with Frank Muir… although the BBC used to send them each other’s post regularly!)

  26. Anne Fletcher-Jones says:

    I too would love to know if your book will be published as an e-book. I am an old, expat Brit, living in California, who grew up reading all those lost authors you mentioned and more, some of whose names I can no longer remember and would love to rediscover. I would gladly purchase a hard-cover version but I have difficulty reading the print sizes in most books and e-books allow me to enlarge it to suit my eyesight.
    Thank you.

  27. Helen Martin says:

    To say nothing of the Campbell who made all the speed records – but he was Donald. Isn’t it incredible the connections there are on this site among the commentariat?

  28. Keith Galliford says:

    Thank you for a wonderful book reminding me of all those writers I have loved before and signposting the many more I have yet to meet. Loved it!

  29. Jim D says:

    I now (thanks to Book Depository) have this hardcover and the original paperback version. When the sequel comes out, I will buy that too!

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