Every so often a book comes along which is a joy to read and this set of essays by Christopher Fowler is one such offering. Of course, the term ‘forgotten’ is subjective. A writer who is unheard of by one reader is possibly a favourite of another. Fowler begins by asking the question: why are good authors forgotten? He makes a convincing case for possible scenarios. Authors, such as Richard Condon, who become famous for one title who then fade in obscurity or others such as John Creasey, whose output is so prolific that perhaps quantity is at the expense of quality. There are some lovely anecdotes here as Fowler describes trying to track down what became of the writers he discusses.
Of course, there are some authors in the book who I still read. Arthur Upfield, Dennis Wheatley, although his books have dated, and Barbara Pym who is one of my favourite writers. Others such as Baroness Orczy I have tried and given up on. It was fascinating, though, to rediscover authors I did read as a teenager and who are most definitely out of fashion. Eleanor Hibbert, for example who wrote as Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy (and other pseudonyms) was a favourite of mine as was Virginia Andrew whose Flowers in the Attic had an appeal which is hard to decipher.
A mark of a good book is when I get my pencil out and make notes in the margin. I’ve now a list of authors who I fancy reading including Winifred Watson and Caryl Brahms whose books I can see I already have on my shelves. The Book of Forgotten Authors would make a wonderful Christmas present for any bibliophile you know and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year.