Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors

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When was the last time that, against all good sense and sanity, you spent a whole night up to read a new book from cover to cover? Wrapped in a blanket, drinking hot tea, while the countryside outside was silent and mist-shrouded under the moon, it happened to me last night, and I am now typing this before I crawl in bed, my day’s schedule completely scrambled, but who cares.

Yesterday (my goodness, it was only yesterday!) I received as a gift an ebook copy of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors, and as it usually happens, I checked the first pages, just to see how it felt. I was preparing dinner, and I was in fact putting the soup up on the stove.
I went through the foreword, and them, after dinner, I said to myself I’d check a few pages.
And now here I am, bleary-eyed, the book finished, and the certain knowledge that it will have a terrible influence on my 2020.

For those not in the know, Christopher Fowler is a bestselling British film-maker and author of mystery and horror, whose work I have always appreciated – I mean, can a guy that wrote a tongue-in-cheek satire of rampant yuppies featuring undead strippers in Soho, be any bad?
Of course he can’t (the book, BTW, is Soho Black).

The Book of Forgotten Authors is non-fiction, and it is exactly what it says on the cover – a collection of 99+ short biographies and suggested reading notes about once popular, best-selling writers that have slipped beyond the horizon, for a number of reasons.
Paperback writers and writers of high adventure, film critics and writers of fifteen shades of pulp fiction, from the last two centuries of popular fiction and other wonders.
Fowler obviously likes his old books, and he’s short but to the point, and tongue in cheek, and a pleasure to read.

Fowler’s recollections of a misspent youth hanging out used book stores and second-hand paperback stands rang a bell with me, and I was not so surprised in finding a lot of authors I actually read as a kid – Italian publishing had a certain delay, when it came to translating popular books, and mysteries and fantasies in particular were often reprinted (cut and mangled by dubious translations) in newstand series like Il Giallo Mondadori or Urania.
So yes, I know John Dixon Carr and Fredric Brown, Leslie Charteris and V.C. Andrews (my goodness, but my friends of the female persuasion in high school all read the Andrews book!) – but Fowler’s volume worked for me on two parallel tracks

  • on one hand, it made me nostalgic of those stories I read as a teenager, and made me want to go back and re-read some
  • on the other, it made me curious of all the authors and books I only heard about, or actually never heard about – and there’s an awful lot of them!

So I guess you can see where this is going.
Yes, now I’ll catch a shut-eye, but then I’ll start making a few additions to my to-read list. I’ll try to grab a few, or dig out a few from the boxes where they have been buried, and do a modicum of re-read or, indeed, exploration and discovery.
The older authors mentioned can be found on Gutenberg or in the Internet Archive, others have been reprinted. Others look like a hard catch, but who knows…
It will be a sort of Forgotten Author Safari, and then of course I’ll post here about it. It’s going to be fun.
But now, a little sleep, and then work.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors

  1. I read City Jitters and Roofworld decades ago, enjoyed them both and then never saw another Fowler book. I just checked out his wikipedia entry. Nice to see he’s been busy! And he blogs regularly! I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

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  2. How about Gerald Kersh? I’m still trying to find his (probably out of print) novel NIGHT AND THE CITY. Any requests to borrow my paperback copy of his short story collection, NIGHTSHADE AND DAMNATIONS, will be ignored.

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