I’m a big fan of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May Mysteries so my curiosity was piqued by his new offering, The Book of Forgotten Authors. My thanks to Bookbridgr and riverrun for what has been an undeniably delightful read.
It’s a must for fictionophiles who might generally eschew non fiction works for whatever reason but it is such a celebration of writing, and mostly fiction. Whilst it could have been such a turgid, dry affair Mr. Fowler has rendered it so readable and accessible; to dip in and out of, to read in one go (I couldn’t put it down) or to have it as a reference work or aid when you’re trawling through second hand book stores. It’s intelligently written, succinct, with humour, none of the sections are overlong, in fact sometimes I was left wanting more.
What also delighted me was the number of supposedly forgotten authors that I had not only heard of and read books by but actually possess works by them! Not forgotten by me! For some reason that made me feel irrationally smug. I may digress here a little because one of the highlights of the book was the mention of Bill Naughton. My father was his accountant and as a child I met him on a few occasions when he came to visit and a nicer man you couldn’t hope to meet. I have fond memories of my sister and I,hand in hand with him, showing him our local park. And I have a signed copy of The Goalkeeper’s Revenge that he gave to me one Christmas and I now have my late father’s signed first edition copy of Alfie where Mr. Naughton inscribed the book to my Dad as ‘the guiding hand - with thanks, Bill Naughton’. Another thing I do firmly remember about him was that he strongly and truly believed that without him there would be no Coronation Street, June Evening, his play, was the genesis of it.
But to return to the book as a whole, there are 99 entries altogether although some sections cover more than one author and as such offer a great variety and diversity of styles. This gives the book such a broad appeal. I found it revelatory to match writers with titles and vice versa. For example, I had read or had read to me Noel Langley’s The Land of Green Ginger as a child, loved it, but never remembered the writer’s name. There was something joyous about this discovery.
It would be interesting to examine the statistics regarding searches and purchases of these writers and their works following the publication of this book. I’m willing to bet there are few who read it who don’t go searching for at least one of these authors. And that is a wondrous thing!
However it is an inevitability that writers and their works do get lost and forgotten. There is so much material out there. And invariably for today’s audiences much of the writing referenced here could be seen as dated. We need books like these every so often to refocus our attention on writers who may even have paved the way for the contemporary books that we enjoy now.