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Review: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler's foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

We are fondly introduced to each potential rediscovery: from lost Victorian voices to the twentieth entry writers who could well become the next John Williams, Hans Fallada or Lionel Davidson. Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner - no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide.

I found this book fascinating and it really got me thinking about authors whose books I had read long ago (well not that long but a few decades ok) and haven’t read since or have long forgotten about, that is until a word or phrase reminds me of a long cherished memory. But it’s not about me, this is a review of the latest work of Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors.

The project to find out about authors that are forgotten, not remembered, who had stopped writing, changed direction, died (of shame or being poorly) turned into a decade long labour that made him friends around the world as people got in touch with him and shared their stories. I found it amazing that in that time Christopher Fowler had 450 authors, 450 forgotten authors and he whittled it down to 99 for this book. Some I knew and some I now need to read.

Perhaps the most chilling author for me, if I can use that expression, but bear with me and you will understand, is Virginia Andrews. As a teenager away at boarding school we all read Flowers in the Attic, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, My Sweet Audrina, etc etc etc. Now as a mother of teenage girls I shudder at the stories we used to devour.

As I yomped through this book, reading to the end of one chapter and then being able to pick it up and dip into it again I realised that whilst I have read a lot I have not read many Forgotten Authors.

Thank you Christopher Fowler for the introduction to many forgotten authors and thank you to the lovely Anne from Random Things Through My Letterbox for the invitation to take part in this blog tour.

A real gem, filled with old favourites and new discoveries, and written in a light, snappy, erudite tone, as satisfying as a full English breakfast at your local art-house cafe.

Joanne Harris


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