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Publisher's Summary

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. 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. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.

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.

©2017 Christopher Fowler (P)2017 Quercus Editions Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Joyous...fascinating." (Cathy Rentzenbrink)
"I love it! A real gem." (Joanne Harris)
"Will have the inevitable effect of sending readers in search of these intriguing lost names." (Barry Forshaw)

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 10-15-17

A cornucopia of literary bygones & their writers


Fowler is a great companion as he takes us on his explorations of nooks, crannies and bywaters of past literary successes. For me many of the titles were familiar quality ones on my book shelves I’d enjoyed decades ago – Brian Moore, J.G.Farrell, Barbara Pym - and it’s good to re-live them. But the best part of Fowler’s incredibly big collection are all the surprises about the people who wrote them – that Charles Hamilton’s now politically incorrect Billy Bunter books written under the name of Frank Richards were part of his 100 million (yes!) word output; that Mary Elizabeth Braddon whose 1862 penny dreadful for grown-ups Lady Audley’s Secret brims with sensational murder had six children and wrote whilst living scandalously with her married publisher whose wife was in asylum; John Creasey spent just one week on each bestseller and often had two books on the go; the writer of the 100 The Saint books Lesley Charteris was really half Chinese; mystery murder writer Pamela Branch learned Urdu, lived in Kashmir and retired to a 12th century Greek Monastery; the witty erotic comic novel The Passion Flower Hotel by 15 year-old Rosalind Irskine as ‘recently’ as 1962 was a scandal in which sixth formers (and Rosalind was supposed to be one of them in real life) set up a brothel in the basement of their private school in order the learn about sex from the boys of the neighbouring school! Actually it was really written by Roger Irskine… Fowler just keeps it all coming at speed along with brisk analyses of the books.

He covers a vast range of books from pastiches of James Bond & Agatha Christie, science fiction; Booker Prize winners; apocalyptic tales, Coral Island-type stories; Arthur Mee’s hobby books teaching pre-war children to knit a pot cosy for the Empire, or keep ants as pets; books made into films or ravaged for films… It’s all immensely entertaining, but also Fowler (who’s a crime writer himself) analyses why books disappear and how writers of gigantic bestsellers can end so quickly on the pulp-file, dismissed from readers’ memories.

It’s consistently interesting with many incidental lessons for would-be writers along the way, and Fowler is a no-nonsense, friendly reader. Above all, it’ll send you rummaging through your nearest second hand book shop or car boot sale for one of these unjustly forgotten books to enjoy.

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  • Michelle
  • 05-11-18

An engaging chat about the retro pleasures of paperbacks

Fascinating and humane, I looked forward to meeting some of my own beloved forgotten favourites but I had only read a scant handful. I enjoyed this tour of forgotten stories. Fowler’s passion for books is a delight in itself. His voice is easy to listen to. A chatty, fireside pleasure.