At a glance, it looks as if some sort of literary Stalinist purge has taken place, but the reality is a combination of changing fashions and writers dying of old age. Nevertheless, there seem to be distinct geological periods in literature that are defined more by the forgotten authors than the ones we remember. Howard Spring and Warwick Deeping belong to the interwar years, whilst Silas Hocking and Mrs Henry Wood are indelibly linked to the late Victorian period.
I almost sound as if I know what I'm talking about. It is amazing how quickly I have gone from being a complete charlatan to someone who can convey an air of authority when talking about rare and antiquarian books.
Only last week, I received a phone call from a man whose grandparents had just died. He wanted me to value their books and, flattered by the prospect of behaving like an Antiques Roadshow expert, I agreed to pay him a visit later that day (perhaps I should have enquired how his grandparents came to die at the same time, but I did at least leave his address with my colleagues in case I never returned).
Today I discovered a new author: Harry Stephen Keeler, described by Wikipedia as a "prolific but little-known American author."
I don't think I'll ever read "The Tiger Snake", but it has some cracking chapter headings that read like the plot of a Gay Men's Press novel:
- Queer Business
- The "Man-Trap"
- The Hand From Out The Dark
- A Quandry
- Mr Smock Receives
- Information From an M.D.