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Bestsellers: Popular Fiction since 1900

Bestsellers Popular Fiction Since 1900 Second Edition Clive Bloom Bestsellers Other recent books by Clive Bloom CUL

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Bestsellers Popular Fiction Since 1900 Second Edition

Clive Bloom


Other recent books by Clive Bloom CULT FICTION: Popular Reading and Pulp Theory GOTHIC HORROR: A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond (editor) (2nd edition) LITERATURE, POLITICS AND INTELLECTUAL CRISIS IN BRITAIN TODAY VIOLENT LONDON: 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts

Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900 Second Edition

Clive Bloom

© Clive Bloom 2002, 2008 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 6–10 Kirby street, London ECIN 8TS. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2002 Second edition 2008 published by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publisher Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St. Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN-13: 978–0–230–53688–3 hardback ISBN-10: 0–230–53688–3 hardback ISBN-13: 978–0–230–53689–0 paperback ISBN-10: 0–230–53689–1 paperback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Bloom, Clive. Bestsellers : popular fiction since 1900 / Clive Bloom. – 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 978-0-230-53688-3 (alk. paper) 1. English fiction–20th century–History and criticism. 2. Popular literature–Great Britain–History and criticism. 3. Books and reading–Great Britain–History–20th century. 4. Best sellers–Great Britain–Bibliography. I. Title. PR888.P68B58 2008 823′.9109–dc22 2008029955 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

For my Mum, Esther Bloom

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Contents Preface to the Second Edition


Preface to the First Edition


Acknowledgements to the Second Edition


Acknowledgements to the First Edition


Introduction to the Second Edition


1 Origins, Problems and Philosophy of the Bestseller


2 How the British Read Literacy Assessing literacy levels Literacy in practice Reading and the Influences of Cinema, Television and Radio The Library System Librarians, Sales, and the Female Reader Publishers Building on an established market The market for hardback books The Paperback Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Censorship Publishing at the End of the Twentieth Century

51 51 51 54 57 64 72 77 77 81 83 86 92 96

3 Genre: History and Form


4 Literature for Children


5 Further Thoughts on Literature for Children


6 Best-selling Authors Since 1900 An Age Passes, an Age Begins: 1900 to 1918 Florence L. Barclay J. M. Barrie

161 165 165 166


viii Contents

Arnold Bennett Angela Brazil John Buchan Edgar Rice Burroughs Hall Caine Marie Corelli Arthur Conan Doyle Charles Garvice Elinor Glyn Nat Gould Kenneth Grahame Robert Hichens William Le Queux W. J. Locke A. E. W. Mason Edith Nesbit E. Phillips Oppenheim Baroness Orczy Beatrix Potter Arthur Ransome Sax Rohmer Effie A. Rowlands Berta Ruck Edgar Wallace Dolf Wyllarde (Dorothy Margarette Selby Lowndes) The Interwar Years: 1919 to the Early 1930s Agatha Christie Richmal Crompton Warwick Deeping Ethel M. Dell and Ruby M. Ayres Jeffrey Farnol Sidney Horler E. M. Hull A. S. M. Hutchinson A. A. Milne J. B. Priestley W. Riley Rafael Sabatini Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile) Mary Webb

167 168 168 170 171 172 173 175 175 176 179 179 181 181 182 183 184 185 185 186 187 188 188 189 190 191 191 192 193 193 195 196 197 197 198 199 200 201 201 202


P. G. Wodehouse Virginia Woolf P. C. Wren Dornford Yates


203 204 205 205

World War Two to Suez: The Late 1930s to 1956 Kingsley Amis Reverend W. V. Awdry James Hadley Chase Peter Cheyney John Creasey A. J. Cronin Lloyd Douglas Daphne du Maurier Robert Graves C. S. Forester Stephen Francis (Hank Janson) Erle Stanley Gardner William Golding Georgette Heyer James Hilton Hammond Innes W. Somerset Maugham Margaret Mitchell Nicholas Monsarrat George Orwell Mary Renault (Mary Challans) Nevil Shute Mickey Spillane J. R. R. Tolkien Dennis Wheatley

207 207 207 208 209 209 210 211 211 213 214 215 216 217 217 218 219 220 221 221 222 222 223 224 225 227

The Paperback Years: 1957 to 1974 Richard Bach H. E. Bates Enid Blyton Anthony Burgess Sheila Burnford Eric Carle Arthur C. Clarke James Clavell

229 229 229 230 231 232 232 233 234



Jackie Collins Len Deighton Dorothy Eden J. T. Edson Ian Fleming Frederick Forsyth Winston Graham Arthur Hailey Joseph Heller Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy (Eleanor Burford Hibbert) Susan Howatch W. E. Johns Ken Kesey Louis L’Amour D. H. Lawrence Doris Lessing C. S. Lewis Norah Lofts Alistair MacLean Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) Grace Metalious James Michener Michael Moorcock Andrea Newman Mario Puzo Harold Robbins Bernice Rubens Wilbur Smith Jacqueline Susann Morris West Joseph Wambaugh Herman Wouk John Wyndham

The Last Decades: 1975 to the Present Dan Abnett Douglas Adams Richard Adams Monica Ali Ted Allbeury

235 236 236 237 238 239 239 240 240 241 241 242 243 243 244 245 246 247 248 248 249 250 250 251 251 252 253 254 255 255 256 257 257

259 259 259 260 261 261


Martin Amis Virginia Andrews Jeffrey Archer Jake Arnott Margaret Atwood Jean M. Auel Desmond Bagley David Baldacci Iain Banks Clive Barker (and other horror writers) Maeve Binchy Malorie Blackman Michael Bond Barbara Taylor Bradford Raymond Briggs Terry Brooks Dan Brown Barbara Cartland Trudi Canavan (and other fantasy writers) Caleb Carr Tom Clancy Harlan Coben Martina Cole Shirley Conran Catherine Cookson (and other family romance writers) Jilly Cooper Bernard Cornwell Patricia Cornwell Michael Crichton Clive Cussler Roald Dahl Louis de Bernières Colin Dexter Ben Elton Nicholas Evans Sebastian Faulks Helen Fielding Colin Forbes Dick Francis George MacDonald Fraser Alexander Fullerton


262 262 263 263 264 265 265 266 267 268 269 269 270 270 271 272 273 273 275 276 276 277 278 279 279 282 282 283 284 284 286 287 288 289 289 290 290 291 292 292 293



Alex Garland John Grisham Arthur Golden Sue Grafton Philippa Gregory Mark Haddon Laurell K. Hamilton Robert Harris Thomas Harris Sarah Harrison James Herbert Carl Hiaasen Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson) Eric Hill (and other writers for the very young) Susan Hill Peter Hoeg Wendy Holden (and other chick-lit authors) Sheila Holland (Charlotte Lamb) Nick Hornby Kahled Hosseini Michel Houellebecq Conn Iggulden Kazuo Ishiguro P. D. James Penny Jordan (and other women’s romance writers) M. M. Kaye Jonathan Kellerman Leo Kessler Stephen King Sophie Kinsella Dean Koontz Judith Krantz Hanif Kureishi Lynda La Plante John le Carré Andrea Levy Robert Ludlum Yann Martel Alexander McCall Smith Colleen McCullough Ian McEwan

294 295 296 296 297 297 298 298 299 299 300 301 302 302 304 305 305 307 308 308 309 309 310 310 311 312 313 314 314 316 317 318 319 320 320 321 321 322 323 323 324


‘Andy McNab’ Alan Moore Kate Mosse Patrick O’Brian Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters) James Patterson Rosamunde Pilcher Dudley Pope Terry Pratchett Phillp Pullman Ian Rankin (and other detective writers) Claire Rayner Douglas Reeman/Alexander Kent Kathy Reichs Ruth Rendell J. K. Rowling Salman Rushdie Chris Ryan Dora Saint (Miss Read) Alice Sebold Vikram Seth Dr Seuss Gerald Seymour Tom Sharpe Sarah Shears Sidney Sheldon Karin Slaughter Zadie Smith Danielle Steel R. L. Stine Jessica Stirling (Peggy Coughlan and Hugh C. Rae) Meera Syal Craig Thomas Sue Townsend Joanna Trollope Alice Walker Fay Weldon Irvine Welsh Mary Wesley Phyllis A. Whitney Jeanette Winterson


324 325 325 326 327 327 328 328 329 330 331 333 333 334 334 335 336 338 338 339 340 340 342 342 343 344 344 345 345 346 347 347 348 349 349 350 351 351 352 353 354



Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4

Appendix 5

Appendix 6

Appendix 7

Appendix 8

Appendix 9

Number of individuals out of every 1000 who could not sign their name on a marriage register: 1896–1907


Extract from Beatrice Harraden, ‘What Our Soldiers Read’, Cornhill Magazine, vol. XLI (Nov. 1916)


Booksellers from whose returns the Bookseller compiled its bestseller list during the 1930s and 1940s under the title ‘What the Other Fellow is Selling’


From the Mass Observation Archive (ref. FR 2537): ‘Reading in Tottenham, November 1947’


From Mills and Boon, ‘A FINE ROMANCE . . . is hard to find!’


British Library loans 1987–8, showing the top 100 authors as recorded by the Bookseller (13 July 1990)


Comparative library loans between 1988 and 1998 by genre (source: Public Lending Right, 1999.)


Waterstone’s and Channel 4’s survey to discover the greatest books of the twentieth century (1996): the following are the top works of fiction


Which companies owned what imprints at the end of the twentieth century (source: Key Note, 1999.)


Appendix 10 From the Bookseller (Web page: 20 Dec. 1999) Appendix 11 Comparative paperback bestseller lists showing relative change over the last decade of the



twentieth century (source: Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, 2001.)



Appendix 12 World Book Day 2000 Poll to find Britain’s favourite writers






Name Index


Subject Index


Title Index


Preface to the Second Edition Before the publication of the first edition of Bestsellers in 2002 information about best-selling novels was still clouded with contradictions and evidence was partial, scattered and sometimes merely incorrect. Factual evidence about how people read in Britain and why was still missing or was unavailable except in books on library borrowing, books which were often difficult to find. Discussions of taste and value which had dominated English studies for almost sixty years were open to challenge and old prejudices had to be put aside. Nowadays, even after the cultural history and reception of best-selling fiction has become a recognised area of interest, snobbishness still clouds our judgement about what makes up English Literature and creates distorted and repeated half truths about how values circulate in a print economy which is commercially driven by publishers and booksellers. Even authors continue to repeat some of the cant against popular commercial fiction. Rarely do they have anything other than their own experiences, either good or bad, to go on. In the first edition of Bestsellers, I attempted to provide proper information about the state of the last hundred years of reading – what reading actually meant and how books were bought and circulated. It was a study of the hundred years of the twentieth century and that century was passing, but just as it did new selling techniques began and new book sensations arrived, enough indeed to warrant the present volume which has been greatly expanded to cover the changes that have occurred as well as saying something about all the new authors that have appeared. Indeed for many years it was enough for literary critics to gather indicative authors to discuss the ‘zeitgeist’. Today that is no longer possible as we know that reading habits are more eclectic and less literary than academics might wish. When the book first appeared there were few creative writing courses in universities, now there are many and most use popular texts instead of ‘classics’ as teaching material. Whereas, a traditional English Literature course might study Jane Austen and Henry James, writing courses use the latest bestseller to suggest what successful writing rather than ‘literary’ writing might look like. Major writers such as Martin Amis, Fay Weldon and Hanif Kureishi now have teaching posts, although Kureishi reputedly conducts his seminars in a café! Such teaching at best can xvi

Preface to the Second Edition xvii

release hidden abilities and prize-winning results or at worst it can create the repetition of publishing clichés and tired standardised plots simply because students are after that elusive best-selling book. The present volume sticks to the format of the first edition, that is, an explanatory essay followed by a list of author entries from the start of the twentieth century to the present day. Where it differs is in the greater dedication to children’s literature, the discussion of British Black and Asian writing, in the attention to the Scottish ‘revival’, in the investigation of television promotion and in more esoteric areas of enquiry such as ‘Slash’ fiction or web site promotion. There are greatly increased author entries which not only bring the story up-to-date but also have allowed considerable revision of earlier periods to include extra authors whose contribution was overlooked. In the six years since the first edition some things have indeed changed. There is an even greater monopoly of booksellers on the high street and a restricted (and monotonous) list of authors that booksellers want to promote; Internet shopping has increased too, further restricting profit margins for publishers and also contributing to the restricted number of ‘best-selling’ authors, although a greater number of authors are available by this means. Meanwhile, the appearance of television promotions on chat shows has apparently opened the market to a wider readership (or those who rarely read fiction), but in actuality has further restricted titles to a very short list of books which are dramatically discounted in bookshops and pushed to customers more and more likely to be led by the ‘advice’ of people like television ‘magazine’ show hosts Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, whose own taste (or their researchers in league with the publishers) is debated (without criticism) by celebrities and then opened to a book club where there is further promotion of the title. The current world of the British bestseller is vital, vibrant and ever changing. Its study can tell us much about the cultural climate of the nation and of the snobberies that ignore its production and thereby distort the history of English Literature. This book records many authors that are at present the height of fashion, but will fade all too soon, reminding us that even good books fade away.

Preface to the First Edition Across the first seventy years of the twentieth century few records were kept of best-selling fiction, its authors, its readers, its production or its distribution. Those records that were kept were tidied away into box files and ledgers and left to gather dust until Hitler’s bombs or American university bulk buying reduced them to an ashy or archival destiny. Only in the last quarter of the century did proper records, centrally available, make sense of the jumble of information that made up the bestseller market, and those were somewhat contradictory at best, given the guarded nature of accounting. Many hours of research often brought to light problems to which there was no immediate solution – the record remaining fragmentary. Research into the history of publishing is now a thriving, if slightly esoteric, branch of literary history, but the literary history of the bestseller is in fact embryonic. Yet to undertake such a work is to gain an insight into one of the popular arts of an entire nation over a hundred years. To achieve this one cannot work alone and I am happily obliged to acknowledge a veritable army of researchers, helpers and well-wishers without whom this book would not have appeared. They are, in no particular order: Lynette Grypp; Ron Sutsko; Alison Main; Theresa Urbanic; Scott Eden; Meagen Ryan; Amy Crawford; Margaret Walsh; Courtney K. Sosnowski; Renée Ireton; Kimberley K. McGhay; Colleen Crowley; Kelly G. Puzio; Alexandra Matthews; Christina Grace; Laura Haden; Kristina Zurcher; Adam Manella; Denise M. Krotzer; Edward Dawson; Karen Lorenz; Annie Thompson; Anne Anderson; Allyson Luck; Meggan Newland; Kristina Peterson; Colleen Conway; Erin Kappler; Ed Dawson; Melissa Radey; Kathleen Scheibel; Kristen Doyle; Laura Anne Weiler; Courtney McDonough; Frank Chetalo; Katie Caspersen; Meghan Fitzgerald; Ryan Furmick; Tom Moran; Janine Bemasere; Sheryl Hahn; Tonya Lentzo; Marty Moran; Kathleen Sclef; Lindsey Hamilton; Lesley Belden; Beth Wladyka; Shaye Loughlin; Tara Lynn Jewett; Nora Mahoney; Malin Stearns; Sara Jost; Corinne Mahoney; Andrea Allocco; Allison Fashek; Jeffrey J. Harrington; Beth A. Burau; Anna Kosse; Colin Langan; Kristin Lutz; James Pastore; Jennifer Wellman; Jaime Ullinger; Jessica Fries; Annie Moses; Sarah Balzli; Heather Waigand; Kathryn A. Koch; Megan Griffin; Katherine Breitenbach; Laura Bastedo; Sarah Seidel; Claire Dampeer; Lori Delaney. xviii

Preface to the First Edition


Particular thanks are due to Maxim Jakubowski of Murder One; author Tim Hardy; Bill Edwards at Labour Force; Amanda Campbell at Sheffield Central Library; Julia Strong at the National Library Trust; Louis Jardon at the DfEE Standard and Effectiveness Unit; Susan Ridge at the Registrar of Public Lending Right; John Nicholson of the Small Press Group. I am especially grateful to Helena Blakemore who helped compile some of the author information in the middle section of this volume. Helena wrote the original Appendix 10 (no longer in Second Edition). Further thanks must go to Tony Kenley, Yasmin Kenley, Lesley Bloom, Farah Mendlesohn and my editors Eleanor Birne and Emily Rosser at Palgrave Macmillan; also to Steve Holland, Mike Ashley and John Clute. As always my thanks to Valery Rose and Jocelyn Stockley. I am grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Board, which helped fund part of this research. A number of booksellers gave time and information, including: Books Etc.; Blackwell’s; Foyles; Silver Moon Women’s Bookshop (now sadly closed); Waterstone’s; W. H. Smith. Publishers also gave time to be interviewed, including: Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd; Pan-Macmillan Publishing; Robinson Ltd; and Virgin. Boots the Chemists and Harrods were kind enough to supply information about their lending libraries. Like all research this book remains provisional, a partial guide to the popular literary taste of a nation. It is a map of reading and as such may guide others to answers that I have missed, for which I hope it will prove helpful. It has been compiled from a number of sources: publishers’ records; booksellers’ accounts; library records; the pages of the Bookseller; Mass Observation; advertising notices; miscellaneous ephemeral sources; scholarly studies; market research conducted commercially as well as by academics; personal interviews. It is, nevertheless, intended as more than the sum of its parts. What is intended is not only to provide the most complete record so far of best-selling fiction in Britain but also to offer the sense of a cultural, sociological and aesthetic context, a landscape of one type of curiously specific phenomenon of recent times: the bestseller.

Acknowledgements to the Second Edition Professor Imelda Whelen, DeMontfort University, Justin Jeffreys at Taylor Herring Public Relations Ltd, Keith Kinghorn, Secretary to Head of Community Learning and Libraries, Helen Goddard, Redbridge Council, Szymon Ryzner, Caleb Williamson, Anaelle Attias, Rachael Cohen, Matt Degnan, Melissa Lee, Katie Parrott, Myke Hernandez, Kristan Szczpanicl, Kristin Mukai.

Acknowledgements to the First Edition The author is grateful to the Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London, on behalf of the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex, for permission to quote from ‘Mass Observation Report: Reading in Tottenham, Nov. 1947’ (FR 2537); to Philip Jones and the Bookseller ( for permission to quote from its web page (20 December 1999); to Brian Stableford for permission to quote from his article ‘Robert Hichens and The Garden of Allah’, Million, no. 3 (May–June 1992); to Wendy Bradley for permission to quote from her article ‘Judith Krantz’, Million, no. 2 (March–April 1991); and to David Pringle of Million for general permission to quote from the journal. The information regarding Joan Collins was originally published in Clive Bloom, Literature, Politics and Intellectual Crisis in Britain Today (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000).


Introduction to the Second Edition ‘These books can’t possibly compete with centuries of established history, especially when that history is endorsed by the ultimate bestseller of all time.’ ‘Don’t tell me Harry Potter is actually about the Holy Grail.’ (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, ch. 38)

The bestseller is a book which enjoys phenomenal sales over a very short period of time, the term itself becoming popular around the 1890s. The term may or may not define an ephemeral title written in bad prose for a summer’s entertainment. It may define a book with real merit that goes on to become a classic. As an idea it unites J. R. R. Tolkien and Agatha Christie, Dan Brown and Martina Cole, D. H. Lawrence and Catherine Cookson and as such its meaning is strictly limited because too general. Nevertheless the word does have some value not the least of which is that it is easily understood and its representatives usually are easily recognised. This book explores the phenomenon, its meanings and representatives in the world of British fiction over the last hundred years or so. Of course, there is a difference between a bestseller, a fast seller and a steady seller, Dickens fell into the former category during the nineteenth century and by degrees found himself in the steady seller category. Jane Austen was perhaps never a true bestseller, but she has proved a steady seller since the 1920s and by degrees and imitation has been elevated to bestseller status as Britain’s (and America’s) favourite author (if imitators are considered). The cult of Jane Austen was noted by the critic F. R. Leavis in 1948 when he named her the quintessential English novelist in his book The Great Tradtion. Kingsley Amis waded in during 1957 in ‘What Became of Jane Austen’, but her apotheosis came in the last decade of the twentieth century with the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice which influenced a generation of writers especially given the erotic possibilities of actor Colin Firth (who played Darcy) and suggested new variations on the theme of marriage which appealed to younger women.1 Austen’s best-seller status rests with Pride and Prejudice, but the book’s contents have proved themselves malleable in the hands of others. Indeed the 1


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

shift of emphasis to Mr Darcy and away from Elizabeth Bennett has given the story a new lease of life with books such as Amanda Grange’s Darcy’s Diary or Pamela Aiden’s The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam D’Arcy highlighting his back story and Pride and Prejudice itself (at the beginning of the twenty-first century) being repackaged as if it were ‘chick lit’. Austen has also provided excellent scripts for the cinema and the ‘Austen’ brand is now ubiquitous. In 2008 there were over twenty versions of Pride and Prejudice, most from the point of view of Mr Darcy but many others simply rewriting the story or turning the whole affair into a detective story such as Carrie A. Beris’s Pride and Prescience, a Mr and Mrs Darcy mystery. Emma Tennant, Jane Dawkins, Linda Berdoll, Kate Fenton, Phyllis Furley and a host of historical romance writers have seen the potential of Austen for both chick lit and costume romance. Austen has always been serious literature (even if her writing inadvertently gave rise to romantic fiction). Yet ‘serious’ fiction may also sell well blurring the line between trash bestsellerdom and so-called quality bestsellerdom. And who better to decide what and what is not serious but the authors of such fiction. Thus serious fiction is very often selfconscious and self-defining. One critic has defined such writing as ‘selfconsciously literary [but] intended to appeal to the “general reader” ’.2 Serious fiction is also somehow excluded from being categorisable as genre fiction and as such becomes ‘serious’ by not being instantly definable, a good example being Mark Haddon’s, The Curious Instance of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), a tale of a child with Asperger’s disease which won the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction, The Whitbread and the Book Trust Teenage Fiction Award but is clearly not intended for ‘children’ to read. Such books attract prizes (especially the Booker, Whitbread or Orange) and such prizes played an enormous part in defining contemporary English Literature during the 1980s and 1990s. The influence of prizes only tails off in the twenty-first century with the emergence of television promotion (see below) which has again blurred the line between the serious and the bestseller. It was the Booker Prize that most closely defined serious fiction in the last decades of the twentieth century. Indeed, by the 1980s between 4,500 and 7,000 titles were Booker eligible and for the winners, with the publicity and promotion (books packaged as prestige titles), sales could exceed those by best-selling genre writers and would certainly exceed the hardback sales of a good seller which might be up to 10,000 or a first novel, which might be very lucky to get to 5,000.3 Bookerpromoted books could look to the hundreds of thousands and meant

Introduction to the Second Edition 3

their authors became highly profitable commodities which could nevertheless be claimed as the promotion of genuine artistic talent. Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha had already sold 72,000 in hardback by the time it won the Booker Prize but sold approximately another 130,000 immediately afterwards and over 360,000 by 1994. In paperback a further 340,000 were also sold.4 On the other end of the spectrum, James Kelman’s 1994 winner, How Late It Was, How Late managed only 10,000 sales. On the whole the best-selling genre authors keep the publishers and booksellers in business and still subsidise quality titles. Bestsellers are instant and usually unpredictable hits with the public, making both their authors and publishers lots of money. They may be temporary abberations that fit the temper of the times like Alan Garner’s Owl Service which matched and promoted the sub Tolkien taste for mythology in 1967 or Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull a ‘lifestyle’ philosophy book in 1972. Such was also the case with Vickram Seth’s ‘serious’ novel A Suitable Boy, which failed to win the Booker Prize in 1994, but made Seth and his publishers richer to the tune of £3 million gross of which Seth may have picked up £500,000.5 Such earnings inflated opinion and expectations. On the other hand a writer like Martin Amis, despite his seriousness and sense of injustice at constantly being ignored by prize panels, has often been overrated in terms of sales potential which has led publishers and booksellers to find a large deficit between sales and advances.6 Nevertheless, however serious the novel may appear many such titles very often fade as quickly as genre fiction. Steady sellers keep publishers happy and bookshops well supplied. In 1800 sales of 10,000 copies were considered the acme of popularity, by the mid-nineteenth century it was possible to sell up to 50,000 copies, but by 1955 the total had risen to 100,000 and 500,000 was considered possible but very rare.7 Nowadays the number may run into several million for the very top authors. What becomes clear is that at bestseller level the categorisation of literature as highbrow or lowbrow, popular or serious, entertainment or instruction simply does not work and although we shall encounter many merely ephemeral works some will not be. Popular fiction may often fall into stereotyping, vulgarity, sensation and the fashionably disposable whilst serious fiction may be ‘literary’, elitist and cerebral, yet both meet in the bestseller, confusing category expectations and spoiling a convenient reading of purchaser demographics. Either way, a certain sophistication is detectable in all bestsellers and a necessary discrimination is needed when interpreting what is being read.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The bestseller in Britain (discounting the Bible and Shakespeare) began with John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress of 1678 which sold 10,000 copies in a year and was instantly pirated to the tune of another 4,000 copies.8 This success was followed by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719 and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, both books soon popularised as children’s reading. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela of 1740 is considered the first real novel and was widely read and highly influential, including creating another girl’s name. Horace Walpole followed with The Castle of Otranto in 1764, thereby creating a gothic frenzy of which Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) was the most successful, but it was Sir Walter Scott with his Waverley novels which began the true ascent of the bestseller. When Samuel Pepys acquired his collection of broadsheets from a Mr Selden (which he continued to improve until 1700), many of the now familiar categories of popular fiction were well established. Pepys listed his collection: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Devotion and Morality History – true and fabulous Tragedy – viz Murders, Executions, Judgements of God State and times Love – pleasant do. – unfortunate Marriage, cuckoldry, etc See – love, gallantry and actions Drinking and good fellowship Humour, frolics etc., mixed

And the reason he wanted to collect ephemera from the streets was the better to be able to gauge public opinion.9 Though some make slight of libels; yet you may see by them, how the wind sits. As take a straw, and throw it up into the air; you may see by that, which way the wind is; which you shall not do, by casting up a stone. More solid things do not show the complexion of the times, so well as ballads and libels [spelling modernised].10 Curiously, popular reading habits have remained remarkably consistent since the seventeenth century and with some allowance for changes in fashion and historical circumstance we are still enthralled by books on travel, strange places and wonders (Khaled Hosseini’s The

Introduction to the Second Edition 5

Kite Runner, Victoria Hislop’s The Island and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books); romance, family feuds and erotic sensation (Jill Mansell’s Making Your Mind Up); criminals, outlaws and pirates (Jodi Picoult’s Perfect Match and Minette Walters’ The Devil’s Feather); since the early nineteenth century, we also have gothic melodrama, the vampire adventure (Elizabeth Kostovo’s The Historian), detective fiction and the thriller (Ruth Rendell’s End in Tears and Sam Bourne’s The Righteous Men). The eleven most popular authors borrowed from libraries in 2007 were Catherine Cookson; R. L. Stine; Danielle Steel; Josephine Cox; Dick Francis; Jaqueline Wilson; Jack Higgins; Janet and Allan Ahlberg; Agatha Christie; Ruth Rendell; James Patterson: in other words, writers of family sagas, romances, gothic horror, thrillers and detective fiction. To these, according to which survey is consulted, may be added Nora Roberts, Mick Inkpen, Francesca Simon and Daisy Meadows. The greatest selling authors (for adults) in Britain are Agatha Christie for a lifetime’s output and Jacqeline Susann for just one book – Valley of the Dolls; Enid Blyton, Lewis Caroll and Beatrix Potter lead children’s reading, but all are eclipsed by George Remi (Hergé) whose tales of Tintin have reached over 160 million sales and Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo whose thirty books about Asterix the Gaul have sold a quarter of a billion copies! It is a sobering thought that both Hergé and Goscinny and Uderzo succeeded outside the Anglophone world and with unimportant sales in Britain and the United States. On 16 May 2003, The Evening Standard reported the results of the BBC search for the hundred best loved books (as opposed to the most borrowed). The number of people who responded was 140,000. Most popular living author was Terry Pratchett, followed by Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and J. K. Rowling. Interestingly 30 per cent of the books were those for children. Perhaps no surprise as they are both the books that are remembered by adults and the sort of books that would be voted for by the children who are encouraged by their parents to participate in such competitions. Shakespeare was not included, neither was Martin Amis. Equal top with Terry Pratchett was Charles Dickens. As an unusual entry at the top was Paul Coehlo’s The Alchemist. On the other hand during the 2007 world book day Pride and Prejudice took pole position followed by Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, and numerous other books then being taught at school. Pride and Prejudice was voted first by women and sixth by men whilst Lord of the Rings was first by men and only fifth by women. In the background to the bestseller charts authors who get almost no general exposure may do very well, clocking up serious sales. Thus it is


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

with Sally Warboyes, Harry Cole (a former policeman),* Patricia Burns and Elizabeth Waite† (who began writing at the age of 70), all of whom write family sagas set in Edwardian days or between the wars with plenty of nostalgic detail and a female heroine. They are usually well researched and rarely written in ‘olde English’ as might be expected and most are set in recognisable areas such as Liverpool, the Isle of Dogs or Spittlefields. The books are bittersweet celebrations of working-class determination and hard work and do not express the socialist views that were more prevalent amongst working men’s writing in the 1930s and which are often the only writing taken seriously for the ‘lower orders’ by intellectuals in search of Marxist solidarity.11 Elizabeth Waites’s Nippy (1997), the story of a suburban girl from Morden who becomes a Lyons Corner House waitress even includes a photograph of a waitress of the 1920s attired as in the company’s regulations. This story as with many others is a type of amalgam of Arnold Bennett and Catherine Cookson. There are many regional authors as well. Cookson herself has many imitators, but none more successful than Evelyn Hood, a native of Paisley and now the Clyde who chronicles life amongst the servants, A Stranger to the Town, (1985) and fisherfolk, The Shimmer of the Herring, (2001) of old Scotland and whose historical acknowledgements preface her books, but are not rammed down the reader’s throat, regional accents having been modified to suit a wide readership lose none of their sense of place. Her work is often praised for its historical accuracy, The Scots Magazine commenting that ‘Evelyn Hood has been called Scotland’s Catherine Cookson. Unfair. She has her own distinctive voice.’ Occasionally a writer such as Gilda O’Neil emerges from this twilight world, who having begun life as an East End saga writer now writes non-fictional nostalgia about the East End. Behind these authors are arrayed the writers at Mills and Boon/ Harlequin, still going strong after one hundred years, with authors like Penny Jordan and Roger (‘Gill’) Sanderson who produce four to six novels a year with similar plots, some sex, much romance and copious amounts of fantasy and happiness that sell in their millions. Penny Jordan had sold eighty five million dreams by 2008. The romance industry seems as buoyant and profitable as ever. * Harry Cole was born in Bermondsey in London and only after several jobs did he join the police in 1952. When he retired in 1983, he turned to writing both memoirs and novels. Cole was awarded the British Empire Medal for voluntary work. † Elizabeth Waite was born in Tooting in London and worked on the buses until 1956 when she moved to Devon to set up a guest house with her husband. When she retired she started writing. She found a literary agent at the age of 70.

Introduction to the Second Edition 7

Men’s adventures are also catered for with the Texan writer Dan Parkinson (d. 2001)‡ and the Londoner Richard Goodman’s tales of the high seas during the eighteenth century and in the Napoleonic Wars. These too are well researched but are still essentially ship board sagas set during times of war. Dan Parkinson was also the writer of a number of genre based series including the ‘Dragonlance’ series of fantasy titles, perhaps one of the last writers whose professional life was dominated by churning out profitable books in numerous genres where the nature of the topic, whether warships or dwarves is more important than the writer’s name. Here is where a serious novel with literary intent may unwittingly fall, for despite its tremendous reviews Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong (1994) is little more than an erotic travel saga wrapped around the well trodden ground of the first day on the Somme, with obligatory mud and blood in plenty. The reviews may tell us as much about late twentieth-century erotic taste amongst its male reviewers as about these same reviewers understanding of World War One, filtered inevitably through the sensibility of Wilfred Owen. Indeed the poet’s version of the war is also retailed by Pat Barker whose The Ghost Road won the Booker Prize in 1995. Thus historical myth making is certainly not confined to ‘genre’ writers. Indeed whereas history may act as nostalgia for genre writers, misery is emphasised in similar situations by ‘serious’ writers. Erotic love, war, romance and death seem to be the staples of literary fictional history. Yet there is also more esoteric matter. A vast sub literature of ‘vampire romances’ also exists which mixes Harlequin/Mills and Boon romance stories, gothic thrills and sex and shopping ‘chick lit’ and whose authors are mainly American with the gothic being reinvented in an American modern setting. The books themselves are often supported by lavish web sites. Such titles sell consistently in aggregate rather than producing one overall big name although Anne Rice, the ‘inventor’ of the genre is a bestseller. Since 2000, there has been a virtual deluge of vampire inspired novels. This has been particularly noticeable in the area of women’s romance, especially in the Love Spell Book Club which promotes writers such as Lynsay Sands, C. J. Barry, Colleen Thompson, (the slyly named) Nina Bangs, Kate MacAlister and Marjorie Liu, ‘bringing a little magic’ into the lives of their readers. The love bites hardly stop there, other publishers such as Piatkus are in on the act with their own writers such as ‡

Daniel Edward Parkinson was born in 1935 and after a number of jobs took up writing at the age of 50. He lived in Texas and was a prolific author in a number of genres most notably in fantasy, especially the ‘Dragonlance’ series. Parkinson died in 2001.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Maryjanice Davidson. In a series of books, humorously titled, Undead and Unwed, Undead and Unemployed and Undead and Unappreciated we follow the antics of Elizabeth (‘Beth’) Taylor who finds herself on a morgue slab one day, a vampire and a spinster, in search of a man and the perfect shoes. The books are a comic blend of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Bridget Jones’s Diary. Helen Fielding and Jane Austen loom large over the genre with moody, vampiric Darcys finally seducing supernaturally enhanced Elizabeth Bennetts; randy, dead Rhett Butlers finally bring their Scarlett O’Haras to screaming orgasm as they manfully substitute for their British cousins. If one is not keen on straightforward romance there is Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark, a Sookie Stackhouse mystery where a mindreading waitress solves a series of psychopathic killings while dating one of the undead. Other stories include, Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead. If the reader is in the mood for mystery there is also Dead Witch Walking, a police procedural where the main protagonist is an Irishdescended witch in a halter neck, who keeps charms on her handcuffs. She is an ‘Inlander’ who works in the vampire bars of Cincinnati looking for tax evading leprechauns and is partnered by Jenks, a married fairy who likes imitating Billy Idol. We are told in the blurb that Harris ‘has been called a witch . . . has never seen a vampire . . . loves graveyards . . . and wears too much black’. The intelligent vampire read would have to be David Sosnowski’s Vamped. In effect it is Richard Matheson’s I am Legend written from the point of view of the vampires, combining the vampire back story begun by Anne Rice, but adding the coming of age tale of the (nearly) last human little girl and her transformation into the ‘womanhood’ of marriage as a vampire. Sold as ‘chick-lit’ vampire romance, the book aspires to serious literature which only uses a popular format. Indeed the book cover could not be more misleading, ‘single male vampire seeks more than one-night stand’ is calculated to gain the attention of the Love Spell Book Club rather than any literary awards. Nowadays the genre has worked out some new rules, although you choose your author for which rules you are going to follow. Vampires are no longer scared of garlic or silver, they can wear crosses, go to church (most seem to be Catholic), eat pizza and watch Monty Python films, Black Adder and the Simpsons on television, buy and sell on ebay, invent computer games, drive nice cars and earn a good living as an author or therapist, eat normal food, drink tea and coffee and get about during the day. For the most part, vampirism has been put down to a flu-like virus (all the books make it clear this is not AIDS and vampires are not the ‘other’)

Introduction to the Second Edition 9

for which the ‘cure’ is blood conveniently now produced artificially and sold by the local blood bank or in the supermarket. The desire to bite necks has been suppressed and vampires only ‘attack’ humans if sexually aroused and with their partner’s consent. Vampires can put the ‘glamour’ on people, but singularly fail with the woman who will be their soul mate, are moody and mean, but also caring and sad and are miserable and lonely until brought out of their self-defensive shell by the woman they have searched for over the centuries. Despite the supernatural ballyhoo and the sexy interludes, I suspect that little has actually changed in women’s romance since 1961 when Mills and Boon published Sara Seale’s The Gentle Prisoner, her reworking of Beauty and the Beast. The heroine falls for the scarred hero and accepts the ‘beloved prison’ which becomes ‘home’. Even given super powers, the ability to defeat knife-wielding street gangs, hold down a good job and still go shopping these vampire books repeat the mantra of female desire to be found in Kathryn Blair’s Dear Adversary of the 1950s, where a woman allows herself to be ‘mastered . . . when she can feel she is also loved’. Today a doctor, international playboy or executive at a newspaper office will not hack it. The world of modern romance is darker but more fantastic and the possibilities of meeting the man of your dreams not merely unlikely but impossible. Such genre changes and modifications as exist in vampire literature may be associated with the taste for ‘Slash’. Written (mostly) by heterosexual women fans of popular televison, film and fiction about the repressed but suggested gay (male) sexual relations amongst leading fictional characters, especially those in Tolkien, J. K. Rowling and the television programme Star Trek. These stories are concerned with characters who have been underdeveloped in the opinion of fans by their authors or stories which have either taken a ‘wrong course’ or finished too soon for their fans’ taste. Thus Slash writing comes out of a sense of loss or bereavement. Making their first appearance in the Fanzines in the 1970s these stories have now migrated to the internet where textual poachers borrow characters to put them in situations only hinted at by their original writers. Fantasies even include male pregnancy (Mpreg), the spontaneous growing of angelic wings and the manipulation of real celebrities known as RPF or Real Person Fiction. Slash is suffused with acronyms. The authors of Slash often use pseudonyms because of the explicit nature of their material and because a large number seem to be teachers who do not wish to be accused of paedophilia or academics who do not want the embarrassment of being found out as a closet trekkie or


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Harry Potter fan. In finding texts from popular culture without centres, where something appears always to be missing, a sense of supplementarity emerges and in dealing with the literature in which men feature but from which male readers are effectively excluded these women do-it-yourself authors create a new type of fictional interaction similar to that which has occurred on You Tube. Then there are graphic novels appealing to a different section of the reading public, but now legitimate, flourishing and important (especially with regard to Hollywood). How is one to ignore books like From Hell with its illustrations by Eddie Campbell and script by Alan Moore or the cross-generational work of Raymond Briggs, certainly as important as most of the books on the bestseller list? In the last three decades boundaries between legitimate fiction and genre fiction, between the graphic novel and the written novel, between children’s fiction and adult reading have effectively collapsed, ironically returning the novel to its origins. It was pointed out a long time ago that the so-called legitimate novel emerged from a scandalous ‘subliterary’ background, but that this ‘background’ was not merely the bastardised version of the legitimate novel. Indeed the point about what constitutes literature is an important one. The history of the novel has been handed down to us as the triumph of an enlightened realism over reactionary romance, the development or evolution of a superior literary instrument.12 Popular fiction had its own legitimacy (and preceded ‘literary’ fiction), something which was forgotten by the 1870s when a cruel snobbishness crept into the world of letters unknown in the time of Defoe or Richardson. ‘In 1879 [George Bernard Shaw’s] novel Immaturity was turned down by almost every London publisher.’ Looking back on the event, and working out the reasons for it, he realised that a radical change had occurred in the reading public. ‘The education Act of 1871 . . . was producing readers who had never before bought books nor could have read them if they had.’13 By the 1880s, Thomas Hardy thought that the masses were mere ‘machines’ and by 1908, D. H. Lawrence was almost psychotic in his need to cleanse the world of the them. If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets

Introduction to the Second Edition 11

and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.14 It was actually only middle- and upper-class writers who excoriated the lifestyles of those below whilst popular writers felt no need to apologise for their readership or for their lifestyle or for the fantasies of wealth they created for the poor. There is, nevertheless, an extraordinary consistency between these literary writers and those they despised in Grub Street. The changes in production techniques, modes of packaging, distribution and means of advertising meant that by these means alone there was no way of bringing the value judgements that Shaw, Hardy and Lawrence craved, the abuse got worse as the gap narrowed. How could you tell a good novel from trash by appearance alone as one novel looked exactly like another on the shelves. It would take academics like F. R. Leavis and I. A. Richards a lifetime to decide and in the process they would create the ‘idea’ of English Literature. Something similar still continues in books such as D. J. Taylor’s After the War (1993) and Peter Ackroyd’s Albion (2002).15 Indeed, D. J. Taylor makes confident assumptions about the English novel in the last fifty years of the twentieth century based on a handful of self-chosen and self-defining ‘serious’ literary books (he never says why something is serious). He had already rejected ‘uncanonical works’ and singled out both Graham Swift and Shirley Conran as ‘tripe’ and despite the fact that by his own admission seven thousand novels are published each year (that is half a million during the periods of his own study) he is confidently able to proclaim that the theme of English Literature is ‘decline’, a statement as general as it is inaccurate.16 As I pointed out in my own book, Cult Fiction (1998), once the idea of English Literature is denuded of value judgements and canonical discussion a wholly new entity appears. [The bestseller’s] peculiar fascination for the historian derives from two facts. On the one hand, it touches upon literature, aesthetics, psychology (individual and national), education, taste, as well as the business acumen of publishers and their publicity agents, so that it can be approached from the most diverse angles. On the other hand, it has never been possible to explain the phenomenon to such an extent as to give future guidance to authors, publishers, and the reading public – in fact, your guess is as good as anybody else’s, and every opinion can be contradicted by opposing examples.17


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

All in all there is much to fascinate in studying bestselling fiction. Even if this way of proceeding is rejected it does show that there are two ends to a telescope and what is quickly restored is a sense of who constitutes the public who read novels. The majority of readers of fiction remain women using their favourite books as a sort of social currency to be lent or chatted about. Indeed, women were involved from the start reading the secular romances that appeared during the sixteenth century and fully involved with all aspects of the business side by the late seventeenth and early eighteenth. By the mid nineteenth century women were the predominant readers of novels and as such were castigated about frivolity or cajoled to read things that would prepare them as a good wife, homemaker and mother. In 1842, The Church of England’s Quarterly Review pompously intoned that: The great bulk of readers are females: and to them such impressions (as are conveyed through fiction) are peculiarly mischievous: . . . they are more naturally sensitive, more impressionable, than the other sex; and secondly, their engagements are of a less engrossing nature – they have more time to indulge in reveries of fiction.18 In 1847 a reviewer for Frasers’ Magazine had this clap trap to extol female readers. Book-love is a home-feeling – a sweet bond of family union – and a never failing source of domestic enjoyment. It sheds a charm on a quiet fireside, unlocks the hidden sympathies of human hearts, beguiles the weary hours of sickness or solitude, and unites kindred spirits in a sweet companionship of sentiment and idea. . . . Book-love is the good angel that keeps watch by the poor man’s hearth, and hallows it; . . . the wife blesses it, as she sits smiling and sewing . . . She blesses it for keeping him near her, and making him, manly kindhearted – albeit understanding little of what he reads, and reverencing it for that reason all the more in him.19 The fact of the matter was that female readers were out of the control of their (male) elders and betters consuming vast quantities of romance and sensation novels without much ill effect. Whilst most moral critics were keeping an eye on their middle-class sisters and wives, the working and servant classes were soon consuming as much romance fiction as the newspapers and magazines could churn out. Cheap paperbacks made their debut in the latter half of the century and holiday reading, especially designed for ‘wakes week’ was soon mass produced. Popular

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fiction became the hated opiate of the masses for boarding school headmistresses, churchmen, artists and parish governors and ‘cheap’ fiction no longer meant simply inexpensive. ‘Trash’ fiction was associated with the masses and any self-respecting individual would have nothing to do with those below them. Yet even W. B. Yeats was addicted to western novelettes as was Wittgenstein to their celluloid equivalents. Only some forty years ago popular fiction was either ignored in academia or treated with contempt, a snobbishness that infected left-wing as well as right-wing scholars. Indeed, apart from some heroic efforts to take the subject seriously by American and British academics in the 1970s, the subject only really got going around 1988 with a flurry of books that kick started the discipline and stopped treating such fiction as merely formulaic opiates. The widening of the definition of English Literature to include feminist and ‘ethnic’ work also broadened the scope of any enquiry. Interestingly detective fiction has always had cachet, something that has validated its study, kept the genre alive and allowed serious writers (and writers who wish to write seriously in a genre) to get involved without loss of status.20 In the last two decades of the twentieth century the detective novel and its corollary crime fiction were reinvented whilst still retaining the elements expected of the tradition. There were of course the ‘noir’ thrillers of James Ellroy set mainly in the Los Angeles Police Department, but there were home-grown thrillers aplenty with Ian Rankin’s Rebus series leading the way. If the Rebus stories were Edinburgh noir then Louise Welsh’s The Cutting Room was the Glasgow equivalent. In lighter mood is the series by Alexander McCall Smith which is set in Africa. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was published in 1998 and has since made this Edinburgh professor a leading writer in the detective genre.21 In a different vein are the Victorian retro books which use the settings of London or New York for the new adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Sherlock Holmes analogues such as Sigmund Freud. Such historical adventuring is a favourite amongst American authors such as Caleb Carr (who started this style of ‘gaslight’ thriller) and Jed Rubenfeld (Robert L. Slaughter Law Professor at Yale University). Anne Perry’s own Victorian series concerning Thomas Pitt of Special Branch and Edward Marston’s stories of railway detection are also highly successful and are packaged between sepia covers of old wood prints or photographs. Just as with the historical saga, so these books too are packed with the sort of detail that makes them a hybrid of history book and boy’s own adventure. Crime fiction is also represented by the works of Jake Arnott whose books seek to recreate the grittiness of 1960s gangland and the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

phenomenally successful blockbusters of Martina Cole whose combination of soap opera, gangster novel and family saga constantly put her books at the number one spot. Interestingly, the one character to have emerged from crime fiction in recent years with any international appeal is the psychopathic Hannibal Lecter who clearly belongs more to gothic horror than crime fiction despite the presence of Clarice Starling and the FBI. Interestingly, books about Lecter seem to be the most frequently abandoned in charity (thrift) shops in the United Kingdom, possibly caused by individuals wanting to read about his actions but not wanting to retain the book out of a sense of guilt and disgust. Having said that, Marina Cole and Jilly Cooper are abandoned having once done the round of readers to whom the book is lent. Such books are considered disposable and of the moment only. If Samuel Pepys was concerned to know the temper of the times by the things people read then surely J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown would be special case studies. Rowling especially seemed to catch the public’s imagination and unite as never before the tastes of adults and children, her books being packaged differently for both readerships so as to avoid embarrassment for adult readers. The ploy worked with adults discussing the series of books as if they were profoundly serious. Rowling’s success paved the way for Philip Pullman and a J. R. R. Tolkien revival and even put words in the dictionary. Harry Potter ranks (at present at least) alongside Sherlock Holmes and James Bond as a great British literary creation. Whether the books will last however or disappoint on second reading remains to be seen. What is clear is that the books have spawned a small industry and already found legitimacy in at least one American academic study.22 Harry Potter was also linked to another bestseller. The New York Times commented on Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code that, ‘not since the advent of Harry Potter has an author so flagrantly delighted in leading readers on a breathless chase’. The thriller became an international success more for its outlandish claims than for its narrative subtleties. Indeed, although the historical research is baloney and claims made upon that history mere ballyhoo, the whole idea caught the public’s imagination for conspiracy and secret histories, something openly and ironically noted in the book itself. As he makes yet another improbable escape, the hero, Robert Langdon muses that ‘everyone loves a conspiracy’. In many ways The Da Vinci Code encapsulates a post 9/11 sensibility where no one may be trusted and paranoia is the order of the day. It also revives a long lost type of thriller, made popular after World War One,

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where rather well-heeled and knowledgeable heroes fight equally clever but shadowy criminal masterminds and secret societies. The book has been subject to claims of plagiarism in the British courts as it has in American courts. Neither claim has been upheld but it does suggest how often Brown sails into disputed literary and ‘historical’ territory. Indeed, Brown was led to declare in the end, ‘for the record, it is only a novel’.23 In April 2007, The Da Vinci Code was voted ‘Book of the Year’ having sold 44 million copies wordwide. Before the 1980s, writing about non-white British citizens by nonwhite British authors was virtually non-existent. Stories of empire were confined to the Raj tales of Rudyard Kipling or E. M. Forster or other Anglo-Indian writers whilst the thriller writer Edgar Wallace could be relied upon to show the superiority of the white man in the jungles of Africa, a tradition that embraced many Victorian reprints and got into children’s comics. For a long time there was no tradition of Black or Asian inspired writing in Britain and the whole sense of what it was to live in Britain with Black or Asian parents had to wait for a generation to mature and find its vision. There could be no British Alice Walker and American experience was alien. Once the first generation born to Caribbean, Asian-Kenyan or Indian sub-continent immigrants started growing up in a multi-ethnic British environment and started to question their own personal experience as well as that of their parents and as the history of non-white immigrants started to be unveiled by historians then the possibilities for fiction started to show. Of course the most famous of all such writers is Salman Rushdie (whilst the most honoured is V. S. Naipaul), but they were followed by a new generation of authors whose writing was an attempt to account not only for their own family life and the prejudices they faced, but also to think about what it meant to be British in new ways and in ways that intertwined personal history with the public record, revealing intra- as well as inter-racial feeling as expressing the confusions of those where one parent was white. Such writers include Hanif Kureishi, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Meera Syal, Andrea Levy and S. I. Martin. Levy spent over four years researching the experience of her parents and the Windrush generation and both Levy and Smith chose to expose aspects of World War Two ignored or sidelined in official history. S. I. Martin has looked at Black British eighteenth-century history in the first British children’s book to have a black boy hero. Such books can also make a big impact. Zadie Smith helped Penguin to record profits in 2007 and Andrea Levy won the Orange Prize in 2004 for Small Island which put her name before a public who had paid less attention to her other books.24


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

There is also a taste amongst white readers to understand different cultures and this has given rise to a number of ethnically inflected novels. These include The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Kazuo Ashiguro’s Japanese influenced, Remains of the Day, Arthur Golden’s Geisha and Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘First Ladies Club’ detective series. During March 2004, of the ten books chosen by the Richard and Judy Book Club, three had an ethnic theme: William Dalrymple’s Whiter Mughals explores eighteenth-century India, Monica Ali’s Brick Lane looks at the British Bangladeshi community and Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul is an autobiographical account of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The growing number of languages spoken in Britain has also given rise to an equal number of competing language titles. Many of these are aimed at Gujurati, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali speakers and are borrowed frequently from local libraries where immigrants have settled. Although many of the books are of a journalistic or religious turn, there is a taste for adventure. Ibd-e-Safi, A. Hameed and Mazhar Kaleem Khan (Mazhar Nawaz Khan), are Urdu writers of spy thrillers and fantasy and are perhaps the most popular authors of such fiction. New approaches to British cultural representation attract prizes, but tend toward the same standardised ‘literary’ approach expected by judges whose tastes are as conservative as the public for whom they often feel contempt. A prize may well only represent the current taste of middle- to upper-class arbiters whose opinions relative to ‘ethnic’ writers or children’s books may simply represent the fashionable liberal view at the time. Prizewinning books often go on to become bestsellers themselves as indeed was the case with Zadie Smith’s Orange Prize winner, On Beauty in 2006. The literary prize becomes just another promotional tool. There are also numerous ‘how to’ books available some written by highly respected bestsellers such as Dean R. Koontz. It is a fact that ‘writing’ is now big academic business and this alone is suggestive of the greatly increased interest in fiction and in books per se which one might have thought would have become as extinct as the phonograph. That this is not so is the theme of this book. We may no longer be able to experience the physical thrill of the nineteenth-century working-class Newcastle miner, Thomas Burt, who walked nine miles to get a second-hand edition of Cowper’s poems and who recalled, years later, the vivid excitement he felt when the book ‘haunted his dreams’ and he awoke at ‘four in the morning to go to the fields and read anew’, but each new opening of every book is both an adventure and an escape, often the more disappointing because of the raising of expectations, sometimes a revelation that brings a sense of limitless horizons.25 Readers like Burt were soon so obsessed that they

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began writing fan letters, asking for autographs and for personal advice and reassurance as well as naming children after characters in books they had liked (a trait that was continued amongst the educated classes too). Fans would travel miles to peep at Thomas Hardy, Alfred Tennyson or Hall Caine, the latter actually putting his name to Isle of Man tourism. Authors got the message and began to endorse products like tobacco (Trollope and J. M. Barrie). Baroness Orcszy and Edgar Wallace added their name to products and Hall Caine was so brazen that he was nicknamed ‘an advertising agent’.26 Authors now have had to embrace entrepreneurialism and the electronic age and the dedicated website is now the main means of an author communicating with his or her readership, the sophistication of websites being one extra tool in an author’s entrepreneurial effort to top the charts. All authors have ‘An About’ page which is regularly updated and many have a daily blog where the author may relate gossip about their lives or latest projects. Susan Hill maintains a blog, pages for students, links, features and chat as well as a competition for first-time writers and a You Tube ‘film’ to advertise her latest story. Peter James shows off his collection of fast cars and his dogs. Karin Slaughter’s is blood spattered as if entering a gruesome crime scene. Kathy Reichs, meanwhile, has a Hollywood science-fiction style introduction which tells the viewer that ‘you are entering the world of Kathy Reichs’; music, movement and exciting visuals suggest Reichs as a film star rather than an author. Sheila O’Flanagan maintains ‘home’ and ‘chat’ pages, is ‘Sheila’ to her readers and has her website suffused in lilac. There is even a Christmas message, a device used by a number of romantic or saga writers. Lesley Pearce meanwhile, reinforces her warmth and sincerity by running the ‘Woman of Courage Award’ from the website. Alan Moore on the other hand not only has a dedicated fan site but is featured giving interviews on You Tube on graphic novels and his interest in serpent worship! The children’s writer Malorie Blackman has events and a welcoming video clip, whilst Lemony Snicket’s and J. K. Rowling’s are interactive experiences involving sound, games, cartoons and portals as is that for Thomas the Tank Engine which is sold as a brand rather than the work of its actual author, the Reverend W. V. Audry. When celebrity authors such as Dan Brown, J. K. Rowling or Stephen King (in Britain in 2007) are not available in person then celebrity television personalities stand in for them on shows like ‘Richard and Judy’ to give opinions ordinary readers will trust. Such is the importance of these ‘always positive critical readings’ that they add to the significant role such programmes play in the advertising and sales of books to the same consumers who might also subscribe to the Richard and Judy Wine


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Club or cinema promotion. The show is now the most influential bookselling tool in the UK. It is extraordinary the influence that Richard and Judy’s Book Club, Summer Read and Christmas Special selection has had on the life of Britain as a literary nation even though the influence of the programme has been ignored by academics. This is even more surprising as the authors whom academics applaud at the Hay-on-Wye or Cheltenhan literary festivals make their money in the stack-’em-highsell-’em-cheap market place of Waterstone’s and Borders. The facts tell an incredible tale. The Guardian official UK bestseller list for December 2006 suggested from reported sales that 21 of the top 100 titles were by authors that have been selected by Richard and Judy. This represents 6.5 million copies or 26 per cent of all book sales: one in every 5 of the top 100 books sold in the UK last year was recommended by the show. Victoria Hislop’s The Island, which featured on the Summer Read 2006, also hit the top spot in the literary charts, knocking aside another of the duo’s recommended reads, Sam Bourne’s The Righteous Men which went down to number three. The winner in the 2007 Book Club selection was Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld which had already sold over half a million copies. Six of the other seven titles selected had all also sold over 100,000 copies. Selection on the shortlist guarantees bestseller status. Altogether between January 2004 and the end of May 2006, consumers had purchased 10 million copies of the thirty books appearing on the Richard and Judy Book Club (RJBC for those in the know) and spent over £58 million. Almost 30 per cent of purchases or £16 million worth of goods were prompted by the appearance of the title on the television show and 41 per cent of purchases were prompted by seeing the book with the R. & J. sticker in leading bookshops where heavy discounts and prominent displays leave room for little else. Supermarkets alone may account for sales of 30,000 copies of each title per week, the books chosen to appeal to the show’s mainly female audience. Publishers are delighted with this windfall and may submit half a dozen titles which are read by the Cactus production team as well as Richard and Judy before a selection is made on gut instincts for a ‘complete mix’ and a ‘great’ read. Indeed, Random House has benefited most from the programme’s promotional technique of picking celebrity readers and a book club to review what’s on offer. Such sales accounted for over a fifth of all Random House profits since January 2004. One author who is grateful to the television coverage she got on Richard and Judy is Kate Mosse whose book Labyrinth was plugged on the show. A writer of ‘chick lit with A levels’ and someone who writes

Introduction to the Second Edition 19

the ‘thinking woman’s summer read’, Mosse nevertheless found she won the prestigious ‘Best Read of the Year’ at the 2006 British Book Awards, had 60,000 advanced orders the day after the broadcast and sales of 1.5 million to date.27 Mosse unashamedly targets the female market, but the endorsement by Madeley meant that men have now taken up her work. The importance of the television plug is most notable in the United States where a chat show host may make a bestseller. Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Eckhart Tolle’s non-fiction title, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose in Spring 2008, led to Penguin immediately selling 4 million copies, helping the parent company, Pearsons to record profits of which over half a billion pounds was made in 2007. Booksellers too are hardly crying into their gin. Chain bookshops alone have accounted for sales of just over half the titles which means that independent bookshops have no choice but to follow, narrowing the choices on offer. Almost all the purchases were prompted by an appearance on the show. Commercial authors must be television friendly nowadays. Less books but more profit means that even the supermarkets are cashing in, books are heavily discounted at bookshops in multiple deals of ‘3 for 2’. As early as 1926 publisher Stanley Unwin had announced that advertising was a waste of money for most books even though book advertising went back at least as far as Henry Colhoun in the 1820s who ‘puffed’ his latest authors with spurious reviews in his various publications. There were however the ‘Catch-22’ exceptions for The conclusion at which we arrive, regrettable as it may sound, is that it pays to advertise a book if it shows signs of being successful without advertising, but that it does not pay to advertise at all extensively a book that shows no signs of catching on.27 It was Unwin who a hundred years after Colhoun, wrote the first book for aspiring authors who wanted to become bestsellers in a commercial age. The growing commercialisation of literature – inevitable although it may be – does not tend to promote more harmonious relations between authors and publishers. It is based on the assumption that manuscripts and books are mere commodities: dead, not living things. Such an assumption ignores the peculiar and indeed parental relationship of the author to his [sic] work, the realisation of which is the beginning of wisdom in a publisher.28


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Perhaps, once upon a time the publisher could speak to authors in this proprietal manner, but no longer. Publishers and booksellers are always looking for new ways to package literature especially in an electronic age and when electronic hand held devices are becoming more popular. On 19 November 2007, Amazon, the largest web retailer unveiled its latest gizmo in the shape of ‘Kindle’ which can store up to 200 books in a 275 gramme device. Books may be downloaded at a fee, the expectation being that reading, like viewing, will become digitalised in the near future. The problem is that, unlike a film or television programme, reading was always determined by a hand held device – a book. If readers might be sceptical of the digital age so are authors. In 2007, the Society of Authors found that 52.4 per cent of their members thought that publishers using such means exploited their writers who did not get a fair share of royalties. It is the bookseller who now has the upper hand and is able to put invisible pressure on publishers to follow trends. Of course, publishers will start trends but booksellers will soon be able to demand more of the same as sections arise on the bookshelves and customer demand increases. This was the case in the early years of the twenty-first century when the booksellers Waterstone’s, who controlled 17 per cent of the market decided to virtually dictate what was going to succeed by its purchasing and marketing strategy. This was certainly true in the Christmas period which makes up 40 per cent of the year’s gross takings. Such short and profitable periods need careful managing. Indeed publishers will have to come to profit sharing agreements before the Waterstone’s selectors will place their books on the all important sales tables, where books are discounted and piled high. It can cost a publisher up to £30,000 to ‘buy’ their way into the store’s most prominent places and even then they have to be invited to do so. In 2005 it was Scott Pack and his purchasing team that determined the shape of the purchases of the book-buying public and dictated what could and could not profitably be published. The company turned over a nearly £100 million in 2005 alone, mostly based on ‘brand’ name authors and certainly not on the almost 10,000 also ran titles of the year. More fads are backed, more celebrity biographies are promoted, more TV spin offs given prominence and more favourite authors are displayed as potential winners. Thus publishing is now a ‘collaborative effort’ and the bookseller is effectively involved with every aspect of the book industry.29 Just as Stanley Unwin said, books that will do well because their authors are household names, will do well precisely because they are backed and other equally worthy efforts will go to the wall. All this is bad news for first time authors who are more and more marginalised

Introduction to the Second Edition 21

and for big advances which have dried to a trickle. And yet all is not quite lost, for publishing is a serendipitous business, Waterstone’s bought Ottaker’s in 2006 but by 2007 they had overstretched themselves and the parent company, HMV was preparing to close thirty stores, the emphasis being on ‘novels, cookery and children’s books’ rather than on more serious titles which the company said were still available on line.30 It is sometimes smaller publishers who will find their way to the bestseller list regardless of the pressures from big publishers who need to find the next blockbuster. Large advances often end in disaster even with a publisher putting every effort behind a title. Thus, Vikram Seth was paid £1.4 million for Two Lives by Time Warner only for the book to bomb and HarperCollins paid Ann-Marie Macdonald $1 million for The Way the Crow Flies only to see sales flop at a mere 2,188 hardbacks and 9,881 paperbacks, less indeed than many a specialised academic book. The writing was on the wall in the 1980s for the difficulty of recouping large outlays. As for the small publishers, £3,000 secured J. K. Rowling for Bloomsbury, as was the case with the The Life of Pi by Yann Martel which went on to win literary awards and sell a million for the Scottish publisher Canongate. Relatively small amounts might also bring big rewards for major publishers too. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was bought for £3,000 by Pan Macmillan and sold over 1.3 million copies whilst Corporate Transworld bought Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code for a reasonable £45,000 to £50,000 and went on to sell at least 15 million copies in the first year.31 Yet it still remains a fact that if the book is not liked or recommended it will flop despite every effort to promote it. Also there’s always tales of the one that got away or the ‘great’ book not properly marketed, Such was the case with H. G. Wells’s Kipps which languished at Macmillan and sold 180 copies in two years. Once transferred to Nelson it sold 43,000 copies within months.32 Of course, there are still the big battalions of ‘brand’ authors who sell on their name alone and therefore must be kept going as a brand whatever the circumstances. Catherine Cookson was Britain’s biggest selling author, but an almighty row broke out after her death as to what constituted a publishable manuscript and there was much to-ing and froing over her unpublished work.33 There was no such discussion after the death of Robert Ludlum in 2001 who had arranged with his agent and publishers to keep the name of his secret agent Jason Bourne alive by franchising the titles to other writers much as in the way done with the James Bond books, something Ludlum no doubt had in mind. That way twelve books by ‘Robert Ludlum’ could appear after the author’s death,


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their writers a closely guarded secret (all except Eric Van Lustbader who is credited under Robert Ludlum and whose ghosted novel, The Bourne Betrayal sold 280,000 copies). The film franchise alone is worth $500 million, the book series having sold over 200 million copies and the latest edition over 102,000 copies in 2007.34 Books have to sell and so it is in the readership figures that things get really interesting. So-called AB purchasers are heavy buyers of books in general, representing 17 per cent of the sample population, but accounting for 28 per cent of all books bought since January 2004. They are even more important to the television market, accounting for 37 per cent of all purchases from television book club’s. A massive 44 per cent of AB readers are prompted to buy specifically by a television recommendation or celebrity appearance and almost all AB readers are women, the books circulating between mothers and daughters, sisters and girl friends. Those living in the Midlands and Lancashire appear most influenced by the Richard and Judy’s relentless literary bonhomie because they have accounted for over a third of purchases. Almost all these consumers are women and tend to be led by the Richard and Judy recommended list, recognising and choosing such books that they have seen on television when they go into a bookshop, where, of course, the books are prominently displayed together. It is a perfect symbiosis between the apparent gossip of a ‘magazine’ formatted chat show and the middle-brow aspirations of its viewers looking to improve their minds with ‘literature’. Books are therefore chosen to appeal to a female audience between their middle thirties and sixties, probably with an emphasis on the 40 to 50 bracket emphasising family, intrigue and female concerns as well as having the repeated emotional requirement that the story line reduce the reader to tears or laughter in a ‘heart-warming’ tale and thus the bestseller list is further manipulated to guarantee sales and to increase the chance of a film adaptation. It is of interest that older women who frequent libraries rather than purchase books and who are likely not to enjoy this style of show remain unaffected by the programme’s book choice and stick to the tried and tested authors, preferring American courtroom fiction or Aga saga tales. In this respect the show is motivated by its need for profitability and therefore the need to add books to its many invisible product placements is an obvious strategy when it is women who impulse buy and who will take the time to find what has been recommended.

1 Origins, Problems and Philosophy of the Bestseller

‘Why then,’ said the Tinker, ‘it’s true I mends kettles, sharpens scissors and such, but I likewise peddles books an’ nov-els, an’ what’s more I reads ’em – so, if you must put me in your book, you might call me a literary cove.’ (Jeffrey Farnol, The Broad Highway, ch. 1)

In the mid-nineteenth century it caused surprise and slight consternation, like being caught doing something a little embarrassing. So it was when a visitor to one of London’s political clubs saw the Prime Minister, W. E. Gladstone, sitting quietly in a corner engrossed, not in some work of political or philosophical importance but in a romantic novel, Red as a Rose is She. By the early twentieth century the whole business of fiction was almost respectable, its authors the latest in celebrities: interviewed, photographed and fêted by critics and readers alike. The Strand Magazine in search of amusing anecdotes for its August edition of 1906 could not resist a paragraph or two on the relative stature of some of the great lights in fiction-writing over the previous quarter of a century. There, as expected, were Dickens and Thackeray, not quite as popular as in previous years but still pre-eminent. Behind them, however, was Thomas Hall Caine, a writer whose popularity between the 1890s and 1920 made him fabulously rich and gained him a knighthood. Looking back over their friendship Bram Stoker, himself the author of Dracula (1897), recalled of Caine, The man exhausts himself in narrative as I have never seen with anyone else. Indeed when he had finished a novel he used to seem as exhausted as a woman after childbirth. At such times he would be 23


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in a terrible state of nerves – trembling and sleepless. At that very time he had not quite got through the nervous crisis after completion of The Bondman. At such times everything seemed to worry him; things that he would shortly after laugh at.1 Caine’s The Bondman, issued in three volumes (from January 1890) and circulated through the subscription lending libraries, ensured his fame and fortune for thirty years and made him Heinemann’s best-selling author with sales of over a million. Yet, bestsellerdom was also a curse and in less than a decade of his death his books were dust, along with his reputation. So it was with the most popular female author, Marie Corelli, whose origins as plain Mary Mackay did not stop her claiming an exotic Italian pedigree. If she disparaged the ‘twaddle’ of her plots, Corelli nevertheless knew that her fame stood on the firm foundations of that exoticism, eroticism, spiritualism and anti-materialism beloved of ordinary shop girls (as critical snobs correctly but snidely suggested). From the early twentieth century onwards the author was an authority – on healthy, spiritual wellbeing and moral uprightness; someone whose views on life would be as important as her words on the page. Writing of her success in 1894, Corelli would emphasise her sincerity and her genuine desire to speak to her readers ‘heart to heart’ and on their own terms: I have had no difficulty in making my career or winning my public. And I attribute my good fortune to the simple fact that I have always tried to write straight from my own heart to the hearts of others, regardless of opinions and indifferent to results. My object in writing has never been, and will never be, to concoct a mere story which shall bring me a certain amount of cash or notoriety, but solely because I wish to say something which, be it ill or well said, is the candid and independent expression of a thought which I . . . have uttered. . . . A Romance of Two Worlds . . . was the simply-worded narration of a singular psychological experience, and included certain theories on religion which I, personally speaking, accept and believe. I had no sort of literary pride in my work whatsoever; there was nothing of self in the wish I had, that my ideas, such as they were, should reach the public, for I had no particular need of money, and certainly no hankering after fame.2 Such thoughts would echo through women’s fiction throughout the next century whether the author was Florence Barclay, Ethel Dell or

Origins, Problems and Philosophy 25

Barbara Cartland, and as with all three of Corelli’s followers it would be the complete identification of author’s life with writer’s fiction that would hold readers’ attention in enraptured fascination. The cult of the author had arrived and Corelli’s portrait, doctored and flatteringly retouched as she aged, adorned her works, since the extraordinary success of The Sorrows of Satan (1895), which had sold around 100,000 copies each year before World War One (approximately twice as many as Hall Caine). After her death in 1924 Corelli too was abandoned by her ‘fans’, and was remembered, if at all, by later generations as little more than a late Victorian curiosity. If Marie Corelli and Hall Caine were all but forgotten (and certainly unread) by the end of the twentieth century they had nevertheless laid the foundation for the modern bestseller. Phenomenally successful sales could still be generated by authors whose interests were sentimental, sensational and supernatural, such as Stephen King, the biggest selling American writer of all time. King’s career had begun in the mid-1970s with the publication of Carrie (1974), a work that revisited and revised the horror genre. By the 1980s, King’s work dominated the genre and, indeed, dominated bestseller lists. An extraordinary work rate included novels, short stories and film scripts, and, during 1999, an excursion into the Internet. The possibilities offered by the Internet had certainly not been lost on the publishing world or on its authors. King issued his first self-published ‘e-book’, The Plant, late in 1999. In the first week 152,000 fans downloaded the first section. Previously, working with publisher Simon and Schuster, King had earned nearly half a million dollars (in five days) for his e-book Riding the Bullet, although collecting the fees proved more difficult. Such authors provide the basis for our subject.

This book is about the history of bestsellers since 1900. It is confined to best-selling fiction rather than covering all literary production – which would have had to include the extraordinary popularity of cookery books, self-help manuals, gardening advice, books on the occult and a whole range of ephemeral production. As it is, a study of bestselling fiction of the last hundred years is still a daunting task and it has had to be further widened by including children’s fiction. The proposal then is to look at best-selling adult and children’s fiction, an apparently simple task requiring a basic command of sales figures and story outlines. I am conscious, however, that the division between adult and children’s fiction has recently been under sustained assault


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by authors and publishers whose readership is usually considered too young for certain forms of content such as pornography or violence, for instance. An increase in ‘mature’ content has suggested that hard and fast divisions may lack credibility and indeed it is quite obvious that works of classic literature may be read by children prior to their acquaintance with contemporary works written explicitly for a younger readership. The award of the 2002 Whitbread Prize to Philip Pullman for his children’s book The Amber Spyglass muddied divisions even further, a situation reinforced by novelist Anne Fine’s ‘definition of a children’s book as one that is ideally met for the first time in childhood’ (The Times, 23 January 2002). Such comments remain, despite media hype, and despite the repackaging of such authors as J. K. Rowling or Pullman for a dual readership, merely disingenuous as it is quite obvious that most fiction aimed at children (or younger people) is not intended for any other market. The works of Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon or J. K. Rowling appeal across age ranges because young people and adults now share a simultaneously experienced popular culture – a multi-channelled and complex space where hierarchic experiential priorities no longer apply. Children have become more knowing and aware (not necessarily less naïve) while adults have struggled to ‘know’ less, nostalgic for their own lost innocence, destroyed too soon in an age of information overload. What unites such groups is the search for a new cosmology (without God) which will offer certainty (as well as adventure) and a new morality based on a ‘one world’ philosophy. These developments are a recent phenomenon, in which children’s literature suddenly appeals to those searching for ‘real’ literary qualities and to panels of expert judges desperate to award headline-winning trophies. Meanwhile, popular genre writers have always appealed to young readers and were always considered ‘immature’ by readers who were antagonistic towards popular culture. Until very recently children’s fiction was different in kind from adult fiction (J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was itself aimed at adults) and this division I have retained as historically valid. Such an obvious approach proves, ironically, to offer limited interest or enlightenment unless it is contextualised within the sociology of reading, the production history of print and the aesthetic ideology of fiction itself. In providing meaningful contexts for fiction in the last hundred years we lend depth to our story but also create extraordinary problems for our investigations in attempting to bridge interpretative gaps and statistical confusions. Best-selling fiction gives us an insight into the modes

Origins, Problems and Philosophy 27

and methods of literary production (both as aesthetic object and as commodity) and perceptual history (the needs and interests of readers); it provides a unique insight into the imaginative history of a nation. This book takes as its rough starting date the year 1900 although it is clear that many writers of the nineteenth century continued to enjoy popularity long into the twentieth. The end of World War One also suggests a starting point as tensions inside the book trade and readers’ demands brought younger and more daring writers to the fore; this, for instance, is the era when the women’s romance, which dominates much of the publishing industry, came into its own – codified and organised into a self-contained world by the 1930s. Dates do not coincide with attitudes or habits and so our start date remains but a guide to those changes in publishing, authorship, genre and reading that come to dominate the modem era. By the same token, a date such as 2008 hardly accounts in any significant way for genres and reading demands that may continue many years into the twentyfirst century. Thus the twentieth century may be ‘longer’ at both its opening and its end. Nevertheless, the opening date of 1900 and the terminal date of ‘the present’ are not just a convenient short-hand, because they do frame the significant and specific changes in fictional bestsellerdom that this book takes as its subject. And the last hundred years are not just any of a number of periods that could have been chosen. They form the century of literary production and consumption, the supremely literate century, in which, despite radio, film, television, computers, videos, CDs, tapes, and the rise of interactive technology, more books (i.e. more printed material) are consumed by a greater number of people who speak and read English than at any other time in history. We live, despite fears about illiteracy, in the age of reading when books are more freely available and far cheaper than at any other time, and where their disposability has only increased their proliferation, in schools, in homes, and in libraries. We may no longer treasure books, we may no longer live in an age where print is the supreme expressive form (for information and for entertainment), but we do live in an age where print is more pervasive than ever and where authorship is very big business. An archaeology of bestselling fiction is ironically, for an age supposedly dominated by the visual image, an archaeology of a deeply literate age. Even in the twenty-first century books remain the most reliable, efficient, accessible and easily disposable sources of information available, reliant neither on electrical nor chemical sources of energy. Moreover,


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their contents are enhanced rather than diminished by other media, which support rather than detract from the power of books to enthral the imagination. Whatever our present century holds for print it is certain that in the last century fictional literary imagination pervaded every corner of social life: central to entertainment as well as to ideas. Literary fiction continues to be plundered for theatre, film, radio, television and computer games and each, in turn, modifies and renews literary fiction for the insatiable appetite of a literate public. Film versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Lord of the Rings dominated the box office during 2001 and, alongside sales of all sorts of associated merchandise, renewed interest in the authors and their books in a continuous loop of production. Films of best-selling books still dominate cinema going with novels like Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001), Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada (2003), Philip Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy or Robert Ludlum’s adventures of Jason Bourne being major productions in recent years. How then might we define a bestseller? In theory the answer is simple: the work of fiction sold in the most units (books in a given price range) to the most people over a set period of time. In practice the answer is extremely complex, running into difficulties as to the definition of units (hardback; paperback; serialisation) and period of time (month of publication; a year; the twentieth century), the importance of the price at which it is sold (significance of cost of hardback or paperback) and the definition of fiction itself (whether the work is literary, popular, pulp). All this is compounded by an extraordinary lack of evidence. Paper records of sales did not get collated for statistical and comparative purposes until the late 1970s, leaving over seventy years of company records all of which were kept without regard to posterity, were destroyed in company changes or the destruction of the Blitz, or were shipped out to lie uncatalogued in American universities. Still others are left to us incomplete or without commentary or explanation, the clerks long since dead. And, of course, I refer here to only the main publishing houses, rather than the myriad smaller publishers whose output often outshone (in terms of sales) their major rivals but whose commercial life was brief, usually provincial, and ended abruptly by bankruptcy or censorship and often with the destruction of stock and records: ‘husband and wife’ concerns catering for working-class entertainment or juvenile thrills. What is left is an archaeology of a recent industrial and commercial past without care for future enquiry. Where contemporary records are complete they remain secrets locked within

Origins, Problems and Philosophy


the publishing company for fear of competition, or, if a bookseller is approached, either the records reflect a paranoiac distrust of scholarly enquiry or, if an answer is provided, it gives only a vague ‘sense’ of what sells best at any particular location. Publishers, book-selling managers and local librarians seem still to act upon personal instinct rather than relying on marketing (and therefore statistical and particular) studies, or, where such studies are available, they remain limited to a particular campaign or local need. Most often records remain secret and unavailable. Until very recently (the last twenty years of the twentieth century) little could be proved with certainty about what sold best, which authors were most popular or who read what or why. That this is the case does not allow us to abdicate our responsibility to try to gather what evidence exists, for this evidence is the best we will be able to gather if we wish to put together a picture of the British literary imagination. What types of books, authors, and genres must we then include? As already stated, this study specifically includes works aimed at children, it certainly includes authors who, some would argue, were initially juvenile in content and read by juveniles in practice. I have included discussion of this where appropriate. I have also excluded ‘classic’ writers who died before the twentieth century began. In one sense this is arbitrary in terms of bestsellerdom. It is clear that Jane Austen’s works sold many more copies in the twentieth century than in the whole of the nineteenth and certainly in her own lifetime; Dickens sells as many books now as during his own lifetime and George Eliot still has a readership even if it might be largely academic. These writers remain bestsellers, often outselling modern authors, either because of their popularity (boosted by films, television serialisations, etc.) or because of special circumstances (being required school or college reading). Whether such books are still read in the same way as in the century in which the authors lived is another matter entirely. Equally, schoolbooks may be sold in large numbers but never read. By all accounts the classic authors, the authors of the English canon, remain bestsellers with no real threat of diminishment. On the threshold of the twenty-first century Jane Austen remained a bestseller. More finely put, only now is she a bestseller, with all that that entails, and only in this present century does it make sense to talk of her and her works as such (she is both celebrity and writer). With all that, and notwithstanding what I have just said, pre-twentieth-century writers who died before 1900 have been excluded from the current study.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The problem repeats itself in an acute and problematic sense at the other end of the literary spectrum – the ‘pulp’ end, of anonymous and multiple authorship and ‘mushroom’ publishing. It is in this area that the most frantic and urgent scholarly and amateur investigations have occurred, especially into the censorship and suppression of the presses and authors involved. Pseudonymous authorship, especially at this level of literary production, was and is almost de rigueur, the opposite of the cult of the author in ‘serious’ fiction. Here more than anywhere else, hearsay, rumour and memory often stand in for production records and printed testimony. Authors even forget which books they wrote and under what name! Libraries banned their work wholesale from establishments, and shop libraries, lending at 2d a book, have all vanished as if they never existed. What remained, at least until recently, was nostalgic anecdote, now bolstered in part by amateur scholarship into particular ‘lost’ authors and publishing houses (usually family printer/distributors). Even this work (this archaeology by metal detector) has relied on anecdote and unreliable claims. Much of the output of this process has long gone unnoticed except by collectors of cult material, and has been considered (even by most of its readers) as a subliterature unworthy of serious attention. So much of this material is now yellowing and crumbling, unworthy of the library shelf, but once it was read to death by numerous readers considered illiterate by their betters. As for its authors, they might be part-timers or journeyman workers who never felt themselves ‘authors’ in the literary sense, but wrote nevertheless for a living or part of a living and abandoned writing when things got better, or they went on to literary work and quickly forgot their past. Others simply died forgotten. Yet even though much of this output outsold conventional books in numbers large enough to register as bestsellers they sold through methods and to readers which together guaranteed obscurity; best forgotten as an embarrassment. These books too, however, must be recorded amongst the world of bestsellers if justice is to be done to the myriad authors who never made a legitimate bestseller list and who never appeared in a literary review except to be condemned, but who nevertheless, through paperback and magazine, created a subcultural bestsellerdom of ideologically and morally unsound imaginative fiction, created by and for a literary underclass. And thus the problem of literacy becomes cultural. The question of who could read and at what level of skill provides both a general and a specific context for the study of best-selling (i.e. mass) fiction. The

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general context requires some knowledge of reading skills among different groups and reading trends in the population across regions and historical time. It will also tell us about changes in competence since the reform of education after 1870. Literacy competence and literary competence are also two different things regulated by hierarchical relationships of class and gender played out in the English lessons of schools across Britain. Illiteracy then ceases to be merely a technical question but is rather one determined by a moral–medical ethic which covers everything from simple incompetence or mental laziness, to a biological dysfunction (dyslexia), to a general dislike of another group’s reading matter (romance, adventure, comic books). These questions are often hierarchic in nature and moral in character. This is especially true in the change of attitude towards illiteracy. The main beneficiaries of the growing literacy, especially as it related to fiction, were women. Professional attitudes to authorship had long been a feature amongst middle-class female writers and novel reading (as a frivolous pastime) was seen by commentators as typically ‘female’, readership actually being largely made up of middle- and upper-class women anyway. As the twentieth century began, working-class women and newer groups of middle-class housewives or female office workers needed books to read at home and while commuting, whilst seaside breaks would be accompanied by a romantic novelette (of roughly 15,000 to 20,000 words, priced at 2d [‘tuppence’] and presented in paperback form). From the 1920s onwards there were specialised women’s journals and papers (aimed at different classes and ages), specialised forms of fiction (novelettes) and specialised genres (romance, family saga), all directly appealing to women unattracted by the sportspapers and hobbybooks of their male companions. It is still the case that many more women consume fiction than men and that women buy and borrow more of it and read it more frequently, and that this seems a permanent tendency already almost two hundred years old. At the end of the twentieth century women had also finally risen to positions of importance in the editorial side of publishing, even if men still dominated the industry in senior management. It goes without saying that many of the top-selling fiction authors of the twentieth century were women, writing in almost all genres, that their success was and remains due to a female readership, and that women authors will continue to maintain this position. The general context of gender interests and literacy (the ability to read sequentially with understanding) had a direct and specific influence on aesthetic change in literary production between the late 1880s and the


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beginning of the First World War. The vast new pool of readers created by elementary education produced a huge new market for literary entertainment and printed information. These new readers from the working and lower middle classes wanted entertainment and escape above all. For their social ‘betters’ the literacy of these new readers was little more than a new illiteracy and thus the conceptual framework of literacy (technical and social) subtly shifted to separate the classes. It made illegitimate much of mass public taste. Illiterates were now not only people without reading and writing skills but also those whose reading habits and tastes did not match those of a more educated class. Illiteracy was to become both a metaphor for cultural degeneracy and a ‘technical’ term for incompetence. The very subject matter of popular reading was denigrated as trivia for the half-educated – ‘bread and circuses’ for those who still could not be trusted with the vote, the greatest number of whom were women. The publishing world had been modernising before the beginning of compulsory elementary education. By the 1860s publishers were able to take advantage of modern financing arrangements and long-term investments, new forms of rapid distribution (railways) and new opportunities for marketing (library purchase, serialisation, part works, cheap editions). By the 1880s the publishing world had become a publishing industry, still run, to be sure, as a quasi-gentleman’s club, but nevertheless run on determinedly commercial lines (morality happily coincided with the market). Mudie’s, Boots and other commercial libraries fed the appetite of the middle-class reader whilst penny and sixpenny ‘paperbacks’ and ‘chapbooks’ kept workers happy. There was a publishing mode for all classes and both genders. From the 1880s, and fixed by the time of the First World War, there was a mass literacy both general and regulated, divided and subdivided into markets and specialised groups. These markets demanded fictions both diverse and plentiful with consequences that were far reaching for both authorship and subject matter. The middle nineteenth century saw the role of writer turn into the modern concept of professional author. Heralded by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mrs Braddon, the nature of authorship became intricately entwined with that of commercial enterprise: the author as entrepreneur. For all intents and purposes, and despite the appearance of authors who were celebrities (see below), authorship before the last quarter of the nineteenth century fell mainly into two categories – either one was an anonymous hack producing broadsheets and chapbooks or one was an anonymous ‘lady’ or ‘gentleman’ whose interest in

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fiction might be serious but was essentially that of a dedicated amateur (this was no reflection on artistic competence). Notwithstanding Jane Austen’s famous defence of the novel in Northanger Abbey, it took until mid-century for a concept of authorship to become common amongst practitioners in which the production of contemporary vernacular fiction could be viewed as more than a rather unwholesome living. For aristocratic and upper middle-class authors in the nineteenth century, fiction-writing was little less than trade and little more than a diversion with a possible hint of immoral earnings to boot. Such writers would never put a name to a work, leaving publishers no option but to advertise by association: ‘by the author of’ taking the place of the author’s true identity. Readers soon understood and waited for the next book ‘by the author of’. It was to be the end of the nineteenth century before such authors would allow their names to appear and even then, long into the twentieth century, upper-class writers might hide their name behind a pseudonym. ‘Q’, for instance, hid the real name of the Edward VII Professor of English at Cambridge, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and Eric Blair adopted an alter ego from a Suffolk River – the Orwell; ‘Ouida’ hid the real identity of Louise Ramée (d. 1908). Pseudonymous names were also adopted by middle-class or workingclass authors either to create glamour or to offer the opportunity to write different genres under different names. Thus we find writers who adopt exotic or tough-guy nomenclature, writers who adopt a single name (a favourite during the 1930s and 1940s amongst military writers) or use initials to hide either their gender or their usual profession (as a disguise for a vicar or social reformer). At the ‘novelette’ end of the market, a small publisher might use a house name under which numerous writers would produce work, or a series of house names for their different lists. Even in the late 1990s, this practice, in various degrees and guises, still existed – especially in the appearance of best-selling female pornography written by ‘a lady’ or ‘anon’, or when an author was known for working under two names in two distinct (or sometimes similar) genres. In all cases, the author’s name took on the potency of a commercial product – a matter of copyright law and property ownership and one key to ultimate (or any) success. The author need not be a real person, rather the name must designate a brand, a genre and a style. If the author was not quite a Carlylean hero he or she was certainly a professional. In 1884 the social reformer Walter Besant formed the first guild/union, the Society of Authors. Even before, with Dickens in the lead, the author had become a celebrity as interesting as the


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books produced – and writers were sought out in their own right for opinions, interviews and later portrait photographs to fill the new mass-production magazines. Celebrity authors frequently travelled the Atlantic – as well known in Kansas as in Kensington. For some, this new authorial freedom and power, which lacked any apparent responsibility to fiction except to entertain and provide escapism, was deeply troublesome. By the end of the nineteenth century all professionally minded authors who wrote for money were, therefore, implicated in the world of trade and commerce. The spectre of the hack still haunted those who wanted to create serious novels – Joseph Conrad’s work hovered between juvenile adventure and symbolist art, Henry James could never reconcile his need to work for money with his artistic aspiration, whilst others like Virginia Woolf happily separated journalism from their art, or, like Arnold Bennett or H. G. Wells, attempted to reconcile the two. For a number of writers such considerations took second place to their desire to drum up moral reform as entertaining fiction. The novel soon displaced the tract in popularity, and Christian evangelical and missionary groups soon realised the power of fiction to disguise their religious, moral and social agenda – temperance, fidelity, family, loyalty, manliness, femininity, stalwartness in adversity, and the defence of the spiritual and moral status quo. It is extraordinary how many vicars and vicars’ wives took up fiction before World War One and how many became best-selling authors. Others combined family sagas or women’s romance with spirituality or theosophical issues. By 1918, the novel had learned not to be an excuse for a moral or spiritual tract and had become fully secularised. By the 1930s the common terms ‘highbrow’, ‘lowbrow’ and ‘middlebrow’ created a convenient aesthetic and psychological equivalent to the British class system, labelling authors and readers in one epigrammatic blow. The creation of professional authorship had other effects. It offered escape to working-class boys and girls talented enough to write a nippy yarn or romance – a tradition that linked Edgar Wallace to James Herbert and Ethel M. Dell to Jackie Collins. It also led to specialised authorship in terms of both genre and medium. The unprecedented rise in mass literacy that had clearly become permanent by the late 1880s also created an unprecedented form: truly popular literature, marketed on a mass-commercial and modern basis. Such literature offered regular work to working-class writers who took up popular fiction to subsidise their serious work, or fame to upper-class authors who took to popular fiction as the result of an amateur challenge (John Buchan) or as a jeu d’esprit (M. R. James).

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The changes in authorship that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were anticipated by the growing professionalisation that took root in the 1840s among writers, especially in the growing trade of journalism. What these changes anticipated and helped to create, but could not have predicted, was the extraordinary rise in print and the immense increase of fictional work. Popular fiction required ‘new’ fictional specialisation both in content and in style. By the early 1900s, Britain was essentially a literate country with newspapers, sportspapers and ‘magazines’ (story and interest ‘papers’) selling in huge numbers. From the 1880s many working-class readers could afford to purchase books produced at sixpence and the work of such authors was voraciously collected. New areas had continually to be developed or redeveloped: detective fiction, country romance, town romance, imperial adventure, literary thriller, spy romance, science fiction, ghost tales and tales of the supernatural, western adventure; from the 1930s, American-style crime fiction; from the 1960s, juvenile romance, and gang life and sex and adventure thrillers from America (soon copied by British writers); from the 1970s, a revival in horror; from the 1980s, the sex and shopping novel and the rise of the ‘Aga saga’ – and so on. Whilst different genres have flourished at different times, almost all have the capacity to be recycled, providing they are sufficiently modernised. Thus the Edwardian romantic morality tale found new life in the family sagas, historical romances and costume romances that have flourished since the 1950s, whilst the gothic has been constantly plundered and reinvented to fit in with and renew other genres. The repertory of the modern popular canon had been created by the 1920s on elements that could be mixed and matched with relative impunity. Serious fiction, with one eye on art and the other on sales, could plunder this pool of artistic components for its own best-selling and prizewinning expressions. The fifty years of modern class consolidation between the late 1880s and the 1930s brought a corresponding solidification of literary genres, a solidification that (with variation) still exists. This stratification of the system also created a corresponding internal set of divisions and hierarchy of genres. At the end of the twentieth century the two leading popular genres were the same as at its beginning and still commanded the greatest sales: detective fiction and women’s romance. The former now includes everything from Agatha Christie to Elmore Leonard (or subgenre writers like John Grisham) and the latter has spread from Ethel Dell to Mills and Boon, Barbara Cartland and the numerous ‘chick-lit’


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writers, but both genres still retain recognisable elements from their origins, providing continuity within creative traditions, based on a knowledge of possible variations (such as the Black Lace style of women’s erotic romance). Among all this the traditional format holds good, as witnessed by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books, or Catherine Cookson’s ‘historical’ romances. Genre specialisation often led to authorship being divided on gender lines but this should not be overestimated. It is, of course, true that many more women write women’s romances, Aga sagas, and family sagas and that more men write of war, crime and horror, but this specialisation, which certainly runs on gender lines, did not and does not stop men and women crossing genre boundaries – a number of women have written westerns (using initials or pseudonyms) and men (using pseudonyms) have written women’s romance The best-selling family romance novelist Emma Blair is in fact lain Blair, although his gender is disguised on most web sites. Roger Sanderson disguises himself behind the name of his wife Gill. What counts is the ability to write in accordance with the artistic restraints of the genre and the imaginative sensibilities of the reader. The use of initials or pseudonyms would allow, as it still does, a certain freedom to writers to cross such boundaries. Popular genres do not, however, have equal status. Some are considered more serious than others (which often means less ‘female’ or less ‘juvenile’). This becomes obvious when one compares the two leading genres that account for almost all the annual fictional output: detective fiction and women’s romance. Detective fiction always had cachet. By the late nineteenth century new genres were supported by a well-organised, market-driven, commercially minded publishing and book-selling industry with a constant eye to fashion and fancy (mixed with a quaint and gentlemanly olde worlde disdain for the whole process). By the time of the First World War almost all the techniques of modern book production and bookselling were in place, from methods of production and marketing to packaging and point of sale. Each book was, and is, more than just its narrative content: the sixpence Chatto and Windus paperback anticipated the Allen Lane ‘Penguin’ revolution by forty years; the Hodder yellowback looked towards the New English Library by as many years; cheap ha’penny and tuppenny women’s novelettes anticipated Mills and Boon by fifty, and so on. The very shape, look, design, and inside-cover information reflected, as it still reflects, a symbiosis of advertising, artistic creativity, pricing and customer awareness.

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But times also change and publishing, like all else, had to reinvent itself to sell essentially the same product (even if the individual authors become forgotten). Thus Chatto and Windus’s sixpenny series had collapsed by the end of the First World War, despite including such huge best-selling authors as ‘Ouida’ and Hall Caine. Works that had sold in the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands could not be sold in hundreds by the 1920s and had to be pulped. Readers’ sensibilities shifted in ways that often anticipated a publisher’s faith in an individual author or series but rarely disturbed the established nature of a market for a series. Genres were, and still are, rapidly modernised or ‘reinvented’ whilst authors once central to such genres are forgotten. What vanished somewhere between 1914 and 1919 was Victorian sentimental morality and it vanished first amongst proletarian readers of sixpenny series, never to return. A writer remains contemporary because his or her back catalogues can be continuously updated and remarketed for new readerships. If this cannot occur, the writer vanishes. Fiction is, much as any other writing, a victim of changing times and changing morality. Writers are both sustained and condemned by their peculiarities of style and interest – the semi-eternality of writing no guarantor of the permanence of receptive reading. All art is subject to the vicissitudes of history, and literature (because the vernacular changes) more so than most. The bestseller is the one style of book that both succeeds and is destroyed by its own appeal to a singular and momentary contemporaneity. It is the fiction that most becomes its period and which is most caught in its own age. Such a comment requires a careful qualification: best-selling fiction is not simply a barometer of contemporary imagination, a type of acute pathological and sociological exemplary instance which sums up all that is interesting culturally (usually pessimistically) and all that is ephemeral artistically. Rather, such art is part and parcel of a sociological climate that includes an aesthetic dimension and in which the sociological and aesthetic are symbiotically joined, but where neither is reducible to the other. The bestseller is not a mere sociological slice of contemporary life, and its use by historians in search of cultural values needs careful handling if it’s not to be reduced simply to a correspondence with the most morbid, sentimental or foolish perceptions of an age. So for instance the hoo hah over the alleged historical liberties taken by Dan Brown. Such work, then, suffers one of a number of fates. It may simply be quickly and irrevocably forgotten; it may be transformed into another medium (usually film or television) and be read, if at all, as an adjunct


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to people’s visual imagination; it may slowly grow across a decade or century until it becomes a type of commentary on a whole age or sensibility or it may become a cult or nostalgia item kept alive by enthusiasts and conventions. If it is lucky, it may (along with its author) become a popular classic – an almost oxymoronic concept – a work still read as a type of superior entertainment, alongside the canon of serious literature when a superior reading ‘holiday’ is required. Such is the fate of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures, John Buchan’s thrillers, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes. This is the work of classic middle-brow taste. It may, on the other hand, become the exemplary instance of a genre and the author, the pivot around which the genre revolves, and this is especially true of pulp fiction and its creators, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of Tarzan of the Apes, R. E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, or H. P. Lovecraft’s tales of Cthulhu. Curiously, because popular authors are equivalent to a brand name (and their work a branded product), an author’s name may stand in for any one particular title, becoming, as it were, a label for a self-contained œuvre. Such is the case with Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, Stephen King or Catherine Cookson. Interestingly, the attempts to revive a writer because of perceived historical interest, intrinsic worth or mere nostalgia always end in modest or poor sales. Literary appeal must be immediate and contain contemporary interest, otherwise interest remains antiquarian at best and academic at worst. Decay may occasionally affect a whole genre. The western, as presented in film, enjoys both popular interest and critical acclaim, but as a literary genre it has always been considered the province of semi-literate working men and juveniles, the dwindling stocks of such books read, if at all, by a slowly ageing readership, the genre dying a slow death by inattention. Or oblivion may come instantaneously to a whole group of books, such as the village tales of moral decline or family virtue that flourished before the 1920s and vanished thereafter (until stripped of their Christian and temperance virtue and reincarnated as the modern ‘Aga saga’ tales of immoral doings in middle England). Popular fiction (all fiction) vanishes because it has a limited shelf life. It must be constantly reinvented (transferred to new media) if it is to retain freshness and this is as true for content as it is for things as central and yet ‘invisible’ as typographic setting. Dickens’s work presented in its original form would be, to modern eyes, quite unreadable because the typography would be sight destroying. Any collector of books cannot help but notice the revolution in typographic spacing and lettering between the late nineteenth century and the 1920s.

Origins, Problems and Philosophy


This revolution is, in itself, a remarkable reinvention of the literary imagination, freed from the cramped and minuscule double-column typography of the previous century. Here, in mute form, is the visual corollary to a remarkable change in sensibility. The book itself is an ever renewed space for the sequentiality of literary narrative, a space in which imagination must be designed for contemporary tastes. Any study of best-selling fiction is also a study of popular literature in its broadest sense, but a study of popular literature is a broader concept than the more narrow one of the bestseller and covers a wide range of ideological (especially sociological, political, and aesthetic) areas of which the bestseller is only one acute example. Popular literature and the analogous area, popular fiction, need therefore no necessary relationship to mass sales; rather they act as a focus for the intermixture of sociological and political questions, expressed through aesthetic means, found in the mass consumption of culture. The bestseller, appropriately, reaches the most readers and is therefore, almost by accident, popular in the sense given above. ‘Popular’ literature defines a perceptual arena, a field out of which the bestseller emerges. This field includes fiction that may not sell well at all, but aspires to the level of bestsellerdom by imitation, and is always already implicated in the aesthetics of popular culture, especially in the attempt to copy successful genre prototypes. In some ways, such poor-selling books may actually tell us more about popular reading, because of their unsuccessful exaggerations or writing formulas and often crude or bizarre imitative style. A bestseller can never be clearly predicted (and is therefore a type of necessary but reassuring ‘sport’ of popular literary production). The vast mass of failures tell us much about popular tastes and perceptions, but cannot be charted in the same way as the bestseller. Because of their relative ephemerality (in terms of sales), best-selling authors are always faced with the possibility of falling back into the morass of unsuccessful popular fiction: imitative of their own work and therefore of the successful authors they once were. It is the publisher’s job to prevent such a catastrophe – a falling into the popular as selfpastiche, the author thus becoming too ‘popular’ for success! Popular fiction is the expression of mass, industrial and consumer society. It is organised into aesthetic categories that often correspond to sociological, political and economic categories, cross-divided themselves by gender considerations. Popular fiction is always commercially oriented and its production and marketing is essentially corporate and industrial, aimed at the maximum distribution and sales of units (books) and the capitalisation on past successes for potential future sales. This is especially true when elongating the life of a series or author.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

All literature works, on one level or another, on precedent (tradition); and popular fiction is the area where it is necessary to reinvent the precedents that were most successful. T. S. Eliot’s famously ironic view that poor artists imitate and great artists steal is, in one sense, only a type of aphoristic half truth as the popular artist must steal even more successfully if the work produced is to replace a previous product to which it has an uncanny resemblance (this is especially true in science fiction, horror, women’s romance and detective fiction). The new author’s work is a type of sleight of hand, making what they produce appear momentarily new and fresh, until inevitably it falls back into the mass of titles on a similar theme, written in similar narrative style and set in a similar place. Absolute theft, with the allowance of plagiarism and the absolute necessity of not simply copying (a guarantee of failure), is the psychological predisposition of the successful popular author and his most potent aesthetic tool, allowing incorporation to enhance his own work whilst also acknowledging the genre tradition which is being followed. Nevertheless, an author can sail near to the wind in both style and content, something which Dan Brown’s phenomenal bestseller, The Da Vinci Code seems to have done. Brown and his publishers Random House found themselves under siege from no less than three sets of claimants who all insisted the author had lifted their work. Lewis Perdue claimed that Brown had simply copied his own books, Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy published in 1983. Having his claim refused in two New York courts, Perdue pursued his search for reparations on the Internet. Mikhail Anikin, from the Hermitage Museum in Russia was also after a $150 million apology from Brown in 2006, but the greatest challenge was from Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh whose book, The Holy Blood, Holy Grail told a similar story but told it as ‘history’. The book was a sensation and the authors were convinced, perhaps, that Brown had simply stolen their central premise about the Priory of Sion and its secret. Brown even references the authors’ book in chapter 60. The case was held before Justice Peter Smith over eleven days in February and March 2006 in the Courts of Chancery and ended with Brown winning outright, none of the claims being proven and Brown’s name as a thriller writer of ‘skill and reputation’ left intact. As T. S. Eliot said of great artists, what is needed is talent (craft) not genius but it must be talent which itself is a type of genius (for organisation) if it is to create a best-selling formula. Nowhere is this more evident than in the organisational aesthetic of the detective story, family saga or ‘chick lit’.

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The concept of tradition is tinged with the sort of ironic posture so beloved of serious artists and supposedly lacking in popular fictionalists. It folds within itself the nature of legitimacy, hence: The notion of legitimacy blends the two fundamental operations of the mind: analogy and convention (that is, the process of establishing arbitrary equivalences). They are branches that fork from a single trunk, namely substitution. In the case of analogy, the only legitimacy is that of holy investiture, which through a play of resonances and sympathies descends through all the gradations of being. Where that resonance dies out, no legitimacy can be granted. In the case of convention, legitimacy is a prime example of the arbitrary agreement that makes possible the functioning of all sorts of mechanisms, ranging from language to society.3 Popular fiction works through infinite analogous and substitutional modes directed by convention. As always, convention is concerned not with essences or substances, but with function – and it is ready to barter one form or another (for it is the very soul of substitution).4 The great and legitimate work demands for itself an origin from whence it must have sprung but to which it cannot attach a connective thread. The thread is the fiction of genealogy, rising out of a distant pool, a hazy origin.5 That origin, of necessity, had to be something other than popular literature but tradition no longer enables one to claim an origin, but rather conceals it.6 What is concealed is the origin in the substitutive pool of popular fiction. All vernacular literature was ipso facto popular (common, coarse or vulgar), opposed to classicism’s purity and aristocracy of descent. Yet classicism could offer no living tradition, only a renewable contemporary language could offer that. Popular fiction pre-dates serious fiction and serious fiction is cursed to act as popular fiction’s antidote and nemesis. Out of popular fiction, serious fiction separates and congeals: the substitutive mode par excellence trapped by the ideology of authorship that claims: ‘[If] one could fill the gap of that missing origin, one could at least make one’s way without deception all the way to the present.’7 Popular fiction is never other than itself, never less than the totality of all the possibilities of the contemporary vernacular. It can never really ‘fall away’ from itself; its standards cannot drop, be dumbed down, or be less than they once were; it is as it is, the possibility of all its many guises – protean, yet


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

ordered. There was never a better time or a golden age from which things declined, but rather better books and worse books, remembered or forgotten books, against which incomplete and nostalgic judgements are haphazardly entertained. The language of popular literature cannot decline from a standard because it does not have a standard, cannot ‘fall’ because it had no golden age. Serious literature, on the other hand, by setting itself an arbitrary genealogy and in believing its own myth of moral ascendancy and aristocratic (aesthetic) hauteur, can decline, for it alone can fall into popular idiom, be tainted by what it attempts to refuse or to ignore and thus become illegitimate, become popular – a bestseller. Only a serious artist can become a literary prostitute, too closely associated with disguise, convention, titillation and commercial reward. The arbitrary attempts to differentiate common English once it enters print, in order to create a superior language, are themselves doomed to reproduce the indeterminable differences of convention, mode and intention whose origins are concealed in the analogy and substitution of bastard genealogies. And thus, finally, the empty mantle of aristocracy passes to the (morally superior) author of art fiction. The absolute rule of the nobility, hierarchic distance, detached now from any contact with the land, any exchange of feudal obligations, any immediate function, and abandoned only to the cruel game of Court favours, was rediscovered, revived – even to the point of tacit fanaticism – in the refinement of taste, in the pursuit of delicacies, in the gradual discovery of a unique style.8 For nearly two hundred years popular culture (mass culture from the 1880s and consumer culture from the 1950s) has been under the twin scrutiny of the magistrate and the scholar. Whilst the democratic project remained incomplete this scrutiny was carried out in the name of political will and moral appropriateness. With the democratic political project completed by the 1920s the debate became more ‘secularised’ and the policing gaze of court official and educational expert turned to the problem of literacy in an age of mass populations. Censorship and academic opprobrium have been the usual response to the rise of popular culture, and popular fiction in particular. The problem of style irradiates every line and energises every argument. The art style and the popular style supposedly glare at each other from opposing sides but the most execrable style survives next to the most sublime. Narrative does not need style, it needs panache – a gamble deriving from a passion: the convolution of dramatic crisis. And

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this can cut two ways; so that style (the constructive vitality of word and grammar) can work to be all in all (the art novel) or work towards its own neutrality (the popular), which always acknowledges its inability to express quite enough. Only in its translation into another medium can popular fiction find itself again returned in a continuous loop of renewal because it is never complete in itself. In seeking its own absolute limit the art novel enwraps itself within itself: untranslatable, irrascible, and sublime. Popular fiction always seeks other partners. Style is the central problem of any particular author and irrelevant to any general history of literature. What survives is beyond style and beyond literature’s adequacy to itself. What survives is the inability to push style to the point of closing off literature into a hermetically sealed space. Popular fiction carries this inadequacy in order to reinvent itself elsewhere (on film, television, etc.), feeding from this space to reinvent itself over again. Style is therefore a peculiar and potent chimera, bereft of power when corroded by history. Only style that neutralises itself, which sees itself vanishing into the corner of a page or the corner of an eye, can reinvent itself. The self-conscious novel, determined by an introspective eye (as with Virginia Woolf), becomes popular (as Woolf has become) because it narrates introspection and acts it out. A literature whose elegance of style closes it within its own gemlike facets can only ever have a minority audience. Its tendency moves towards the minimalism of belle lettres, the essay or the bon mot turning it into an anecdote for masonic recognition amongst an elite group, whose gaze is marked by a type of refusal of historical movement. The great popular work opens out into a need for translation into other media – a symbiosis immediately recognised by dramatists and filmmakers in search of a narrative correlative to their visual dreams. Art fiction highlights its style, delights in it and makes of style a fetish. Popular fiction neutralises style, seems only interested in narrative, content and convention, and delights in making language invisible in order to tell a tale. Yet popular fiction may still make a fetish of one aspect of its style. The fetish of popular fiction will be unlike the fetish of the art novel (which can only be itself alone) but will make of its language a form of lifestyle, foregrounding objects and events rather than psychological characterisation. As such, characters become symbiotically associated with the things they own, which then act as substitutes for inner characterisation. Paradoxical though it may seem, popular fiction is always striving to find linguistic (aesthetic) equivalence to its narrative power but only if that equivalence spills over beyond language. This is exactly


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

what art novels strive to avoid even when their theme is lifestyle (of the bourgeoisie for instance or the artist). Popular fiction releases a desire in language to become the very life that is being portrayed by it. Here language looks beyond itself and into the world, but a world already distributed and arranged according to the geometry of its own trajectory, its own abstract needs, now striving for materialisation: fiction as lifestyle. Breakfast was Bond’s favourite meal of the day. When he was stationed in London it was always the same. It consisted of very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex, of which he drank two large cups, black and without sugar. The single egg, in the dark blue egg-cup with a gold ring round the top, was boiled for three and a third minutes. It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens. . . . (Bond disliked white eggs and, faddish as he was in many small things, it amused him to maintain that there was such a thing as the perfect boiled egg.) Then there were two thick slices of wholewheat toast, a large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter and three squat glass jars containing Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s. The coffee pot and the silver on the tray were Queen Anne, and the china was Minton, of the same dark blue and gold and white as the egg-cup. (Ian Fleming, From Russia with Love, ch. 11) Or Fontaine Khaled woke alone in her New York apartment. She removed her black lace sleep-mask, and reached for the orange juice in her bedside fridge. Gulping the deliciously cold liquid she groaned aloud. A mammoth hangover was threatening to engulf her entirely. Christ! Studio 54. Two fags. One black. One white. What an entertainment. She attempted to step out of bed, but felt too weak, and collapsed back amongst her Porthault pillows. She reached over to her bedside table and picked a bottle of vitamin pills. E was washed down with the orange juice, then C, then a multivitamin, and lastly two massive yeast tablets. (Jackie Collins, The Bitch, ch. 2)

Origins, Problems and Philosophy


The transposition of lifestyle into fiction and fiction into lifestyle is nowhere more apparent than at the centre of the popular romantic imagination. Here both lifestyle and fiction meet within the very style of the romance genre. ‘Is Honey really magic?’ Serena asked. She is a very attractive young married friend of mine, who is keenly interested in health. ‘I think it is,’ I replied, ‘and I believe that everyone who has ever studied the history of Honey is convinced that it has in it a magic ingredient. Although Honey has been analysed for hundreds of years by scientists of every generation, there remains a mysterious 4 per cent they have never been able to break down.’ ‘How exciting,’ Serena exclaimed. ‘They know that Honey contains vitamins and minerals,’ I went on, ‘in fact five very important vitamins which are absolutely necessary to life. These, of course, are found also in other products, but in Honey there is contained, I am convinced, the Elixir of Life. This is the reason why Honey is stimulating to sex, and it is also responsible for its fantastic healing properties.’ ‘Tell me more about Honey,’ Serena begged. ‘I really know very little about it.’ (Barbara Cartland, The Magic of Honey, p. 7) Lifestyle in fiction demands narratives of experiential pleasure. It is for this reason that character so dominates popular fiction, and it is for this reason that the neutralisation of language (to the point of invisibility) paradoxically enlarges the content of that language: characterisation. The greatest literary characters of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries are the ‘monsters’ released by the neutralisation of language and the subsequent materialisation of ‘personalities’: here dwell Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. Each manifestation is available to us all, regardless of ethnic origin or gender, because each is the ephemeral child of style and therefore totally malleable and yet also already beyond their original authors’ control. No wonder each such monstrous character escapes the control of the author and, in their turn, each has had to ‘die’. No wonder authors want nothing to do with them, no wonder they rid themselves of them because of insatiable public demand (a demand they grow to hate) and no wonder these creatures are still the fertile breeders of even more of their kind, each their own œuvre, a world giving birth to worlds (more vampires, more blood, more detectives, more corpses, more spies, more martinis).


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

And the creature that outlives its literary origin is the one least indebted to literary form, stepping most easily into myth. Thus the status of Superman and Batman goes quite beyond a set of storylines into a mythic mode, captured and retold in endless variation. What counts is convention repeated as ritual and lived as ‘life style’ in the neutralisation of language barriers and literary limits. The perfect state of popular literature is to become popular myth and hence to form literary language into secular liturgy. Contemporary fiction becomes sacred when words and sentences are no longer held merely to a page of prose or the surface of a page, but resurface as the realisation of that surface, as surface (in film, television or electronic games) – an unalterable present where nothing can be changed. Popular fiction is constantly trying to reinvent itself as popular, already finding itself trapped in the history of its own conventions, already too late to make good. Popular fiction, in its apotheosis, the bestseller, seems to look always backwards for its own perfect style, its own adequacy to its material. And this is what readers demand. The grail is the discovery of the analogous link, an author who can rewrite the conventions of revered predecessors. For instance, in women’s romantic fiction, the search for the link between Jane Austen and Mrs Radcliffe animates much of the genre because of convention and the demands of convention. Thus popular women’s fiction becomes a séance, reviving not merely the shadows and ventriloquistic voices of long-dead authors but also their conventions: domesticity, marriage, money and gothic terrors. Such conventions cannot be ‘improved’ or psychologised, rather they can be recycled as ‘different’ and therefore as always contemporaneous. The conventions are determined by history but work as if they weren’t. The search for an origin is therefore really a search for a perfect convention, an appropriate device. Such conventions paradoxically ‘progress’ in order to defeat the history that produced them and thereby make each successive stage of the convention’s style resonate with an inherent modernity. Thus popular modernity becomes the art of literary repetition, homage and pastiche. This is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s parody of his own creation: Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort

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which is known as a ‘Penang lawyer.’ Just under the head was a broad silver band, nearly an inch across. ‘To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.,’ was engraved upon it, with the date ‘1884.’ It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used to carry – dignified, solid, and reassuring. ‘Well, Watson, what do you make of it?’ Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation. ‘How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.’ ‘I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in front of me,’ said he. ‘But, tell me, Watson, what do you make of our visitor’s stick? Since we have been so unfortunate as to miss him and have no notion of his errand, this accidental souvenir becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruct the man by an examination of it.’ (Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 1) This is A. A. Milne’s pastiche homage almost twenty years later: Anthony smoked thoughtfully for a little. Then he took his pipe out of his mouth and turned to his friend. ‘Are you prepared to be the complete Watson?’ he asked. ‘Watson?’ ‘Do-you-follow-me-Watson; that one. Are you prepared to have quite obvious things explained to you, to ask futile questions, to give me chances of scoring off you, to make brilliant discoveries of your own two or three days after I have made them myself – all that kind of thing? Because it all helps.’ (A. A. Milne, The Red House Mystery, ch. 11) The writer whose popularity is gained through the bestseller list but who pursues a private vision or is, as Eliot pointed out, pursuing a private obsession (erotic violence, empire, the glory of war, spiritual regeneration) will almost always produce perverse emotionality, captured by history and captured in a time warp not even useful for nostalgia. Such writing quickly becomes quaint, or ridiculous. Though it uses a convention, it fails to renew it and thus make it contemporary. The special worlds of P. G. Wodehouse (and even Agatha Christie) remain alive because they are essentially pastiche and therefore contemporary even if the pastiche is sometimes unconscious. On the other hand a writer may be unlucky and lose a popular readership only to


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gain a cult or antiquarian one in the glow of imperial nostalgia. Thus the aficionado cannot resist: I had closed the window to exclude the yellow mist, but subconsciously I was aware of its encircling presence, walling me in, and now I found myself in such a silence as I had known in deserts but could scarce have deemed possible in fog-bound London, in the heart of the world’s metropolis. . . . my nervous system was somewhat overwrought as a result of my hurried return from Cairo – from Cairo where I had left behind many a fondly cherished hope. . . . Nayland Smith stood before me, muffled up in a heavy travelling coat, and with his hat pulled down over his brows. . . . ‘God knows what is afoot this time Petrie!’ he replied . . . ‘You and I have lived no commonplace lives, Dr Fu-Manchu has seen to that; but if I am to believe what the Chief has told me to-day, even stranger things are ahead of us!’ (Sax Rohmer, The Hand of Fu Manchu, ch. 1) In an extreme case the aficionado may revive popular fiction as a type of avant-gardism. Such is the case with the affectionate obsessions of Stewart Home with bestseller Richard Allen, or the ironic plagiarism of Harold Robbins by Kathy Acker. Writers may even choose to fill the gap left by the death of a bestselling author by taking on his or her mantle or stealing from the pool of characters for their own work, as if, by a magical turn, characters had broken free from their creators and left their origin without right of ownership or need of permission. Thus evolve the literary universes of Baker Street, Transylvania, Arkham and Middle Earth. It is not necessary to honour predecessor authors here, but to acknowledge their conventions, both be true to them and move them into the contemporary. By so doing the original creators are themselves honoured. In some cases, the original author’s work may be largely forgotten, but a loved character may survive until a later author realises the potential use of a narrative still available and somehow encapsulated in this figure from the past. This is the case with George MacDonald Fraser who borrowed ‘Flashman’ from Thomas Hughes’s now virtually unread Tom Brown’s Schooldays. What was rejected was all that was not contemporary (that about the original which made Tom Brown a supposed ‘classic’ even if unread!) and what has been saved is the core of our interest: the character of Flashman. In the same way Lionel Bart in his musical Oliver!

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shifted interest from the insipid Oliver to the true centre of the story: Fagin. In the case of both Flashman and Fagin, neither are punished in modern revised narratives which no longer pander to long abandoned morality, but both live on (realistically) to cheat, steal and entertain us. What is significant in the case of both Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays is that both texts have been saved from themselves by the extraction of a subordinate character. The ‘modern’ elements of the two tales reside not in their central characters but in peripheral or secondary figures. Both books have been rescued by popular culture not only on behalf of contemporaneity but also on behalf of their own unresolved aesthetic trajectories. The ‘art’ of both Tom Brown and Oliver Twist was distorted to accommodate a moral whose imposition ‘warped’ the stories. Rewriting them addresses that imposition, ‘corrects’ it and so offers the original tales a way to return to a contemporary readership. I had read Tom Brown’s Schooldays as a child [comments George MacDonald Fraser] and I remember being very disappointed when Flashman was expelled because that was the most interesting character gone. Now I don’t know if Hughes based him on anyone in particular, but I wouldn’t mind betting that he discovered that Flashman was becoming a more dominant character than he wanted him to be. Flashman wasn’t the sort of character Hughes wanted, so he axed him . . . something went out of the book after that. There was nothing to challenge Brown any longer; his struggles become entirely moral rather than physical.9

No use of literary language can claim, ab initio, an aesthetic principle that is superior per se and no such claim can avoid the acrid whiff of moral, class and personal superiority. What emerges is a test of psychic health and moral eugenics rather than literary judgement. What is left is condemnation dressed as artistic judgement, and in each condemnation the unwashed smell of the popular creeps through. Can popular literature (one supposedly without self-awareness) be the only cynical literature? Is the ‘unthinking’ sentimentalism of popular fiction the only site of literary kitsch? Is it possible that the thinking person’s literary cynicism reproduced in retroism and nihilism (empty stylistics, the devotion to an amused detachment denoting wit), a type of intellectual kitsch born as a response to, and a perverse indulgence in, the popular (here taken up ironically and emptied of its original sentiment


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

– its living connection to main culture), can also form a type of kitsch sensibility? The very nature of popular culture is determined by its relationship to mass populations, but this does not mean it is simply determined by a crude and dumbed down anti-aesthetic kitsch or that the popular mentality is one manipulated (by the media, advertising, etc.) into a congealed monolith. All contemporary literature has some relationship to mass culture, after attempting to detach itself from it or more successfully define itself within it. The consumer culture of capitalism, far from being in a steady state (the liberal position) or going from crisis to crisis (the Marxist position), is always anarchic, diffused, irregular and regionally specific. Popular culture, and therefore popular fiction, reflects this. Bestsellers incorporate the largest number of perceptual constituencies and temporarily unite disparate or contradictory ideological concerns in an aesthetic form. Of its nature, the bestseller is a temporary phenomenon and its power to unite readers soon collapses. The popular ‘classic’ becomes so by uniting and holding the varied ideological positions of one class or group whilst appealing to other groups through other media (film or television series). Mass literature has nothing per se to do with merely working-class readers, and mass culture has nothing per se to tell us about workingclass life in any clear sense. Rather, popular fiction when it reaches bestseller level tells us about a condition of reading which has been proletarianised, whoever reads such work and from whatever background. Yet such proletarianisation does not turn us into mindless slaves of consumerism nor into the hedonistic clones of Brave New World. It always includes imagination, negotiation and refusal and allows minority groups (with differing degrees of success) to negotiate their space in contradiction to the vox populi: a voice within a voice. Print itself reflects the complex and anarchic nature of literary production, and the haphazard nature of any formula for predicting literary success shows how little manipulative power the media (and publishing in particular) often has. Print is a vast and anarchic field of competing interests.

2 How the British Read

Literacy Assessing literacy levels In 1911 The New Dictionary of Statistics informed its enquirers that just over 3 per cent of men and a little under 4 per cent of women were recorded as illiterate between 1896 and 1900, and that this had gradually fallen to around 2 per cent for either sex by 1907.1 The literacy test was simple and negative, for if you could not sign your name on a marriage register you were deemed illiterate. By 1914 this figure was reduced to 1 per cent.2 By such determinants Britain became almost a fully literate country by the beginning of World War One. Sir Cyril Burt’s investigations refined such statistics into the categories ‘illiterate’ and ‘semi-literate’ (with reading ages between 6 and 8 years old) and thereby inflated the semi-literate population (barely able to comprehend a single newspaper paragraph) to 3 million. Burt was not only incautious with his figures, he also took his samples from poor rural and slum areas, suggesting general results from a specialised constituency.3 Burt’s work did nothing to resolve the question of capacity among literate readers – a question simply left in abeyance by other investigators, all of whose methods differed!4 Documentation remained sketchy throughout the twentieth century and in 1990 UNESCO reported that Britain lagged behind other advanced industrial countries in its investigations into literacy rates and levels.* The Adult Literacy Campaign which began in 1973 found it had to start almost afresh in its enquiries. In 1974 the British Association of Settlements (BAS) published figures based upon ‘the best related evidence, and on the firm opinions of acknowledged experts in the field’, using six previous surveys carried out by the National Foundation for * Panic over literacy levels led the National Book Trust to declare 2008 the ‘National Year of Reading’. 51


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Educational Research (NFER) from 1948 onwards.5 On the basis of these mixed sources and the ‘opinion’ of ‘experts’, BAS estimated that approximately 6 per cent or 2 million adults were functionally illiterate, with reading levels below that of a 9-year-old. Other organisations suggested a basic age of 13 as representing a functional reading level and so the BAS figures appeared conservative. Whilst the BAS results were improvements upon Burt’s, they too were flawed by the methods used to gather the evidence, and again they told nothing of reading levels amongst those who could read and write at reasonable levels of fluency. With haphazard research, no real gains in insight were available for almost ninety years. One researcher for NFER working in 1996 came to the conclusion that literacy rates had not changed significantly since 1948.6 The conclusion was that literacy levels (despite or because of education change and experiment) had remained stable since 1900. Nevertheless, by the late 1990s a flurry of activity, accompanied by fears over falling educational standards, resulted in a number of new surveys of a more detailed kind. In 1997, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UK Office for National Statistics both published the results from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), which surveyed the literacy standards of several different countries. Within this survey, literacy standards were tested in relation to several different factors, including gender, class, and level of education; and furthermore (and with particular significance to cultural studies of literature) literacy was divided not just into levels but into categories according to type. Distinctions were made between ability to read and understand quantitative material (material related to arithmetic operations), document material (material contained in various documents such as formats, job applications, maps, and train timetables), and prose material (material from texts such as editorials, news stories, poems, and fiction).7 Thus literacy standards were being tested for the first time with specific reference to the ability to read literature. The majority of the British population between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five displayed either a level 3 (31.3 per cent) or a level 2 (30.3 per cent) reading ability, 21.8 per cent displayed level 1 abilities while 16.6 per cent displayed abilities which qualified them for levels 4 or 5. Within the UK the three most important factors

How the British Read 53

determining literacy levels were, in order of importance: highest level of educational attainment, social class, and age. Not surprisingly, those who reached a higher level of education statistically reached a higher level of literacy. Furthermore, there was also a correlation between the highest level of education reached and the amount of reading an individual did, with the amount of individuals reading in each group increasing with rising levels of education. In terms of social class, Social Classes I and II possessed the highest percentage of individuals at reading levels 3 and 4/5, while Social Classes IV and V possessed the highest percentage of individuals at reading level 1. Individuals between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five on the whole displayed a higher level of reading ability than individuals from the same social background between the ages of forty-six and fifty-five.8 The methods and measurements used for the IALS, although different from those of Burt or his predecessors, did confirm the obvious: the highest reading attainments belonged to the wealthiest class and the poorest attainments to the very poor (Burt’s slum dwellers and poorer, country people). The almost negligible difference in men’s and women’s reading abilities (with men slightly ahead) had vanished for all practical purposes by the end of the twentieth century, although this masked the fact that the vast majority of people who read regularly were overwhelmingly female. Other statistical surveys confirmed that literate women consumed large amounts of fiction, but that: Much of the fiction which is read is chosen because it is ‘light’ and ‘accessible.’ Many want a book which grabs their attention in the first few pages, is easily understood, and which they can ‘lose themselves’ in. The Classics are very seldom read, with Catherine Cookson and Danielle Steel as the most popular authors.9 Yet something else could be proved by the consistency of literacy levels from the opening to the end of the century – not only did economic position and educational opportunity continue to affect levels of attainment but they also provided evidence of consistency in the subject matter of reading material, the conservation of genres being determined by the conservative nature of social change, educational opportunity and economic position. Illiteracy is a mirror to literacy but this also indicates that education and economics alone cannot account for changes in taste amongst the literate, which must be explained also in terms of gender, generational


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

change and historical crises. Thus reading dramatically increased during the First World War and the economic slump leading up to World War Two. In both cases changes in taste could be accounted for not only by crises in the social imagination but also by generational change, some authors declining during the two periods as their readership aged and died. By the end of the twentieth century, MORI surveys had confirmed previous findings going back a century.10 Literacy in practice The problem of accounting for literacy levels has remained a matter of controversy and debate, framed as it often is by the question of writing ability rather than reading level. The ability to sign one’s name on official documents is not any real test of literacy, and figures gathered by researchers tend to drift toward numerical inflation at either end of the scale. By the 1860s, it was certainly true that in many areas of Britain literacy rates, meaning the ability to read and write at a functional level, were near enough universal. The educational reforms of 1870 formalised an already thriving elementary system and consolidated gains in literacy levels determined by informal and semi-formal processes in education that had existed a good half-century previously. By the 1880s as few as 3 per cent of the population were illiterate and by the 1890s the solidly literate base produced by the 1870 reforms meant that a vast potential market lay ready to be exploited. Led by London, literacy throughout the country reached at least 90 per cent for both sexes in all areas at the beginning of the twentieth century. The market amongst lower middle-class and working-class readers was effectively created when rising incomes, increasing leisure and greater national cohesion aligned with reasonable levels of reading ability. The British working class might not be able to write as well as their betters but they could certainly read, and for most people in the nineteenth as well as the twentieth century reading was the decisive measure of literacy. Writing was a skill, reserved for others, rarely needed formally and usually practised informally and haphazardly (diaries, letters, postcards, etc.). This was clearly attested to throughout the nineteenth century by the growth of ephemeral printed material, ranging from fly posters to newspapers and recorded in the extraordinary rise in postal correspondence. The readership and appetite for newspapers was a clear indication of the new reading habits, creating a reading public (educated to take information second hand and deliberate upon it to create a mass opinion) rather than an active mob (acting on impulse through local, visual stimuli). By the 1870s, train carriages were littered with aban-

How the British Read 55

doned newspapers and although no newspaper had yet become national (except The Times) there existed a public of perhaps 5.5 million to 6 million readers. The appetite for newspaper print was insatiable and newspapers were consumed on trains, on the omnibus, in public houses and in the newly created ‘newsrooms’ of public libraries. Newspapers were read out loud to the family, to work colleagues and to servants as well as being consumed in silence in public or in the library reading room. If in the 1860s most papers catered for middle-class readers, by the 1870s there was the half-penny Echo, the News of the World, the Weekly Dispatch, Reynold’s News, Morning Post, or Daily Telegraph to cater for the lower middle classes, working classes, and servant classes. The Illustrated London News (launched 1842) combined words and pictures and found a large readership in the 1880s and 1890s. The Strand Magazine combined articles and pictures in a ‘pot pouri’ style, reaching a general readership of between 300,000 and 500,000, especially so when a new Conan Doyle story appeared. At the turn of the twentieth century, the penny dailies catered for the lower middle-class ‘respectable’ reader with family and responsibilities whilst manual labourers found interest in the ha’penny press. Such newspapers reached into slum homes as well as cottages. By the end of the nineteenth century things had already changed regarding the raison d’être behind newspaper production and this was directly linked to readership demand. Previously newspapers had been largely political in nature, local in kind and educational in requirement, and agitation throughout the country for the removal of governmental taxes (stamp duties) on print and paper had focused on the fact that cheaper print created a better educated population which would have earned the right to participate in democracy. In the mid-1800s the newspaper was seen as a moral force but by the end of the century the literacy/democracy campaign had largely been won and newspapers turned increasingly to entertainment. Thus the notion of ‘cheap’ in the 1830s and 1840s became a byword for ‘nasty’ by the 1900s. The ‘new journalism’ as it was dubbed, relied on sport, sensation and personality, much of which it took from the style and content of working-class Sunday newspapers, which were voraciously consumed in preference, or as an accompaniment, to going to church. Thus the British Sunday of church, sex, scandal and gossip took its peculiar shape, led by papers such as the News of the World. Family-oriented papers and magazines as well as temperance journals were also read. In the 1870s another innovation was added to Sunday


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

and weekday reading habits – the serialised novel – Mrs Braddon’s output of 1873 being syndicated across the country. By 1889, novels and short stories were important components of newspaper and magazine publishing, channelling new and rising authors into hitherto unexplored formats (the requirements of a new popular aesthetics both of style and of content). Fiction ‘bureaux’ appeared, to exploit this new market for ephemeral fiction, and it was into this market that almost the entire output of many popular writers first went, especially those engaged in tales of adventure, of affairs of the heart and of the supernatural. The sporting thrillers of Nat Gould were advertised and sold through the News of the World, cheap editions bearing the impressed slogan on their back cover ‘News of the World for thrilling serials by the best authors’. Published by the ‘Modern Publishing Company’ such books also carried advertisements promising to banish ‘nerves’, relieve influenza (Collis Browne’s chlorodyne) and reveal the secrets of one’s personality. Alongside national newspapers and Sundays there were specialist publications produced on a weekly or monthly basis, offering advice on hobbies, gardening, electronics and fashion. Women’s magazines were foremost in this area, including not only Vogue (1916) and Harper’s Bazaar (1929) for richer readers but also Good Housekeeping (1929) aimed at the middle-class housewife who had been used previously to the help of servants and now was ‘abandoned’ in the suburbs unable to cook or clean. For poorer female readers were the likes of Woman’s Weekly (1911), Woman’s Own (1932) and Woman, with romantic stories, hints and tips on beauty, fashion and cookery and readers’ queries. One consequence of this was the boom in spin-off fiction produced in novelette form for reading at the seaside or in snatched leisure hours. Such fiction was hugely popular and immediately disposable (after lending to friends) and included an unbroken line of works, from those with titles such as Joy Grantham (a novelette by Joseph Nelson: no. 33, Sunday Companion Library) priced at 3d and produced around the time of World War One, to the 2d ‘London Novels’ and ‘Smart Novels’ of the 1930s, right through to the Women’s World Library of the late 1940s and 1950s with its romantic tales and advertisements for engagement rings from Bravington’s Jewellers. In the 1950s some cigarette machines also incorporated paperback books, both bought at the same time and both equally dispensable. Popular women’s fiction constellated around such disposable publications, produced in the millions and numbered (in their editions) in the hundreds. This was the readership that might also turn to substantial novels by Elinor Glyn (selling in a cheap 6d edition by the 1920s) or Charles Garvice whose covers for the ‘Hutchin-

How the British Read 57

son Famous Novels’ series (also at 6d) were emblazoned with the slogan ‘the most popular writer of love stories in the world’ – and all of it produced in paperback, wood-pulp editions. It was this reading with its ‘less Christian’, more ‘liberated’ sense of women’s role that finally put paid to the work of Ouida and Mari Corelli and opened the way for Ethel M. Dell and later Mills and Boon. Children had their own publications, which would exploit imperial adventure, sporting, scientific and educational themes. Gem and Magnet were joined by Hotspur and Wizard, whilst a newer concept of the children’s paper was to appear with cartoon strips under the Dandy (1937) and Magic Beano (1938: Beano) labels. Combining education and entertainment, and with an emphasis on science and the future, the Eagle followed in 1950. During the twentieth century the importance of children’s papers (dominated by two-column printed pages) diminished; they were finally to be replaced by comics using an almost exclusive ‘cartoon’ strip formula. None the less, many of these more modern comics retained genres and settings that had been ‘abandoned’ by adult fiction or that had previously been popular only in printed form. As late as the middle 1960s, Wizard retained a print format that emphasized stories from both World Wars, but which also included tales of soccer, cricket and the ‘Wild West’. Illustration was reserved for the front and back covers. Hotspur and Hornet abandoned printed tales almost altogether as did the later, derivative, Valiant. War, soccer, detective, and imperial adventure stories dominated the Hornet in the 1960s as they did the Hotspur during the same period, although by this time Hotspur included a British copy of the Batman character called ‘The Black Hawk’ (with wings like a bat!) and a tale about a public school (Johnny Jones of Kingsleigh Public School). By the 1970s such tales were too easily pastiched, and Valiant’s Captain Hurricane reduced the Second World War to violent farce. Valiant also included a Star Trek strip, and colour. Tales such as ‘Janus Stark’ (a Victorian escapologist), ‘Yellowknife of the Yard’ (a Sioux chief become Scotland Yard detective) and ‘The Claw’ (an invisible man with one steel hand) recalled the literary sensibility of an earlier age, mixing H. G. Wells with Edgar Wallace and Sidney Horler.

Reading and the Influences of Cinema, Television and Radio By the time of the First World War, the desire for newspapers and magazines to provide entertainment had been augmented by the advent of cinema. It soon became clear that newspapers, fiction and cinema had a symbiotic relationship. Of all entertainment, cinema was the most


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

popular (followed by the dance hall) and was American. In most major cities cinemas began to occupy or replace the old music halls until in the 1930s large cinemas, with balconies for the better off, could seat audiences of 4,000. Throughout the early part of the century audiences grew, until by the mid-1930s at least 40 per cent of the population went at least once a week and a quarter at least twice a week to the 5,000 cinemas across the country. Programmes were changed frequently and individual cinema turnover per week could be many thousands. By 1946 total charges for admission per year had risen to 1.6 billion pounds. Cinema and radio stars soon featured regularly in papers and magazines, the cult of celebrity dominating much reading. Instead of threatening the book trade these new stories actually created new niches and possibilities, not the least of which was ‘novelisation’ of a popular film complete with stills from the movie, such as Guy Thorne’s Butterfly on a Wheel, available in an edition of the Reader’s Library in the mid-1920s. An editorial note added to the book was quite clear about the new interrelationship between best-selling fiction and successful plays and films, hence: In the very modern world, an enjoyable story is frequently presented to the public in three different forms: as a novel, as a stage play, and as a motion picture. Sometimes the original form in which the tale achieves fame is as a film, and the publishers and theatrical producers then exploit its popularity for their own advantage. Sometimes the story is seen first as an attractive production on the stage; and at other times it is a novel which originally is so impressive that playwrights and writers of the screen set to work to adapt its story to their own forms of entertainment. This is still the case today. Billy Elliot has been a film (2002) by Lee Hall, a musical (Billy Elliott: The Musical by Lee Hall and Elton John (2005)) and a novelisation by Melvin Burgess (2001). Like the cinema, fiction series such as the Reader’s Library were designed for a new mass public, using the technology of mass production to service ‘a real modern demand’. The Reader’s Library Film Edition has been instituted to meet a real modern demand. Interest in a film is by no means exhausted merely by seeing it. The two arts, or forms of expression, the picture and the written word in book form, react one on the other. Imagination, stimulated by the film, is yet not satisfied until its story is wholly

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absorbed. In a word, the film-goer wishes also to read the book of the film, and the reader to see the picture. To meet this undeniable call for literature associated with the film, it would not be enough to produce books of inferior quality. The Publishers’ aim, therefore, has been to present them in clear type, on excellent paper, and with beautiful and durable bindings. Publication will coincide with the appearance of each new and important film. Nothing of the kind has ever before been possible, even in the days when book production has been the least expensive. To render it possible now it will be necessary that each volume should have a sale of hundreds of thousands of copies, and that many volumes of the series should in due course find their way into nearly every home, however humble, in the British Empire. The publishers have the utmost confidence that this end will be achieved, for during the four years that these books have been on the market forty million copies have been sold in Great Britain. (Guy Thorne, Butterfly on a Wheel, inside cover) The reading public grew as cinema grew, ever eager not only for information about the latest stars but also for stories that echoed, or fed, the world of movies. A new public, a cinema-going public, wants to read nothing but novels, and only those which are ‘hot huddles of sensation’. The huddle that is hottest and most sensational, providing that such qualities are effective but decently draped, will be this or that Book of the Month or ‘recommendation’; and this mass public without traditions of book-buying or book-owning will at once swarm into the libraries in search of it.11 The popularity of the western novel (for instance) grew alongside westerns at the cinema and the television series that followed in the 1960s and diminished with the diminishment of the popularity of the genre on the wide screen and on the small screen as the century progressed. Between 1919 and 1939 reading became a popular and regular form of mass leisure entertainment to be enjoyed at home, at work or on the ‘prom’. The number of books published between 1914 and 1939 almost doubled from nearly 9,000 titles to 14,000 titles and sales climbed from 7.2 million in 1928 to 26.8 million by 1939. In 1911 public libraries


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owned just over 54 million books, by 1939 that figure was over 247 million. By the 1930s, newspapers were the most important single literary medium in Britain with over two-thirds of the population reading a daily paper and three-quarters reading a Sunday paper; sales went steadily up from a readership of around 4.5 million to approximately 10.5 million. Popular papers like the Daily Express grew to 2.5 million readers per day and Sundays like the News of the World reached nearly 4 million people. By 1947 well over 29 million people read a Sunday paper with the News of the World reaching a staggering 8 million readers by the mid-1950s. Such huge circulation figures made Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook significant public figures as well as rich ones, but it also made them cagey and competitive, instantly wanting to know ‘the way the public thinks’. Tom Clarke records of Northcliffe how one night at dinner, he asked if any of us had read If Winter Comes and added, ‘I cannot understand why people are reading it. It sends me to sleep. I am bored to death with the silly creature with the bicycle.’ ‘Why do you read it then, Chief?’ I asked. ‘Because,’ he replied, ‘it is important for me to know why 500,000 people have bought or read that book. My business is to know what the public wants to read.’12 Yet belief that you could judge the public’s mind (especially women’s minds – and modern women at that) by reading a best-selling novel led almost always and inevitably to a dismissal of such readers (and their class) as illiterates (and moral derelicts). The Bookseller pompously intoned in 1919, Surely the kind of people who are content to accept ‘the pictures’ as a substitute for books are so unsophisticated, and the sort of novels they would otherwise read are of such a quality, that there is nothing at all to worry about.13 And even T. Fisher Unwin, who was sympathetic to the cinemainfluenced reader, believed that a large reading public would be of a ‘lower grade’. It was not too long before popular reading was seen as not only debased but immoral and corrupting. The Daily News (13 Dec. 22) noted of Edith Thompson14 at her trial that,

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Here was Mrs Thompson, child . . . of a favoured age; one of those well-fed, well-dressed young women that the suburbs have produced in the last twenty years; educated up to a point; given an opportunity to realise what a wonder she is . . . by being allowed to hold a responsible post in commerce, and being paid a salary for it that would have made her grandmother swoon. She was now at the stage when she developed an imagination. Then, when what she needed was God and William Shakespeare, she was given cheap sweets and Gloria de Vere. The Thompson case is a symbol of what happens to a State which attains to a certain degree of material prosperity, but lacks a general passion for art and religion.15 Modern woman was illiterate and immoral because of her ability to read (the wrong novels!) rather than despite it. Literacy was not a matter of technical ability but one of moral choice beyond the reach of statistics. When everybody could and did read then all that was left to researchers was a certain conservative ethics of reading which sociological investigations confirmed rather than dismissed. The advent of television and more particularly the appearance of commercial television signalled to those of the ‘establishment’ that illiteracy was now the norm. When commercial television began in 1955, Norman Collins, then Deputy Chairman of Associated Television, complained, that the overwhelming mass of viewers’ letters which Associated Television received were illiterate. ‘They are ungrammatical and execrably written,’ he said. ‘And what is more distressing, they evidence an attitude of mind that I do not think can be regarded as very admirable.’ All the writers wanted, he said, were pictures of film stars, television stars, or reasons why there were not more jazz programmes, or why there could not be more programmes of a musical kind. ‘I hold teachers very largely responsible if that is the attitude of people in their teens and early twenties,’ he said. ‘If we provided simply that it would be deplorable.’16 The appearance of television, nevertheless, meant a new source of reading matter for a new public – a source only strengthened with the revival of cinema during the 1980s and 1990s.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

There was a yet more radical effect on newspapers, however, in that what had been presumed to be their raison d’être was undermined: the twenty-four-hour cycle of a newspaper tended to lose its point as a news medium, in face of the recurring instalments of news on television. Broadsheet newspapers could try to adjust to the situation by supplying detailed background to news headlines, perhaps seasoned by an investigative twist. For the popular press, the problem might have seemed to be more intractable. The Daily Mirror and Daily Sketch began by pretending that television did not exist, despite the evidence that it was a major component in their readers’ lives. An innovation of the Sun, as transformed under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership for 1969, was to assume that it was a mistake to treat television as a rival medium: on the contrary, television, or especially its more down-home productions, would be treated in great depth. Crises in the plots of soap-operas, but also the actors’ true-life romances and tribulations, were to be voraciously analysed, with characters and thespians, fact and fiction, becoming sumptuously confused. This betokened what was to become a favourite strategy in the face of the new medium, and one by no means restricted to the popular press: displaced as the primary emissary of news, newspapers would increasingly focus on providing entertainment, with fiction enjoying a doughty reputation as liable to be more entertaining than fact.17 The advent of television (and more especially commercial television) divided literary opinion right from the start. The year of 1951 started out well: a study in The Bookseller reported that TV had no effect on the amount of books sold. Despite this confidence, the question came under discussion again during a March lunch of the National Book League. Mr Cecil Madden of the BBC TV service related that, in his job, he had been told to entertain children, not to educate them. Mr W. W. Robson of Oxford said that passivity in children would result from such TV watching. However, Ms C. A. Lejeun, a film and TV critic, disagreed and said that no effect on the book trade would be seen. Later in that year, the PEB Broadsheet reported that by May of 1951, there were 869,200 TV licences, and that since 1948, there had been only a 6% rise in spending on books, but a 45% rise in spending on magazines – a form of communication with a shorter attention span similar to that for TV.18

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Such fears reflected earlier concern over popular fiction and its debilitating effects, especially upon young women. Dr Bernard Holland, the well known specialist, interviewed by the Daily Express gives it as his opinion that one reason of the increasing popularity of novels is to be found in the fact that people are too lazy to study serious literature. Owing perhaps to this cause, many novelists seem to write down to the level of their audience, and if by doing so gain in sales they certainly lose in the faculty of doing really good work. Women, according to Dr Holland, are most inclined to reading second class novels; some indeed, read romances because they like to imagine what they themselves would do if they were the heroines.19 In 1953 there was even a Simplified Spelling Bill introduced to Parliament by MP Mont Follick, and in the same year the Archbishop of Canterbury remarked that the use of television for educational purposes was ‘nothing less than a perfect disaster’.20 Yet it soon became clear that television posed less of a threat than an opportunity despite the fact that reading habits may have been lessened amongst poorer and less well educated people (the very people Dr Holland accused of lowering the standard of fiction). By 1952, however, the book industry either stopped deluding itself or TV became so popular that it could not help but notice. A BBC inquiry into the income and educational levels of 3,137 ‘TV families’ found that seven viewers out of ten had obtained no full-time education, 30 per cent had ended their education at the ages of 16–19, and 67 per cent had finished school at 14 or 15. Furthermore, a family of a lower income was more likely to get a TV than a family of a higher income, who would rely upon books. In the survey, 42 per cent of viewers said that their reading time had diminished with the purchase of their TV set, and people also cut back on radio and cinema time if they had TVs.21 Despite some decline, therefore, publishers soon realised the power of television promotion. During 1956, ITV ran a programme called The Living Page, sponsored by four publishers, who joined together as Television Books Ltd to promote their titles. Books were also regular features of television factual programming and, of course, fiction could be dramatised for television audiences. The downturn of reading reported by libraries in 1954 because of television was already reversed by 1957.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

In 1995 alone, television directly accounted for the sale of 177,000 copies of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Libraries in London report that watching television has no adverse effects on reading habits. In fact, since television debuted at the end of 1956, Carlisle Library has had adult lending library records including 2,642 titles lent on one day and 34,749 titles lent in one month. They claim that, ‘the good feature programs of television undoubtedly stimulate interest, and an eager desire for books of a more purposive kind covering a wider range and scope has been noticed.’22 During 1961 the debate flared again when portable transistor radios became available. Current controversy on the social effects of television are very reminiscent of public debate in the 1920s on the consequences of radio in the home. . . . Broadcasting, it was then said, would not only keep people away from the concert halls; it would stop them from reading books. But in fact the sale of books increased and more than one local librarian referred to wireless communication as a new ally . . . creating and deepening the interest of the public in higher forms of literature.23 By the 1960s television was a complementary medium, not a rival, and a shop window which bore the message ‘Buy a book, help STAMP out TV’ appeared positively antediluvian.24 The success of television and the crossover from television series to paperback book could also aid publishers in their search for things which could not appear on the ‘box’. This could be used to boost titles associated with a television series where a book series could act as a continuation of the programmes. During the successful television series hosted by Alfred Hitchcock during 1957, a book series was published by Pan called ‘Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV’, a rather cheeky (and successful) attempt to cash in on the success of the programme and yet suggest thrills not permissible on television.

The Library System Another important guide to literacy and reading habits has been the growth of lending libraries and their central importance to communal life throughout the twentieth century. Circulating libraries have, of

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course, existed since the nineteenth century, but these had been mostly commercial enterprises. The most significant of these was Mudie’s. Serialisation by no means threatened the three-decker in which the majority of lesser novelists continued to appear. The Publishers’ Circular listed six times as many in 1887 (184) as in 1837 (31). A prime factor in its survival, and increased prosperity, in the midcentury period was the dramatic growth in the circulating library business. In the 1840s and 50s Mudie’s library in particular expanded to control a major section of the metropolitan market and a sizeable portion of that in the country and overseas. At his zenith, in the 1860s, he earned up to £40,000 a year in subscriptions. . . . Mudie’s triumph was the outcome not of cautious whittling down of costs but of slashing them dramatically, so short circuiting the gap that existed between high book prices and low income. . . . One reason that fiction tends to gravitate towards the cheapest form of publishing is that in most cases it is read once only, and then quickly. In America this economic logic led to books of incredible cheapness, designed to be thrown away after use. In Britain it was not the book which was cheapened but the reading of it.25 Mudie’s not only lent out books, it also, by its methods of business, determined the shape of fiction – its packaging as fiction and therefore ultimately its content and style. Other commercial circulating libraries continued long into the twentieth century, Boots and Harrods both lending books on subscription. Smaller enterprises, such as local newsagents and tobacconists, lent out mainly paperbacks to local working-class or lower middle-class readers, as a lucrative sideline and communal service, almost to the end of the century. Whilst most had vanished by the 1980s, at least one London suburban newsagent in Highams Park continued lending books into 1984. Such paperbacks were usually romances from Mills and Boon and were lent to an exclusively older female readership. Nevertheless, Harrods also did a good trade in romance, delivered to your door rather than collected from a corner-shop counter. The days of the commercial circulating library were, however, numbered. Harrods closed its facilities quite late in the century, during 1989, Boots earlier in 1961, whilst Day’s Circulating Library which had opened in 1776, closed in 1957. It was Britain’s oldest circulating library. By the 1990s, such libraries had vanished to be replaced by their modern equivalent – video-hire stores, themselves now redundant.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Whilst companies such as Boots concentrated on their pharmaceutical and cosmetic departments and closed their lending facilities, things went somewhat differently for W. H. Smith and Son. The House of W. H. Smith began life as a ‘newsagent’, located at 4 Grosvenor Street around the year 1792. It was there that Henry Walton Smith and his wife Anna brought up their two sons, Henry Edward and William Henry. With the death of their father but under the eye of their astute mother, the two brothers opened a reading room at 192 Strand, concentrating their business upon the fast delivery of newspapers and the production of stationery. By beating competition from the mail coaches, Smith’s red-painted carts and coaches took up-to-date news across country in record time. In 1846, a second William was born and W. H. Smith and Son was created, specialising in the use of mail express trains to deliver the news, whilst also creating railway station bookstalls (Euston being the first). Although the bookstalls sold current popular fiction, the elder W. H. Smith always considered that side of the business as ‘rubbish’ and it was not until his death that bookselling was considered a respectable part of the family firm. It was then that the lending library was begun. The creation of the lending library gave fresh emphasis to the need for more novels in a popular form, and the Firm bought up the copyright of Charles Lever’s books and issued them in the yellow covers which were to become so famous. . . . [s]oon the ‘yellow-backs’ had arrived. (Anon., The Story of W. H. Smith and Son, p. 71) The company, however, withdrew from book publishing (mainly because of costs) and concentrated instead on lending, distribution and stationery. By 1906 W. H. Smith had withdrawn many of its bookstalls and replaced them with town shops packed with the fiction that Smith Senior had so disliked. The Book Department (begun 1849) had by 1952 risen from fifty staff to over six hundred, dealing in not only books but also magazines and overseas accounts. Meanwhile, the library prospered. Everything about the Library [was] planned on a very grand scale. . . . Nearly four hundred of the Firm’s shops and bookstalls [were] library branches, and there [were] many customers who receive[d] their library books direct, either by post or – in London – by van. (Ibid., p. 72)

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All this had considerable consequences for publishers. For a new novel by a popular author there [was] naturally a tremendous demand, and the Library [had] to order in thousands if there [were] to be enough at the branches on the day of publication. But even then the order may have [had] to be increased to meet further demands. Sometimes a very large order [was] placed for a book by a comparatively unknown author because it [was] believed to be outstanding. (Ibid., p. 74) By the early 1950s, W. H. Smith employed over 17,000 staff in numerous bookshops, bookstalls, warehouses and distribution centres. At the end of the twentieth century the library had finally been closed (in 1961) and the company had lost its family connections after a takeover, yet it still remains as it had begun, a stationers and newsagent specialising in a broad range of new and classic fiction (and in some places taking the place of the local post office). Commercial libraries were augmented by those created by philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. Born poor in 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland, he emigrated to the United States and having made a vast fortune gave much of it back, as was the fashion of the day, in grants for libraries, museums and art galleries. Carnegie’s sense of social justice, though hardly present in his business dealings, returned in the endowment of public libraries that bear his name. In 1919 there were 3,000 Carnegie libraries in the world at an estimated foundation cost of $60 million. Such largesse was not without its critics. The eccentric MP Sir Frederick Banbury commented in the same year, ‘I do not believe that public libraries have done any good because the books read . . . are chiefly sensational works.’ He had never been to a public library. The examples of self-improvement and morality were central to this democratising creed and the public library system funded by local government long continued this zealous path. When in the 1930s the vast industrial ‘garden’ estate of Becontree Heath in Essex had reached completion, with the workers housed in the newest cottage-style homes with modern facilities and small garden plots, it was a municipal library rather than a church that finished the work and gave the community focus. Throughout the early part of the century the local public library system grew. At the end of the twentieth century, councils such as Redbridge, maintaining a large area of the eastern suburbs of London, could boast neither a communal museum (until 2000) nor an art gallery but could take pride in exceptional library facilities.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Libraries still remain a focus for much communal activity and users of libraries are more socially mixed than those who buy books regularly. In October 1999, the National Library Trust reported that 22 per cent of library users are professional or managerial (classes A and B); 28 per cent are white-collar men (class C); 24 per cent are skilled manual workers (classes D and E). A visit to any local library during the working hours of the working week will certainly offer evidence of high use by the retired, housewives, and schoolchildren.26 Nowadays, libraries are more than just book lenders. The Public Lending Right has also tracked library use since 1982 and in October 1999 it reported that between 1988–9 and 1997–8 percentages of adult fiction books loaned out had fallen from 53.9 per cent to 52 per cent, light romance was down from 14.1 per cent to 10.6 per cent, humorous fiction from 7 per cent to only 2 per cent and short stories to a negligible 0.2 per cent. War fiction also declined from 1.8 per cent to 1.3 per cent. Such a decline becomes more significant when ‘best-selling’ loans are considered (a bestseller being considered a book loaned out throughout the system over one million times). Hence, for instance, in 1990–1, 64.29 per cent of bestsellers consisted of adult fiction, but this steadily declined over the last years of the century to only 43.75 per cent. In contrast children’s fiction has soared from a mere 28 per cent of bestseller loans to 50 per cent of all such borrowings.27 Such changes and especially the diminution of book borrowing reflect the place and significance of the library in the community. Since the 1980s libraries have actively sought to diversify their provision by putting records, videos, CDs, DVDs, and audio-tapes on their shelves as well as providing ‘information’ centres and computer facilities. Marked amongst such changes is the extraordinary increase in audio ‘talking books’, and in areas with a multi-ethnic component, shelves given over to books in Urdu, Gudjerati, and Hindi. Technical innovation has simply followed market trends, where in the ten-year period 1989–99 the market for videos, CDs and tapes had increased by 60 per cent. It remains a curious fact, however, that the ‘decline’ in adult bestseller borrowing cannot be totally explained by library organisation changes or market-led decisions. Such a decline was also recorded between 1915 and 1949. Such changes remain unclear and are likely to have social rather than commercial origins. Bare statistics are long and dull without any sense of why actual people want to go to a library and borrow a book. Although unlikely to yield very scientific results it was nevertheless this question that was in

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the mind of Mass Observation’s determined researchers when they took up the challenge to interview members of the library-using public in 1947. This is how they went about their work. To find out more about how people select books five men and five women, selected at random, were followed and closely observed from the time they entered the lending library to the time they left. The fiction shelves at the Metrop library [sic] extend all round the walls, and the non-fiction books are in the middle. Next to the sociology shelf and opposite some fiction shelves, are a few shelves where the fiction that has just been brought back is placed temporarily by the librarians before it is put back in its proper place on the fiction shelves. It is customary for many people to crowd round this shelf, since the books that have been just taken out may be supposed to be the most popular. Five of the people followed (4 men and 1 woman) went straight to this shelf on coming into the library. A further three people (2 men, 1 woman) looked first at the books on the librarian’s counter which had just been brought back. Thus eight out of the ten went for ‘popular’ books first.28 A random questioning of borrowers as to their habits brought mixed answers. On being asked ‘Why did [readers] choose that book?’ researchers were told, ‘Well, I’ve read John Buchan’s books before. That’s the reason.’ (Man 30) ‘I’m getting on in age. I want light reading. You understand that, don’t you? I don’t want to study anything at my time of life. Perhaps I come here two or three times a week. I’m a great reader.’ (Man 65) ‘I used to like Ethel M. Dell . . . but they don’t seem to have any of those now. You just have to [take a] chance. . . . I look, and I think if they are promising.’ (Woman 50) ‘Well, I took it because it’s a thriller. That’s the reason. I like thrillers, you see. I always read thrillers.’ (Man 16) ‘Well, because I do like Ernest Raymond’s books and I read all of them as far as I can.’29 And on a further question about how books were selected, readers told their interviewers,


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

‘Sometimes by the author and sometimes I have to look inside to see if there’s anything worthwhile to pick on you know.’ (Man 70) ‘Well, I’ve just got a list of authors that I’m keen on and I just go round the different authors and see if I can find one of those.’ (Woman 30) ‘Well, I generally go for mystery books, and I look for them especially.’ (Man 45) ‘Well, it’s a job to say. I tell you the type of books I like to get hold of – similar to Jules Verne, like that. And air stories.’ (Man 25) ‘I like – what shall I say? A good, clean, decent novel, that’s got some sense in it. I like something that’s really worthwhile.’ (Woman 45)30 Researchers then secretly followed borrowers to document their movements. One woman’s movements were recorded in such detail that they suggest counter-surveillance, rather than mere people-watching. (Interestingly, this account does bring out the tactile quality of book selection.) Saturday, January 10th 2.40 enters library bringing back two books. Walks past sociology shelf, gazing up at the ceiling, and on to a ‘just-in’ fiction shelf. Crowds round this with other people bending forward to see. Takes out a book and keeps it without opening it. Coughs. Stoops down and touches shelf. Takes down book called Michael, opens it and looks at it 2 seconds and keeps. Then she opens the first one she took down and looks at it and shuts it almost immediately. Then she bends again towards the shelf looking at the titles short-sightedly. She opens the first book she took out again and looks at it for 10 seconds. Then she puts it back on the shelf. Touches the backs of the books looking at them. Takes down another book, Without Motive, by Winston Graham, and looks at this for 6 seconds and puts it back. Then she moves over to the fiction shelves (authors beginning with G) opposite, moves along to authors F, shuffling her feet, looking at these shelves. Then she opens the book she has already taken again and looks at it 6 seconds, and shuts it and looks back at shelf. She goes over to the other side of the library where the authors beginning with W are. Blows her nose. Looks at the top shelf with her mouth hanging open. Takes down a book and looks at the middle of it, then at the page where the library’s stamp is, then at the back,

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and puts it back on the shelf after 11 seconds. She fingers the backs of the books and bends forward to read the titles better. She has settled opposite Hugh Walpole’s books. She takes down The Park Forest, looks and puts it back at once. Then she takes down The Silver Thorn by the same author, and looks at the end of it for 7 seconds. Puts it back on an empty shelf at the bottom. She takes down the next Walpole to this and looks at it 8 seconds and slams it back on the shelf. She has been working along the Walpoles from left to right one after the other, and goes on doing this, taking the next books out and looking at them respectively 7 seconds, 2 seconds, 24 seconds ( John Cornelius), and 34 seconds. Observer notices that in nearly every case she looks mostly at the end of the book, especially the last page. Then she takes down another book (still Walpole), looks at the end and then at the middle, in all 14 seconds, and keeps this. She takes out the last Walpole on the shelf and looks at this for 11 seconds and puts it back again. At 2.53 she goes out with the two books (both fiction) that she has chosen, having spent 13 minutes in the library.31 Light fiction proved more popular amongst such library users than serious works and both proved more popular than the ‘classics’. One male borrower looked for ‘snappy . . . quick reading’ whilst another read Nicholas Blake because it did not require ‘a lot of concentration’.32 Comparing public libraries with the commercial libraries brought the following conclusion. Public libraries have a rather more serious-minded clientele than the 2d. libraries. Asked how the war had affected people’s taste in reading some librarians at 2d. libraries said: ‘I still notice that they are reading light stuff mostly, although there are some people that want something with a little more in it. It seems to me that the average person wants something to distract.’ ‘Fiction. Blood and murder, love and blood, all of them just the same.’ ‘Reading is lighter. More interesting, sophisticated novels. Nothing heavy or dull. And no political books are ever wanted. I think they get too much of that in the newspapers.’ ‘Well, it’s just ordinary like – romance and mystery.’33 The male interviewee concluded mournfully that whilst men wanted something ‘blood and thunderish’, women only borrowed ‘a lot of slop’.34


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The British public library system, maintained on the rates (now council tax) and providing a service to the local ratepayers, has remained a bulwark of local life since its inception. Expanding in its provision, the service has lost much of its old moral guardianship, something it maintained into the 1970s. The debate over the function of library provision (‘socially useful reading’ or ‘everything that the public requested’ as one librarian put it in 1952) has been part of an evolution in the library service with its willingness to integrate literature and the printed word into a wider, media-based provision. No longer the guardians of local morality (as to which books could be borrowed by whom), the local librarian is not a mere purveyor of cheap (fictional) entertainment and despite archaic fears that literature on demand meant cheap novelettes and pornography (a worry in 1951–2 from a correspondent from Harrods to the Bookseller), libraries remain centres of excellence in most British communities. If it is true that the phenomenal building rate of new libraries during 1946 to 1951 has not been topped, closures have been relatively carefully guarded against despite bad times in the 1970s. The financial difficulties which led many councils in 1999 to consider shutting some local branches brought vigorous denunciation from local pressure groups, the Evening Standard (in London) and the Secretary of State. The ministerial verdict on 54 ‘good’ authorities, 85 ‘satisfactory’ authorities and 10 ‘poor’ authorities (in that year) was that closures were not to be tolerated. Libraries were still central to the cultural (and social) wellbeing of a community. In the words of the Secretary of State, Chris Smith, local ‘libraries [were] street corner universities’.35

Librarians, Sales, and the Female Reader By the end of the twentieth century the changing needs of library borrowers had begun to cause anxiety amongst librarians eager to understand the new circumstances within which they were required to provide their service. The model soon adopted for their investigations was none other than the same model for book purchase – the book borrower was now to be treated as a customer. Such market-led considerations provided a close analogy between borrowers and purchasers and from it emerged the first real evidence for the ‘identity’ of book purchasers. Dividing their customers between heavy, medium, and light borrowers, librarians found that heavy borrowers were also multiple purchasers and, as obvious as it may seem, light borrowers rarely bought books.

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Heavy borrowers kept abreast of new authors and titles, seeking out reviews and searching shelves, whilst others did so in diminishing degrees. Two-thirds or more of heavy borrowers found their love of reading in childhood and encouraged their own children to read, whilst only one-third of light borrowers did the same. Equally, heavy bor-rowers enjoyed reading whenever possible, at meals, in bed, relaxing in the evening. Light borrowers read much less, preferring television or newspapers. Yet there were subtle similarities. Heavy borrowers tended to read Conservative newspapers: Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph or Express; little different from light readers, whose tastes ran exclusively to the more popular tabloids. A high proportion listened to BBC Radio 2 but this, as in other things, tended to reflect age rather than any sense of intellectual division – readers tending to be slightly older, conservative in taste in both books and music. In social habits and attitudes (going to the pub, cinema and for a meal), heavy borrowers differed little from light borrowers. If a third of heavy borrowers bought hardbacks, so did light borrowers; if half bought paperbacks, so did light borrowers with little to differentiate them except in the amounts of books bought or borrowed. Book buying, even for heavy borrowers, was a luxury, an indulgence and not a necessity whilst book borrowing remained a needed routine. Heavy borrowers were also people who were likely to ‘taste’ a new author by borrowing the work from a friend or library before going to the bookshop. They were also people whose natural conservatism meant they retained a loyalty to certain favourite names and expected to find these in the library in preference to a bookshop, for most saw no point in purchasing what could be borrowed. And this routine was nothing less than female with almost three-quarters of all fiction borrowed or bought by women, a mirror image of the purchase of nonfiction by men. Thus avid book purchasers and borrowers were the same in 1999 as in 1900, mostly women, with traditional tastes and habits, reading in private for leisure and relaxation vast quantities of fiction: crime thrillers and detective novels, romances, family sagas; younger women enjoying fantasy and horror too. There is, in short, a remarkable consistency between women’s reading now and in 1900, genres mutating (rather than absolutely changing) to suit new tastes and situations. Women readers are vital to the book trade. During 1994, publishers spent £100,000 advertising John le Carré’s Night Manager in order to attract a female readership. Adverts were placed in shopping centres and on radio. Jilly Cooper’s The Man who Made Husbands Jealous was advertised on television and in Cosmopolitan, the Sunday Express and the Mail on Sunday and there is much made of ‘chick lit’ on the London Underground.


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It is instructive, in terms of gender preference, to consider the changes in the reading habits of children as they grew into their teenage years. Here clear genre preferences tended to emerge as children grew up. For instance, three-quarters of all boys and girls aged between four and seven enjoyed ‘adventure’ books but by the age of eleven to sixteen, four-fifths of boys and only two-fifths of girls still did. Books about sport represented an even greater shift with just under half of all four- to seven-year-old boys enjoying such books compared with under twofifths for girls of the same age. By teenage years the number of boys reading about sport stayed consistent but girls had almost ceased to be interested. Interest in ‘romance’ is obviously low in young children but by eleven to sixteen girls were reading four times as much romance as boys and over twice as many ‘diary’-style books. The enjoyment of horror books remained evenly split but boys overwhelmingly preferred ‘fantasy’ adventure and hobby books. Thus, by sixteen, children had formed their adult reading habits, divided almost too neatly on gender lines. The predominance of women readers (and their concomitant demands on theme and character) meant that by the 1980s, although women represented only about a third of best-selling authors (in any year) and despite the dearth of female critics, more and more books used a female as a central character. Being women-led, by the late twentieth century the book market (in fiction) had no choice but to cater for such readers’ needs. Oprah Winfrey in the United States could promote a book on her shows (almost exclusively watched by women) and guarantee sales of over a million copies. Such power meant that by the mid1990s, seven out of ten books on the bestseller lists had female lead characters, of whom Clarice Starling (from Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series) became the most famous. Other works with female main characters included Joanna Trollope’s The Choir (1992); Maeve Binchy’s The Glass Lake (1995); Nicholas Evans’s The Horse Whisperer (1996); Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World (1996); Wilbur Smith’s The Seventh Scroll (1996); Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1996); and Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County (1993).* As almost threequarters of all publishing staff were women, and by the late twentieth century many had commanding jobs, the symbiosis of market demand, publisher response and author commissions put female sensibility at the centre of fictional narrative. To sell to women was commercial common sense. With the appearance in 1997 of the sassy and sexy ‘neurotic * Paperback release dates.

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modern career woman’ novel, epitomised by Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, the market became saturated with Bridget Jones clone novels promoted to exhaustion in supermarket displays, on the shelves of W. H. Smith and in the windows of major book-selling chains. Of note in this regard was the appearance at the end of the century of a number of women writers whose contemporary themed novels commanded big advances for their authors. Such was the case with Amy Jenkins, Jenny Colgan, Freya North, Louise Bagshaw, Claire Calman, Lauren McCrussan and Tiffanie Darke. Helen Fielding’s comic character seemed to sum up the dilemma of the successful woman of the late twentieth century, a woman who had gained everything her grandmothers had fought for, a hundred years before, and yet who was left with little of value. A member of the ‘chattering classes’, Bridget Jones is an overweight and on-the-shelf, female, thirty-something, part-time feminist living in London with a group of equally unfocused friends drifting into middle age. Bridget’s mother, living the feminist ideal life, is nothing less than a perpetual embarrassment, as Bridget, obsessed with self-help books such as John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1993), tries to make sense of her boyfriend problems. The book sums up a lost ‘post’-feminist generation of women, avid readers of both self-help manuals and neurotic comedy novels that satirise them. All in all, ‘this confusion, [she guesses], is the price . . . for becoming a modern woman’ (p. 19). Yet, above all, the book is a novel of modern middle-class manners and mores summed up in lists of dinner-party food. An unbelievable amount of food and wine was consumed since the generous girls, as well as bringing a bottle of wine each, had all brought a little extra something from M & S.* Therefore, in addition to the three-course meal and two bottles of wine (1 fizzy, 1 white) I had already bought from M & S (I mean prepared by entire day’s slaving over hot stove) we had: 1 tub hummus & pkt mini-pittas. 12 smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheels. 12 mini-pizzas. 1 raspberry pavlova. 1 tiramisu (party size). 2 Swiss Mountain Bars. (p. 125) * Marks & Spencer Stores.


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And it is a life summed up in diaries obsessed with detailing the results of over-consumption: Saturday 13 May 9st 1lb 8oz, cigarettes 7, calories 1145, Instants 5 (won £2 therefore total Instants expenditure only £3, v.g.), Lottery proper £2, number of correct numbers 1 (better). How come have put on only 8oz after last night’s over-consumption orgy? (p. 124) With its knowing self-awareness, Bridget Jones’s Diary was, nevertheless, finally (if ironically) set within the boundaries of an earlier conservative fiction in which it saw itself reflected. Jane Austen was born again in post-modern homage – Bridget Jones has a boyfriend called Mark Darcy and the BBC shows Pride and Prejudice (it was actually shown in 1999). 8:55 a.m. Just nipped out for fags prior to getting changed for BBC Pride and Prejudice. . . . I would hate to see Darcy and Elizabeth in bed, smoking a cigarette afterwards. That would be unnatural and wrong and I would quickly lose interest. . . . Darcy and Elizabeth. They are my chosen representatives in the field of shagging, or, rather, courtship. (pp. 246–7) Unsurprisingly, Candace Bushnell’s 4 Blondes (2001) was puffed by the Sunday Telegraph as ‘Jane Austen with a martini’ (cover blurb). Nowhere is this conservatism and traditionalism better exemplified than in the work of ‘Miss Read’ (Dora Saint). Her fictional village of Thrush Green provided a nostalgic setting for her elderly spinsters and clerics, and remained a place where ‘chaps’ could enjoy a ‘reviving cup of tea’ and older ladies could look forward to ‘jollifications’ or return library books to their friends, whilst neighbours drank ‘mugs of hot milk and [ate] digestive biscuits’ while ‘counting stitches [on their] knitting needle’ (Celebrations at Thrush Green, 1992, ch. 1). Such language enhanced rather than prohibited the popularity of Miss Read’s books and she remained in the top fifty authors throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century. If writing for women might reflect the ‘truth’ of the heart, men’s fiction reflected, in contrast, the truth of technology, with writers such

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as Jack Higgins, Peter Benchley, Arthur Hailey, John Grisham and James Clavell researching details of the more abstruse realms of World War Two sabotage, deep sea exploration, the car industry, legal labyrinths or oriental history. Overwhelmingly the information is detailed and technological in order to offer depth and realism to thriller plotlines. Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October (1984) acknowledges naval experts and a Lieutenant-Commander of the US Navy in its credits and was originally published by the Naval Institute Press. Praised for its ‘flawless authenticity’ (Wall Street Journal ) it combines a tense thrillerstyle with intriguing technical detail. Ryan lifted a pointer. ‘In addition to being considerably larger than our own Ohio-class Trident submarines, Red October has a number of technical differences. She carries twenty-six missiles instead of our twenty-four. The earlier Typhoon-class vessels, from which she was developed, only have twenty. October carried the new SS-N-20 sealaunched ballistic missile, the Seahawk. It’s a solid-fuel missile with a range of about six thousand nautical miles, and it carries eight multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, MIRVs, each with an estimated yield of five hundred kilotons. It’s the same RV carried by their SS-18s, but there are less of them per launcher.’ (Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October, p. 109)

Publishers Building on an established market By the middle of the nineteenth century publishing had become a modern, capital-intense business, the old connection between printing and publishing having been severed in most companies. The industry was set to take on those modern characteristics that were to last into the late twentieth century. The British book trade in the nineteenth century was a modern industry in every way. It took advantage of mechanised systems of production, developed highly efficient distribution arrangements based on the most up-to-date means of transport, and evolved a division of labour both between and within its various branches. Many firms were still family businesses, but they were large and wellorganised, and many of their owners were employers of labour on a substantial scale. Millions of pounds of capital investment poured into the trade, much of it generated directly from profit. It was inevitable that attitudes within the industry also underwent a pro-


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found change. The parochialism of the battle for literary property and the restrictive practices of the congers and the trade sales vanished into history; the trade was in the marketplace, and the first consideration was economic success in the face of competition.36 With the appearance of the Net Book Agreement in 1900, the book industry would become both a stable and a conservative force for the best part of a century, indeed. The British book trade is kept in line by the Publishers’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Booksellers’ Association, all set up together with the Net Book Agreement in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, after a long period of damaging, Hobbesian war of all against all. On one level the professional institutions have served to maintain a gentlemanly code. On another they serve as dams against a recurrence of potentially suicidal individualism. The British trade has thus founded itself on discipline, self-control and protectionism – sometimes with a fierceness reminiscent of the Catholic Church in its most militant phase.37 At least until the early 1970s this ‘created stability, prosperity, order and professional dignity’, continuity being provided by the consistency of a mainly rising market, which despite occasional depressions, reached a high in the 1960s, with a strong conservative readership base served by both local booksellers and retail chains like W. H. Smith or commercial and borough libraries across the country.38 Firms such as Macmillan (founded 1843), John Cassell (1846) or Routledge (1836) continued to prosper and develop whilst newer names such as Gollancz (founded 1931), Jonathan Cape (founded 1921) or Penguin (founded 1935) catered for a growing and profitable mass market. The paperback revolution greatly increased sales of all types of book but especially fiction. The phenomenal rise of fiction, and especially fiction aimed at a mass market, was already noticeable at the beginning of the twentieth century. Publishers could not fail to notice this new ‘taste’ for ‘stories’ read for pleasure and diversion even if the trade was alarmed by the trend. By 1910, fiction advertisement largely surpassed the advertisements for new editions of classics . . . which had diminished greatly. The advertisements of the 1890 editions were dominated by . . . Victorian

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classics or other older work. The increase in the popularity of the sixpenny novels and other cheap editions . . . marked the gradual heightening of the popularity of fiction, particularly current fiction.39 Notwithstanding the fears of critics and correspondents, publishers soon realised the need for a strong backlist and cheap-edition libraries of old titles. By 1913 the Bookseller was overwhelmingly full of adverts for re-issued fiction in cheap editions. Such editions were offered as ‘libraries’ (a working-class substitute for the private gentleman’s collection) in seven-penny, sixpenny, threp’ny or slightly grander one shilling versions. Such editions would keep older writers’ work alive and throughout the early century, as backlists were enlarged, there remained an emphasis on reprinting nineteenth-century classics like Austen, Dickens and Kipling in cheaply issued books. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work always sold well throughout the twentieth century in cheap reprints or cheaper editions. In 1911 new three-penny and sixpenny versions of his ‘Round the Fire Stories’ were available, and as late as 1953, Christina Foyle would comment on the continuing popularity of his work.40 Publishers would also experiment with cheaper ‘quality’ bindings, ever aware of the possibilities of capturing a market segment not yet catered for; so, for instance, Herbert Jenkins experimented with a half-crown novel in 1920 as did Victor Gollancz in the 1930s. Uniform cheap editions were not new to publishing (George Routledge had a ‘Railway Library’, 1848–98) but they quickly became a staple of the industry, making it possible to ‘reinvent’ old titles for new purposes. John Long published a ‘Shilling Series’, Cassell produced a ‘Sixpenny Novel Series’ and a ‘Shilling Series’, Macmillan had a ‘Colonial Library of Copyright Books’, Chapman and Hall a ‘Two Shilling Net Novel Series’, Everett and Co. had a ‘seven-penny series of Copyright Fiction’ and Hutchinson a ‘seven-penny library’; but such series did not always succeed: both Nelson’s ‘seven-penny series’ and ‘The Readers Library’ failed. Although the possibility of uniform publishing did not become clear until the advent of Penguin, it was nevertheless the case that very long print runs of out-of-copyright material could produce vast profits; if the model was originally German, the profit was British. By 1900 the effect of the Copyright Act of 1842 meant that authors deceased seven or more years previously and books published fortytwo years ago now fell into the public domain. All the famous Victorian authors found a new revival between the covers of Nelson’s ‘classics’ (beginning 1905), Grant Richard’s ‘World’s Classics’ (1901;


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taken over by Oxford University Press in 1905), Collins’s ‘Pocket Classics’ (1903) and Dent’s ‘Everyman’s Library’ (1906).41 The success of the four series was immediate and has been lasting. By the middle of 1955 Nelson had passed 50 million copies; Collins had sold over 25 million copies of about 300 titles, 4.5 million of them since 1945 when only some 130 titles were in print. Dent, with near on 1000 volumes of ‘Everyman’s Library’, have reached a total sale of nearly 41 million, and the ‘World’s Classics’, with 550 titles, about 12.5 million.42 Cheap editions, endlessly recycled, kept classics and new authors constantly before the public, and if cheap editions were (and are) a useful staple for educational demand (especially for examined books), they proved even more useful for keeping current authors at high levels of demand. In 1913 Nat Gould’s tales of racetracks and colonial life had already sold 7 million copies for John Long and by 1920 this had risen to a claimed 20 million. Such claims were not just publishers’ wishful thinking. Florence L. Barclay’s best-selling The Rosary enjoyed ‘phenomenal popularity’ during 1912 with the more expensive editions topping sales of 250,000; the promise of continuous cheap reprints guaranteed longevity. By 1920 she was still a bestseller. Charles Garvice, whose famed romantic tales, written for ‘the man in the street, and still more for the girl in the garden’, appealed to ‘the natural instincts of men and women, whatever their rank’, died that year, his sales of 7 million copies from world-wide sales augmented by a posthumous cheap reprint of 125,000 copies.43 With hardbacks often selling at seven shillings and sixpence most readers had to wait for cheaper reprints or get their books from a library. In 1923 one writer lamented, If it were possible for novels to be published at a lower price, say three and sixpence, the sale of those by known writers would very largely increase. As matters now stand seven and sixpence is very often more than the novel reader is prepared to pay for a novel, and he, or she, has to be content with borrowing it from the circulating library.44 It was not long before newer novelists (and their backlists) dominated the fiction market to the neglect of classics (and the lamentations of literary critics). ‘Cheap’ became a synonym for ‘nasty’ and ‘popular’ for ‘mass-produced’.

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With the decline of new fiction and restrictions on print and paper at the start of World War Two, booksellers noted a return to classic literature. Messrs J. M. Dent and Sons noticed a very marked increase in the demand for their Everyman Library: ‘. . . demand from the bookseller [for these well-known classics] during the first 5 months of the war had been about 25% greater than during the same period in the preceding year. . . . Tolstoy’s War and Peace had an exceptional sale.’ ‘. . . people’s ordinary lives have been disturbed by the war and many felt a sense of isolation – it was like when you have the flu. At such times, people turn to classics. They want to read something that takes you back to the golden age, and they settle down to read the books they have always meant to read at some time but never had.’45 For a short period writers such as Trollope enjoyed renewed interest, as library borrowing records suggest.46 Even poetry revived, as Christina Foyle remembered. There has been quite a large demand for poetry. Poetry, as I expect you know has not sold at all for the last 20 years, but wars usually do create an interest in poetry. During the last war [World War One] our best was [the] Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám. We must have sold a million copies of that book alone.47 This trend was short-lived, although the classic novel (a bestseller in cheap reprints) would survive, as film and television revived stories by Dickens, Austen or Thackeray amidst a market dominated by crime fiction and romance. The shortage of new authors during the war meant that by the late 1940s nineteenth-century authors would still be competing with Edgar Wallace, Sax Rohmer, Warwick Deeping, Ethel M. Dell, Ruby M. Ayres, Naomi Jacob and Agatha Christie, all of whom were proving exceptionally popular. Even the contemporary taste for British authors of American-style pulp fiction was little less than an attempt to keep such stories on the market once war had cut off supplies of the real thing: new thrillers (referred to generically in the United States as mysteries) by genuinely American authors. The market for hardback books Despite the temporary setback of the war, with its shortages of paper and new authors and its destruction of bookshops and warehouses, the


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industry soon recovered, continuing its trend toward innovation and change that had begun in the 1930s. The central feature of twentiethcentury publishing was always towards economy of scale in both production and marketing. This had already begun in earnest with the creation of strong backlists, easily recognisable formats, experimentation with book packaging and specialist ‘genre’ libraries. Strong backlists could be endlessly exploited through cheap reprints but some publishers were looking to enjoy the benefits of scale with regard to new publications. Victor Gollancz, for instance, hoping to exploit the potential sales of his detective list from a tie-in with the Evening Standard, declared in the Bookseller in November 1950: So certain are we of a really colossal sale for this book that, though a completely new book, we are publishing it straight away at what may be called a ‘cheap edition’ price. Yet the backlist remained the staple source of mass-produced books, acting both as an insurance policy against bad times and as an investment ready and available for exploitation during good years or under exceptional circumstances. Thus the BBC radio serialisation of Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son during 1950 created sales of over 600,000 hardbacks for an otherwise moribund title. The problem of how to fully exploit a new title nevertheless remained relatively unsolved. Indeed, little had changed in the production of new titles since Heinemann had ‘levelled off’ the library ‘three-decker’ with the publication of Hall Caine’s The Manxman, in 1894. Book clubs were one solution. The Book Club had originated in America where mail order was almost the only way of reaching remote farms and villages. The Book of the Month Club, which had begun in 1926, was soon proving its worth to British publishers who wished to escape control of the booksellers and at the same time expand their potential purchasers. Three years later, in 1929, the Book Society was founded in Britain with books selected by a rather dubious panel of literary ‘experts’. Gollancz’s Left Book Club followed in 1935 and a little later so did the Reprint Society, a consortium of five publishers including Jonathan Cape. W. H. Smith soon joined in, returning mail order to the retail sector, thence going on to dominate the market. As well as these clubs, specialist groups were catered for by the Right Book Club (thought up by Sir Oswald Mosley to promote fascism), Woman’s Book Club, Art Book Club etc., all of them together accounting for 5 per cent of the market. By 1955 approx-

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imately 1 million sales were through book clubs, until paperback sales cut this by approximately a third in 1957. Book clubs continued their success throughout the twentieth century, and mail order for books steadily increased with the appearance of Internet sales through Amazon, Waterstone’s and BOL (Books on Line) during the 1990s. Nevertheless, the problem of determining patterns of success for new titles remained obscure and problematic. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the area of bestsellers, whose appeal could not be predicted. With no market research and laughably minuscule levels of advertising the search for the bestseller could never be anything other than a haphazard and serendipitous affair. Success in the market could only ever be pursued after the event or after book clubs had guaranteed purchases, or newspapers had been persuaded to buy serial rights and extract rights. Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki (1950), which sold 875,000 hardbacks in its first eleven months, became a ‘super bestseller’ only after being finally bought on a whim by Philip Unwin in 1948. If the bestseller aided less marketable titles, it could not be relied upon as a regular staple for publishers until the late 1980s when a small number of very large houses controlled the bestseller lists. Even then, marketing budgets were relatively low and high returns were often offset by the risk of failure elsewhere. Rather than the content of books it was their format in printed form that determined profitability; a successful book could be succinctly sold over a period of many years at diminishing retail costs, thus gaining ever new (yet poorer) retail sectors. At the same time classic hardback publishing was considered the prestige model in a traditional and gentlemanly profession. Thus profitability could still be squared with quality and the various mutations of the hardback still left it recognisable, but simply multiplied in more cheaply produced units. Library purchasing, which accounted for the largest book-buying sector (approximately one-fifth), was, of course, solely based upon hardback purchases, and this was only slightly modified by the 1970s.

The Paperback Paperback production seemed to threaten traditional publishing methods, seemed indeed to be a revolution not merely in publishing but in culture itself. The paperback revolution put publishing firmly within an industrial and commercial setting, yet ‘serious’ culture and ‘serious’ literature, in particular, were seen by many critics and publishers alike


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as antithetical to mass society. Thus the widening of the book market was not merely a commercial but also a moral decision. Critics such as Q. D. Leavis spilt much ink on worrying whether the increase in the market had actually diminished quality – commercial crassness overtaking and overwhelming artistic merit in the search for quick profits. Gentlemen publishers were obliged to take care of business and had no choice but to look for increasing markets. (Their status was always problematic: gentlemen and tradesmen, as Harold Macmillan was considered by his prospective aristocratic parents-in-law.) Geoffrey Faber, for instance, could easily equate the restriction of the market with a retention of artistic quality; by 1934 he was arguing that, The market is glutted. General publishing is therefore fast degenerating into a gambling competition for potential bestsellers. This is a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs which may have – will have – very evil effects on the future of English letters. . . . But in so far as over-production is a cause of the evil, we have the remedy in our own hands. We have only to agree to reduce our output in order to restore the book trade to a healthy condition.48 Such a refrain was repeated throughout the century and especially at times of falling sales, as in the 1970s. Could, therefore, a wider quality market be found, outside that which already existed and which would not end up ‘fast degenerating’ but would retain its ‘healthy condition’ in terms both of sales and of moral quality? The appearance and the marketing of paperbacks would provide important answers. The paperback revolution is usually credited to Allen Lane whose Penguin imprint was launched through F. W. Woolworth stores on 30 July 1935. Penguins needed the most aggressive and Americanised of the multiple stores to break into the market. They needed mass sales, above the bestseller threshold (13,000–17,000 was the initial break-even range); Lane calculated that he would need an annual volume sale of 2 million. And they exploited a new, technologically transformed kind of book, the mass-market paperback, a phenomenon Mrs Leavis does not anticipate in Fiction and the Reading Public. No-one would maintain that Penguin Books have aggravated the cultural condition. Yet Penguins could not have succeeded without the vulgar ‘3d and 6d’ store which represented for the Leavises in 1933 some of ‘the worst effects of mass-production and standardisation’.49

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Lane and his brothers had a simple and clear vision: middle-brow titles, produced in clearly designed packaging (which included an innovative logo), colour coded for making choosing easier, paper-bound and mass produced – the list itself dependent upon successful backlist authors augmented with carefully chosen lesser names whose books would be protected and promoted by their place within a recognisable series. As one critic put it, these titles aimed at ‘description or expression of knowledge in understandable terms’ for a middle-brow readership who would, perhaps, usually borrow books from a library rather than purchase them.50 By being sold through large general retailers such books ‘lost’ a certain prestige but gained a wide and paying readership who would now buy on impulse whilst looking for other goods, or actively seek out a good read at a ‘reasonable’ price. Books by Ernest Hemingway, André Maurois, Compton Mackenzie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie (July 1935) were followed by those of Liam O’Flaherty, Norman Douglas, Dashiell Hammett, Louise Bromfield, Victoria Sackville West and Samuel Butler (October 1935). Although eclectic, the books reflected a higher seriousness, even in the choice of thrillers. This all harked back to the moral and educational purposes of nineteenthcentury publishers who realised that cheaper books did not need to mean diminishment of standards. The mainstream paperback augmented rather than replaced hardback books and even the most recalcitrant hardback publisher soon understood the possibilities opened up by paperback reprints. Nevertheless, paperback publishing caused a problem for traditional competition. In March 1957 Gollancz attempted an experiment in which certain titles were simultaneously published in cloth and paper cover versions. In March 1957 Macmillan experimented with a paperback series destined for ‘the intelligent man’s library’. Michael Joseph launched a hybrid, neither hardback nor paperback. Influenced by the ‘new spirit’ of the Festival of Britain, the Mermaid Series sold at 4s 6d and was meant to bring ‘colour’ to the book industry. Yet, from being vilified as the destroyer of the book trade and the enemy of culture, Lane’s Penguins were soon acknowledged as the saving grace of bookselling and a vital new innovation in the dissemination of cultural values. The style was soon copied by American publishers such as Dell, and imprints such as Ace, Signet and Gold Medal Books. In Britain, Hodder and Stoughton repackaged their yellow-back popular titles and re-released them in paperback versions, thus creating new readerships for E. Phillips Oppenheim, Sidney Horler, Edgar Wallace and Sax Rohmer. There were obvious copycat publications too,


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such as the Toucan novel series produced by Stanley Paul during the 1940s. By the mid-1950s Penguin had sold 4 million copies of current titles (including Paul Brickell’s The Dambusters, 1951; 1954). The 1960s completed this pattern of growth and paperback ascendancy. Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Outside middle-brow taste, cheap paperback publishing had always existed at the less literate end of the publishing world. The success of the ‘pulp’ paperback market was independent of mainstream paperback development and had an independent history. Paper-bound novelettes had found special success during the 1920s and 1930s, especially amongst women readers, but the pulp paperback found a new male market when the supply of American pulp magazines dried up during World War Two. British writers armed with maps of Los Angeles and a line of gangster patois were soon filling the gap that had been left, and books with erotically suggestive and scantily clad ‘dames’ on their gaudy covers were soon selling everything from crime fiction to wartime adventure, westerns, science fiction, horror and soft-core pornography. Such books were sold primarily to middle-class adolescents and working-class youths and represented reading unrestrained by moral or cultural scruples. Taking their cue from the school of hard-boiled fiction that had been a regular feature of American pulp magazines in the 1930s such books were more directly influenced by James Hadley Chase’s own homage to the hardboiled, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939). Available through the Universal Book Club, Chase’s book was the link between the new working-class fiction of the ‘mushroom publishers’ and mainstream paperback production. By the late 1940s the best-selling paperback edition sported its own scantily dressed ‘floozy’. The interest in all things American, and more especially in the opportunities made available by using American characters and situations, was not lost on writers before the advent of cinema. Dickens, Trollope and Stoker all exploited opportunities to visit the United States, included American characters in their works or used American scenarios. Writers as diverse as H. DeVere Stackpoole, F. Tennyson Jesse, John Buchan, Arthur Conan Doyle and Mrs Humphry Ward all included Americans in their novels as did Bram Stoker in Dracula (1897). Mrs Humphry Ward’s 1911 hit Daphne was a study of ‘American divorce’. Reciprocating the compliment, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) featured an American heir to British baronial wealth, and Edgar Rice Burroughs found spectacular popularity with the creation of Tarzan of the Apes, lost son and heir of Lord and Lady Greystoke.

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Lord Greystoke . . . was the type of Englishman that one likes to associate with, the noblest monuments of historic achievement . . . a strong, virile man. (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, ch. 1) James Hadley Chase’s ‘notorious’ style of bestseller confirmed, nevertheless, the established preference of British readers for American-style subjects, putting paid to the old imperial adventure at the same time. The novel contained the violence and eroticism that readers enjoyed from American gangster movies and newsreels, providing for a taste that overwhelmingly preferred Hollywood glamour to home-grown goodness. The halting of American magazine imports during the war left a market susceptible to British versions of American pulp fiction and Chase’s book summed this up. In later years Chase toned down passages of too erotic or violent a nature, thus a line such as ‘I’d give a year’s rent to lay that dame’ became the much tamer ‘I’d give ten years of my life for a roll in the hay with her.’ Peter Cheyney also saw opportunity in the taste for the street-smart language of American crime fiction. His character Lemmy Caution, a wise-cracking, dame-chasing detective, brought humour to the violence and erotic sensation of Chase’s hoodlums. Life can be goddam wonderful. And how! It can be so beautiful that every time somethin’ swell happens you don’t believe it. Some guys call this cynicism an’ other bozos describe it as wishful thinkin’ like the guy who made himself up like Santa Claus so’s he could put a ladder in some babe’s stockin’ at Christmas. Me – I am feelin’ so depressed that I would cut my throat, only then I would not have anythin’ to worry about – except my throat. An’ the reason for all this depression which is now settlin’ over this piece of Paris in the month of March 1945 can be summed up in one word . . . dames! (Peter Cheyney, I’ll Say She Does, ch. 1) Cheyney’s books were immensely popular with service men and prisoners of war. I have always been rather pleased with inventing Lemmy Caution who has, during the last ten years, found his way into a large slice of the world and acquired a popularity with many people; but I can say without undue sentimentality that the proudest moment in my life as a writer was when I read this [prisoner of war] letter.


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They said that during their years of captivity the Caution books had brought them entertainment and laughter – at times and under circumstances when laughter was not particularly easy. They told me stories of Lemmy Caution in the Stalags – one, of the padre who, walking about the camp with his nose in a large book of Devotions, was discovered, eventually, to have Dames Don’t Care inside the covers. (Peter Cheyney, I’ll Say She Does, 1945, Author’s Note) By the late 1940s the heyday of the American pulp magazine had passed, some publications barely hanging on into the 1950s, bypassed by television and mainstream popular fiction. (Only in science fiction did the pulp magazine continue to have a healthy existence.) Yet the legacy of the sensationalism of 1930s magazines remained to be exploited by a new generation of popular authors – the war delaying and yet exaggerating the potential for the revival of glamour and escapism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the work of Harold Robbins. In Robbins, the male-directed pulp fiction of pre-war days was transmogrified into the female leisure reading of the 1960s. In The Carpetbaggers (1961), Robbins’s use of multiple storylines which follow individual characters allowed him the liberty of exploiting genres otherwise incompatible as well as (historically) redundant. Thus, in an opening scene, Robbins invokes a redundant genre (the western) by displacing it into a novel about wealth and glamour. I was playing around the corner of the porch and my father was reading the weekly Reno paper on the big rocker near the front door. It was about eight o’clock in the morning and the sun was already high in the sky. I heard the clip-clop of a horse and came around to the front to see. A man was getting off his horse. He moved with a deceptively slow grace. He threw the reins over the hitching post and walked toward the house. At the foot of the steps, he stopped and looked up. My father put the paper down and got to his feet. He was a big man. Six two. Beefy. Ruddy face that burned to a crisp in the sun. He looked down. Nevada squinted up at him. ‘Jonas Cord?’ My father nodded. ‘Yes.’ The man pushed his broad-brimmed cowboy hat back on his head, revealing the crow-black hair. ‘I hear tell you might be looking for a hand.’

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The man’s smile remained expressionless. He glanced slowly across the front of the house and out on the desert. He looked back at my father. ‘I could ride herd but you ain’t got no cattle. I can mend fence, but you ain’t got none of them, either.’ My father was silent for a moment. ‘You any good with that?’ For the first time, I noticed the gun on the man’s thigh. He wore it real low and tied down. The handle was black and worn and the hammer and metal shone dully with oil. (Harold Robbins, The Carpetbaggers, ch. 1) It is no coincidence that in the story the character Nevada Smith is also known as Max Sand, Robbins punning on the actual western novelist Max Brand (Frederick Schiller Faust, d. 1944) whose books began appearing in the pulp magazines of the 1920s and were being reprinted in the 1940s. In the figure of Rina, Robbins returns to the language of 1940s crime fiction – woman as erotic object of desire: But Rina was a girl. You couldn’t miss that. Especially in a bathing suit, the way she was the first time I saw her. She was slim, all right, and her shoulders were broad, maybe too broad for a woman. But her breasts were strong and full, jutting rocks against the silk-jersey suit that gave the lie to the fashion. You could not look at them without tasting the milk and honey of their sweetness in your mouth. They rested easy on a high rib cage that melted down into a narrow waist that in turn flared out into slim but rounded hips and buttocks. (Harold Robbins, The Carpetbaggers, ch. 5) By linking what were essentially numerous short stories, by mixing in glamour, power and eroticism and by constantly changing scenarios in an action-based plot, Robbins fulfilled many of the basic tenets of pulp writing. Such stories appealed to a generation of women readers (although written from a male perspective) who were more adventurous in lifestyle and opinion, likely to be able to enjoy a holiday where escapism and glamour would add interest around the hotel pool. Despite A Stone for Danny Fisher being first published in the UK in 1955 (by Robert Hale) and The Carpetbaggers in 1963 (by Anthony Blond), Robbins’s success was due to the vast sales possible from paperback publication: A Stone for Danny Fisher was first produced in paperback in 1967 and thence continuously re-issued until 1975; The Carpetbaggers enjoyed paperback sales from 1964 to 1975, going on to be the biggest paper-


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back title of all and making Robbins the most purchased American author of all time (before Stephen King).* Robbins successfully converted pulp fiction into a legitimate romance genre. The British pulp ‘mushroom’ publishers of the late 1940s and early 1950s were often provincial printers with an eye to a quick profit. They were rarely legitimate in their means or methods. Using numerous pseudonyms, authors who could write quickly and to a word length and format would churn out ‘novels’ to order, exploiting as much of the erotic, violent and fantastic as they could get away with. ‘Authors’ such as ‘Ben Sarto’, ‘Al Bocca’, ‘Darcy Glinto’, ‘John E. Muller’ and many others became paperback bestsellers – one writer often behind many names, or writing different genres under a variety of names, or a ‘team’ of writers masquerading behind a single name. Books such as Road Floozy, Crazy to Kill or Blonde Dynamite were sold on their ‘erotic’ cover art and suggestive ‘blurbs’ at every railway station newsstand, every corner newsagent, every back-street ‘bookseller’ and every market book barrow, only to quickly and quietly disintegrate as they were passed from reader to reader in offices, army barracks (especially among those doing National Service) and mechanics’ shops across Britain in the bleak post-war years. Most famous of all of these writers was ‘Hank Janson’, who had sold 5 million books by 1954 and inspired a new song, ‘The Hank Janson Blues’, which was played on the BBC. The mushroom publishers, often family firms producing other printed ephemera, soon found themselves under pressure from police prosecutions, rising costs, and mainstream competition. Their legacy, however, continued into the 1970s. They were especially influential in promoting science fiction and fantasy for instance, often competing with American paperback imports and American science-fiction magazines produced under licence in the UK. Badger Books produced a steady supply of supernatural and science-fiction thrillers into the late 1950s, launching the career of cult authors such as Lionel Fanthorpe who, writing under numerous names including his own, was always under the pressure of time, work length and perceived market fads. Books were rarely properly copy-edited, often poorly printed and occasionally abruptly finished when binding demands overrode narrative needs. Science fiction flourished in such publications and if Nal Rafcam, author of The Troglodytes (published by Digit), was instantly forgettable the name and stories of Isaac Asimov were not (I Robot was available in Signet between 1956 and 1964). * Robbins’s novels were all re-issued in the 1990s.

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Sensation and sexuality also continued to prosper. Reprinted nineteenth-century pornography continued to have a ready market into the 1970s and many paperbacks cashed in on sleazy titles such as Target for Their Dark Desire (a Carter Brown Mystery, 1966), Shanty Town Tease (Florence Stonebraker), Kitten with a Whip (Wade Miller, 1960) and Pampered Passion (Paul Renin). By the late 1970s, New English Library had the monopoly of more sensational titles, reprinting works such as Daniel P. Mannix’s The Hell-Fire Club (1970) and new titles by bestselling English authors such as Richard Allen, whose Skinhead (1969) was the first in a highly successful series of ‘bovver boot’ adventures. The line between pulp, commercial entertainment and avant-garde literature soon became blurred. Pulp publishers realised that packaging was all, and that many avant-garde writers were, in their terms, sensational and pornographic. By the mid-1960s, mainstream paperback reprints were looking towards these writers to ‘spice up’ their lists. The hype around Penguin’s production in paperback of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) is well known. What is less well know is its relatively quiet life in hardback; paperbacks, because cheap, were morally dangerous. Penguin was soon publishing William Burroughs’s Junky (1977), though it had been around over twenty years, in what they announced as ‘the first and unexpurgated edition’, whilst Burroughs’s Dead Fingers Talk, which had originally been published by avant-garde entrepreneur John Calder in 1963, was revived in a Star paperback edition in 1977 with a sensational pulp cover sporting a bloody hand and heroin syringe – eagerly quoting the Guardian’s comment that the book was a ‘build-it-yourself obscenity kit’. By the late 1980s controversial books which may once have only found a pulp publisher were produced by mainstream publishers, erotic and pornographic work was freely available in high street bookshops under Black Lace and other imprints, and sleazy teen exploitation was being re-issued as ‘cult fiction’. By a twist of fate, Richard Allen’s cult pulp ‘skinhead’ and ‘suedehead’ books were being re-issued during the 1990s precisely because avant-garde writers like Stewart Home recognised their subversive qualities. The ascendancy of paperbacks* was nowhere more assured than in the world of women’s romance. By the 1970s the books of Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins could * The Beatles even wrote a song about the phenomenon. Paperback Writer was released on 30 May 1966 in the United States and 10 June 1966 in the United Kingdom.


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be read at leisure on holidays in Spain and Greece or while waiting for delayed flights to Benidorm or Corfu. On 17 July 1976 the Bookseller was able to announce an agreement between Mills and Boon and Chaucer Press (made in April of that year) for one and a half million paperbacks per month on a three-year agreement.

Censorship Public reading habits have always been monitored by censorious moralists, librarians, magistrates and policemen. Such surveillance and censorship can kill books or make their authors a fortune. The difference is clear when we compare prosecutions from the 1950s to those of the 1960s. Concern regarding the subversive nature of reading was a reasonably subdued theme before the Second World War, but the appearance of cheap paper-bound fiction and its full impact during the 1960s led to a continuous debate regarding liberalisation. The debate focused upon a number of seizures of titles, interdictions placed upon certain titles, and an increasing trickle of publishers and booksellers being prosecuted for indecency and immorality. Calls during the 1950s to strengthen the law on obscenity, with its rather ambiguous phrasing, had led to the successful prosecution of the ‘mushroom’ industry and writers such as Stephen Francis (aka ‘Hank Janson’). During 1951 there were nineteen successful prosecutions of publishers and booksellers, and watchdog groups such as the Catholic Association kept a keen eye for violators. Suggestions were even put forward to create a Home Office list of banned books, to be enforced by undercover policemen. Action had also been taken against American-style children’s comics which were said to be full of depraved (usually horror) material. In a bizarre alliance the morality of rather puritanical parent–teacher associations joined forces with the Communist Party of Great Britain (with its dislike of the United States) to call for reform of the law following the example of Canada and France. Debates through 1952 resulted in the Children’s and Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Bill of 1955. ‘Indecent literature’ was now anything moral watchdogs deemed it to be – the reading habits of the British entered the Cold War. ‘Depravity’ might mean erotic content, gothic horror storylines or the advocacy of a counter-cultural lifestyle with drugs, according to whether one was at one magistrate’s court or another, in London or the provinces. In mid-May 1954 French pornographic books were seized at a Soho bookshop and raids were stepped up around Soho, Charing Cross, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon, centres of the ‘seamier’ side of

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bookselling.* By mid-June six more trials actually caused The Times to run an article on banning certain books. At the same time two more publishers and a printer found themselves behind bars. In August 1954 Lord Russell’s forthcoming history of Second World War atrocities, The Scourge of the Swastika, was the centre of a furious row, with calls to have it destroyed, much of the hysteria being aroused by local library committees. When Boccaccio’s Decameron was also destroyed by order of the public magistrates, the Evening Standard was prompted to comment that such actions made ‘England the laughing stock of civilised nations’. On March 29th [1957] the revised and simplified Obscene Publications Bill prepared by the Herbert Committee, under the sponsorship of the Society of Authors, passed its second reading unopposed in the House of Commons, and was sent to a select committee. The Bill was introduced by Viscount Lambton (Conservative), and support was forthcoming from both sides of the House. The proposed measure removed the common law misdemeanour of obscene libel, replacing it by a new statutory offence, that of wilfully and knowingly producing or distributing any matter which was to the knowledge of the producer or distributor obscene within the meaning of the Act. An all-important change in the Hicklin test is included, making the test of the dominant effect of the publication on those among whom it was intended to circulate.51 The final reform of the obscenity laws in 1959, far from saving them, simply brought them into greater disrepute. The challenge that Penguin Books offered to the laws on obscenity during the notorious and much written about trial of D. H. Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley’s Lover (first published in 1928) was the result therefore of much public debate, often of an hysterical nature on both sides. Heinemann had already gone through a trial when it finally printed the book in 1956 and this had led to Pyramid Books publishing The Complete and Unexpurgated Edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the USA three years later. A censored paperback already existed in Britain published by Ace. The hardback had been around in the United States since 1932. The book was, therefore, available in certain British bookshops before * The prosecution of the unexpurgated Fanny Hill (John Cleland, 1749), released in paperback by Mayflower in 1963, began at a magic shop in Tottenham Court Road when bookstock was seized.


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the Penguin trial of 1960. Penguin’s motives were as much commercial as moral when they decided to publish. The real fear of the prosecution and those it represented was not Lawrence’s language but the publisher’s format. For the first time the work would be cheaply available in paperback and therefore easily purchased by the young and the working class, who could read it in privacy. The ability of librarians to restrict its borrowing would also, therefore, be bypassed. (Much was made of the corruptive influence of such books on working-class readers and thus much snobbery was revealed.) It sold two million copies and went on to sell many millions more for Penguin. More than one critic (including F. R. Leavis) smelled something fishy in the self-righteousness of its defence and the commercial potential of a ‘pornographic’ and scandalous book. The trial and its outcome created the atmosphere for further debate, but this time debate centred around liberalisation or outright repeal of the laws on obscenity. Capitalising on the new atmosphere, Mercury Books published a paperback series for liberal-minded readers. By 1969 books by writers such as Henry Miller could be marketed as ‘unexpurgated’, challenging a set of laws that were now apparently meaningless. The Arts Council sponsored conferences during 1969 with representatives of the Publishers and Booksellers Associations, the Library Association, the National Book League, the Society of Authors and the Society of Young Publishers, whilst the Society of Young Publishers held its own forum with guest speakers Robert Maxwell and Sir Basil Blackwell defending the conservative position.52 Reaction was mounting. Three Labour MPs called for the banning of Harold Robbins’s The Carpetbaggers on nothing more than the meagre grounds that it was literary rubbish.53 At other times censorship was morally and commercially much more serious. Thus W. H. Smith had decided not to display 40 to 50 titles for ‘reasons of taste’, blacklisting Alan Burn’s book Babel even though it had received an Arts Council grant. By October 1969 it was being reported that even the Russian writer Kutznetsov was complaining that British censorship was as bad as in the Soviet Union. Despite the belief that any move towards liberalisation of the obscenity law would be a ‘pornographer’s charter’ the Arts Council continued throughout the summer of 1969 to call for its complete repeal, whilst publishers like John Calder and Marion Boyars consistently challenged the limits of free speech by publishing titles that immediately offered themselves for prosecution. By 1969 the appearance of ‘sensational’ titles amongst the lists of mainstream publishers (especially paperback and magazine publishers)

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had re-opened debates about the moral responsibility of publishers and the centrality of books to culture. The debate reached Parliament, with lobbying on both sides for either stiffening or liberalising the Obscene Publications Act. During July the Arts Council of Great Britain had called for a repeal of the Act but this had been fiercely opposed. The dilemma facing Parliament and, of course the police, was the definition of obscenity and corruption. The 1964 Act followed a Select Committee report on the working of the 1959 Acts; the problem of definition was as apparent then as it was [during 1969], and the Select Committee considered it carefully. The committee’s recommendations had been embodied in the 1964 legislation. Unless they could decide at what stage an article not merely shocked or disgusted, but had a tendency to corrupt or deprave, other measures dependent on definition became useless. Mr Bishop went on to quote the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 [many will remember this as the ‘Horror Comics’ Act]. He had been told, in answer to a question which he had asked in the House, that no cases had been brought under this Act for five years; he understood that in fact no prosecutions had been taken under this Act since it became law in 1955. He would like to think that this implied that the measure had not been operated because no publications considered likely to corrupt children and young persons had fallen into their hands. ‘What a blissful situation, suggesting that children read only Mr Plod the Policeman.’54 The then Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, made it clear that the problem of the law’s enforcement was the rapidly shifting boundaries of public taste and decency. Despite all such pressures the power of the conservative lobby remained strong. Growing liberalisation in reading habits could still fall foul of private or criminal prosecutions. By the late 1960s many of the liberalisers and democratic reformers who had helped create an atmosphere for a more liberal censorship had begun to repent their ‘naivety’ and the slackening of the law that they had helped reframe in 1959. Revenge for lost ground led to the successful prosecution of OZ magazine in 1971, an obscenity trial that was not only the longest in British history but which saw prison sentences for the editors being prosecuted. Private prosecutions continued during the 1970s, vociferously led by the redoubtable Mary Whitehouse (after whom a pornographic maga-


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zine was named). Further actions in the 1980s led to the seizure of drugrelated titles that had been on shelves in libraries and bookshops for years and were just then appearing on university syllabi. During 1989 there were calls for American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis to be banned and for paperback copies to be seized and destroyed.

Publishing at the End of the Twentieth Century The steady recovery of the book trade after World War Two was virtually complete by 1955 (even if less fiction was published in that year than in 1937). It continued to increase throughout the 1960s with books being marketed through book clubs, in serialisations, and in condensed form as well as hardback and paperback. When recession came it was not until the mid-1970s. With the general economic downturn came cutbacks in public-sector publishing. The old commercial libraries had long ceased to trade: W. H. Smith ended their library lending in 1961, Boots in 1966. The 1964 Libraries and Museums Act reaffirmed the place of public libraries in the cultural transmission of the country and gave them greater respectability. With the demise of the commercial libraries, public libraries took over sole responsibility for lending fiction. The public-library system became an essential guardian of the novel and any recession was bound therefore to impinge upon the purchase of new fiction. With libraries accounting for 20 per cent of all book sales, a change in their book purchasing policies was bound to have immediate repercussions. Libraries account for about 20 per cent of the total British sale of books. They’re important sales because they free publishers from the fickle taste of the public and sheer commercialism of trade. They have meant that creative, experimental, academic, worthy, even dull books can be published. Peter Owen summed up many publishers’ view of the situation as disastrous. ‘We cannot now publish fiction unless it’s by a well-known writer. An average first novel will be lucky now to sell 200 copies. And yet you can’t print much fewer than 2,000. We’ve an author who used to sell in the thousands; now he’s selling 500 or 600. We may have to drop him . . .’ A publisher used to be able to reckon that a 2,000 print order on a little-known novel, or non-fiction book, would sell at a price so that 1,500 was his break even point. He would be able to expect 1,200 library sales and so had only to get 300 bookshop sales to cover his costs. An acceptable situation. Now though, with libraries buying perhaps only 50 copies of that same book, the publisher is in trouble.55

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Forced to make financial cutbacks and faced with a mountain of dubious new fiction, librarians went for conservative and well-tried authors. Financial conservatism therefore actually militated against conservative good taste when a librarian had to decide which authors would provide most borrowings: established bestseller authors were a certainty in an uncertain world. As the twentieth century progressed, the search for the bestseller became relentless, more so in periods of recession when publishers and booksellers were looking for larger profits from a shorter list of products. In 1976 for instance, bestsellers were seen as a way of avoiding redundancies! Although the fall and rise of production remained fixed to economic decline and advance, the search for the bestseller increased during the recession of the mid- to late 1970s but continued thereafter at the same level. It remains unexplained why bestsellers become so, their appearance being serendipitous rather than predictable, a result of ‘nous’ rather than market production. A bestseller, once identified, could however be boosted by tie-ins with television and film or with branded products and could be packaged for book clubs, a condensed novel, serial rights and a paperback version. Authors identified as bestselling could now earn very large incomes. In 1978, Futura published Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, paying £160,000 for the rights and using a £60,000 promotional budget. Two million copies were sold in less than two years, ensuring a guaranteed advance for the author’s next book and an almost guaranteed next bestseller for the company. Authors became brands and some became celebrities. In the 1950s, Ian Fleming was already ‘sold’ as a brand name; this was unusual at the time, but by the 1990s, Stephen King, John Grisham or Catherine Cookson had become brands in themselves. As such, it is no surprise that by the 1990s bestsellers were sold as any other products in supermarkets, where female purchasers spent 80 per cent of their book purchasing on impulse buying of a famous named ‘author’ brand.56 The bestseller on supermarket shelves ceased to be a piece of literature sold in a specialist shop (i.e. a bookshop) and instead became a product like any other. Thus, a spokesman for Tesco could point out that ‘every product has to fight for its space against very competitive items, especially food’.57 Supermarket sales are equally affected by marketing, so displays, good covers and clear ‘blurb’ (user instructions!) help, but the effect must be immediate because: Booksellers fail to realize how few people buy books, adding that the books bought as groceries [sic] are impulse buys – books do not go on a shopping list with baked beans, butter and bread.58


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Throughout the mid-1990s, much emphasis was placed, therefore, on good jacket designs which could be clearly displayed on shelves, tables and in store windows. Ten years ago, publicizing books never went beyond puffery: you phoned up a literary editor and told him or her how super a writer was, how wonderful, how innovative. Today you send a T-shirt, issue invitations to a launch party in beautiful country houses, put your author in a bed, and produce glossy, pouting pictures of the writer.59 It had taken ninety years to get to this stage, ninety years of periodic calls to modernise an industry whose healthy profits were based on a shrewd mixture of pragmatism and gentlemanly clubbishness (virtuousness carefully maintained). As late as 1965, critics of the trade were attacking its ‘abysmal ignorance’ of marketing and branding, a cry which resulted in a lack-lustre attempt by some publishers to find specialist niches rather than mass readership. From 1965 onwards W. H. Smith and the Booksellers’ Association carried out periodic market research but even in 1992 the Guardian could still talk of a ‘gentleman’s business’ (even though 70 per cent of employees were female!). Greater sophistication in understanding the market would often only lead to cheap stunts such as publisher Michael Joseph using Desert Orchid the racehorse to publicise Richard Burridge’s novel The Grey Horse when the book went on sale in Harrods. The often heard accusation of cultural critics (especially in the 1930s) that publishing was like any industrial, mass-consumer process was only to come close to reality as late as the 1980s. The fact was that publishers and booksellers used tradition and instinct, used almost no marketing, had no clear statistics, failed to correctly report sales and kept poor records of both numbers sold and money made in a variety of book categories. The complexity of calculating the volume of the British book trade is amply demonstrated by the following paragraph: taken from the Bookseller, February 1969. No official figures are produced of numbers of copies of books printed, but some estimates have been made. For 1950 Marjorie Deane calculated average printing runs per book at 5,000, which would give a total figure of 85 million copies for the 17,000 books published that year. Since then the paperback has meant greatly increased production runs. Richard Findlater suggested in 1965 that book output had reached 300 million volumes. In 1952

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R. E. Barker calculated average UK book production at a total of 286 million copies. An indirect calculation can be made using recent Unesco figures. The Statistical Yearbook gives figures of titles and copies produced in 1965. This was for twenty-four countries under a recently agreed convention for standardised information on publishing, which this country is apparently unable to fulfil. These reveal that the average run per title is about twelve thousand. Some of the nations recorded are developing countries, but Russia had an average of only seventeen thousand and other European countries ten thousand. If we apply the figure of 12,000 to Britain, our output would have been 316 million copies in 1965. For comparison, sales in the United States may have been about 1,226 million in 1963. Divided by titles published, this would suggest runs of 47,000 copies each. Estimates of British paperback production do appear from time to time. For sales, 100–110 million copies was the figure given in 1967 by Hans Schmoller. Hardcover output was estimated for 1964, on trade information, to be 130 million copies and is calculated at 150 million for 1958. Putting these two together suggests UK output may have been about 250 million books in 1967, of which a substantial proportion were probably children’s books. Any figure much in excess would suggest large numbers of unsold copies. Schmoller calculated home paperback sales to be 50 to 60 millions, i.e. about 60 per cent of production. If the same ratio applied to hardcovers, we would have a total of say, 150 million copies plus say, in proportion, 30 million imports, 180 million altogether. The author blamed the complexity on secrecy, ineptitude, ignorance and miscalculated figures. Whilst the New York Times bestseller lists were composed ‘with a certain puritan scrupulousness, by an independent polling organization’, the British lists were produced ‘on a whim by a panel of bibulous bookmen’ using booksellers whose ‘cynical’ replies were sometimes merely an attempt to sell slow movers ‘cluttering the bookseller’s shelves’. In short, ‘the lists were corrupt’ with many fewer hardbacks selling than declared. The British lists were only regularised in the late 1970s. There are also no cumulative bestseller lists. Thus, for instance, the 1995 bestseller list did not include Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, which sold 400,000 over a two-year period. There were also hidden bestsellers such as Annette Heidcamp, whose Hummingbird in My House sells almost 30,000 copies per year. The trade was and remained


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confused by its own unclear findings, which offered nothing to explain the various movements of a market that was relatively stable, conservative, and steadily enlarging. Seasonal panics were offset by seasonal windfalls and happy forgetfulness. By the end of the century on-line sales via the Internet had also become a challenge to traditional bookshops (and indeed were promoted by them eventually). Amazon was soon joined by Waterstone’s and Barnes and Noble. During 1999 one on-line business,, gave away 20,000 books at a cost of £100,000. In return, 40,000 ‘customers’ registered their e-mail addresses – it was a ‘cheap deal’ as the Bookseller fearfully noted. In 1998, the Internet market for books was worth £30 million, yet with a proposed growth of 15 to 20 per cent the predictions were for a book market worth £600 million by 2003. Yet cause for alarm may have been overstated: Although the demise of the book at the hands of new media has been predicted for many years, most commentators agree that, while electronic media are well suited to – and are being increasingly used for – reference materials, there is a long way to go before consumer books – particularly novels – are replaced. . . . It is thought that ‘real’ books will survive because of their flexibility, and the emotional attachments consumers have to reading.60 The main potential threat was not against the bookseller but against the rights of authors in the electronic age. For publishers, the problem is one of protecting their territorial copyright; they stand to lose out when overseas – principally US – editions of books to which UK publishers have rights are sold over the Internet to UK customers. Protecting these rights in a global market is becoming increasingly difficult, and some commentators feel that the territorial boundaries may eventually disappear . . . the implications of the potential ‘opening out’ of the market . . . [including] negative effects for authors, whose royalties currently tend to be negotiated by their agents individually for each territory, and vary according to local demand; the erosion of territorial rights would no doubt mean that royalties would revert to the lowest level . . . the owner of [one] specialist bookshop . . . asserted that the opposite was the case, in that authors received ‘home royalties’ from books imported through US wholesalers, rather than the lower export royalties.61

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Although accounting for only 0.008 per cent of all books published, the bestseller could guarantee huge profits and act as an insurance policy against failure elsewhere. A tiny number of authors each selling a great many books can subsidise a very large number of poorer selling titles. By the late 1970s and throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s a few select authors such as Dick Francis, Stephen King, Catherine Cookson, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer and Jilly Cooper were guaranteed huge advances and vast sales. Fifty elite authors controversially dominated the bestseller lists at the beginning of the 1990s, approximately one-third of whom were women. As early as 1976 research had shown that between 20 and 60 per cent of all books were bought by women, with fiction almost exclusively bought by women readers. Of the top ten books in 1991, eight were by women – the top two being by one author – Thomas Harris. Women purchasers dominated the reading public too, accounting for the £320 million book gift market for instance. Such a market seemed to suggest infinite possibilities for sales, with best-selling author’s names becoming business properties. Top authors became investments, but not merely investments of a gilt-edged variety, rather stocks and shares to gamble with: commodities in a financial market. In October 1994, Nicholas Evans accepted a record advance for rights to his new novel The Horse Whisperer (published 1995). Robert Redford was soon jockeying to make the film of the book as a vehicle for himself, and all rights, including translation into seventeen languages, was said to total $8 million. Yet such huge exchanges of money and such considerable gambles could cause serious problems. This was particularly true in the celebrated case of [Joan] Collins vs. Random House, that began one freezing day in New York City in Supreme Court 60. The case (which opened in October 1994) centred on Dynasty star Joan Collins. Collins had had a long and varied career since starting as a Rank starlet in the 1950s. Following a lull in her film career, the leading role in Dynasty made her an international star and this had allowed her to branch out into popular fiction. Her sister, Jackie Collins, had been a consistently popular writer since the 1960s and Joan and her publishers had soon realised her own potential. Her publications, though not as successful as her sister’s, had, nevertheless, already sold 50,000 copies in Britain and America, but with ‘Joan Collins fever sweeping the UK’ (as one publisher put it at the trial), any new work was set to be the biggest blockbuster of all time, surpassing even Jackie’s extraordinary sales. A two-book deal with Random House having been brokered,


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Collins was the recipient of advances worth $4 million, to be paid in stages as manuscripts arrived. The case revolved around one of the manuscripts, The Ruling Passion, that Random House asserted had been delivered ‘unfinished’ (i.e. not a complete manuscript) and which Collins and her attorneys argued had been delivered finished and complete as required under contract. Random House, eager to recover half a million dollars paid out on a worthless collection of disconnected pages, sued for breach of contract at the Supreme Court in New York. What the argument was about was clear: When is a manuscript ‘complete’? The question in law was one of the contractual obligation, but it could not be resolved ‘in law’ without a lengthy courtroom debate determined by questions of narrative, style, and literary ‘quality’. Indeed, the legal niceties of the case turned precisely on the relationship between business and aesthetics – the entrepreneurial authoress versus the corporate giant, the qualitative value of a narrative and its quantitative presence (as a delivered manuscript). Just what, in anybody’s opinion, constituted a properly delivered novel? Was it the author’s opinion or the publisher’s? Was a finished manuscript an object or an aesthetic judgement, or both? Here, the judgement of law met the judgement of literary criticism (itself doubling as good business acumen). It is true that there might have been little to debate if Joan Collins’s agent had not, with uncanny prescience (of both aesthetic judgement and business sense), renegotiated contractual obligations so that the US contract required only that the manuscript of The Ruling Passion be delivered on time and regardless of quality. If Collins met those requirements Random House would have no right to withhold payment of advances even if they thought the manuscript was ‘rubbish’. Random House’s interpretation of this clause was that a complete manuscript was one ready for editing and then publication: a complete narrative without narrative gaps or gaffes, produced to the author’s ‘best efforts’ and agreed by all parties as ready for a public readership. Thus, Collins’s attorneys, led by Ken Burrows, argued that full was a quantitative term referring to a delivered object whilst Random House’s attorneys, led by Robert Callagy, argued that full meant complete qualitatively (i.e. publishable). When is a novel a novel and when does it become a blockbuster? The next days would decide. The trial witnesses, almost all of whom were Random House employees, were all quizzed on the ‘state’ of the delivered work. What, in their opinions, was the status of the delivered manuscript? How, in short, could one separate a qualitative and aesthetic judgement about fiction

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from a legal and contractual question determined by money? For Random House and its editors, the answer lay in the aesthetic values and technical skill displayed in the writing – the definition of popular fiction itself. Joannie Evans felt the work ‘over-the-top, dated, melodramatic [and] not credible’, the writing ‘jumbled and disjointed’, and of Collins’s previous manuscript of Hell Hath No Fury, that it was ‘alarming, frankly’. Leah Boyce could see nothing but ‘tangles’ that were ‘far from resolved’, a story without coherence and reliant on a mess of ‘genres’. Rosemary Cheetham, Random House’s British representative, found merely ‘disjointed scenes’, adding that Collins had chosen subject matter she knew nothing of: ‘magazines [and] the New York business world!’ Moreover, Collins’s setting was also problematic as ‘none of [them] knew anything about Monaco’ (a comment which drew laughter). With the appearance of Lucianne Goldberg, Collins’s agent, questions of literary value turned rapidly to farce. Asked about narrative inconsistencies, which she could not answer, Goldberg parried with wit. Of one character’s drug habit, which was suddenly dropped in the narrative, she replied ‘It’s a miracle!’ When the same character (Desirée) contracts cancer but is later suddenly cured, Goldberg was asked, almost facetiously, by Random House’s attorney Robert Callagy, when chemotherapy had occurred. Her reply that ‘she (Desirée) must have been very sick. She didn’t tell anybody!’ brought further humour to proceedings, as did her ironic insistence that all inconsistencies be put down to divine providence – yet ‘another miracle!’ Defending Collins’s integrity as an author, her attorneys were happy to concede that she was ‘not James Joyce or Proust’ and that her intention was to write ‘commercial fiction . . . like . . . Jackie Collins’, intended to have ‘fancy and fantastical plots’, and be obsessively concerned with ‘money, sex, power and sex, and intrigue and sex’. Indeed, when Collins herself took the stand, indignant, hurt and selfconsciously ‘English’, she freely admitted her work was ‘over the top’, ‘melodramatic’ and ‘more colourful’. When is a novel a novel? When is a manuscript complete? Summing up, Judge Ira Gammerman found no grounds to suggest that Joan Collins had welched on her contract even if it needed ‘editors’, ‘book doctors’ or ‘ghost writers’. A novel is a novel when it is delivered on time, when complete means a coherent (or semi-coherent) narrative, and when 125,000 words is not mere gibberish. Random House was ordered to pay Collins one million dollars, and Dutton published her ninth book, Infamous, during March 1996. The multi-million-dollar


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advance blockbuster had (temporarily) ceased to exit, but Joan Collins hadn’t. Her personal triumph was also something more. Acquitted by a female literate jury it was also the vindication of popular fiction. The closing years of the twentieth century also saw the emergence of ‘serious’ literature as best-selling fiction. Nowhere was this more so than through the growing media interest in, and market importance of the literary prize to, serious fiction sales to the general public. The major literary award became a sub-species of marketing technique, ensuring that there would be, for a short time at least, definite focus on a small group of ‘literary’ works that otherwise, despite merit, might have been overlooked by purchasers. Prizes such as Booker (established 1968), Whitbread (1985) and Orange (1996), as well as a host of lesser awards ensured literary values and large sales, effectively protecting the serious novel and guaranteeing its popularity (especially in hardback). Concentration had also come to the booksellers, competition having greatly increased with the discounting that followed the collapse of the Net Book Agreement.62 By the 1980s the domination of W. H. Smith was challenged by rising competitors in an evolving market in which, There were several significant acquisitions, led by the demerger of Waterstone’s from W. H. Smith. . . . For WHS the move was designed to make it a mid-market ‘popular specialist retailer.’ WHS strengthened its hand in this market by buying the 232-branch John Menzies chain for £68m, bringing the total number of WHS outlets to 741 . . . . The demerger of Waterstone’s resulted in the formation of the HMV Media Group, which combined the retail operations of HMV, Waterstone’s and Dillons. . . . Immediately the rebranding of 44 Dillons branches as Waterstone’s was announced. But Waterstone’s and Dillons were not the only ones under new ownership this year. Hammicks was bought by South African conglomerate Mega in July [1998]. Backed by its new owner, the 28-shop bookseller announced an ambitions scheme to treble in size to 75 outlets.63 Between 1994 and 1998 book-selling advertising rose by 71 per cent with retail giants closely packed in city centres vigorously competing for customers. US giant Borders embarked on a rapid roll-out with its first store openings in London, Glasgow and Brighton. . . . Not to be outdone, sister company Books Etc. opened four new shops in 1998.

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Waterstone’s and Dillons fought back with an extra 70,000 sq ft and revealed plans for more superstores, including 40,000 sq ft close to Oxford Circus and 54,000 sq ft in the Simpsons building, Piccadilly. . . . W. H. Smith increased its high street presence by 58,500 sq ft. Ottakars also grew its retailing space by 70,000 sq ft.64 Bookselling superstores offered books as ‘lifestyle’ and sold music, magazines and coffee. Waterstone’s at Gower Street claimed two million ‘visitors’ per year buying books, drinking coffee and using eight Internet terminals. Such ‘visitors’ might be attracted as much by events, signings and concerts as by book discounts. By the end of the twentieth century it had become impossible to disentangle the elements of retail bookselling and the publishing industry. It was during the 1980s that most of the old publishing houses either amalgamated or were taken over and absorbed within larger international media empires. Such mergers and takeovers left old imprints in place but radically altered the boundaries (and therefore the opportunities) of publishing houses in the United Kingdom. Pyramidal-shaped companies were the result of ‘verticalization’ from the 1980s to the late 1990s. Macmillan/Pan, HarperCollins/Fontana, Bantam/Transworld, Hodder/Coronet and Vintage/Penguin control all the processes of publishing from hardback to paperback. By 1994 News Corps had purchased Collins and HarperCollins, and as the decade progressed Pearson had taken over Penguin, Michael Joseph and Simon & Schuster. Macmillan was bought by the German media group Holzbrinck, whilst the other German media giant, Bertelsman, bought Jonathan Cape, Secker & Warburg, and Chatto & Windus. Time Warner and Hodder Headline owned most of the rest. By the early nineties cut-price competition amongst hardbacks produced a depressed paperback market. To avoid losing both markets six publishers, under the leadership of W. H. Smith, created paperback ‘originals’, titles no longer tied to hardback publishing. This led to a decrease in hardback production costs and a shortening of recovery time for outlays. The age of the mass multi-media publisher had arrived, with bestselling authors changing hands as if they were sports celebrities. The high profiles given to a small number of best-selling writers have led to their commanding a high degree of public loyalty – and even higher advances and ‘transfer fees’ from publishers. High-profile deals during 1998 included Nick Hornby’s move from Gollancz to


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Penguin in a £2m two-book deal, and the £1m paid to Martin Amis when he moved from HarperCollins to Random House.65 At the turn of the new century, the children’s author J. K. Rowling had established herself as Britain’s top author with her tales of Harry Potter, a character whose appeal crossed the boundaries of age and class. Rowling’s talents were a gift to publishers and merchandisers alike.

3 Genre: History and Form

When I first came across Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, I was walking down the Uxbridge Road in tears. As soon as I’d finished, I realised I had just read B-movie twaddle. Louis de Bernières [the author] managed to punch every button. It was let’s have nice Mediterranean peasants, nasty Nazis, positive gay characters and two people who aren’t allowed to shag for 500 pages. It’s Barbara Cartland and I bought it. You want to throw it across the room with a smile of admiration on your face. (James Hawes [author of White Merc with Fins], in Metro, 10 January 2000)

The most popular genres at the end of the twentieth century were virtually the same as at its beginning – an overwhelming percentage of fiction concentrated either on crime detection and mystery or on women’s romance. Such fiction accounted for at least 50 per cent of all genre purchases, whilst ‘general’ fiction and other series accounted for the rest. In 2008 mixed genres such as those of the ‘sex and shopping’ and chick-lit variety competed with historical thrillers, the fashion for which started by Caleb Carr and old-fashioned conspiracy thrillers the most evident being those written by Dan Brown. For younger readers there was a growing volume of gothic style writing exemplified by authors such as Lemony Snicket. Such divisions hide more than they reveal. Books could be endlessly subdivided according to subject matter or style, yet display other characteristics which united them according to theme or moral outlook. Genre categorisation slides uneasily between the vaguenesses of aggregation and dispersal, a game of percentages as well as stylistic or thematic nuances. Thus in 1956 readers could find romances and historical 107


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novels, ‘exotic’ novels, sea stories and naval adventures, tales of childhood and growing up, country novels and novels about women, adventure stories and science-fiction romps, novels of religion and novels of business, novels of modern stress and novels about ‘relationships’. To these were added true crime, school novels, radio and television adaptations and a subgenre that year – novels about Australia. In 1965, by way of contrast, the romance, historical thriller and war novel had to make way for ‘race’ novels, psychological dramas, ‘man-in-crisis’ novels, tales of homosexuality, tales of the media and of the macabre, whilst medical sagas jostled with tales of the business world, working-class social realism and tales of action. Endless subdivisions and variations, however, left general genre divisions much as in 1956 or, for that matter, 1906 or 1996. Genre stability demonstrates the innate conservatism of writing in two ways. First, publishers like books that fit shelves, that need little explanation and that are easy to categorise. This leads them to stick to winning formulae. Secondly, authors work in traditions and often attempt to ‘compete’ with past authorial influences. Thus Frederick Forsyth, the author of The Day of the Jackal (1971) and The Odessa File (1972), felt an affinity with past writers such as John Buchan, Jeffrey Farnol and G. A. Henty, whilst Barbara Cartland remembered her childhood devotion to Berta Ruck, E. M. Hull and Ethel M. Dell. Moreover, best-selling authors tend to be aged between their late thirties or (more likely) mid-forties and mid-sixties, revisiting and revising much that came from their own childhood and teen years earlier in the century. The contemporary division of popular fiction into a variety of ‘genres’ according to style, theme or content was unknown to Victorian and Edwardian readers and publishers. For them, if they considered the problem at all, it would have been the classical definition of genres, inherited from Greek and Latin writers, that they would have understood. The current version of genre as a means of categorising fictional formulae gained its modern usage quite late in the last century, by which time it had replaced other meanings of the word. Before the First World War there was simply too little popular fiction to need categorising, almost all popular writing being designated with the vague title of ‘romance’, which had not itself become a term used exclusively for women’s fiction. By the 1920s, the new deluge of popular publishing made it obvious that a bewildering variety of themes had begun to emerge. Most, if not all these themes had their origin before or during the war but now the sheer volume of titles made division inevitable.

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The division of popular fiction into ‘genres’ may have been an accomplished fact by the mid-1920s but it did not exercise readers or publishers except in a pragmatic way. It interested critics not at all. Nevertheless, by the 1930s the now familiar categories of popular fiction had emerged (except science fiction, ‘fantasy’ and women’s romance) sufficiently to have a sense of origins and tradition. Readers, of course, had long been used to going to the local bookshop or tuppenny library and asking for a good whodunit or the latest ‘weepy’. Researchers during the late 1930s began to use the now-familiar genre categories when library users were interviewed or followed, but the fully fledged re-categorisation of popular writing by commercial publishers, booksellers and critics only really emerges in the 1960s when certain categories, such as women’s romance and science fiction, become more prevalent and when paperbacks begin to take up most of the bookshelves in shops. Genre categorisation was convenient for booksellers selling a product rather than an author (facilitated by paperback demand), for publishers looking for a niche market to dominate, and for critics keen on categorising popular (or mass) consumption. During the 1980s, the genre categories that are now most familiar became the most popular form in which to list writers and their work in bookshops and in academic papers. Indeed the serious study of popular fiction despite its tentative beginnings in the 1970s became a small academic industry by the mid- to late 1980s. It is no coincidence that shops began re-labelling popular fiction (paperback) shelves to conform to this pattern at the same time. Academics and booksellers alike talked of crime thrillers and detective fiction, women’s romance and the historical novel, science fiction and fantasy, horror and westerns; moreover new sub-categories then began to emerge during the 1980s: ‘Aga’ sagas; erotica; gay fiction; ‘cult’ fiction; graphic novels. Such categorisation organised and directed customers and focused academic minds. Yet this still left a vast residue of what became known as ‘modern’ fiction as well as forcing some writers into categories they thought diminished and pigeonholed them. Most notable amongst such writers was Catherine Cookson, who insisted she was a historical novelist (i.e. serious), not a women’s romance writer (i.e. frivolous), although in most bookshops her work was shelved under ‘romance’. To categorise books into popular genres before the 1920s is in some way a false labelling, unrecognisable to the readers of that age; nevertheless, it is clear that certain stories were likely to prove most popular. These included detective fiction, romance, adventures of the empire


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and ‘family’ sagas. Above all, however, were Christian and temperance morality tales, whose messages infused everything, producing some of the era’s most popular writers: Hall Caine, Ouida, Marie Corelli and Mrs Henry Wood. With the more liberal climate of the 1920s (heralded by writers like H. G. Wells and Elinor Glyn), these highly successful moralists were almost entirely forgotten by a newer generation of younger readers who had grown up during the war. Some Christian moralists did, however, survive. Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, although published in 1880, was not only performed on stage but also catered to the epic pretensions of an emerging Hollywood, which made a hugely popular silent version and an equally popular full-colour talking version. Lloyd Douglas could still exploit the potential of the genre with books like The Robe, published as late as 1942. A small subgenre of highly successful ‘Christian meets lions in Coliseum’ films continued to attract cinema audiences throughout the period from the 1920s to 1960s when the genre petered out, to be revived briefly (if in pagan disguise) by Ridley Scott in Gladiator (2000). The modern ‘Christianised’ morality tale (albeit bereft of an overtly religious message) was exemplified in the work of Florence L. Barclay, one of Britain’s most successful writers. In her work, religion is replaced by religiosity. Author of The Rosary (1909), Barclay wrote books that were both contemporary in theme (in attitude) and consolatory in times of confusion or trouble. The Rosary is typical in this regard. Published simultaneously in Britain and America in 1909, it immediately sold 150,000 copies, which by 1924 had risen to a million with numerous translations. The Times called it a book ‘which should attract lovers of wholesome fiction’ and the Sphere suggested all Barclay’s books were ‘inspired by true religious feeling’. The book ends on consolation, repose, acceptance and the transcendence of wedded bliss infused with an aura of religiosity (‘allusion to religion [but] . . . never dragged in’). ‘Hush, sweetest wife,’ he said. ‘Neither light nor darkness can separate between you and me. This quiet moonlight cannot take you from me; but in the still, sweet darkness you will feel more completely my own, because it will hold nothing we cannot share. Come with me to the library, and we will send away the lamps, and close the curtains; and you shall sit on the couch near the piano, where you sat, on that wonderful evening when I found you, and when I almost frightened my brave Jane. But she will not be frightened now, because she is so my own; and I may say what I like; and do what I

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will; and she must not threaten me with Nurse Rosemary; because it is Jane I want – Jane, Jane; just only Jane! Come in, belovéd; and I, who see as clearly in the dark as in the light, will sit and play The Rosary for you; and then Veni, Creator Spiritus; and I will sing you the verse which has been the secret source of peace, and the sustaining power of my whole inner life, through the long, hard years, apart.’ ‘Now,’ whispered Jane. ‘Now, as we go.’ So Garth drew her hand through his arm; and, as they walked, sang softly: ‘Enable with perpetual light, The dullness of our blinded sight; Anoint and cheer our soiléd face. Keep far our foes; give peace at home; Where Thou art guide, no ill can come.’ Thus leaning on her husband; yet guiding him, as she leaned; Jane passed to the perfect happiness of her wedded home. (Florence L. Barclay, The Rosary, ch. 4) The maudlin sentiment and message of spiritual consolation found continuous appeal for forty years: years of civil unrest and uncertainty, changing morals and values and two world wars. It took the Cold War to finally kill The Rosary! Barclay’s books were, however, harbingers of the new fiction, not only because we see in The Rosary a thousand Mills and Boon romances (Barclay overwhelmingly appealed to women) but because her work was inherently modern in its approach to writing fiction (and especially women’s domestic fiction): My aim is: Never to write a line which could introduce the taint of sin, or the shadow of shame, into any home. Never to draw a character which should tend to lower the ideals of those who, by means of my pen, make intimate acquaintance with a man or a woman of my own creating. There is enough sin in the world without an author’s powers of imagination being used in order to add even fictitious sin to the amount. Too many bad, mean, morbid characters already, alas! walk this earth. Why should writers add to their number, and risk introducing them into beautiful homes where such people in actual life would never, for one moment, be tolerated?


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

. . . [I]n according so generous a reception to The Rosary, and to other books of the same tone and calibre, the public has frankly given its assent to this divine precept, and this verdict in favour of writers who are humbly, yet earnestly, endeavouring to make it their rule and guide, and who may, therefore, with glad assurance take courage and go forward.1 Her biographer and daughter concluded: But I believe the reason why people bought the books in so unusual a way was just because . . . the books so exactly fulfilled the requirements of a novel, that people were ready to buy them and take them home to read again when they wanted to be refreshed after the dust and heat and weariness of the day. A problem novel may be interesting; a novel with a teaching purpose may be a necessary form of education; a book that is a piece of remorseless realism may be stimulating; but people do not want to possess books of that sort; they feel a little doubtful about lending them to their friends; they do not feel drawn towards reading them a second time, or dipping into them when the world’s sunshine is, for awhile, absent; in short, they do not care to have them as part of the permanent furniture of their homes. I think it was this meeting of a public need that gave the books their big sales; and I emphasise the point because it was a quite conscious aim of my mother’s. She loved to think that she was brightening the lives of millions of unknown people, resting the minds of the world’s workers. It was for them she wrote – not for the critics.2 Yet there was something else that attracted readers: The Rosary was set in a world essentially mundane, a prosaic paradise in which ordinary women recognised their own circumstances idealised. She was out to supply her fellow men with joy, refreshment, inspiration. She was not out to make art for art’s sake, or to perform a literary tour de force, or to rival the makers of fiction of the past. By eschewing tragedy, by forgoing the depiction of the more violent human emotions, by substituting a delicate fancy for a burning realism, she sacrificed the dramatic opportunities her vivid imagination could easily have supplied.3 This was a legacy that would soon be developed by writers such as Ethel M. Dell and Barbara Cartland. The Times suggested on her death, that,

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A writer who appealed to and won the affection of so many of her fellow countrymen and women is no negligible quantity. Indeed there is reason to think that Mrs Barclay understood the tendency of her age better than many contemporary novelists whose technical skill exceed hers.4 Although consolatory and spiritualist books did particularly well in the early 1920s, the First World War released other more violent and exciting passions. It is in this period that the thriller, and the spy thriller in particular, take on a modern form; that modern, empire-threatening villains make their appearance; that technology becomes a contemporary theme and western heroes ride over the horizon. It is noteworthy that Sax Rohmer’s Dr Fu Manchu made his first appearance in a novel in 1913, Edgar Rice Burroughs published his first Tarzan tale in 1914, John Buchan (in imitation of American ‘dime’ novels and British ‘shockers’) created the character of Richard Hannay (and thereby the modern spy novel) in 1915, and that Herman Cyril McNeile (‘Sapper’) created Bulldog Drummond and Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot both in 1920. Whereas before the war Elinor Glyn’s Three Weeks had caused a scandal, by 1925 Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, ‘the illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady’ (as it proclaimed on the British edition with the innuendo attached), had become ‘probably the funniest book that [had] appeared in England or America’ (Rose Macaulay). As the cover ‘blurb’ pointed out, ‘You may blush as you laugh at it, but you cannot help laughing.’ Technology, adventure, mystery and a tinge of the erotic became the staple of thrillers, westerns, crime novels and tales of the supernatural, creating a huge market for writers such as Sidney Horler, William Le Queux, Dornford Yates, Leslie Charteris and Edgar Wallace. Between 1913 and the mid-1930s such writers rose to pre-eminent positions, the crime thriller/adventure thriller coming to dominate the market. Tales of airmen and airships abounded as did stories of ‘death rays’ wielded by inscrutable (German or French) enemies, becoming part of a subgenre of thriller writing which continued into the 1930s and beyond, into tales of Cold War super-weapons. William Le Queux was an early proponent of such tales, which followed in the tradition of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells from the previous century. Le Queux’s Terror of the Air, produced just after the First World War, suggested the sensational possibilities of the new air warfare brought about by a reinvigorated and militant Germany.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

A few short years ago such a story as The Terror of the Air would have been characterised as wildly improbable if not absolutely impossible. But to-day we are well into the Aerial Age. Such a great pirate aircraft as Mr Le Queux imagines is by no means beyond the realms of possibility, and a story such as he tells must cause thoughtful people to realise very forcibly the immense power which command of the air gives. The author describes vividly how the great pirate aeroplane terrorised the world, destroying aircraft and shipping, bombing London, New York and Paris, and spreading poison gas, disease germs and other horrors over its helpless victims. The account of the long war between the forces of order and the raider is full of breath-taking incidents, culminating in the thrilling and graphic description of the pirate craft’s ultimate destruction. At this time, when aviation is making such vast strides daily, this story is of immense interest. . . . To make my story clear, and to give an adequate idea of the paralysing effect of the appearances of the Terror of the Air on the mind of the public all over the world, I must, much as I detest ancient history, go back a few years. The great world war into which the nation were flung in August, 1914, by the unbridled rapacity of Germany, and the unbounded megalomania of her half-crazed ruler, came to an end in November, 1918. Germany – utterly crushed in the field, slowly starving to death, a prey to famine and Bolshevism – appeared before the Council of the Allies, an unblushing mendicant, begging relief from the very peoples whom for years she had outraged and robbed without mercy. The world has seldom beheld a more nauseating spectacle. It was, and is, unpleasant to contemplate, and I mention it only to make my story clear. The bully of Europe fawned and cringed when thrashed in the manner of bullies of all ages. Of course, it is only fair to say that the German people as a whole knew nothing of what was being prepared; the secret could not have been kept had it been otherwise. None the less, as was fully established later, it was German cunning, German hatred, and German money which sent the Terror of the Air upon his fell mission. And behind him were the very men who planned and prepared the world war – the uncivilised and uncivilisable Junkers of Prussia. (William Le Queux, The Terror of the Air, ch. 1) The cover of the shilling edition shows a girl flyer and her hero boyfriend standing, clench fisted, as a huge multi-engined red bomber flies overhead and crowds of fear-driven people flee from the wreckage

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of another bombed-out city. The megalomaniac villain (with a Jewish name and abetted by the German government) finally commits suicide to avoid arrest. Late twentieth-century writers have continued this early technological thriller tradition, most notably Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy and Ian Fleming, whose work is directly indebted to it. Le Queux’s contemporary Edgar Wallace and his influence on film history also cannot be ignored (he created ‘King Kong’). The contemporary Hollywood blockbusters of the 1990s and twenty-first century are direct descendants of such writers and their (usually) long-forgotten books. During the 1950s and early 1960s television would rediscover many of these stories and use them as short dramas or series. The last of the buccaneering heroes of the 1920s, Leslie Charteris’s hero Simon Templar (‘The Saint’) created in 1927, remained a firm favourite of television audiences from the 1950s to the 1970s. Popular writers of the 1920s, especially those writing thrillers, continued to find popularity right through until the end of the Second World War but as might be expected the tensions of the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s produced both an edgier literature devoted to social commentary and a more escapist literature determined by nostalgia for historical romance. History books and technical or scientific books also became extremely popular. While fiction was thus becoming more factual, factual books were being written in a fictional style. Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria, which started the fashion, had been ‘as good as a novel’, and Philip Guedalla’s coruscating biographies were ‘as good as a modern novel’. In 1930, several publishers brought out series of short, lively critical biographies of famous men and women, commissioned from noted authors. At least two hundred such appeared, and sold very well. Their subjects ranged from Lord Byron to the Indian Emperor Akbar, and from Saint Paul to Mozart. This desire for readily assimilable factual truth was met in the department of science by simply written, rather sentimental books by Professors Jeans and Eddington on physics and astronomy, and by such encyclopedia compilations as The Outline of Science by H. G. Wells, and his biologist son, and Professor Julian Huxley the zoologist. There was still a great demand for scientific vistas of the future, especially the ‘To-day and Tomorrow’ series of essays; and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and H. G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come were their fictional counterpart.5


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Novels dealing with the nature of Britain’s future, whether science fiction or social prediction, coincided with books more evidently concerned with Britain’s failed sense of community. A. J. Cronin’s The Citadel (1937) chronicled the failure of medical provision in a Welsh community before the coming of the Welfare State. Its tone is one of outrage at cynicism and complacency.

‘Science apart, doctor, you might satisfy my curiosity. Why have you come here?’ By this time Andrew’s temper was rising rapidly. He answered grimly. ‘My idea was to turn Drineffy into a health resort – a sort of spa, you know.’ Again Denny laughed. His laugh was an insult, which made Andrew long to hit him. ‘Witty, witty, my dear doctor. The true Scots steamroller humour. Unfortunately I can’t recommend the water here as being ideally suited for a spa. As to the medical gentlemen – my dear doctor, in this valley they’re the rag-tag and bobtail of a glorious, a truly noble profession.’ ‘Including yourself?’ ‘Precisely!’ Denny nodded. He was silent a moment, contemplating Andrew from beneath his sandy eyebrows. Then he dropped his mocking irony, his ugly features turned morose again. His tone, though bitter, was serious. ‘Look here, Manson! I realise you’re just passing through on your way to Harley Street, but in the meantime there are one or two things about this place you ought to know. You won’t find it conform to the best traditions of romantic practice. There’s no hospital, no ambulance, no X-rays, no anything. If you want to operate you use the kitchen table. You wash up afterwards at the scullery bosh. The sanitation won’t bear looking at. In a dry summer the kids die like flies with infantile cholera. Page, your boss, was a damn good old doctor, but he’s finished now, finished by overwork, and’ll never do a hand’s turn again. Nicholls, my owner, is a tight little money-chasing midwife. Bramwell, the Lung Buster, knows nothing but a few sentimental recitations and the Songs of Solomon. As for myself, I better anticipate the gay tidings – I drink like a fish. Oh! and Jenkins, your tame druggist, does a thriving trade, on the side, in little lead pills for female ills. I think that’s about all. (A. J. Cronin, The Citadel, ch. 2)

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For all its romanticism and mystery, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) reflects a tone of emptiness, loss and pointlessness punctuated by death, madness and arson. It ends in barren and lonely continental wandering. The tone is consistent with the age. Best-selling authors in 1937 called on Britons to ‘reclaim their roots’ and to remember that people came before machines, to be in touch with nature. J. B. Priestley reminded his readers: We cannot seek grace through gadgets. We can be just as unhappy in spun-glass trousers as we were in worsted ones. In a bakelite house the dishes may not break, but the heart can. Even a man with ten shower-baths can still find life stale, flat and unprofitable. (Midnight on the Desert, 1937) Stanley Baldwin even established himself in the public eye as ‘Farmer Stan’. In 1935 he coined his most frequently quoted statement, ‘England is the country and the country is England.’ His main message was one of values and traditions which marked a certain ‘Englishness’, which he wished to recapture. Baldwin had a particular liking for Winifred Holtby’s 1936 book South Riding. The story followed a country squire who defeats a plan for a housing estate that was to be built by cheating others out of their money. Baldwin saw work as, and considered himself as, ‘standing up for the values of an older England against the inroads of inhumane and mechanistic commercialism’, which was grounded in what he saw as ‘the greatest peril of our age, the peril of materialism’. Most famous of all ‘the state of the nation’ books during the 1930s was H. V. Morton’s In Search of England, originally published in 1927 but running through twenty-five editions by 1938. So popular was this book that almost every secondhand book dealer in Britain has numerous copies even now. A writer on England to-day addresses himself to a wider and a more intelligent public than ever before, and the reason is, I think, that never before have so many people been searching for England. The remarkable system of motor-coach services which now penetrates every part of the country has thrown open to ordinary people regions which even after the coming of the railway were remote and inaccessible. The popularity of the cheap motor-car is also greatly responsible for this long-overdue interest in English history, antiquities, and topography. More people than in any previous generation are seeing


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

the real country for the first time. Many hundreds of such explorers return home with a new enthusiasm. The roads of England, eclipsed for a century by the railway, have come to life again. Since James Watt invented a new world on Glasgow Green, the town and the country have grown apart. They do not understand one other. Since the so-called Industrial ‘Revolution’ – evolution is surely a better word – English country life has declined, agriculture has fallen on bad times, and the village has been drained to a great extent of its social vitality. . . . It is difficult at first for the unaccustomed eyes of the townsman to understand that behind the beauty of the English country is an economic and a social cancer. An old order is being taxed out of existence; ‘our greatest industry’ – as the experts call it – employs fewer men than those on the dole, and, struggling along, is facing insuperable difficulties with a blundering but historic stolidity. While our cornland is going back to grass year after year, our annual bill to the foreigner for imported foodstuffs is four hundred million pounds. Everywhere is the same story: mortgages on farms; no fluid capital; the breaking up of famous estates when owners die; the impossibility of growing corn because of the expense of labour and the danger of foreign competition; the folly of keeping cattle when the Roast Beef of Old England comes so cheaply from the Argentine. (pp. vii, ix) The narrative of ‘a motor-car journey round England’ (p. vii) was an attempt to harness new technology (‘the cheap motor-car’) in order to find an older, more permanent and better England (see chapter 5). The theme re-emerged during World War Two and then later formed the basis for Kazuo Ishiguro’s hugely successful book The Remains of the Day (1989), itself a commentary on the previous ‘yuppy’ decade of Thatcherism (see especially the section ‘Day One – Evening: Salisbury’). ‘Unbearable pessimism’ does not sell books, as the Bookseller noted in November 1957 of that particular year’s crop, so it is not surprising to find that readers looked for escapist and uplifting reading, something they found in J. B. Priestley’s The Good Companions (1929) and in the genre of historical romance provided in Spades by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936), a book whose phenomenal success became legendary. It was followed by an even more famous film, which gave the book a status that sharply elevated it above all the other bestsellers of the period.

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One area of innovation is worth noting. The steady rise in the popularity of the thriller had paralleled the slow decline of ghost and horror tales during the late 1920s. Ghost and horror tales had remained popular since the Victorian age but, on the whole, this was confined to short stories or collections of short stories. When Hollywood utilised the genre for its classic versions of Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1935) it had to look for substantial tales from the nineteenth century. Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out (1934) was something new – a supernatural thriller combining black magic (information supplied by Aleister Crowley), car chases and a mysterious villain, Mr Mocata (based upon Aleister Crowley himself). Mocata and his servant are direct descendants of the imperial villains of Conan Doyle and Sax Rohmer. ‘Have you ever seen this bird – Mocata I mean?’ ‘Yes, I called one evening about six weeks ago. Simon was out so Mocata received me.’ ‘And what did you make of him?’ ‘I disliked him intensely. He’s a pot-bellied, bald-headed person of about sixty, with large, protuberant, fishy eyes, limp hands, and a most unattractive lisp. He reminded me of a large white slug.’ ‘What about this servant that you mention?’ ‘I only saw him for a moment when he crossed the hall, but he reminded me in a most unpleasant way of the Bogey Man with whom I used to be threatened in my infancy.’ ‘Why, is he a black?’ ‘Yes. A Malagasy I should think.’ Rex frowned. ‘Now what in heck is that?’ ‘A native of Madagascar. They are curious people, half-Negro and half-Polynesian. This great brute stands about six foot eight, and the one glimpse I had of his eyes made me want to shoot him on sight. He’s a “bad black” if ever I saw one, and I’ve travelled, as you know, in my time.’ (Dennis Wheatley, The Devil Rides Out, ch. 1) The nature of Mocata’s villainy nevertheless is not attached to imperial defence but to current political change in Europe – a situation that in the novel produces certain esoteric commentaries, of which this is the most bizarre (and perverse) example.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

De Richleau extended the thing he had taken from the drawer. It was a small golden swastika set with precious stones and threaded on a silken ribbon. ‘Simon Aron,’ the Duke spoke again. ‘With this symbol I am about to place you under the protection of the power of Light. No being or force of Earth, or Air, of Fire, or Water can harm you while you wear it.’ With quick fingers he knotted the talisman round Simon’s neck. . . . Fancy hanging a Nazi swastika round the neck of a professing Jew. ‘My dear Rex! Do please try and broaden your outlook a little. The swastika is the oldest symbol of wisdom and right thinking in the world. It has been used by every race and in every country at some time or other. You might just as well regard the Cross as purely Christian, when we all know it was venerated in early Egypt, thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The Nazis have only adopted the swastika because it is supposed to be of Aryan origin and part of their programme aims at welding together a large section of the Aryan race. (ch. 3)6 The Second World War delayed further changes or innovations (people went to older familiar books) but once it had finished and publishing had again settled down, changes did occur. Of most obvious interest were the momentous events of the war itself, creating an insatiable taste for fiction and non-fiction dealing with the conflict. Christopher London’s Ice Cold in Alex was published in 1957 as was Alistair MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone, but these were both upstaged by the success of books like Paul Brickell’s The Dambusters (1965) and Nicholas Monsarrat’s The Cruel Sea (1951), which became the first two books officially to reach one million paperback sales in Britain, The Dambusters selling a quarter of a million copies after the release of the film. Tales of the war remained popular throughout the late 1950s to mid-1970s; MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone (1957) and Where Eagles Dare (1967) also became hugely successful films whilst Ice Cold in Alex (film: 1958) became one of the great classics of British cinematography. It is noteworthy that C. S. Forester’s The African Queen (1935), a tale of the First World War, was brought out in a Penguin edition in 1956. Slowly diminishing in importance through the 1970s, the war story was still capable of producing bestsellers, as Jack Higgins proved in The Eagle Has Landed (1975), a tale about a plot to kidnap Winston Churchill. Sven Hassel’s Wheels of Terror, which first appeared in 1959, told the

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story of a vicious SS Penal Regiment on the Russian front. It created a minor œuvre that had a huge male readership by the 1970s, when it went through numerous editions. Sam Peckinpah’s film Cross of Iron (1977) was not only based upon the work of Willi Heinrich (Das Gedul´dige Fleisch) but was directly indebted to Hassel and his followers, such as Leo Kessler. If the war story provided excitement, adventure and sometimes heroics during the Cold War then the spy story provided contemporary commentary. Robert Harling’s The Enormous Shadow (1955) provided a story of sordid detections and misguided traitors. Its style is intentionally downbeat and anti-heroic as this exchange suggests. ‘I always imagine these M.I.5 characters skipping round the world in false beards, burnous and sandals. Perhaps I’m wrong.’ ‘You’re as wrong as you know you are,’ I said. ‘A desk, dockets, stacks of card indexes, a brief-case and a job as dreary as a pay clerk’s in the army.’ (ch. 1) And the reason for this pessimistic downgrading of the language of thrillers was clearly a new demand for a realism which could compete with daily news. Devotees of escapist literature are in danger of losing one of their mainstays – the psychological thriller. Gone, as if it had never existed, is the Dornford Yates world of Rolls-Royce chivalry. Mr Usborne’s clubland heroes have had it. Even the Saint or Mickey Spillane’s American toughs now only raise a mild smile and a knowing reference to Freud. And why? Real life has caught up with them. Burgess and Maclean, Pontecorvo, Nunn May – grim and all too genuine figures of our time, they bang their way on to the stage. (Peter Green, The Broadsheet, ‘blurb’ on the cover of The Enormous Shadow) Such ‘new realism’ in popular thrillers also owed a considerable debt to the political fables of George Orwell whose Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949) proved enormously influential throughout the 1950s and 1960s. John le Carré’s The Spy who Came in from the Cold (1963) follows this 1950s tradition of realism in Berlin’s ‘half-world of ruin’ (ch. 1), in which ‘our methods . . . and those of the opposition – have become much the same’ (ch. 1) and in which spies are a ‘squalid procession of


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

vain fools, traitors . . . pansies, sadists and drunkards’ working to protect ‘the great moronic mass’ (ch. 25). It remained for Ian Fleming to pull together the thread of imperial adventure, the craving for luxury and travel and the harsh realities of East/West antagonism. Fleming’s James Bond had, by the 1970s, become the most significant creation in modern English literature, yet early on he too had succumbed to the new realism. In From Russia with Love (1957) Bond meets his nemesis on a mission to ‘pimp for England’ (ch. 12). If some genres were doing well then others were in terminal decline. John Creasey, on the results of a straw poll of publishers, found that the ‘western’ novel seemed to be read by an almost negligible market segment. Most publishers sold less than 3,000 copies per title and the most famous authors contented themselves with top sales of 6,000 copies. British readers who remained loyal to westerns preferred ‘bang bang yarns’ as Creasey put it, to the frontier tales preferred in the United States. The popularity of the film and television version of ‘cowboys and Indians’ which saturated much viewing in the 1950s may have contributed to the feeling that it was no longer necessary to read what could be seen in Technicolor (at least on the big screen). Nevertheless, westerns remained a coterie interest into the twenty-first century.7 One genre that found its first large popular readership in Britain was science fiction. The genre had, of course, existed since the late nineteenth century but ‘romances of the future’ had remained the property of writers like H. G. Wells, who had moved on to sociological novels, or were ‘sports’ like Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). The age of space exploration began to change this as popular fiction explored the possibilities of technological progress and space travel and looked at the darker possibilities of atomic and radiation meltdown. Technological change was the overwhelming interest of writers like Arthur C. Clarke, in books like Childhood’s End (1954). Clarke found lasting fame, however, with the novelisation of his screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968), which mixed technological evolution with psychedelic personal evolution. It was John Wyndham, however, who came to epitomise 1950s British science fiction with his doom-laden tales Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953) and The Chrysalids (1955). Wyndham’s œuvre provided the basis for numerous film and television adaptations. The 1960s confirmed rather than changed the genres that had existed before. The paperback revolution meant authors on the bestseller list could reach unprecedented numbers of readers. Film and television

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adaptation were often central to a writer’s longevity, nowhere more so than in the literary careers of Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie (and, coincidentally, D. H. Lawrence). J. R. R. Tolkien also found a ready audience and with the rediscovery of R. E. Howard (d. 1936), H. P. Lovecraft (d. 1937) and Lord Dunsany (d. 1957) a whole ‘sword and sorcery’ subgenre came into being. The 1970s saw the dominance of two genres: women’s romance, and crime and detective fiction, but these two had largely dominated the market before. What changed was the number of disposable paperbacks, which created a publishing industry for Mills and Boon. The 1970s health boom also created a greatly enlarged readership for Barbara Cartland and ‘Miss Read’, whose wholesome historical dramas attracted women to whom liberal values did not appeal. Crime fiction became more diverse but essentially remained divided between classical puzzle stories and gangster violence. Police procedurals and forensic detectives remoulded the genre for a readership keen on greater ‘realism’. Elsewhere the sea adventures of C. S. Forester were attracting writers like Alexander Kent (Douglas Reeman) and Patrick O’Brian (d. 2000), and the war novel was a palpable influence on writers such as Richard Adams, whose Watership Down (1972) used his own experiences of the horrors of war (the strangulation of Bigwig in the wire snare). Even imperial adventure was revived with Wilbur Smith’s Shout at the Devil (1968). By the 1960s genre divisions, however vaguely defined, had been determined by over sixty years of publishing. The romances, historical novels, thrillers, crime and detective tales, horror and fantasy genres which ended the century all had origins before or during the First World War. If the erotic novella, in the 1990s (both heterosexual and gay), usurped space given over to romance it did not replace the more conservative and moral ‘Aga sagas’ and historical romances of writers like Catherine Cookson. New writers exploited rather than invented new ways of thinking about genre. The most successful of all such writers was Thomas Harris. For all its pseudo-realism, Silence of the Lambs (1988) combined police procedural and forensic detection, gothic horrors and a memorable villain, Hannibal Lecter. Behavioral science, the FBI section that deals with serial murder, is on the bottom floor of the Academy building at Quantico, halfburied in the earth. Clarice Starling reached it flushed after a fast walk from Hogan’s Alley on the firing range. She had grass in her hair and


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

grass stains on her FBI Academy windbreaker from diving to the ground under fire in an arrest problem on the range. . . . The fire lights glowed red in the Insect Zoo, reflected in ten thousand active eyes of the older phylum. The humidifier hummed and hissed. Beneath the cover, in the black cage, the Death’s-head moth climbed down the nightshade. She moved across the floor, her wings trailing like a cape, and found the bit of honeycomb in her dish. Grasping the honeycomb in her powerful front legs, she uncoiled her sharp proboscis and plunged it through the wax cap of a honey cell. Now she sat sucking quietly while all around her in the dark the chirps and whirs resumed, and with them the tiny tillings and killings. (ch. 40)

Dr Hannibal Lecter himself reclined on his bunk, perusing the Italian edition of Vogue. He held the loose pages in his right hand and put them beside him one by one with his left. Dr Lecter has six fingers on his left hand. . . . His cultured voice has a slight metallic rasp beneath it, possibly from disuse. Dr Lecter’s eyes are maroon and they reflect the light of pinpoints of red. (ch. 22) Lecter is a villain born of Dr Fu Manchu and Dr No; a monster straight from the glorious days of imperial adventure. Nowadays, the chief proponent of this style is no longer a British author. An American, Dan Brown too has gone back to the heady 1920s with his melange of exotic master criminals, world-travelling heroes, ridiculously rich adventurers and bizarre conspiracies. At on point in The Da Vinci Code, the villain Professor Teabing even exclaims to his servant, ‘an adventure, Remy. I say, an adventure!’, a comment that links Brown to authors such as Dornford Yates or Sidney Horler and which seem so ridiculous as to appear pastiche. At other times, Teabing almost seems a rewriting of all those 1920’s gentleman detectives as he shouts lines such as, ‘My associates and I have urgent business in London. We’ve no time to waste. Please prepare to depart immediately,’ before boarding his private jet. The foremost name in genre publishing remains the company of Mills and Boon who by the 1930s had realised the value of packaging and target marketing.

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Before 1950 and the advent of the mass-market paperback, Mills and Boon was not the largest publishing house in Britain, nor was it the most successful (as it is today). But the firm exemplifies the major structural changes in the publishing industry in Britain at this time and in this respect is of importance to the historian. First and foremost a commercial enterprise, Mills and Boon was the pioneer in the promotion of books as commodities and the rationalization of established publishing houses into library suppliers in the 1930s.8 The company had been founded in 1908 by Gerald Mills and Charles Boon, both of whom had previously worked for Methuen. Although for many years a general publisher with interests not only in fiction but in educational and scientific work, the company also specialized in its most successful type of novel, the romance. Romantic novels had already been a strong feature of its lists throughout the 1920s, with Sophie Cole, Joan Sutherland, Louise Gerard, and Dolf Wyllarde big sellers. In 1923 Mills and Boon published Georgette Heyer’s first novel, under the pen-name Stella Martin.9 Although not yet producing paperbacks, by the 1930s the company had a strong library readership, including readers at Boots and the vast tuppenny library network. The firm became a master of the ‘personal touch’, a device which promoted sales by encouraging close contact with the readership. By the early 1930s, for example, the endpages of each Mills and Boon romantic novel, which usually featured the current publication list, opened with a full-page notice headed ‘To the reader: Why you should choose a Mills & Boon novel’: The Fiction Market is overburdened with new novels, and the ordinary reader finds it most difficult to choose the right type of story either to buy or to borrow. . . . Really the only way to choose is to limit your reading to those publishers whose lists are carefully selected, and whose fiction imprint is a sure guarantee of good reading. . . . Mills and Boon issue a strictly limited Fiction List and the novels they publish all possess real story-telling qualities of an enduring nature.10


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The company also encouraged readers to send in manuscripts (a feature of its promotions today), a shrewd move which produced new bestselling authors such as Sara Seale, Mary Burchell and Jean S. Macleod. By the 1940s, with a flourishing mail-order business and a loyal female readership, the company was not just a publisher but a household brand. Mills and Boon’s prominence in the tuppenny libraries is demonstrated in two surveys. In 1935 The Bookseller analysed the stocks of ‘one of the largest and newest’ of the commercial libraries. Among the Mills and Boon authors listed in the ‘best-seller’ class were Denise Robins (thirty-six titles), Joan Sutherland and Sophie Cole (twentysix to thirty titles each), Louise Gerard (twenty-one to twenty-five), Elizabeth Carfrae (sixteen to twenty), Deirdre O’Brien and Marjorie M. Price (ten to fifteen each). A comparison of these figures with those in stock in Mudie’s Library in 1935 reveals equal, if not higher numbers; Sophie Cole, for instance, had thirty-eight titles in Mudie’s. In another survey, in 1950, Mills and Boon, in association with W. H. Smith, approached library owners across Britain in an attempt to determine the frequency of borrowing of Mills and Boon titles, calculated by the total number of date stamps inside a given volume. On average, a Mills and Boon novel was issued 165 times: the highest borrowing figures were recorded in Scotland, in coastal towns in England, and in the West Country. Seaside places such as Portsmouth had particularly high lending frequencies; Mills and Boon attributed this to the lonely sailors’ wives ‘left behind’ who took up reading, and the influx of holiday-makers during the summer months. Town libraries in Taunton reported the highest number of issues of any Mills and Boon novel (740) for a 1935 novel, Anchor at Hazard by Ray Dorien.11 By the 1980s the world publishing market was dominated by English-language books, and of the paperback share of this domination, Mills and Boon commanded a ninth of all new titles, its command of the romantic fiction market challenged not by rival publishers but by the success of the authors Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson. This dominant position had been guaranteed by the merger with the Canadian firm Harlequin, a small paperback publishing house that had started up in 1949 and approached Mills and Boon for North American

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rights to their Doctor/Nurse series. In the early 1970s the two companies merged, thus opening the North American market, which in 1977 consumed 100 million Harlequins, 10 per cent of the total mass paperback sales. The books were translated into as many as 23 languages, which, with English-language export editions and foreign licensee deals soon brought the total number of markets to almost 100 and sales rose from 3 m in 1970 to world-wide total sales of over 200 million in 1984. This enormous expansion was made possible by a comparable increase in editorial output that rose from 8 titles per month in 1970 to 60 titles a month organised under 14 stories, representing an 80 per cent share of the market.12 In 1981, Harlequin Mills and Boon was purchased by Torstar, a Canadian media giant. By the mid-1980s Mills and Boon had a number of paperback collections from which readers could choose. These ranged from ‘contemporary romances’, with ‘modern international settings’ and ‘happy endings’ to ‘temptation romances’ where heroines encounter the ‘dilemmas of modern-day life’. Other series included reprints of old favourites, back-to-back romances, tales of love in ‘busy hospitals’ and historical romance ‘from Saxon times to the turn of the [twentieth] century’ (quoted from Mills and Boon publicity). The Temptation series was a ‘line of sensually charged romantic fantasies’ concentrated on the theme of female ‘destiny’, American in viewpoint, containing a ‘high level of sexual tension’ and written from the heroine’s point of view. Although continuously updated with regard to plot, setting and gender relations, all the Mills and Boon range endorsed a conservative, if more liberated, traditionalism. The books remain relaxing melodramas of personal destiny in which a heroine overcomes obstacles of esteem, social position and income to get her man. Upholding middleclass values of hard work, decency and family where virtue is rewarded, the romance focuses upon ‘events . . . affecting the sentiments’.13 The moment of the ‘kiss’ is not only erotically charged, it is also a moment of transformation and the exchange of power, confirming in its sensuality the inherent worth of femininity. The significance of romantic fiction, as a cultural phenomenon, cannot be exaggerated. The market leader, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd sells 200 million books per year, the company’s international read-


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

ership numbers about 50 million women and their books display a remarkable facility to cross cultural boundaries. Written overwhelmingly by Anglo-Saxon authors, the books are translated into 26 different languages and sold in 100 different countries. Initially ignored or summarily dismissed by academics, from the 1980s onward the genre became the focus of a considerable body of academic criticism and analysis, especially from feminists because of its implications concerning the relationship of women and culture.14 The very end of the 1990s gave rise to two ‘decadent’ or corrupt genres. The first, ‘cult’ fiction, was generated by the emergence of nostalgia for the rebelliousness of the late 1950s and 1960s and included books as diverse as those by Jack Kerouac (d. 1969), Joseph Heller (d. 2000), and Ken Kesey (d. 2001), Anthony Burgess (d. 1993) and Charles Bukowski. Cult fiction was no real genre but a bookshop ploy to increase sales of back-listed, but famously ‘radical’ titles from forty years previously. As cult fiction included many ‘classic’ books it was an excellent way of reintroducing important or forgotten titles. Cult fiction, which can include both high and low literature, pulp fiction and avant garde writing, and which can embrace both Alexander Trocchi, J. K. Huysman and popular writers such as Douglas Coupland and H. P. Lovecraft was much in evidence in the early twenty-first century on bookshop shelves. To a large extent cult fiction may loosely be defined as those books which in the past have been banned, marginalised or ignored, are erotic, countercultural or transgressive and critique the standard definitions of both gender and class (even if this was not originally intended). The other genre was pornography dressed as women’s erotica. This was created as the extreme edge of romance, as an answer to women’s fantasies. Virgin’s Black Lace imprint was first on the market, shelved as ‘respectable’ fantasy reading for women, yet Virgin’s marketing unanimously reported that over 90 per cent were sold to men! At least one Black Lace author pointed out that ‘erotica [was] a middle class validation of pornography’. Put off by ‘problematic’ covers and unwilling to purchase such books from open shelves (if at all), women’s response rapidly declined, whilst gay erotica remained a male preserve. It remained entirely true, however, that an erotica paperback title could (in the early years, at least) pull together a readership of almost half a million. Such numbers suggest a lucrative, if diminishing market share. If the 1960s tended to produce diversity rather than innovation, then by the late 1990s, the nascent diversity of the 1960s suggested to some critics that the age of genre was over, reduced to a mass of competing

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subgenres and specialist areas, including such divisions as cyberpunk, post-modern historical sagas, metaphysical crime, serial-killer whodunits and vampire lesbianism. The phenomenal success of J. K. Rowling’s tales of Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997, onwards) marks a certain change in reading patterns. Although written for children aged between nine and eleven the tales of Harry and his magical life at Hogwart’s Academy were soon being read by adults and marketed as ‘novels’. An adult edition of the stories (same text, more adult covers) was directed at older readers, whilst children could enjoy the original tales, games and merchandise. Rowling was able to fill a gap left by the death of Roald Dahl (d. 1990), producing stories whose gothic suburbanism was grafted onto the very traditional public school children’s adventure (with clear echoes of Angela Brazil and Enid Blyton). The fantasy elements of the tales owe much to Tolkien’s ‘Gandalfian’ sensibility. Rowling’s work is a clear example of the retention and reiteration of traditional themes and the conservatism of all popular fiction and at the same time an illustration of the idea of literature as lifestyle (through the creation of a parallel ‘world’ which can be ‘lived’ by a group of readers). With the ethnographic changes in the population which came from mass immigration between the late 1940s and the 1970s also came the possibility of the appearance of differently inflected literary voices. Such voices had, to a large extent, to wait for the writing of second- and thirdgeneration authors whose first language is English but whose perceptions are determined by newer cross-cultural possibilities. Of these writers Salman Rushdie emerged as the most significant and most controversial. Rushdie was lionised in the West but vilified elsewhere for The Satanic Verses. On the whole, however, other writers whose immediate family origins may be Asian or Caribbean have concentrated on metropolitan landscapes and especially the muti-cultural neighbourhoods of London. Such writers include Hanif Kureishi, Meera Syal and Zadie Smith and their work makes clear the shift of focus of regional authors (especially those in Scotland) towards the landscape of the city. These voices represented the possibilities for bestsellers of the future.

4 Literature for Children

‘Is that the end of the story?’ asked Christopher Robin. ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.’ (A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, ch. 1)

The first edition of Bestsellers did not deal with the children’s book as a best-selling phenomenon, but this needs to be addressed in this edition. Nevertheless, despite bookshops setting aside large amounts of space for them and prizes being available for their authors the very idea of writing for children alone has been hotly contested by critics. We define children’s literature . . . as books read by, especially suitable for, or especially satisfying for, members of the group currently defined as children. However, such an accommodating definition is not very practical, as it obviously includes every text ever read by a child.1 Furthermore, Eeyore and Hamlet are not, in the current system of critical values, comparable figures: not because one is actually, cosmically, any greater than the other but because the system says so.2 In even more extreme vein we have statements such as, I come more and more to the view that there are no children’s books. They are a concept invented for commercial reasons, and kept alive 130

Literature for Children


by the human instinct for classification and categorisation . . . if you must have a classification it is into books good and bad.3 It is only in recent years with the works of writers like Philip Pullman that more complex issues have arisen in books aimed at children (as opposed to books for adults that become children’s books), but even so the connection to the contents of the bestseller remain. To all this might be added the debates over what actually constitutes the ‘idea’ of childhood and the belief that childhood itself was a concept born of Romantic ideology, enough in fact that is controversial to make any discussion of childhood reading a nightmare of tangled arguments. Whatever definition of children’s books and the children that read them is adopted it is by degrees that such books are different and no absolutes will do. I come more and more to the view that there are no children’s books. They are a concept invented for commercial reasons, and kept alive by the human instinct for classification and categorisation. The honest writer . . . writes what is inside him . . . Sometimes what he writes will chime with the instincts and interests of young people, sometimes it will not.4 Nevertheless, books targeted at children have tended to avoid discussion of philosophical concepts, political ideology and sexual activity and concentrate on play and excitement, but they also deal with secrets and detection, fantasy and journeys of discovery and concern themselves with ‘something immediate . . . and ephemeral’ which would define the contents of many a bestseller.5 For all the debate by learned critics, authors have usually been aware of the age group for whom they write and the cross over to adult interest had, until very recently (and with the exception of A. A. Milne) been merely fortuitous. Children’s books were and are written with a general age group in mind, however blurred the parameters. They also fit categories which do not exactly accord with adult reading even though fantasy, adventure and historical novels may cross age gaps. Yet few adults were willing, before the advent of J. K. Rowling, to be seen openly reading a book aimed specifically at children, something exemplified by the change of Rowling’s covers from cartoon illustration to something that was purposely reminiscent of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps. Equally stories which feature fairies, gymkhanas or the school holidays


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

are not likely to interest an adult or arrest their attention in the same way such stories would do a young girl or boy. Thus animal stories, stories for the very young or pre-reader or school stories for girls or boys would remain largely outside of adult interest. The question of illustrations is more thorny as the Victorians certainly loved picture books and did not think that the inclusion of illustrations diminished the maturity of the reader. Who can imagine Alice without Tenniel, Pooh without Shepard or the stories of Beatrix Potter without her exquisite watercolours (some of which are in Tate Britain) and how may we otherwise account for the popularity of graphic novels? Nevertheless, books with illustrations are nowadays considered less mature for a number of reasons and children’s books such as those by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake are the exception rather than the norm for children of reasonable reading skills. The fine artists of the past who have illustrated children’s books include: S. van Abbe, Edward Ardizzone, Honor C. Appleton, Mabel Lucie Attwell, Cicely Mary Barker, S. G. Hulme Beaman, Alfred Bestall, Anne Bullen, Marguerite de Angeli, Ellen Edwards, Frank R. Grey, Rowland Hilder, S. Walter Hodges, Isobel Morton-Sale, Arthur Rackham, W. Heath Robinson, Ronald Searle, E. H. Shepard, C. E. Tunnicliffe and Denys Watkins-Pitchford.6 Of nearly 250 successful children’s authors who were writing between 1900 and the present a mere handful have survived and of these some were steady rather than best sellers. Of these the following exemplify the genres they chose to write in: Boys’ school stories, such as those by Harold Avery, R. A. H. Goodyear, Walter C. Rhoades, Frank Richards and P. G. Wodehouse, [and J. K. Rowling]. Girls’ school stories such as those by Angela Brazil, Elinor M. BrentDyer, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Antonia Forest and Elsie Oxenham, [and J. K. Rowling]. Adventure stories such as those by M. E. Atkinson, Enid Blyton, W. E. Johns, Violet Needham and Arthur Ransome, [and Philip Pullman, Anthony Horowitz]. Fantasy stories such as those by G. E. Farrow, C. S. Lewis, Mervyn Peake, J. R. R. Tolkien and P. L. Travers, [and Roald Dahl, J. M. Barrie].

Literature for Children


Historical stories such as those by Capt. F. S. Brereton, G. A. Henty, Frank Knight, Naomi Mitchison and Philip Rush. Animal stories such as those by C. W. Anderson, Primrose Cumming, Monica Edwards, Charles G. D. Roberts and Henry Williamson. Stories for young children such as those by S. G. Hulme Beaman, Mrs H. C. Cradock, A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter and Alison Uttley.7 Before World War One, children’s books were often expensively bound and illustrated and as such sold to a restricted number of readers. Even the boy’s papers may have been out of the purchasing range of poorer children. On the whole stories from this time carry a heavy burden of muscular Christian morals and imperial destiny which vanish with the writers of the 1920s to whom pre-war certainties were the merest moonshine of a lost age. The boy’s fiction of the early twentieth century was heroic and concentrated on boys caught up in the adventure of Empire and involved with the likes of Drake, Raleigh or Nelson. This was the world created by R. M. Ballantyne and G. A. Henty and the patriotic poems of Henry Newbolt. It was the type of fiction that led boys of the upper classes to feel they were natural leaders in an ordered world in which Great Britain was top dog. The picture of patriotism such books gave led, no doubt, to the false hopes of the early days of World War One. Later a new code of behaviour had to be worked out. Morality came from within or from social codes rather than what was learnt by rote at Public or Sunday school. What never went away was that social snobbery so ingrained in the British class system which if not overt is implied in the dialogue of many an adventurer or fictional school child. Of all the genres that have been popular with children the school story is by far the one with the greatest longevity and the least development. There is peculiarly little change in most of its mores from its modern incarnation in the mid 1890s (it had existed in other forms at an earlier date) to Jacqueline Wilson and J. K. Rowling in the present day. The school story represents an idealised childhood community and an ideal ‘England’: it also represents growing up in the wider community where teamwork and bullying, obedience to rules and rebellion and doing what’s right and not doing what’s right go hand in hand and where you can meet a variety of boys and girls from different and often foreign locations. Alongside these virtues of the genre go snobbery, elitism and exclusiveness and a feeling that England will never, should never change.8


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Girl’s books which taught good order and seemliness and the preparation for motherhood were themselves overwhelmed by the more adventurous tales of Angela Brazil who looked to emulate the adventure and patriotism of the boy’s tale whilst keeping to a feminine spirit and avoiding (as did the boy’s adventure) any idea of maturation or of sexual awareness. Maturation was here, as in real life, a matter of graduating from prep school or governess to boarding school; from childhood to adulthood without the intercession of teenage years and also without the necessary knowledge of adult desires which, for those brought up in this type of world, were unnecessary and rather unpleasant ‘foreign’ traits that were simply superfluous to a British upbringing. Here for instance is the moment of transition to maturity in Angela Brazil’s novel A Patriotic Schoolgirl (1918) written during World War One as Dona, the central character, begins her new life away from parents at ‘Brackenfield’ boarding school. ‘Dona are you aware? Donakins! I say, old sport, do stir yourself and blink an eye! What a dormouse you are! D’you want shaking? Rouse up, you old bluebottle, can’t you?’ ‘I’ve been awake since five o’clock, and it’s no use thumping me in the back,’ grunted an injured voice from the next bed. ‘It’s too early yet to get up, and I wish you’d leave me alone.’ The huskiness and general chokiness of the tone were unmistakable. Marjorie leaned over and took a keen survey of that portion of her sister’s face which was not buried in the pillow. ‘Oh! The atmosphere’s damp, is it?’ she remarked. ‘Dona, you’re ostriching! For goodness’ sake brace up, child, and turn off the waterworks! I thought you’d more pluck. If you’re going to arrive at Brackenfield with a red nose and your eyes all bunged up, I’ll disown you, or lose you on the way. Crystal clear, I will! I’ll not let you start in in a new school nicknamed ‘Niobe’, so there! Have a caramel?’ (A Patriotic School Girl, ch. 1) Brackenfield itself is not some Victorian pile but the epitome of a modern model school. Brackenfield College stood on the hills, about a mile from the seaside town of Whitecliffe. It had been built for a school, and was large and modern and entirely up-to-date. It had a gymnasium, a library, a studio, a chemical laboratory, a carpentering-shop, a kitchen for

Literature for Children


cooking-classes, a special block for music and practising-rooms, and a large assembly hall. (A Patriotic School Girl, ch. 2) And looking to the boy’s story as the model, there is of course the formation of the inevitable secret society dedicated as always to the furthering of the imperial cause. ‘I hear from Miss Duckworth,’ she said, ‘that you have founded a secret society among yourselves for the the purpose of encouraging patriotism. I do not in general approve of secret societies, but I sympathize with your object. It is the duty of every citizen of our Empire to be patriotic.’ (A Patriot School Girl, ch. 15) The secret society soon find out that they have been harbouring a traitorous girl called Chrissie who had been heliographing the Germans. Surprisingly, Chrissie escapes and writes a note to Marjorie, her former best friend whom she has betrayed. The letter is maudlin and contains a Victorian and somewhat out of date set of sentiments. The Head Mistresses’ verdict is, nevertheless, severe and unforgiving. Marjorie put down the letter with a shaking hand, ‘Is it right to forgive the enemies of our country?’ she asked Mrs. Morrison. ‘When they are dead,’ replied the Principal. (A Patriot School Girl, ch. 25) This is a hard lesson indeed for a young girl: betrayal and escape for the traitoress, loss of her best friend capped by the denial of Christian charity. Thus the patriotic ending which follows a few pages later leaves the story ambivalent and unfinished as if the war itself had muddled and muddied morals and girlhood forever. Girls have always read, but boys are notorious for not reading much and certainly little fiction. An attempt to address this issue was put forward in early 2008 when the government pledged more money for libraries to buy Manga comics books, Dr Who adventures and the James Bond style adventures of Anthony Horowitz and Charlie Higson; Shakespeare was suggested in comic book form only, in all, an effort which is forlorn, money wasting and patronising. The early master of the school story for boys was Charles Hamilton better known by a host of pen names of which Frank Richards was one.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

For over forty years Hamilton poured out school stories for a number of publications on an old typewriter at fifty words per minute. At his death he was the most prolific British author ever with the equivalent of a hundred novels accredited to his name. Oddly he wrote no novels (?) for children as his output was mostly confined to working on the boy’s papers Gem and Magnet, periodicals that proved the forerunners of the comics of the 1960s. No account of children’s books can go ahead without mention of Greyfriars, Bob Cherry, Billy Bunter with all his childhood vices and Mr Quelch whose presence reached across generations into the television era. Together the childhood mates of the lower fourth (‘the remove’) were the original ‘famous five’. Charles Hamilton was born in Ealing the product of the marriage of a carpenter and the daughter of a hackney carriage driver. Although his grandfather was illiterate, his father was well read though poor and Charles too was a voracious reader. Hamilton found work on the new school ‘papers’ in the 1890s and by 1901 had taught himself to type and bought a typewriter. After that there was no stopping him and Hamilton, writing under a number of pseudonyms worked consistently as a jobbing author until paper stocks ran out in World War Two.9 Of course Hamilton never knew the life he described and it is amazing that those who did came to admire Hamilton’s creations as if they really existed. For all that he was attacked by George Orwell in Horizon during March 1940 for being a time-warped snob. Hamilton was, however, modern in his attitude to real children, believing that childhood should be happy and free of care and that children should be respected. He recalled at the end of his life that. When I’m sitting at a typewriter, I’m only sixteen years old. Oh yes, I live at Greyfriars. . . . It is a life of innocence. It’s as things should be.’10 It was left to Richmal Crompton to invent the modern school child (and in some ways the modern child) with her creation of William Brown – ‘Just William’. Despite being educated at a boarding school and university and despite being a Latin scholar and good at games, Crompton hated the Angela Brazil ‘jolly hockey sticks’ style of writing insisting instead that the school story turn to the middle-class day school boy for inspiration. The 11-year-old William hates his sister and brother, his school and headmaster, is hopeless at lessons and is a grubby ‘ “out doorsy” scamp’: ‘a synonym for scruffy and riotous boyhood’.11 Through magazines, thirty-eight volumes of adventures, television and cassette stories William’s scrapes with family, school and the neighbours, and even with fascism were retold to generations of children who wanted fun not moral lessons. William is the forerunner of Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids bringing anarchy and

Literature for Children


rebellion into the schoolroom. William’s secret society, ‘the Outlaws’ even has a hint of an unruly gang outside the law, plotting against everything that adults say is good for them. William and the Outlaws sat on the back row of the School Hall, carelessly cracking nuts and surreptitiously scattering the shells under the bench on which they sat . . . The Outlaws never listened to the Head Master when he was making a speech. His speeches were generally exhortations to lead a better life, and the Outlaws considered that this did not concern them because they often tried leading better lives and found them more fruitful of complications that their normal lives of evil-doing.12 In her novel for adults, Felicity Stands By (1928) Crompton spelt out the divide between the Victorian and the modern age. People who belong to the Victorian age love chronic invalids. It was everyone’s ambition in those days to be a chronic invalid.13 Instead in books like William the Conquerer (1926) the ‘Outlaws’, Raced and rambled and scrambled and wrestled and climbed trees and trespassed to their hearts’ content.14 Interestingly, other forms of children’s educational experience have never had much appeal, so that P. L. Travers’s story of a British nanny spawned few, if any, copycat productions. Mary Poppins (first published in 1934) remained a largely dormant bestseller until Disney changed the rather forbidding and strange story in 1965 (got rid of the baby twins, softened the surrealism, straightened the narrative and added songs). The story again found huge success on the stage in 2005 with the loss of certain Disney elements and the amalgamation of some elements from the original ‘Mary Poppins’ series. Whilst the story looks back to an ‘Edwardianism’ long gone, it retains elements of Alice in Wonderland that look forward to Roald Dahl and in many ways has that peculiar English quality of a modern fairy story which perhaps is only found in Peter Pan. Mary Poppins is a strange and solitary success rather like Hugh Lofting’s The Story of Dr Dolittle (1920), itself greatly assisted by its transfer to the big screen in 1967 and 1998. Victorian sentimentality also gave rise to children’s books about animals, but at the beginning of the Edwardian age a new sense of responsibility for both wildlife and the countryside gave urgency to conservation. By her death Beatrix Potter had used the wealth she had accumulated since the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902 to work


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

with the National Trust and help preserve the Lake District. Through exquisitely realised paintings and simple memorable stories printed in ‘child’ sized volumes, Potter was able to create a world of anthropomorphised animals whose apparent sentimentality was an antidote to the Victorian mawkishness they replaced. This sentimental and idealised world was, despite its unattractiveness to modern animal rights activists, a powerful and unconscious tool against animal cruelty – who could think of hurting Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle or Jemima Puddle Duck? Animals are central to both The Jungle Book and The Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling, but the closed world of anthropomorphised animal life (symbolic of much that was ‘modern’ but also changeless about Edwardian life) and the obsession with the river bank and long hot summers was best captured by Kenneth Grahame. Grahame was, like Potter, someone who felt a ‘duty to [animals] as a friend’, Wind in the Willows being born out of a series of letters written to his very young son Alastair who tragically died in 1920 in a train accident.15 Although a respected writer of three other books written in the 1890s, Grahame’s work as Secretary of the Bank of England and the fact that he was a wealthy man meant he wrote only as it pleased him and sometimes not at all. Wind in the Willows which was published by Methuen in October 1908 was not an instant success like his other books. Indeed it was barely comprehended by its reviewers. The Times commented that, ‘Grown up readers will find it monstrous and elusive, children will hope in vain, for more fun’ and so it went on until the odd combination of Theodore Roosevelt’s enthusiasm and A. A. Milne began arguing for its worth.16 Milne actually saw the book as a ‘test of character’. It’s success thereafter was assured and yet it remains a uniquely odd book as sometimes happens in literature, a book written for adults who can recall what it means to be young. It is a book of Youth . . . and so perhaps chiefly for Youth, and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them: of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter fire sides; free of problems, clear of the clash of sex.17 In this sense the book is nostalgic for childhood and children cannot per se be that. The book conjures an English idyll which nevertheless hides motifs of the Wild Wood, of working class insurrection, of paganism, of modernity and of conservative values. It is both banal and bizarre in equal measure, a feature of much children’s writing of the

Literature for Children


time. Nowadays the style might be called magic realism. Grahame above anyone else evokes the long hot summers, the boating parties and teas before World War One. It is the modern age that A. A. Milne also heralds. Alan Alexander Milne was born in 1882 in Hampstead, the son of an enlightened school master who had sloughed off the rigid ideas of his Victorian predecessors, giving his children the sense of freedom and love. Cambridge and war followed and cast adrift in London Milne decided to earn a living as a writer of light verse, satiric prose and amusing theatrical comedies, an attitude much in tune with the 1920s. His work in the theatre was much in vogue both sides of the Atlantic. He also wrote a detective story in 1922 called The Red House Mystery that anticipates the work of Agatha Christie and has been acclaimed as one of the best ever detective tales. Milne published his first book for children, When We Were Young in 1926 and his last successful play Toad of Toad Hall in 1929. Oddly his very versatility with light prose saw his style go out of favour by the 1930s, his work is redolent of the 1920s in the same way as that of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Milne’s most famous creations came from his son’s toys and the Winnie-the-Pooh stories were instant hits with children and parents. Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. The stories rely on strong narratives for younger ‘listeners’ who also enjoy looking at the pictures by E. H. Shepard. Nevertheless, for adult readers, the stories combine a surreal humour with clever non sequiturs (a disassociation of word and meaning that may have had its origins in the horrors of the trenches) and an almost philosophical obsession with the status and meaning of reality. ‘When I first heard [Winnie the Pooh’s] name, I said . . . “But I thought he was a boy?” ’ ‘So did I,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘Then you can’t call him Winnie?’ ‘I don’t’ ‘But you said –’ ‘He’s Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don’t you know what “ther” means? ‘Ah, yes, now I do,’ . . . because it is all the explanation you are going to get. (Winnie-the-Pooh, ch. 1) The most famous of all twentieth-century British children’s writers and by far the greatest in terms of sales was Enid Blyton who dominated the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

market in the 1950s and 1960s and who influenced generations of children in a way unthinkable today. Indeed she was still the nation’s favourite children’s author as late as 1982 when her books topped a poll of 10,000 readers sponsored by the government, even though she had been dead since 1968. Blyton was however already a famous author in the 1920s even though she started her career as a teacher. She was born in 1897 in East Dulwich the first daughter of Thomas Carey and his wife Mary, two articulate and talented people, Thomas being a musician and encouraging his daughter to be a professional pianist, his wife more prosaically demanding the daughter become a dutiful housewife. After a move to the leafier suburb of Beckenham the two parents nevertheless separated, but not before Enid had found a love of books, nature and music which stayed with her when she finally became a type of cross between a governess and a primary school teacher. Enid spent most of her adolescent life after the parental split with a friend whose family she ‘adopted’ in preference to her own difficult circumstances. Throughout her early years Blyton wrote sentimental poetry which she regularly sent off to magazines until Nash’s Magazine accepted ‘I Have’ and ‘My Summer Prayer’ and she continued to publish in Nash’s until she qualified as a teacher in 1918. With her friend Phyllis Chase who did the illustrations she then sold a fairy story to Cassell’s and began selling light fiction to magazines. It was in 1922 with the book of verse called ‘Child Whispers’ that Blyton first drew herself to the public’s attention. Through its poems Enid declared she wanted to write for a new generation of children, a generation different from those of the past. The children of nowadays are different in many of their likes and dislikes, from the children of ten years ago. This change of attitude is noticeable as much in the world of children’s poetry as it is in other things. In my experience . . . I have found that children delight in two distinct types of verse. These are the humorous type and the imaginative poetical type – but the humour must be from the child’s point of view and not from the ‘grown up’s’ – a very different thing.18 Blyton even imagined in a modern manner. I shut my eyes for a few minutes, with my portable typewriter on my knee; I make my mind a blank and wait – and then, as clearly as I

Literature for Children


would see real children my characters stand before me in my mind’s eye . . . the story is enacted almost as if I had a private cinema screen.19 Curiously, this echoes the method of Charles Hamilton. It’s a curious thing that when I write I seem to see it all happening before my eyes as if I was looking at a picture.20 Her ability to move into a children’s ‘world of fancy’ as the review in the Daily Chronicle was to put it and to see things as a child sees them was to be Blyton’s greatest achievement and her legacy. By 1923 the poems and short stories were bringing in a large income which was to increase with her involvement with Teacher’s World and her regular diary which recorded her life in details which were read aloud by teachers for fascinated younger listeners. For the rest of her life she always had a large post bag of fan mail. She was the first writer for whom a web site would have been an ideal vehicle. With her first marriage to Major Hugh Pollock she was even more financially independent and moved to a series of large houses although she had to have fertility treatment to be able to fill them with the children she craved. Nevertheless, Blyton retained a childish (rather than childlike) attitude to domestic affairs needing to call her homes by silly pet names such as Elfin Cottage (even though the building was a new house). When her first child turned up ‘it’ was called a ‘new pet’ for the reader’s of Teacher’s World. It was as if Blyton was looking for the ideal child’s home lost when her parents split up. It was a pattern repeated in her own life: she soon tired of looking after her children, dismissed friends or servants as if they never existed and finally fell out of love with a husband who she thought weak (for her idea of husbands was always traditional). Nevertheless, the writing continued without cease and the number of commitments steadily grew. Indeed Blyton was writing in a number of genres and in a multitude of formats for a large number of publishers. In 1938 Blyton had published The Secret Island and from this had germinated a new idea so that by the early 1940s, Blyton had conceived of a group of four ‘chums’ and a dog who would have adventures in their summer holidays. The idea grew into ‘the Famous Five’ (the name unconsciously borrowed from Frank Richards’ Greyfriars stories) and Five on a Treasure Island appeared published by Hodder and Stoughton. The series owes something to Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Amazons which appeared in 1930. A school series, Malory Towers followed. Blyton was always clear what she considered acceptable for a child’s adventure narrative. The ‘best writers for children’ did not deal in murders, rapes, violence, blood, torture and ghosts – these things did not belong to the children’s world – and it was ‘perfectly possible’ to write any amount of adventure, mystery or ‘home’ stories for children without them and yet keep a child enchanted and absorbed for hours.21 The first of the series came out in 1942 and children’s clubs were formed to help Blyton’s favourite charities. Blyton’s clubs were numerous and tied children closer to the books. The Famous Five Club counted nearly a quarter of a million children in 1967. By 1952, Blyton was a world famous author, but her greatest creation was still to come. Although her readership was always imagined as from 6 years upwards Blyton had never tackled a younger age group. This was to change with her greatest creation. Noddy came about because Sampson Low, Marston and Company were looking around during 1949 for a character to rival those of Disney. Discussion with the Dutch artist Harmsen Van Der Beek resulted in a little nodding boy and his friends in Toyland. All Blyton’s most famous characters were created visually by Van Beek. Here were Mr Plod the Policeman, Mr and Mrs Tubby and of course Big Ears and Noddy himself. In 1949, Little Noddy Goes to Toyland was published and an industry was born. There is no doubt that for the baby boomer generation Noddy and Big Ears were hugely influential. High minded journals berated their popularity and derided the tales as parables of the welfare state, they disliked Noddy himself and librarians banned the books as racist because of their portrayal of symbolic ‘black people’. Golly wogs are merely loveable black toys, not Negroes. Teddy bears are also toys, but there happens to be a naughty one in my books for young children, this does not mean that I hate bears!22 Most of all critics hated the books popularity as they saw for the first time the increased power of consumerism which began with the commercialisation of the works of Beatrix Potter, then of Winnie-the-Pooh

Literature for Children


and the influence of Walt Disney. Noddy was, however, Britain’s first real toy brand and that is what critics unconsciously feared. Noddy was soon being reproduced as an image on everything from wallpaper to doll’s tea sets and as little figures on water bottles, pyjamas and eiderdowns. In the 1990s, McDonalds gave the figures away to accompany a new television series. Blyton died in 1968 after suffering what was probably Alzheimer’s disease. It would take a long time indeed before her star was to be eclipsed. William Earl Johns also died in that year. Better known as Captain W. E. Johns, he was the creator of Biggles, the air-ace sleuth whose books were hugely influential and whose work is the missing link between the adult thrillers of the 1920s and 1930s and the James Bond novels that followed World War Two. With his companions ‘Ginger’ Hebblethwaite, Algy Lacey and Lord Bertie Lissie, ‘Biggles’ is ever ready to mount the steps of a Camel or Mosquito and fly out on another mission to catch international crooks or escaped Nazis. Johns was perhaps the last author to refer unironically to the defence of the Empire (Sergeant Bigglesworth C.I.D.; ch. 1 (1947)) in a narrative tradition of adventure romances tradition that went back to Henty and Ballantyne. Nevertheless, Johns invoked a new world of fast moving derring-do and technology with aircraft the glamorous centre of every adventure. If the whole façade seems dated and rather silly nowadays, it nevertheless chimed in with the technological interests of thousands of children and adolescents brought up on home-made wireless sets, Meccano and Hornby trains who had never been on a real plane and whose knowledge of airports remained that of Croydon (then London’s airport). In the 1950s Johns fitted in with the revived interest in secret agents and master criminals and influenced boy’s comics such as The Eagle, whilst in the 1960s with Biggles now somewhat old fashioned even camp programmes such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus could have a character called Cardinal Biggles and everyone would get the joke. Although Johns invokes a world gone for good his sense of adventure is infectious and his narratives of intrigue (even down to the expensive hardware) are the staples of thriller writers from Dan Brown to Clive Cussler. The twin worlds of Blyton and Johns with their mixture of the idealistic and the adventurous dominated the post-war period into the 1960s. This was a time of considerable excitement about technological progress and more and more books and children’s annuals began to feature supersonic aircraft, flying saucers or stories about distant planets and


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aliens. The 1950s was the great period of science fiction. This was the period too when The Eagle comic started with its cut-away technical drawings and space captain Dan Dare whose battles against the Mekong were recounted each week. It was also the period when books, annuals and merchandise picked up on the new television shows directed solely at children. Pre-war stories once only available in print or on the radio could now be recycled on television or in the emerging strip ‘cartoon’ comics such as Hotspur and Valiant. Children’s books were also in some ways enjoying a period of great success because of the diversity of ways they could be consumed and because illustrations were now often in full colour, on the other hand the tales were becoming hackneyed and repetitive. Surprisingly, it was from a group of young Catholics at Oxford University, the rediscovery of northern European mythology, the experience of World War One and the ‘rejection’ of the modern world that the next wave of children’s books would come. Before World War Two there was a revival of interest in fantasy and the mythic world of Beowulf and of the Norse gods, the folk tales of Finland and the general Wagnerian atmosphere of ‘Germanism’. This found expression in the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Tolkien had come to these northern myths after ‘rejecting’ the classical world of Greek myth whilst at Oxford and his conviction steadily grew through World War One and beyond, but his first full expression of the new landscape of Middle Earth, The Hobbit (1937), although originating for children, always appealed to teenagers and young adults and the fuller expression of his vision never directly interested children or was intended for children. Tolkien even considered rewriting The Hobbit for an adult readership. Indeed the work of Tolkien is taken so seriously by many critics that he may claim his place amongst the select pantheon of the great writers of the twentieth century. The world of Narnia, however, has always had a real interest for young readers, its mix of talking animals, imagined world, chivalry and evil, all centred on a group of children discovering a moral ‘Christian’ universe is a forerunner of the work of J. K. Rowling and of Philip Pullman. Clive Stapleton Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in Belfast, the first of two brothers. In his teens Lewis was bitten by the taste for Wagner and tales of the north and he took these tastes to Oxford and then the Somme and to Arras where he was wounded. On his return to Oxford he completed his degree in

Literature for Children


spectacular style and was elected a Fellow of Magdelen College where he taught until 1954. By this time he was also friends with a group of Catholic enthusiasts including Tolkien with whom he formed the ‘Inklings’ in 1933 and through whose influence he became a Catholic himself. It was not until 1938, having published academic work that Lewis turned to science fiction with Out of the Silent Planet the first of a trilogy that ended in 1945 with That Hideous Strength. Meanwhile he was also becoming known as a writer and broadcaster on Christian themes, publishing the Screwtape Letters in 1941 and his BBC broadcasts as Mere Christianity between 1944 and 1945. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe appeared in 1950 and continued in seven volumes until 1956. Lewis never directly intended the books just for children even if they feature children as characters and even though the genesis of the books came from tales told to children evacuated to his house during the Blitz. Lewis for instance read The Wind in the Willows when he was in his late twenties which led him to conclude that, ‘a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story’.23 As Lewis’s ‘fairy stories’ progressed, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ gained a narrative thrust and a Christian mythology which begins in Genesis and ends in the Last Days. As with the twin universe of Tolkien the world had its own geography, history and prophecy that make these settings so attractive because so autotelic. The apocalyptic landscape of the imaginations of both Tolkien and Lewis has much to do with the ruined world of the trenches and the need for some sort of reckoning between good and evil in a world where these are no longer clearly differentiated. Narnia and Middle Earth are parables for a post-Christian world. In this respect they are of that same mould as the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. The expansion of the world of fantasy was all well and good, but it was in danger of miring children’s literature in disquisitions on history, myth and apocalypse where the progression of long narratives led more and more into adult reading territory or, more properly, into a sort of pseudo-adult reading where the reader might convince themselves that they were engaging with something of profound importance. This was a far cry from writing for children as the primary readership. ‘The adult is enemy of the child’ was the maxim of Roald Dahl who returned children’s writing to the child at the beginning of the 1960s with James and the Giant Peach (1961: American publication) and Charlie


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

and the Chocolate Factory (1964). Unlike his predecessors he did not glamorise public school life. He hated life at his boarding school (Repton) for instance, ‘I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys . . . I couldn’t get over it. I never got over it’, and this hatred of pointless cruelty creeps into his tales with those who perpetrate such horrors coming inevitably to their own horrible ends (Boy). He not only wrote for younger children, dismissed the adult world as irrelevant, used language that was both funny, slightly rude and sometimes frightening, but he was also the first children’s writer to understand and be involved with television and cinema. His stories are mostly in the Grimm tradition. The judges who awarded him the Whitbread Children’s Book Award in 1983 called The Witches ‘deliciously disgusting’. Of all the fictional characters mentioned so far only one has truly transcended its literary origin. Peter Pan is an oddity as he was never a straightforward figure in a children’s book and his first appearance on the stage was to an adult audience going to see what they thought was an adult play. Barrie was born to a hand-loom weaver family in Kirriemuir near Dundee on 9 May 1860. His father’s exertions saw not only his family get very good educations but also a move up the class system with books and free time available to the children. Barrie could even afford a periodical called Sunshine which cost a ‘halfpenny or a penny a month’, but he also read Pilgrim’s Progress, and works by Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper and R. M. Ballantyne before progressing to Dickens, Thackeray and Carlyle. Of the influence of Ballantyne’s Coral Island on his own writing he thought, It egged me on, not merely to be wrecked every Saturday for many months in a long-suffering garden, but my first of work of fiction, a record of our adventures . . . we had a sufficiently mysterious cave . . . and here we grimly ate coconuts stoned from the trees which not even [characters in R. M. Ballantyne] would have recognised.24 A post as the lead writer for the Nottingham Journal was soon followed by a career in London where he wrote sketches and short stories which eventually became a book, Better Dead published in 1887. Yet his forte was to be the stage for which he began writing skits and curtain raisers. Indeed his most successful play to date, The Little Minister was actually watched with approval by Lewis Carroll. Quality Street and The Admirable Crichton appeared in 1902 and Barrie’s name was made.

Literature for Children


Nevertheless it was with the appearance of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Wendy, Hook and the ‘lost boys’ that Barrie found his peculiar metier. Pan emerged from the stories told to the children of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Kensington Gardens. After four years of story telling Barrie published The Little White Bird in 1902 which then metamorphosised four years later as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. ‘Never Land’ had not yet appeared but as the mythology grew the bird sanctuary in Kensington Gardens was soon identifiable as a the place where Hook, the ‘redskins’ and the lost boys had their adventures. Wendy, an entirely new fictional girl’s name was created through Barrie’s friendship with the daughter of W. E. Henley (who died at the age of 5). The pantheon of characters was nevertheless complete and Barrie began writing a play (as with The Little White Bird, purely for adults) which was finished early in 1904 and staged at the Duke of York’s theatre on 27 December the same year. The play also took off in the United States, but was not actually published until 1928. So famous was Peter Pan that in 1912 a statue was erected in Kensington Gardens not to Barrie but to his creation. Indeed, the story of Peter Pan, partly because of its genesis and partly because of its retelling seems nearer to folk myth than to fiction. In many ways the children’s book has remained traditional in its form even if its content has become more radical and more adults read books aimed at children. Perhaps hard and fast category distinctions are breaking down in some areas. The growth of teenage literature, R. L. Stine’s extraordinary success in the field of horror is certainly indicative and Philip Pullman’s work, a complex web of ideas and imagination challenges adult beliefs as well as moulding children’s imaginations. Pullman’s work is a direct challenge to the Christian message of C. S. Lewis. ‘His Dark Material’s’ is an adventure story in three books and the first to be overtly ideological and has stirred up religious controversy in ways that books aimed at children rarely do and that echoes the furore over Dan Brown. As for the shadow cast by J. K. Rowling, it is hard to decide what is to be made of it. On the one hand a return to magic and public school may seem retrograde, Rowling’s borrowings from other authors are sometimes too overt, her prose flat and uninspired, but she has also created a set of characters whom children will remember and tell their children about, read from books treasured from their first publication and kept as heirlooms. The hysteria will eventually die down and memory and affection will take over. The next success in children’s fiction will have to find another path to tread, but it is unlikely that it


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

will be outside of the tried and true formulas that have sustained children’s literature for over a hundred years. Children’s literature still thrives despite the supposed decline in childhood literacy which demoted Britain from third to fifteenth in the world’s literacy ranking and despite the inroads of computerisation and every sort of interactive game, the most interactive of all remains the book. There is no doubt that children’s literature went through a renaissance between 1990 and 2008 and if it might decline thereafter it will certainly not be going away.

5 Further Thoughts on Literature for Children

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ (Traditional)

The generation born in 1953, so-called ‘Coronation babies’ were the first real multi-media children. They not only had film and wireless (tuned inevitably on Sunday dinnertime to Judith Chalmers and Family Favourites followed by the Navy Lark or Parra Handy), but also books, comics (if you were very lucky American comics), portable record players (still capable of playing 78s) and later in the 1960s wonderful pocket-sized transistor radios which, with their little earpieces, could be tuned to Radio Luxemburg or Radio Caroline where, for the first time, and in secret (a pleasure akin to children’s reading) you could enjoy the illicit pleasure of pop music, not yet available on the BBC. Most of all they had television which came into its own for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, commentators announcing the dawn of a new Elizabethan age. Boys were brought up on television adaptations of children’s literature rather than the books themselves. Billy Bunter, Just William and Biggles were visual treats updated for television, whilst Larry the Lamb and Listen with Mother catered for a young generation on the radio. In those days, boys’ entertainment was a heady mixture of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, your dad taking you to see John Wayne at the pictures (national anthem played first before the double bill and Pathe news), making Airfix kits and reading war comics where every Japanese looked crazed and shouted ‘Banzai’ or ‘Aieeee’* when shot; * See, for instance the comic Warlord, 13 Sept. 1980, p. 10. 149


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Germans looked menacing and taught a whole generation how to use ‘Achtung’ and ‘Britisher pig dog’. Such reading did no harm except perhaps to leave a slight frisson of superiority. These feelings, including those from the imperial adventures in the comics, left some pride but little of the supposed racism that is meant to come from representational encounters with the ‘other’. It was class division not multiculturism that exercised political thought, the questions being economic and social rather than about ethnicity and integration. At school, this was reflected in whether you passed your ‘eleven plus’ and went to the local grammar or the secondary modern. Girls were still brought up in the art of domestic science and expected to be secretaries, hairdressers and infant school teachers (if they were bright). Their reading seemed tame compared with the world of tanks, bombers, ranch wars and cut-away plans of space vehicles or the latest idea in hovercraft. What was the point of tales of private schoolgirls playing hockey, grooming horses or winning endless gymkhanas? A visit to the library was still a regular weekly pleasure, but such proprieties did not stop the fact that most children’s fiction was already being mediated through television and film, already part of the growing popular commercial culture that included comic and cereal packet giveaways, cigarette and tea packet cards, tie-in toy products and related ephemera such as bubble gum sets (the most violent, anarchic and disgusting, at least in retrospect were ‘Civil War News’ and ‘Battle’ both produced by Topps in America and AB&C Cards in England; ‘Mars Attacks’ was not available in Britain).1 For the baby boomer generation The Railway Children (1906) is remembered as presented by the Lionel Jeffries film of 1970. Many a boy just knew that the quietly volcanic Bobbie as played by the rather prim and proper Jenny Agutter was really a little minx, a fact finally confirmed to them in adulthood when Agutter returned all grown up for her steamy romp in An American Werewolf in London (1981). Mary Poppins and Peter Pan were first met through Disney’s versions. Many of the post-war generation have had to relearn their children’s books as literature later in life knowing that Disney had dumbed down and sentimentalized Winnie-the-Pooh, Mogli or Peter Pan to fit in with the company’s version of Dumbo, Pinocchio and Bambi. What Disney expunged was the complex and ambivalent relationship children’s books and stories have with adult mass culture. We saw adult standard classics through the prism of Hammer Films, the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and a host of faces that would become familiar through television’s serialised adventures. Here and in the

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comics were to be found the shadows of the best-selling fiction of the 1900s to 1930s: P. C. Wren’s legionnaires, Baroness Orczy’s Pimpernel, Sidney Mulford’s Hopalong Cassidy and Edgar Wallace’s criminal underworld. Here too were even fainter traces of characters taken from Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Rider Haggard and H. G. Wells and rollicking adventurers from nineteenth-century penny dreadfuls: buccaneers, highwaymen and avengers. Alongside this rich historical mix there were contemporary authors like Dennis Wheatley (who found a new readership between the 1950s and early 1970s), Ian Fleming (whose work looked back to the imperial adventure and combined it with the American crime novel) as well as the titillatory histories provided by Daniel P. Mannix or the entire oeuvre of the wonderful and salaciously packaged New English Library. Despite the feelings that what was aimed at children and what was aimed at adults belonged to two separate realms, it was growing apparent that, ‘What is for children and what is for adults on a child level and adults on an adult level [was] far from clear’.2 That both children’s literature (and poetry) and adult best-selling fiction were aspects of popular culture was not lost on the censorious who saw an equivalence between what was beneath contempt (bestsellers) with what was below contempt (children’s literature), I would as soon consider including [Enid Blyton] in a study of children’s literature as I would consider including say Mickey Spillane in a literature degree course.3 This did not mean that books written for children weren’t children’s books just that books written for adults might be children’s books too. What quite was grown-up reading? In 1927, for instance, [B]y and large [children’s books] were regarded as trash . . . No one, of course, would stop to consider critically the work of Angela Brazil . . . but there were many people then who assumed that all children’s books were on that level, and even by 1939, only 40 per cent of libraries had children’s sections.4 Much of this complex situation regarding popular culture is exemplified by Rudyard Kipling and his own ambiguous relationship with writing for children. On 7 October 1904, Rudyard Kipling sat down at his desk at Bateman’s, his Sussex home since 1902, to write a rather strange invitation to his friend, the journalist and editor Howell


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Gwynne. In it was a request for Gwynne to get, ‘from some London toyshop a donkey’s head mask, either in paper or cloth sufficiently large to go over a man’s head’. He also wanted, ‘a pair of fairy wings’. Fearing his friend might think him quite mad, Kipling explained, Don’t think I’m mad but the kids are next month doing a little piece of Midsummer Night’s Dream, . . . I’ve got to be Bottom with the ass’s head and Elsie is going to be Titania. Hence, the wings. But if I don’t have a proper donkey’s head I’ll get into trouble from Elsie. John is going to be Puck but I don’t think he wants wings.5 What lay behind the home theatricals was an idea that had been in Kipling’s mind since the end of the 1890s, when he had become fascinated with the Roman occupation of Britain and the deeply buried layers of history that were suggested by the hints in the Sussex countryside. Workmen carrying out repairs at Bateman’s had unearthed, ‘A Jacobean tobacco-pipe, a worn Cromwellian latten spoon and, . . . the bronze cheek of a Roman horsebit’.6 And close by an old iron works called Welland’s Forge was, ‘supposed to have been worked by the Phoenicians and Romans and, since then, uninterruptedly till the middle of the eighteenth century’. It was in a quarry nearby that, [I]t pleased our children to act for us, in the open, what they remembered of A Midsummer-Night’s Dream . . . And in a near pasture of the water-meadows lay out an old and unshifting Fairy Ring . . . You see how patiently the cards were stacked and dealt into my hands? The Old Things of our Valley glided into every aspect of our outdoor works. Earth, Air, Water and People had been – I saw it at last – in full conspiracy to give me ten times as much as I could compass, even if I wrote a complete history of England, as that might have touched or reached our valley.7 What emerged after a type of long incubation was Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906), a book of stories illustrating the history of England, in which, as he told Edward Bok, the Dutch-American author, in 1905, that he wanted, To give children not a notion of history but a notion of the time sense which is at the bottom of all knowledge of history and history rightly understanded [sic] means love of one’s fellow men and the lands one lives in.8

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Kipling chose as the central character of the stories Shakespeare’s figure of the hobgoblin Puck, acting as psychopomp in the children’s quest through the fabric of English history. If ‘the present was the moving edge of the past’ then nothing could be understood without an awareness of long receding history, forgotten in the rush of the new.9 Yet Puck of Pook’s Hill was no straightforward elegy to a lost England. It was neither strident like the Victorians G. A. Henty and R. M. Ballantyne, nor maudlin like Frederick Farrar, whose school tale Eric (1858) was mercilessly spoofed in Kipling’s own Stalky & Co. (1899) (and for which he had to apologise to Farrar!). Rather, through tales of Roman invaders, Norman conquerors, iron masters, local peasants and Jewish doctors, Kipling tried to open up English history as a tapestry rather than a chronology – Englishness as a concoction of differences and similarities that somehow made a community through time. Puck was to be the conductor of a journey through identity, in which the ‘British’ (and more particularly its Edwardian synonym, the ‘English’) were not only confronted with their past but also where they participated in the past which was also their past, one in which participation was all. Yet historical community was also ‘mythic’ where continuity could only be taught by the ‘last of the race’ of the ‘People of the Hills’. By releasing Puck from his captivity, the children achieve their passport to the historical struggle for identity within community. You’ve done something that Kings and Knights and Scholars in old days would have given their crowns and spurs and books to find out. If Merlin himself had helped you, you couldn’t have managed better! You’ve broken the Hills – you’ve broken the Hills! It hasn’t happened in a thousand years.10 Kipling found Puck’s universe neither by pursuing the fashion for spiritualism that had already swallowed up W. B. Yeats and Arthur Conan Doyle, nor by dwelling too long in the dusty pursuit of lost antiquarian books, but in the very heart of modernity. Kipling found his history in the technology of speed and the romance of driving. To me it is a land full of stupefying marvels and mysteries, and a day in the car in an English county is a day in some fairy museum where all the exhibits are alive and real and yet none the less delightfully mixed up with the books. For instance, in six hours, I can go from the land of the Ingoldsby Legends by way of the Norman Conquest and the Barons’ War into Richard Jefferies’ country, and so through


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

the Regency, one of Arthur Young’s less known tours, and Celia’s Arbour, into Gilbert White’s territory . . . in England the dead, twelve coffins deep, clutch hold of my wheels at every turn, till I sometimes wonder that the very road does not bleed. That is the real joy of motoring – the exploration of this amazing England.11 In the multi-layered, partly ruined landscape of England was a history that was never quite remembered, never quite a totality, an evanescent but not quite tangible reality, to which the isolated facts of actual town and country pointed but could never explain or be reconciled to present thought. Thus to remind children of their country’s history was already tragic as this implied a history already forgotten or worse repressed. Puck’s history is a multi-cultural, multi-racial confusion that can be grasped only in the retelling of tales. Such history is represented as primal, beyond and outside of memory, locked in the thousand-year dream of the Hill People. Kipling’s history, and a type of history it certainly is (more real than ‘the facts’) is the attempt to reconcile two types of forgetting. First is the forgetting caused by the rush of the present; secondly is the primal history of self and community built upon layers of the dead, which only exists in communal values, religion, superstitions and habits of mind, that are themselves the unacknowledged roots of self-reflection. In Puck of Pook’s Hill, the certainty of Henty and Ballantyne was already gone, replaced by the attempt to recapture what was already perceived as lost. For Kipling, this loss has already occurred in childhood until meditated upon by the adult writer. Since the tales had to be read by children, before people realized that they were meant for grown-ups . . . I worked the material in three or four overlaid tints and textures, which might not reveal themselves according to the shifting light of sex, youth, and experience.12 History, like childhood can never be recovered, only grasped in a dream of history, never more than the potential of its remembering. Nowhere does this become so self-evident than in the introduction to Rewards and Fairies which Kipling produced in 1910 as a follow-up to Puck of Pook’s Hill. The heart of England is neither Roman, Saxon nor Norman, but archaic, occulted, repressed. To reach England is to see beyond into trees, stones and landscape, into language and habit of mind. Englishness is connected to the present by that almost ironic wish of E. M. Forster’s to ‘only connect’. To connect to history, is to go

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beyond the merely historical into a dream of England induced by the fairies. Once upon a time, Dan and Una, brother and sister, living in the English country, had the good fortune to meet with Puck, alias Robin Goodfellow, alias Nick o’Lincoln, alias Lob-lie-by-the-Fire, the last survivor in England of those whom mortals call Fairies. Their proper name, of course, is ‘The People of the Hills.’ This Puck, by means of the magic of Oak, Ash, and Thorn, gave the children power – To see what they should see and hear what they should hear, Though it should have happened three thousand year.13 Puck however, is the spirit of primal repression ‘careful, of course, to take away [the children’s memory] of their walks and talks and conversations’, but Kipling contra Puck, is the spirit of tortured memory, bringing to the record, what Puck chooses to forget about the generations that lived, toiled and died generations ago and which are preserved in the fragments of ‘the stories [Kipling is] trying to tell . . . about those people’. For the last hundred years, British children’s writers (including the Scots and Welsh) have been on a quest for a lost, repressed England. Yet this ‘lost’ England (a golden age taking many forms) has never really existed, its absence continuously ‘replaced’ by a mystical landscape of the imagination which never quite fills the void. The Edwardians concocted this territory from their own social, personal, political and technological neuroses and from the rapidly changing intellectual landscape they inherited from the late Victorians. This world of disturbance and uncertainty was bequeathed to two generations brought up in the shadow of trench warfare, aerial bombardment, class division and economic and imperial decline and bequeathed to later generations for whom the creation of a multi-cultural, multiperspective United Kingdom still left unanswered the questions asked in the long lost summers before World War One. The loss that could never be retrieved or replaced (because it was never really there) created a type of literary melancholia – an endless, hopeless search that yet projected a type of imaginative reality wherever it went. This reality found its clearest expression in children’s literature and its impact has been immense and continues today even more strongly than ever. The world of childhood reading has made us who we are and how we see the world. The themes touch upon landscape and myth, paganism and Celtic twilights, nannies and the public schools, orphans and adoptions, Fabianism and fascism, empires and administrators, suburbs and seasides.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

They are all bound together by the hallucination of an England always and ever just out of reach: an England that exists only in one’s head as the imaginative possibility of what we could be and what we should be – a landscape and history which is always a moral imperative. The themes of loss and recovery in children’s literature cannot avoid wider concerns nor fail to touch upon other sensibilities searching for utopia. Here can be found the stories of folk revivalists and Morris men, cycling enthusiasts and ghost hunters, garden suburb planners and garden gnomes as well as builders of scale villages and model locomotives all of whom give the history of children’s literature its context. In their ranks may be detected the new enthusiasm for hobbies and imagined worlds. Here is Frank Hornby, inventor of Meccano as well as the members of the first model railway club founded in 1910 and called (unsurprisingly) the Model Railway Club, where the diminutive delights of Lilliput arrive in miniature stations forever frozen in a past recoverable only through the pages of Flora Thompson and Laurie Lee. Here too can be found H. G. Wells and Jerome K. Jerome playing toy soldiers on summer afternoons, their hobby immortalised in Little Wars as a game ‘played by boys of every age . . . and even by girls of the better sort’.14 It was an irony not entirely lost on Kipling’s generation that the ‘olde’ England that they sought could only be found along roads built for the very cars that threatened their idyll. ‘Never before have so many people been searching for England’, wrote the journalist and travel writer H. V. Morton in 1927, before setting off on his own motor quest down England’s leafy lanes. Yet what was England and where was it to be found? Another writer would hold part of the answer. In 1891, Kenneth Grahame had already spent twelve years as a loyal member of the Bank of England, and in another seven he would be its Secretary, but his pinstriped dreams lay elsewhere in the artistic bohemia of the Yellow Book and the riverbanks of the Thames. On 25 April 1891 he published a short story in the National Observer. It was called ‘The Rural Pan’, about the gods of the riverbank forced to hide from modernity, but ever present to those who sought behind blind materialism and the world of city bankers. In 1908 the episode was incorporated into Wind in the Willows. In search of Otter’s lost son (so many orphans and lost children inhabit the work of children’s writing) Rat and Mole find themselves on a small island, bathed in an Avalonian light, at the centre of which is the all forgiving, all compassionate Great God Pan: ‘the Piper at the Gates of Dawn’. Between the car-driven rediscovery of English landscape and history and the vision of Pan on an island in the Thames

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lies the key to the modern tradition of children’s writing which started with the Edwardians, was continued by the ‘lost generation of the interwar years’ and which has re-emerged in the twenty-first century – a continuous dream of crisis, renewal and mythology for an England in search of certainty. Children do not live their lives in isolation nor can their reading avoid the concerns of the everyday adult world. Books for adults take up the themes of childhood, reinventing them for an older readership whose sense of wonder, escapism and romance rejects the literary realism of the mainstream serious novel. Thus the girl who enjoyed Angela Brazil would also read the far racier Elinor Glyn or Ethel M. Dell; her brother equally thrilled by the adventures of Bulldog Drummond as with those of Captain Bigglesworth. Adult fiction inevitably also fed back into the world of childhood. The World War One adventure tales of Nat Gould, Sidney Horler, Edgar Wallace and Rafael Sabatini faded eventually from the memory of their adult readers only to re-emerge in the pages of 1960s illustrated comics such as Lion, Valiant, Victor and Hotspur recreating the heroic shenanigans of a lost age for a new generation of boys looking for role models and excitement. Thus appeared the last great British hero of a lost age, the pipe smoking astronaut, Dan Dare, drawn by Frank Hampson for the Reverend Marcus Morris’s new comic, The Eagle, a publication explicitly created to ward off the influence of the horror comics of 1950s America. Yet the American influence is to be found everywhere, from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy to Kenneth Grahame’s love of Uncle Remus, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s rejection of ‘Americo-cosmopolitanism’ to the influence of Tarzan on Dan Dare. Or indeed Leo Baxendale’s creation of Plug, whose name is the shortened form of the American ‘plug ugly’. The American world represented all things modern and futuristic or commercial and crass according to one’s view. In the continuous loop that joins ‘serious’ children’s writing to the world of genre escapism, themes curl round each other and reinforce the continuities that have, in the twenty-first century, blurred and sometimes obliterated the difference between adult literature and that aimed at children. ‘The juvenile reader’ (as Captain Marryat called them in Children of the New Forest (1847)) has long been the recipient of a world of myth, strange landscapes and heroic physicality and it is this landscape that increasingly provides the security and belief system that adults find lacking in the world of technology and consumerism. Philip Pullman’s epic of angels and evil is only the latest neo-pagan production in the relentless backward sweep of English children’s writing in


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

its quest to find a mythology for England that confronts or bypasses Christianity in order to rediscover the world of pan-Celticism. Paganism is not only in conflict with modernity but neo-paganism as a modern belief goes back in children’s writing even before the death of Queen Victoria. It is the central and most powerful continuous theme in English children’s stories and may be said to be the single most influential cultural idea that Britain has created for a post 9/11 world. From Wind in the Willows through the worlds of Bilbo Baggins and Mary Poppins up to the present day, English children’s literature seems continuously at war with the conventions of traditional religion. Conventional Anglicanism and muscular Christianity have long had to accept partnership with mystical Catholicism, neo-paganism, landscape worship and plain atheism, often mixed up in the same book where a strange English religiosity (rather than religion) is the theme and where the religiosity I wish to explore belongs as much to the secular left as to the right: Arthur Ransome and Trotsky’s secretary; L. P. Travers and G. I. Gurdjieff. Which is to say in the end that all British children’s literature from the crisis years at the beginning of the twentieth century through to the 1960s (and oddly revisited in the century’s last decade) is a peculiar blend of traditionalism, ruralism and empire as much as it is a hymn to liberty, freedom and rebellion: both Rudyard Kipling and Karl Marx, caught as Orwell put it, ‘between the priest and the commissar’.15 It is here that childhood and adulthood meet in sentiment, outlook and emotional attachment. Rewards and Fairies has faded more quickly than Puck of Pook’s Hill but it contains one poem that has outlasted all. ‘If’ is squeezed between a tale of smugglers, colonists and red Indians and one ostensibly about Napoleon. Its message (which has so grown in significance and popularity that it rates as one of the most famous of English poems) is of the potential and possibility of selfhood. Unlike the heroic manly verses of Henry Newbolt and the versifiers of the public school code of honour, Kipling’s poem is full of the doubt and insouciance that confronts the Victorian world from which he emerged and to which he continuously reacts. ‘If’ is a poem of praise to the ‘indifference’ that makes real honour and wisdom in which a personal moral code, immune to demagogues and ideology, may confront and defeat the communal and historical forces which vie for command of personality. Orwell thought ‘If’ ‘sententious’, appealing to the ‘blimps’ of ‘the stupid early years’ of the twentieth century, but he also recognised that whilst ‘vulgar’ and sentimental, whilst aligning himself with Cecil Rhodes and the wrong class, whilst emoting about the old British army and yet decrying the working

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classes, Kipling was no ‘yes-man or . . . time-server’.16 Withall, ‘Kipling [dealt]’ in ‘thoughts which are both vulgar and permanent’, a man who wrote ‘good bad poems’, defined by Orwell as, a graceful monument to the obvious. It records in memorable form – for verse is a mnemonic device, among other things – some emotion which very nearly every human being can share.17 Such verse-poetry is, above all, communal, restorative and moral. To ‘keep one’s virtue’ is neither to be an apologist for empire nor a proponent of the Monday Club, but to be someone whose personal journey is to find an easy and honourable ‘personhood’, which delivers ‘the Earth and everything that’s in it’ and makes the boy ‘a Man’. This is not sentimental hogwash (is it ‘sentimental’ because too many ordinary readers like it?) but a poem of struggle in which the outcome is neither reached nor resolved but left in that doubt that only death completes and which is still left without answer in obituaries or biography. Personal as well as communal history is the quest for a ‘lost’ identity and remains nothing more. It is, of course, only this, already defeated search, as Freud first saw, and spent the years to his death codifying, that makes identity in the first place. In ‘Melancholy and Melancholia’ Freud was to write, ‘reality testing has shown that the loved object no longer exists’. In so doing, he missed the fact that the loved object is not missing because having once existed, but that one can ‘mourn’ for what never existed but should have. It is longing for a permanently absent ideal or, to put it somewhat more ironically, as John Osborne did in Look Back in Anger (1956), ‘if you’ve no world of your own, its rather pleasant to regret the passing of someone else’s’. More importantly perhaps, in terms of personal feelings, children’s literature is the only ‘genre’ created from parental love, stories first told in intimate letters embellished with doodles, at bedtime and loved before being committed to print at the very moment that the children who acted as the first audiences were already old enough to know that the intimacy of father or mother and child had already passed. Sad too, that the success of these stories in print should so mar the adult lives of the author’s children or act as memorials to the death of beloved offspring. Kipling’s own son John died in World War One. Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies became explorations of the quest not only for what we have forgotten but also for what we have forgotten about how we forgot. Perhaps this is why they are mixed anthologies of stories,


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

poems and ballads, defeating any attempt at a logical or continuous narrative. In The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Orwell attacked Kipling as a toadying apologist for the upper classes and as an imperialist jingoist for the imperial cause. Kipling was more complex than Orwell believed. Orwell’s reactions to Kipling and his recognition of a deeper complexity waited five more years to find expression in his article on Kipling. The confrontation between Orwell and Kipling says much about Orwell’s own efforts to lay his ambiguities towards class and imperialism to rest. Yet it was also an incisive critical account of the fault line in a great writer which nevertheless forms the very basis of his permance in the popular imagination. Kipling warned the pheasant-shooting class that their days were numbered if they didn’t learn to be humane in their dealings with those below. Kipling also learnt ‘Hindustani’ (Urdu), something his left-wing detractors have never bothered to do. Perhaps Orwell’s rancour at his own class fits peculiarly well with Kipling’s own. Both men existed in the cracks of the class divisions they explored. Both were looking for England and both failed quite to find it, neither in the countryside of Kipling’s Sussex nor the grime of Orwell’s northern cities.

6 Best-selling Authors Since 1900

There were two types of best-selling authors in Britain during the twentieth century. There were those like Margaret Mitchell or Grace Metalious who gained bestseller status through a single work, and there were others like Ian Fleming or Agatha Christie who consistently sold very large numbers of copies. Some best-selling authors never seemed to feature in the historical records. Writers such as Edgar Wallace and Edgar Rice Burroughs had no obvious best-selling titles, yet were clearly very important in terms of their overall sales. Others, such as Stephen Francis (Hank Janson), succeeded in the pulp market where few, if any, records were kept or have been preserved; still others wrote virtually anonymously for romance publishers and the records for their sales are still kept relatively secret. Other writers have had sales assured through their adoption by teachers and academics; such is the case with Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley. Such patterns of authorship and publishing have not substantially changed in the twenty-first century. What has grown is the internationalisation of the book trade, its relationship with other media (the most obvious example being the merger of Time Warner and AOL in 2000) and the restrictive nature of those books which are promoted, but there were all trend visible in the 1990s. In the following section I have included writers whose bestseller status was assured through purchasers’ choice (and library borrowing) and so those writers who have sold very large quantities of books to schools and universities have mainly been excluded, as have writers who died before the twentieth century. Figures relating to book sales must, of course, always be approached with considerable caution, if only because they usually cannot be reliably checked and rest upon approximations suggested by orders from booksellers. In the early years of the twentieth century book ‘booming’ 161


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meant the unscrupulous promotion of works that might be selling poorly, whilst the constant issue of new editions might disguise sales of fewer than two hundred copies an edition. However, publishers have their own views on what constitutes a bestseller or best-selling line. Publisher Michael Joseph suggested in 1957 that a base limit of 50,000 sales for a hardback original edition would produce a bona fide bestseller, although Dora Saint (Miss Read) never sold more than 20,000 copies in hardback for each new title whilst she nevertheless enjoyed huge success in paperback. Nowadays, a writer who hits the bestseller ranks may hope to sell at least 500,000 paperback copies of any title provided that they have television exposure. Writers who are lucky enough to make it in the United States, however, may look at vast sales. Much of J. K. Rowling’s success comes from this source. Finally, it should not be forgotten that records of accurate sales figures from publishers and bookstores are notoriously contradictory and incomplete when not actually lost or falsified for ‘industry’ consumption. Caution is essential where booksellers were known for ‘puffing’ slow sellers and publishers were declaring double entries and weren’t showing returns. Moreover, public records of any sort really only came into existence in the late 1970s and remained problematic until the 1990s. Even then, publishers like Mills and Boon are not included. Best-selling authors are therefore not always obvious and their sales not always commensurate with their influence. Discrimination between dubious claims (especially from 1900 to 1919) means that no clear picture is likely to emerge although we can make some assured assumptions. These assumptions are based on gross sales of first editions, reprints, cheap editions and paperbacks seen as a totality and such sales are almost impossible to calculate accurately. Last, but not least, of course, although all of these authors are bestsellers, the difference in sales figures between the highest and the lowest may amount to millions of copies and so the range of best-selling writers itself becomes a calculus of popular taste and specialist interest. The following selection of best-selling authors has been divided into the historical periods in which they enjoyed their greatest fame. Some, like Edgar Wallace, Ian Fleming or Agatha Christie, cross eras but these have been situated in the period of their greatest success. Thus D. H. Lawrence, who died in 1930, became a bestseller in Great Britain only posthumously from the 1960s onwards. In some cases authors fit easily into a period (for instance Grace Metalious or Catherine Cookson) but where they do not and sales indicate longevity a note has been attached to the relevant period.

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Some readers may be concerned that favourite authors have been omitted who, they believe, have a legitimate place, and that some choices seem eccentric in their inclusion. I probably stand guilty of omission and eccentricity. I have, for instance, included Irvine Welsh, whose novel Trainspotting (1993) is, in reality, a series of strung-together short stories (and whose later work has met with less success), but, in a different vein, I have not included Angela Carter (d. 1992), who despite much applause for her magic realism and feminist stance remains only relatively popular because of the needs of the academic syllabus rather than through popular mandate. The same is the case with Virginia Woolf and James Joyce but I have included Woolf who had by the 1990s reached a mainstream audience. (This does not impugn the quality of these writers’ works.) At any rate I have added 84 new entries. Equally, I have not attempted to be encyclopaedic in my approach to entries. These sometimes offer factual information and at other times combine this with consideration of the author’s contribution to a genre. The list is only intended as a quick pen-portrait reference of the best-selling authors and their most famous books over the last hundred years of best-selling fiction, nothing more. Indeed, I have not included all the works of one author nor even always their latest. What is included is their most famous works or the work that most typifies them, thereby offering the reader with endless time and energy the opportunity to read all the best-selling fiction over the last 108 years. Something which is actually quite achievable. Thus, some writers such as Sheila Holland (Charlotte Lamb) are included as much in their own right as examples of the success of a genre exemplified by different authors or a group. Simple cumulative sales have been used as only one criterion amongst others to determine an entry. I have gone for typicality where possible and used my selection as an illustration rather than the sort of comprehensive guide that is available elsewhere. Where an author produced a very large number of titles but no one title is of great significance, I have either noted their output or simply mentioned an indicative title or two, usually omitting comprehensive lists easily located in other publications dedicated to one specific area of genre fiction. A comprehensive list of children’s authors from Beatrix Potter to Jacqueline Wilson and including many writers for young children has now been added. I have also included authors whose celebrity status was gained in another field (primarily through television). In this way Ben Elton and Meera Syal, appear in these pages although they are not primarily known as novelists. I have not included authors who lived into the twentieth century but whose writing career was mainly


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

contained in the years before 1900. Bram Stoker died in 1912, his most famous book, Dracula, had appeared long ago in 1897 and despite its extraordinary success Stoker remained a late Victorian who published nothing of significance in the twentieth century. H. G. Wells was, alongside Arthur Conan Doyle, Britain’s most famous novelist during the first forty years of the century but his great novels were all written in the previous century, his fame resting on a back catalogue and on his major works of non-fiction and social commentary. Thus are also excluded writers who influenced the immediate turn of the twentieth century such as G. A. Henty, the boy’s adventure writer, R. M. Ballantyne who influenced Rudyard Kipling, Mrs Henry Wood (East Lynne growing in popularity towards the end of the nineteenth century), Anthony Hope (The Prisoner of Zenda) and Grant Allen, the prolific novelist and pioneer of science fiction, but whose major fiction was already written by the end of the nineteenth century. Kipling just gets in with Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and Fairies and Rewards (1910), H. G. Wells does not as his important fiction was already written in the last decade of the nineteenth century and his most successful commercial effort, The Outline of History published in 1920 was non-fiction. That is not to say these authors did not continue to be highly influential, for their books were readily converted to the screen in the early days of cinema as were those by popular Edwardian writers who soon realised that screen writing earned them more money and found a wider audience than the original books, books that were often already out of print. It is cinema we have to thank for the huge success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, an otherwise creepy but non-spectacular steady seller.

1900 to 1918


An Age Passes, an Age Begins: 1900 to 1918 The sixpennies in paper covers probably represent what is most widely read. Here [Charles] Garvice, who had six titles to his name in 1908, now has 53, Effie Rowland [sic], unrepresented . . . in 1909, has 30; but all living writers are headed by the sporting novelist, Mr Nat Gould with 60. . . . (The Athenaeum, 10 June 1911)

Florence L(ouisa) Barclay b. 1862 d. 1921 PSEUDONYM:

Brandon Roy

Guy Mervyn (1891) The Rosary (1909) Barclay was a writer of romance stories, and much of her work is concerned with semi-religious issues. On their honeymoon in the Holy Land she and her husband, the Reverend Charles W. Barclay, discovered the mouth of Jacob’s Well, on which Christ is believed to have rested, and which was covered by the ruins of a fourth-century church. Her first novel, Guy Mervyn, was published under her pseudonym in 1891, and Barclay began writing The Rosary, her best-selling novel, in 1905 while recovering from a serious illness. Barclay sent a copy to her sister in America and when it was published in New York the book sold 150,000 hardback copies in the first nine months after publication. It was translated into eight languages, and sold over a million copies by 1921, continuing to appear on the bestseller lists for twenty years. Barclay believed that writing should have a positive effect, and wrote that There is enough sin in the world without an author’s powers of imagination being used in order to add even fictitious sin to the amount. Too many bad, mean, morbid characters already, alas! walk this earth. Why should writers add to their number and risk introducing them into beautiful homes where such people in actual life would never, for one moment, be tolerated?1


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

J(ames) M(atthew) Barrie b. 1860 d. 1937 The Little White Bird: or, Adventures in Kensington Gardens (1902) Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought (1908) Peter and Wendy (1911) Other works: The Admirable Crichton (1902) Born on the 9 May, 1860 in Kirriemuir Scotland, James was the eighth of nine children. One of the biggest influences on Barrie’s life and career occurred at age 6 with the death of his next eldest brother David. Barrie was particularly small, only growing to be five feet tall, so he often separated himself through comedy and storytelling. After his brother’s death Barrie took it upon himself to be responsible for his mother’s happiness. He even kept a record of which jokes had made his mother laugh as to aid in the creation of more material. At school Barrie read authors like R. M. Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper and here with access to the school’s gardens Barrie spent time playing imaginary games like ‘pirates’ with friends. After leaving education Barrie worked for a local newspaper writing drama reviews. Barrie next worked as a staff journalist in Nottingham. Using ideas from stories that his mother used to tell him Barrie wrote a more formal version and submitted it to a London paper. The editor approved the Scottish style and picked the piece up. This work would later be the inspiration for his first novels Auld Licth Idylls (1888) and A Window in Thrums (1890). Barrie also began to write plays. In 1892 Barrie wrote Walker, London – his first commercial success. In 1897 Barrie became acquainted with the Llewelyn Davies family. The family, especially the five boys, would serve as Barrie’s muses and would be responsible for the genesis of the play Peter Pan. Peter Pan debuted in London on 27 December 1904 bringing great wealth and fame to Barrie. Along with the play, Barrie went on to publish many novels about the boy who would not grow up such as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) and Peter and Wendy (1911). In his final years Barrie would give all the rights and royalties of Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. He also

1900 to 1918


received an honorary degree from Cambridge University and was appointed Chancellor of Edinburgh University. Barrie’s final work, The Boy David, premiered in 1936. The work reflected much of his life and the effects of the untimely death of his brother David. Unfortunately, the play was not a success. Barrie died 19 June 1937 and was buried in Kirriemuir cemetery beside his family.

(Enoch) Arnold Bennett b. 1867 d. 1931 Anna of the Five Towns (1902) The Grand Babylonian Hotel (1902) The Old Wives’ Tale (1908) Clayhanger (1910) The Card (1911) Riceyman Steps (1923) Arnold Bennett was a novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and critic. He was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, in 1867 and grew up in the earthenware-producing community of towns dubbed the ‘Potteries’, a setting which appears in his novels and short stories as the fictitious ‘Five Towns’. He was educated at Burslem Endowed School and the Middle School in Newcastle-under-Lyme before graduating from London University. After training as a solicitor’s clerk in London, he became assistant editor of the journal Woman in 1893 and editor in 1896. His first novel, A Man from the North (1898), drew on his own experiences in the Potteries, and was followed in 1900 by his resignation from Woman in order to pursue writing novels and articles professionally, although as a jounalist he remained the most influential critic of his generation. Bennett admired realistic authors such as Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola, and Balzac, and his own realistic style emerged in his novels of the ‘Five Towns’ such as The Old Wives’ Tale (1908) and the Clayhanger series: Clayhanger (1910), Hilda Lessways (1911), and These Twain (1915). During World War One he wrote propaganda literature for the Ministry of Information, which possibly inspired his political novel Lord Raingo (1926). Bennett also wrote humorous novels about wealth and luxury, such as The Grand Babylonian Hotel (1902). Bennett received the James Tait Black Memorial Award for Riceyman Steps (1923) in 1924.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Angela Brazil (pro: Brazzle) b. 1868 d. 1947 A Terrible Tomboy (1905) The Fortunes of Phillipa (1906) first of almost fifty school tales The literary great grandmother of J. K. Rowling, Angela Brazil’s stories thrilled generations of middle-class girls with stories of adventure and intrigue at boarding school. Born in Preston the daughter of a cotton mill manager, Brazil was educated at a small, exclusive boarding school which became a sort of enclosed and safe model of society, with its complexities and moral problems but without boys or sexual or maternal knowledge. Nevertheless Brazil tried to be as realistic as possible using slang and situations taken from life and contemporary events. Although her work is easy to pastiche it retains a certain atmosphere and integrity that have made it the model for all other school tales where the ‘boarding school’ is turned into an analogue of the nation. For boys Frank Richards (Charles Hamilton [d. 1961]) created several boarding schools of which Greyfriars with its central anti-hero Billy Bunter is the most famous and enduring.

John Buchan b. 1875 d. 1940 Prester John (1910) The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) The Power-House (1916) Greenmantle (1916) Mr Standfast (1919) Huntingtower (1922) The Three Hostages (1924) John Macnab (1925) The Dancing Floor (1926) The Courts of the Morning (1929) Castle Gay (1929) The Island of Sheep (1936) Sick Heart River (1941)

1900 to 1918


. . . I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the ‘dime novel,’ and which we know as the ‘shocker’ – the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. Thus Buchan dedicated The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and in so doing created the modern spy thriller and its first great hero Richard Hannay. Buchan was born in Perth in Scotland in 1875, the son of a minister of the free church. Schooled in Fife and Glasgow, he went to university in Glasgow and Oxford where he won several awards including the Newdigate Prize for Poetry, published in the avant-garde magazine the Yellow Book, wrote books and gained a First. A barrister and Member of Parliament, he was also a soldier and publisher. Created Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield in 1935, he was Governor General of Canada until his death in 1940. Although Buchan’s first success was with Prester John (1910), it is with his spy thriller-adventures that he will be remembered, most especially for the creation of his hero Richard Hannay. Richard Hannay is the adventure-seeking hero of John Buchan’s novel The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and its sequels. A stalwart upholder of the British Empire, Hannay has made his fortune in South Africa. At one point he expresses the opinion: ‘perhaps the Scots are better than the English, but we’re all a thousand percent better than anybody else’. He feels a continuing need to test his own courage, and the Great War gives him plenty of opportunities. In the affair of the ‘39 steps’ he becomes embroiled with a spy ring and is pursued across the hills of Scotland. His further adventures are recounted by Buchan in Greenmantle (1916), Mr Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924), The Runagates Club (1928; short stories, not all of which feature Hannay) and The Island of Sheep (1936). By the time of this last novel he had become Sir Richard Hannay.2 Buchan’s work must also be seen in the context of the thriller genre; for instance, ‘Sapper’ (see entry), Dornford Yates (see entry), William Le Queux (see entry), Edgar Wallace (see entry), and Sidney Horler (see entry) were all, Essentially romantic (in the widest sense of the word) thriller writers [and] dominated the British literary scene during the inter-war years . . . all held vaguely similar views on the role of their mother-country


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

in the greater scheme of things, all were highly proficient at spinning the kind of yarns (what Buchan himself, in a faintly embarrassed throwaway, used to refer to as ‘shockers’) that sold in their tens of thousands on first publication, their hundreds of thousands in reprint.3 All of these writers owe a debt nevertheless to Anthony Hope (Sir Anthony Hope Hopkins, d. 1933), whose most famous romance thrillers (set in mittel-European Ruritania), The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and Rupert of Hentzau (1898), belong to the nineteenth century and create the style for the escapist adventure set within an international political crisis.

Edgar Rice Burroughs b. 1875 d. 1950 Tarzan of the Apes (1914) The Return of Tarzan (1915) A Princess of Mars (1917) The Gods of Mars (1918) The Warlord of Mars (1919) Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1920) Tarzan the Terrible (1921) The Chessmen of Mars (1922) At the Earth’s Core (1922) Pellucidar (1923) Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924) The Land that Time Forgot (1924) The Moon Maid (1926) Burroughs was born on 1 September 1875 (the same year as Rafael Sabatini [see entry]), the son of a distilling entrepreneur who later manufactured electric batteries. Although expected to join the army, Burroughs was expelled from one academy and failed when at West Point, ending his ‘career’ as a cavalryman in Arizona. After numerous (and pointless) jobs Burroughs began to write for the early pulp magazines, his second short story, ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ (1912), made him instantly famous and turned him into a professional author. Burroughs’s creation of Tarzan in a tale for All-Story magazine in 1912, and in twenty-four subsequent books, beginning with Tarzan of the Apes

1900 to 1918


(1914), has been an extraordinary influence on film, television, comic books, and popular culture in general. Tarzan films were produced throughout the twentieth century, with a musical cartoon Disney version (1999). The character of Tarzan can be seen as a major influence on ‘superhero’ figures, especially Conan the Barbarian and Batman, as well as in the continuing ‘lost world’ tradition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton. The concept of alien ‘green men’ may well originate with A Princess of Mars (1917) although the pulp fiction writers Seabury Quinn or Charles W. Tanner may have made the idea of colourful extraterrestrials popular in the 1940s.

(Sir Thomas Henry) Hall Caine b. 1853 d. 1931 The The The The The The The The The The

Shadow of a Crime (1885) Deemster (1887) Bondman (1890) Scapegoat (1891) Manxman (1894) Christian (1897) Eternal City (1901) Prodigal Son (1904) White Prophet (1909) Woman Thou Gavest Me (1913)

Hall Caine was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, in 1853. He attended primary school in Liverpool and on the Isle of Man before becoming an architect’s clerk in Liverpool at the age of fourteen, already exhibiting interest in reading and spending much of his spare time in the local library. He became a teaching assistant and then a teacher at his uncle’s school on the Isle of Man for about a year before returning to Liverpool to his job as a clerk. He soon became consumed with writing, principally articles in journals like The Builder, along with lecturing and organising literary societies. At the age of twenty-five, he met and became friends with the poet D. G. Rossetti, who was a major influence on Caine and his writing career. Caine worked as Rossetti’s secretarial assistant until the poet’s death in 1882. He wrote a remembrance of their relationship in the same year, titled Recollections. Hall Caine continued writing, gaining steady employment with the Liverpool Mercury, writing


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

articles for newspapers and journals, and editing the anthology Sonnets of Three Centuries (1882) until his first novel The Shadow of a Crime was published in 1885. Many of Caine’s novels are set on the Isle of Man, such as The Deemster (1887), the first of some of his most popular works. Hall Caine also wrote propaganda literature pertaining to the Russo-Polish persecutions of the Jews from 1892 to 1893 and he edited King Albert’s Book during the War of 1914–18. He died in 1931. By 1904 Hall Caine was so famous that Punch suggested he might be a new literary disease! HALL CAINE [sic], There seems to be no escape. I go to a bookshop and the shopman insinuates a volume into my hand, Cobwebs of Criticism by HALL CAINE. It is a shrill plea for the sanity of the mob and I do not want it. I am taken to the theatre, and the play is The Christian by HALL CAINE. I open The Chronicle and find an article by Mr Begbie daring to question if Mr HALL CAINE’s chromolithographic view of Christianity is a true one and asking if there is not a finer ideal than he puts before the playgoers. I shudder to think of the morrow.4

Marie Corelli (Mary Mackay) b. 1855 d. 1924 A Romance of Two Worlds (1886) The Sorrows of Satan (1895) The Secret Power (1921) Born in London on 1 May 1855, Corelli was educated privately and showed a considerable ability in music, debuting in 1884. Nevertheless, in 1885 she became a full-time writer and later settled in Stratford-uponAvon. Corelli’s work is now forgotten, but she was easily the best-selling woman writer of the early twentieth century, churning out books that mixed pious sentiment with sensation, theosophy and comments on marital relations. She was especially good at writing for a readership that wanted consolation, hope, and thrills, mostly a female readership but from all classes. The extraordinary success of her work suggests the need felt at the time for a literature of assurance in an age of rapid change,

1900 to 1918


especially for women. In 1909, Corelli could still command the vast sum of £9,500 in advances. How did she do it? It is not easy to answer that question. Perhaps the nearest we can come to it is by noting the fact that her stories all have an element of sensationalism in them, plus a dose of vague, mystical, other-or-ideal worldly religion; and that this was almost bound to go down well in an age which had not lost its religious impulse, even though the discoveries and arguments of Darwin and his followers had denied that impulse orthodox expression. Queen Victoria herself praised the Sorrows of Satan, and Amy Cruse, in After the Victorians, points out how often it was used as a text by fashionable preachers of the day. A Father Ignatius praised the novel to a packed congregation at the Portman Rooms, Baker Street, and wrote to Marie Corelli, calling her ‘a prophet of good things to come in this filthy and materialistic generation.’ She had thrillingly portrayed, he told her, ‘the utter misery of being without Christ in life and death, the daring blasphemies of popular poets and other writers, and the consequences in the lives of their readers.’5

(Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle b. 1859 d. 1930 ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series: 6 novels (from 1888 to 1914) including: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) 21 volumes of short stories (1889–1927; 5 published posthumously, 1959–81) Other novels: Micah Clarke (1890) The White Company (1891) The Parasite (1895) Sir Nigel (1906) The Lost World (1912) Arthur Conan Doyle was the son of Charles and Mary Doyle and was born in Edinburgh on 22 May 1859. His grandfather was the highly talented artist HB, whose political lampoons graced the Regency, and all


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

his uncles seemed to possess considerable artistic gifts, Richard Doyle creating Mr Punch. The young Conan Doyle finished his schooling at a Jesuit school in Austria and then went to Edinburgh University where he graduated in 1881 and signed on as a ship’s surgeon on voyages to the Arctic and Africa. On his return he practised as a doctor in Plymouth and Southsea, where the first Sherlock Holmes story was written. Success as a writer came late and Doyle left medicine in his thirties. Doyle catered to the vast literate public of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through inexpensive and hugely popular magazines such as the Strand, each issue of which contained complete short stories. From 1888 to his death in 1930 Doyle produced novels, short stories, plays, poetry, two histories, books of autobiography, and ten works on spiritualism. On top of this he wrote campaigning pamphlets, played world-class cricket and managed his various business enterprises including his spiritualist bookshop in Westminster. Of Doyle’s vast output the science fiction tales, including The Lost World (1912), are now seen as amusing curiosities, enjoyable in themselves (and a clear influence on writers like Michael Crichton; see entry) but perhaps lacking the darkly logical predictions of H. G. Wells. This leaves what Doyle considered his masterworks, Micah Clarke (1890), The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906), which belong to a genre outdated as serious fiction even when they were written and which can be regarded as enjoyable only in terms of the limitations they labour under as minor romances rather than the status that Doyle claimed for them as works of epic seriousness. It is upon the much more than merely literary reputation of the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H. Watson that Doyle’s reputation rests. Produced between 1888 and 1927, the tales were published either as complete short stories or as two-part novels, mostly in the pages of the Strand in Britain and a variety of magazines in America, including Harper’s, the American Magazine, Liberty and others. The stories were then anthologised following the usual practice of the age and can be listed alongside the four novels as: A Study in Scarlet (1887); The Sign of Four (1890); The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892); The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894); The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902); The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905); The Valley of Fear (1915); His Last Bow (1917); and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927). Numerous films have used the Holmes stories as their basis and there is a growing number of works by other writers who have borrowed characters from or enlarged upon Doyle’s original conception. Enthusiasts

1900 to 1918


talk of ‘Sherlockiana’ to describe the vast literature, both serious and ephemeral, that has come into being.

Charles Garvice b. 1833 d. 1920 PSEUDONYMS:

Charles Gibson; Caroline Hart

150 titles including: Woman’s Soul (1902) Love’s Dilemma (1902) When Love Meets Love (1906) The Gold in the Gutter (1907) Story of a Passion (1908) Dulcie (1910) The Earl’s Daughter (1910) He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (1911) Nellie (1913) The Call of the Heart (1914) Charles Garvice rose to fame in the nineteenth century with romances and romance adventures read by both men and women. He was particularly popular in the United States, producing over 150 novels, twenty-five of which were written under the pseudonym Caroline Hart. His work, although containing the usual romance or mystery elements, was written in a naturalistic style and often displayed an acute awareness of social problems and divisions.

Elinor (Sutherland) Glyn b. 1864 d. 1943 The Visits of Elizabeth (1900) Three Weeks (1907) His House (1910) The Career of Catherine Bush (1916) Elinor (Sutherland) Glyn was born in Jersey, the Channel Islands, on 17 October 1864 and was privately educated. She married Clayton Glyn in 1892, and they had two daughters. Elinor helped as a canteen worker


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

and war correspondent during the First World War. She is best known for her highly romantic tales filled with luxurious settings and unlikely plots. She began writing society novels, which, at the time, were greatly admired for their content, but which now have their greatest worth in Glyn’s storytelling abilities. She soon turned her attention towards passionate romance literature. In 1916, after the death of her husband, she found herself in debt and was forced to write from necessity. From this point on, her stories were simply meant to entertain audiences in Europe and America. In 1920, Glyn moved to America where she began her career in screenwriting in Hollywood. Her short story entitled ‘It’ was made into a film, after which ‘it’ became synonymous with sex appeal. Elinor Glyn returned to England in 1929 and published her autobiography, Romantic Adventure, in 1936. Her novel Three Weeks (1907) made her name as a risqué writer whose erotic suggestiveness was considered highly immoral but also highly tittilating to young female readers.

Nat(haniel) Gould b. 1857 d. 1919 Banker and Broker (n.d.) Racecourse and Battlefield (n.d.) and many others Prolific author of sporting books, editor of the short-lived Sporting Annual (1900) and Nat Gould’s Annual (first published in 1903) as well as writing an autobiography, The Magic of Sport (1909), and numerous travel books relating to Australia and Europe. In all Gould produced 130 titles and published 126 during his lifetime. Nat Gould was born on 21 December 1857 in Manchester, England. He first encountered the future loves of his life in school. On the way to school he rode on the box next to the omnibus driver and listened to the old man reminiscing about racing. He loved sports, captaining the school cricket club and playing football and rugby. Although Nat was only a mediocre student, a teacher who once caught him sneaking a minute to write a piece of drama told him he would ‘probably write something decent’.

1900 to 1918


Early in the boy’s life, his father, an enterprising tea trader and churchwarden, suddenly died. Young Gould left school and followed his father’s work. He hated the drudgery of the tea trade but enjoyed the frivolities of Manchester. Later, he moved to live with his uncle in Derbyshire. He found the hearty work of farm life a welcome change, and he particularly enjoyed driving the horses to get supplies. When he was twenty his mother convinced him to try the tea trade again, so they returned to Manchester. Still disliking the tiresome job, Gould quit but then grew listless through lack of work. At his mother’s suggestion, he began reporting for a newspaper in Newark. He relished his return to the country and gained valuable experience because the small size of the publication required him to cover a variety of fields. After six years, he grew restless. His mentor and editor suggested that he try life in Australia, so Gould left for another continent in 1884. He worked for several newspapers, including the Brisbane Telegraph and the Sydney Referee. He reported largely on racing, thus continuing a passion he had pursued while in Manchester. Aware of his interest, Gould’s editor at the Referee urged him to begin a serial about horse racing. A representative of George Routledge happened upon this serial and snapped up the rights to it. Shortly thereafter, the publisher made Gould an offer for two more books, although Gould had not yet published a novel in England. After eleven years in Australia Gould returned to England with his wife, a woman he met during his travels. He began to publish for George Routledge, but when the publisher died, Gould signed with John Long. In his autobiography The Magic of Sport (1909) Gould comments on sitting down to write his first book, which was actually the first instalment in what became a long-running serial in the Sydney Referee. When I commenced the first chapter of ‘Within the Tide,’ I sat down at my table without the least idea of what I was going to write about, except that it was to be a racing story. I had no plot mapped out, no lines upon which to work, no idea that a long novel was required; I merely set out to write a short story. The comment went on to reflect on Gould’s awareness of attacks on his work by literary reviewers. Some of my critics have said I know nothing about literature. That is quite unnecessary information, for I never pretended I did. We can’t all write classics. . . .


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

It is rather amusing to be told I have ‘no pretensions to style’ when I don’t profess to have any. The object of writing a novel is to tell a story that will hold the reader from start to finish – a story that grips him so that he will not put the book down until he has read the last page. That is the object I have in my view when I write, and I think I may fairly claim to have succeeded, if I may judge by press and personal comment on my work. It was Gould’s love of sport, especially horse racing (see also Dick Francis), as well as his ability to offer ‘masculine thrills’, which made him the best-selling men’s author during the First World War, indeed as one hospital librarian commented in 1916, We soon learnt to invest in a large number of detective books, and any amount of Nat Gould’s stories. In fact, a certain type of man would read nothing except Nat Gould. However ill he was, however suffering and broken, the name of Nat Gould would always bring a smile to his face. Often and often I’ve heard the whispered words: ‘A Nat Gould – ready for when I’m better.’ Gould died on 25 July 1919 aged 61, at New Haven, having completed 115 novels on horse racing, numerous articles and short stories. On his death, The Nation (9 August 1919) commented: In the way of sale, his wares surpassed all others. To millions they were the bread of mental life. We have heard that men at the front yearning for a ‘bit of a read,’ would ask for Nat Gould, and, in default of him, would go empty away to sit brooding in the monotonous dug out scornfully disdaining the allurements of Charles Garvice, Florence Barclay, or even Marie Corelli. We have heard that a newspaper purchasing the serial rights to one of his stories could promise itself an increased circulation of 10,000 a day, no matter what its politics or principles. During his lifetime, Gould exemplified the new phenomenon of the best-selling author, as Truth (22 January 1913) pointed out: Who is the most popular of living novelists? It will astonish a great many people to learn that Mr Nat Gould, judged by the sales of his books, easily and indisputably takes first place. His stories are read with avidity by a vast public for whom the novels mostly in demand at the libraries have no attraction. It is to readers who love tales of the sporting world above all others that Mr Gould appeals, and how successfully he does so is shown by the fact that in the past eight

1900 to 1918


years or so upwards of 8 million copies of his books have been sold.

Kenneth Grahame b. 1859 d. 1932 Wind in the Willows (1908) Born in Edinburgh the son of an advocate, Grahame was brought up by his grandmother after the death of his mother and once his father’s drinking incapacitated him as a parent. Educated at Oxford, but not able to go to the university, he nevertheless found a post in the Bank of England, finally rising to become Secretary in 1898. All the time at the Bank of England he contributed essays and stories to avant-garde journals such as the Yellow Book. Having married Elspeth Thomson in 1899, Grahame settled down to a comfortable existence, enhanced by the birth of their only son, Alastair (killed in 1918). After his death the Grahame’s went to Italy and there was no more published after 1916. Toad was born of bedtime tales and Wind in the Willows, both quintessentially English and avant-garde at the same time was published in 1908. It was a slow to take off, but writers like A. A. Milne (see entry) recognised its significance and promoted it as a hybrid creation between children’s book and adult reminiscence. Toad of Toad Hall (1930) was Milne’s theatrical homage, effectively turning the book into the classic that Milne recognised.

Robert Hichens b. 1864 d. 1950 The Green Carnation (1894) The Garden of Allah (1904) Son of a cleric, Hichens was a gifted musician but chose to travel and write, living a ‘bohemian’ lifestyle which took him, amongst other locations, to Egypt, which inspired his mystic tone and approach. Hichens’s novel The Garden of Allah (1904) combined the exotic landscape of the Sahara with the enthusiasm and overheated passionate spiritualism of Marie Corelli (see entry), and in doing so created a bridge between the late nineteenth-century romance and its post-World War One


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

incarnation in works like E. M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919). The book was turned into a play and filmed three times. The protagonist of The Garden of Allah is a young aristocratic Englishwoman, Domini Enfilden, who is travelling in North Africa. Her journey is no mere tourist trip; from the very beginning (when we encounter her reading Cardinal Newman’s verse epic about the soul’s journey to judgement, The Dream of Gerontius), it is represented as a kind of pilgrimage: a flight from the distractions of civilization in quest of some unspecifiable spiritual truth. The Sahara Desert – the ‘garden’ of the title – features throughout the book as a quasisupernatural landscape whose immanent godhead is more fundamental and less distorted than the supposedly-derivative images reflected in the major world religions and pagan beliefs which they replaced. The plot of the novel initially follows a pattern which has since been enshrined as the principal formula of mass-produced romantic fiction. Domini meets a man named Androvsky, whose behaviour towards her is at first offensive and disdainful. She is attracted to him anyway, even though she glimpses in his eyes what appear to be ‘unfathomable depths of misery or of wickedness.’ She observes him secretly for some days, during which she notices that he has a curious aversion to priests and other symbols of religion. The antagonism between Domini and Androvsky gradually changes into a fierce erotic attraction, which is mirrored in a whole series of atmospheric effects. Carried away by their passion, they decide to be married, in spite of Androvsky’s antipathy to all things religious. This antipathy appears to be mutual; it is reflected not only in the dark suspicions of the local priest but in the literally ominous behaviour of a silver crucifix which hangs in his church. After their marriage, Domini and her husband go on into the deepest heart of the desert. Androvsky has in his possession a quantity of a liqueur called Louarine, which is recognized by a priest they happen across as the unique product of a particular Trappist monastery, the secret of whose manufacture is the privilege of only one man – a man who disappeared from the monastery in question some time before, in stark violation of both his holy vows and his duty to confide the formula of the liqueur to a new custodian. Androvsky, of course, is that man. Androvsky eventually confesses his sin to Domini, and then to the priest who married them – and having purged himself of guilt and

1900 to 1918


achieved true repentance, he returns whence he came, feeling that his love for Domini would be fatally diminished could he not love honour more. Domini fully endorses this decision; although she is left to bring up their as-yet-unborn son alone, she feels that everything has now been set to rights, and that her fierce spiritual hunger has been fully and properly appeased. . . . Domini ultimately receives the same magical endowment of contentment.6

William (Tufnell) Le Queux b. 1864 d. 1927 Guilty Bonds (1891) The Temptress (1895) Zoraida: A Romance of the Harem and the Great Sahara (1895) Devil’s Dice (1896) The Great White Queen (1896) The Veiled Man (1899) The Bond of Black (1899) Wiles of the Wicked (1899) This British novelist, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of the secret service operations of several European nations, was one of the first contributors to the spy fiction genre. A former consul to the Republic of San Marino, he was foreign editor to the London Globe, and correspondent for the London Daily Mail during the Balkan War from 1912 to 1913. His first novel, Guilty Bonds (1891), a fictional account of his observations as a journalist, was banned in Tsarist Russia. He authored 150 novels about international intrigue as well as books warning of Britain’s vulnerability to European invasion before World War One. Le Queux’s ‘shockers’ paved the way for John Buchan (see entry), Dornford Yates (see entry), ‘Sapper’ (see entry) and Sidney Horler (see entry) but they were, to a large extent, eclipsed and forgotten by the 1940s.

W(illiam) J(ohn) Locke b. 1863 d. 1930 The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne (1905) Beloved Vagabond (1906)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

William Locke was born in Demerara, then British Guiana, the son of a Barbados banker, whose move to Trinidad meant that his son would be sent to school in Britain and not see his father for nine years. Locke did finish his schooling in Trinidad before going up to Cambridge in 1881. After graduating, Locke travelled in France before returning to teach French (a job he hated) and write novels that were not successful enough to let him escape. In 1897 he was able to leave teaching to become Secretary to the Royal Institute of Architects, a post he held for ten years. By 1907, Locke’s writing career had taken off, with his ninth and tenth novels, The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne (1905) and Beloved Vagabond (1906), making him wealthy as well as famous. The books epitomise his ‘gay romanticism’ (summed up by the figure of the vagabond) – light-hearted, charming, witty and without purpose except to entertain.

A(lfred) E(dward) W(oodley) Mason b. 1865 d. 1948 ‘Inspector Hanaud’ series The Watchers (1899) The Four Feathers (1902) Running Water (1907) At the Villa Rose (Hanaud) (1913) The Witness for the Defence (1913) The House of the Arrow (Hanaud) (1924) No Other Tiger (1927) Fire over England (1936) Konigsmark (1938) A. E. W. Mason was born in Camberwell in London in 1865 and educated at Dulwich College in South London between 1878 and 1884. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1886 with a degree in Classics and later served in the First World War with the Royal Marine Light Infantry and on secret service missions across the world, for which he was promoted to Major. Having become an actor with a touring company, Mason took up writing from 1895 and even became a Liberal MP (Coventry) during 1906 to 1910. Like Sir Arthur

1900 to 1918


Conan Doyle, Mason was a fine sportsman especially in yachting and mountaineering. Mason specialised in exciting thrillers, historical romances and detective fiction. His most famous adventure, The Four Feathers (1902), is a tale of imperial thrills and personal redemption during the war in the Sudan and it has proved a popular subject both for films (1939; 1955) and spoofs: Carry on Camel (1967). Mason is also the creator of Inspector Hanaud who first appeared in At the Villa Rose (1910). Ernest Hemingway recalled Mason’s work in The Sun Also Rises: It was a little past noon and there was not much shade, but I sat against the trunk of two of the trees that grew together, and read. The book was something by A. E. W. Mason, and I was reading a wonderful story about a man who has been frozen in the Alps and then fallen into a glacier and disappeared, and his bride was going to wait twenty-four years exactly for his body to come out on the moraine, while her true love waited too. (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises [UK: 1927])

Edith Nesbit b. 1858 d. 1924 Five Children and It (1902) The Railway Children (1906) The daughter of a schoolmaster (John Nesbit) who ran successful schools in Bradford, Manchester and London, Edith was nevertheless brought up by her mother in France when her father unexpectedly died. At 19 Edith met Hubert Bland a writer and freethinker who converted her to socialism and who married her in 1880. Nesbit was seven months pregnant at the wedding. Together they formed a socialist debating group in 1883 which was joined by Havelock Ellis, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Beatrice Webb. The group took the name the Fabian Society. Although the Bland’s joined the Social Democrat Federation in 1885 they found it too revolutionary for their tastes. Herbert Bland died in 1914 after which Edith controversially married Thomas Tucker, her social inferior.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Nesbit (who preferred to be called Mrs Bland or Daisy) was the first writer to talk about children in a realistic manner and believe in the outdoor life, being an expert swimmer, a roller-skater, badminton player, long-distance rambler and even a lady bicyclist. It was when her first husband fell ill and his business profits were stolen that Nesbit had the idea for The Railway Children.

E. Phillips Oppenheim b. 1866 d. 1946 PSEUDONYM:

Anthony Partridge

Over 100 novels from 1892 to 1943, including: Expiation (1887) Millionaire of Yesterday (1900) The Survivor (1901) The Great Awakening (1902) The Double Traitor (1915) The Great Impersonation (1920) Jacob’s Ladder (1921) Murder at Monte Carlo (1933) Last Train Out (1940) Oppenheim was born in London on 22 October 1866 but educated in Leicester where his father owned a business. He served in the Ministry of Information during the First World War. Oppenheim was one of the great writers of thriller romances and one of the most popular novelists in both Britain and America. Although his work brought him vast wealth and a Riviera lifestyle he is now almost totally forgotten and none of his vast output of novels remains in print. Known as ‘the Prince of Storytellers’ for his fast-paced escapist stories, Oppenheim may be considered the precursor of the glamorous international thrillers and spy adventures of a later era with his combination of descriptions of conspicuous wealth, exotic luxury, secret intrigues and plans for world domination concocted by foreign, evilgenius villains.

1900 to 1918


Baroness (‘Emma’ Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara) Orczy b. 1865 d. 1947 The Emperor’s Candlesticks (1899) The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) By the Gods Beloved (1905) I Will Repay (1906) Beau Brocade (1907) The Elusive Pimpernel (1908) and many others Although British, Orczy was born in Tarna-Orsi in Hungary. Educated in Brussels and Paris, Orczy studied at the West London School of Art and Heatherley School of Art. She married Montagu Barstow in 1894 and had one son. Orczy’s fame rests on the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) and its subsequent production in play form (1905; 1910).* The story centres on the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney whose exploits saving aristocrats from the French revolutionary guillotine form the basis for numerous short stories, novels, adaptations and television shows. The piece of doggerel with which Sir Percy mocks the baffled Chauvelin was once known to every schoolboy [sic] in England: ‘They seek him here, they seek him there, / Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. / Is he in heaven or is he in hell, / That damned elusive Pimpernel?’7 Orczy was also the creator of the Old Man (Bill Owen), one of the central figures of early detective fiction.

Beatrix Potter b. 1866 d. 1943 The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1902) The Story of Miss Moppet (1906) and numerous others * It was first produced as a play in 1903.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Born in London on 28 July 1866, Beatrix Potter lived a solitary childhood and was rarely allowed out of her house. Her parents spent much more time managing their considerable wealth than they did occupying themselves with Beatrix and her younger brother. Frequent vacations to the Potter house in Scotland provided Beatrix with her only means of independence from her oppressive upbringing because it was the only time she was given the freedom to explore outdoors. It was from these outdoor excursions that Potter developed her appreciation for nature and the rural lifestyle, making friends out of the animals she found, and sketching them on a regular basis. She took her drawing seriously, personifying her animals by clothing them and placing them in houses. Though Potter’s books are filled with meticulous illustrations of animals, she was self-taught, her parents denying her any training. Because her parents did not allow her to socialise, Potter did not easily deal with children, and her stories and illustrations were her way of connecting with them. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which she published herself, began as a letter to the sick child of her childhood governess, Annie Carter Moore, with whom she was very close. It opened with the line ‘I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story of four little rabbits’. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and its sequels have come to be known as Potter’s most famous books, and they are filled with mischievous tales while still incorporating moral endings. Her children’s books, also famous for their small size and flora-framed pages, were successful because her animal characters exhibited behaviour specific to those animals whilst touching on a human sensibility that children could easily relate to. They are also widely appreciated because they do not seem to take place in a specific time and can therefore be enjoyed by any generation.

Arthur Ransome b. 1884 d. 1967 Swallows and Amazons (1931) Born in Leeds, but educated in Windermere and Rugby, Ransome trained as a chemist, but took to writing instead. His first book was Bohemia in London (1907) about avant-garde life in the capital. Travel to

1900 to 1918


Russia as a correspondent and possible involvement with spying led to meetings with Lenin and Trotsky and to an affair with Trotsky’s secretary. Returning to England in 1924, Ransome settled in the Lake District as a foreign correspondent and writer on fishing as well as writing the ‘Swallows and Amazon’ books which have tied his name to the area almost as much as that of William Wordsworth, Alfred Wainwright or Beatrix Potter (see entry).

Sax Rohmer b. 1883 d. 1959 PSEUDONYM:

Michael Furey

‘Fu Manchu’ series: About 15 novels (1913–59) including: The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu (1913) The Yellow Claw (1915) Dope (1919) Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward was born in Birmingham in 1883. Moving first to London, where he combined journalism with a talent for writing songs and sketches for the music hall, he later moved to New York. Looking for a more exciting name than his own he chose Sax Rohmer, the name under which he wrote his Fu Manchu tales. Rohmer created Dr Fu Manchu in the short story ‘The Zayat Kiss’ for The Story-Teller magazine in 1912, and this, combined with ten more tales, formed the first ‘novel’, The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu (1913). In an endless war with secret agent Nayland Smith, Dr Fu Manchu (demonic mixture of German and Chinese blood) works on behalf of a secret Chinese society dedicated to the overthrow of the British Empire and the capture of India. Although clearly a product of the Western (especially American) ‘Yellow Peril’ obsession – ‘a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green . . . [an] awful being . . . the yellow peril incarnate’ – Fu Manchu fights fascism in the 1930s and communism in the 1940s. The character has been reproduced in many guises but most notably in Ian Fleming’s version as Dr No.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Effie A. Rowlands (Effie Adelaide Maria Albanesi) b. 1859 (or 1866) d. 1936 Beneath a Spell (1990) An Unhappy Bargain (nd) and many others Rowlands was a prolific British romance writer, who produced over 200 novels, all variations on a true-love-with-complications theme, though none with any marked note of religious, political or moral quest. Her novels illustrate upper-class Edwardian concerns for physical comfort and material value. Many of her novels and novelettes offer early examples of paperback production aimed at a mass female market.

(Amy) Berta Ruck b. 1878 d. 1978 His Official Fiancée (1914) The Wooing of Rosamund Fayre (1914) The Bridge of Kisses (1917) The Girl who Proposed (1918) Kneel to the Prettiest (1925) Money for One (1928) One of the Chorus (1929) Half-Past Kissing Time (1936) and many others Ruck was born at Murree in India, the daughter of an army officer and one of eight children. When her father became chief constable of Carnarvon the family moved to Wales where Ruck went to school in Bangor. She later studied art at the Slade and then went to Paris. In 1909 she married the writer Oliver Onions, whose short stories enjoyed some success. Abandoning illustration as a career, Ruck published her first novel, His Official Fiancée (1914) – a tale of love and romance originally serialised in Home Chat. Five further novels were produced during World War One, giving hope and enjoyment to both combatants and those left behind. In 1919, Ruck visited the United States, setting one of her

1900 to 1918


books there, but equally many are set on the banks of the Thames and all have happy endings. Ruck only stopped writing at 96 after a lifetime of novels, serials, short stories and autobiographical reminiscences. She died aged 100.

(Richard Horatio) Edgar Wallace b. 1875 d. 1932 The Four Just Men (1906) Sanders of the River (1909) and many others Wallace was born in Greenwich on 1 April 1875 to extremely poor parents and forced to leave school at twelve years old to go and earn a living. He joined the army (1893 to 1896) and went to South Africa until buying a discharge. Previously he had worked in a number of menial jobs. Nevertheless, Wallace was able to secure journalistic work in South Africa for Reuters and the Daily Mail, which allowed him to move on and up the ladder of journalism, especially as a racing correspondent and editor. By the end of his life he had risen to become editor of the Sunday News, Chairman of the British Lion Film Corporation and Chairman of the Press Club. He was also Britain’s most famous popular novelist of his time. Wallace’s output was enormous, and he could claim that in many ways he helped create the modern thriller, especially with the appearance of the vigilante novel The Four Just Men (1906). His creation of the detective ‘J. G. Reeder’ was a notable addition to the crime genre but ‘(Commissioner) Sanders’ of Sanders of the River (1909, short stories; 1911, novel) sums up all the unpleasant racism of the imperial adventure. Mr Commissioner Sanders had graduated to West Central Africa by such easy stages that he did not realize when his acquaintance with the back lands began. Long before he was called upon by the British Government to keep a watchful eye upon some quarter of a million cannibal folk, who ten years before had regarded white men as we regard the unicorn; he had met the Basuto, the Zulu, the Fingo, the Pondo, Matabele, Mashona, Barotse, Hottentot, and Bechuana. Then curiosity and interest took him westward and northward, and he


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

met the Angola folk, then northward to the Congo, westward to the Masai, and finally, by way of the Pigmy people, he came to his own land. Now, there is a subtle difference between all these races, a difference that only such men as Sanders know. It is not necessarily a variety of colour, though some are brown and some yellow, and some – a very few – jet black. The difference is in character. By Sanders’ code you trusted all natives up to the same point, as you trust children, with a few notable exceptions. The Zulu were men, the Basuto were men, yet childlike in their grave faith. The black men who wore the fez were subtle, but trustworthy; but the browny men of the Gold Coast, who talked English, wore European clothing, and called one another ‘Mr’, were Sanders’ pet abomination. (Sanders of the River, ch. 1)

Dolf Wyllarde (Dorothy Margarette Selby Lowndes) b. c.1870 d. 1959 Tropical Tales (1909) and many others We know almost nothing about this popular author except that she was born in about 1870, was a university graduate, and that she lived at Old Mixon Manor near Weston-super-Mare. Lowndes was one of a number of popular and strongly promoted authors who flourished between 1900 and the 1930s but whose background and life have faded into almost complete obscurity. She was a romance author and general-subject novelist who worked with a number of publishers, including Mills and Boon.

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The Interwar Years: 1919 to the Early 1930s You and your Scotland Yard. If it wasn’t for Edgar Wallace no one would ever have heard of it. (Alfred Hitchcock, Blackmail, 1929)

(Dame) Agatha Christie b. 1890 d. 1976 PSEUDONYMS:

Mary Westmacott; Agatha Christie Westmacott

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and 31 others featuring Hercule Poirot Murder at the Vicarage (1930) and 11 others featuring Miss Jane Marple Agatha Christie wrote more than seventy detective novels, her name becoming synonymous with the genre. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1971. In her fiction Christie created two detectives who have become central figures within the genre: the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (introduced in her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 1920) and the very English elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple (first introduced in Murder at the Vicarage, 1930). Her last novel, Sleeping Murder, which again featured Miss Marple, was published in 1976. Christie’s genius was to combine the novel of manners (with a strong hint of women’s romance) with the classic ‘locked room’ mystery. This was a combination successfully exploited by A. A. Milne in The Red House Mystery (1920) but one which Christie made her own, not least because of the introduction of Hercule Poirot, an egg-shaped, effete, over fussy detective from Belgium who relies on the ‘little grey cells’. He is the opposite of Sherlock Holmes, being a creature made for the little details of suburban crisis and middle-class mayhem, combining a taste for domestic detail familiar to Christie’s female readership with a nose for gossip and unexpected décor or household management. If James Bond was the greatest fictional action hero of the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

twentieth century then Poirot was the greatest fictional expert on bourgeois lifestyle. Christie’s play The Mousetrap, first produced in 1952, set a world record for the longest continuous run at one theatre. A significant number of her novels have successfully been adapted for television and film, including Murder on the Orient Express (1933, book; 1974, film) and Death on the Nile (1937, book; 1978, film). Agatha Christie also wrote six romantic novels under her pseudonym Mary Westmacott, and four non-fiction books including her autobiography, which appeared posthumously in 1977. In 1926, following the death of her mother, and her husband’s request for a divorce, she famously disappeared for several days. After a highly publicised search, she was finally discovered in a hotel, registered under the name of the woman her husband wished to marry. Agatha Christie remains the most famous of all the twentieth-century women detective writers, a group which includes Dorothy L. Sayers (b. 1893; d. 1957), Margery Allingham (b. 1904; d. 1966), P. D. James (see entry), Ellis Peters (Edith Mary Pargeter; [see entry]) and Ruth Rendell (see entry).

Richmal Crompton (Lamburn) b. 1890 d. 1969 Just William (1922) and 38 others Richmal Crompton was born in 1890 in Bury, Lancashire but was educated in Cheshire and later went to London University. Like many educated women at the time (including Enid Blyton [see entry]) she took up a career as a teacher and published her first story in The Girls Own Paper in 1918. An attack of polio in 1923 forced her to reconsider her life as a teacher and she turned to writing instead. It is in this period that William Brown was conceived, his antics first appearing in Home Magazine in 1919. Thereafter his adventures appeared in magazine form before being published in book form. With his friends ‘the Outlaws’ Crompton brought into being the first really modern portrayal of a schoolboy.

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Warwick Deeping b. 1877 d. 1950 Love among the Ruins (1904) Sorrell and Son (1926) Deeping studied medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he also achieved a Master of Arts. He practised medicine for several years at the Middlesex Hospital in London, where he qualified as a doctor, but he subsequently left to become a full-time author. He and his wife lived in Sussex where they designed and constructed their own house and gardens. Deeping initially wrote historical romances, a very popular genre at the end of the nineteenth century. However, his approach shifted after World War One, which he spent as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps in Belgium, Egypt, France, and at Gallipoli. He summed up his approach to writing in his entry in Twentieth Century Authors (1942): ‘One set out to see life and its realities, its pathos and heroism, and I have managed to find it more splendid than sordid. A negative cynicism seems to me a form of cowardice.’

Ethel M. Dell b. 1881 d. 1939 The Way of an Eagle (1912) The Lamp in the Desert (1919) The Black Knight (1926) Sown among Thorns (1939) Ethel Dell, one of the great writers of women’s romance, was born in South London, into comfortable surroundings, on 2 August 1881. Dell moved to Streatham, South London, in 1890 – a genteel suburb next to Brixton where she was born. She attended Streatham College for Girls, after finishing which she moved with her family to Knockholt, Kent, her father Vincent joining the new breed of suburban and country commuters into London. Despite publishing some early short stores, Dell’s success rests with The Way of an Eagle (1912), which was refused by eight publishers before


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

re-typing and final acceptance by T. Fisher Unwin. By 1915 the book accounted for half Unwin’s turnover! By the end of the First World War, Dell was earning a huge income from her books – one of the weathiest authors in Britain. Her easy style and clear eroticism made her an illicit favourite with middle-class adolescents and working-class servants and gained her the title of ‘the housemaid’s choice’ for her success in writing what Rebecca West called ‘tosh’. In a memoir of her adopted aunt, Penelope Dell could point out, however, that Ethel Dell was also an early ‘modern’: [She] was a child of late Victorian England, yet her stories abound in explicit and passionate detail. In order that they should be acceptable, she made them highly moral. . . . It is titillating to be told . . . of the very things which are taboo.8 During the 1930s Dell was still one of the most popular women’s authors to be asked for at the ‘tuppenny’ libraries (alongside Elinor Glyn and Marie Corelli). Although ‘spiritual’ and conservative, Dell’s stories also contained the violent passions so enjoyed by women (especially young girls) before World War Two. Her influence on women’s romance is still evident and can be seen clearly in the ‘sexier’ women’s writers of a later age, but also in works like E. M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919). She was also an early influence on Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson; she is one of the great progenitors of Mills and Boon. Alongside Ethel Dell there were other equally successful romance authors. Ruby M(ildred) Ayres (b. 1883, d. 1955) was one of the most popular writers of ‘good, clean love stories’, popular between the two world wars, and she was still writing in 1953 (Dark Gentleman). Her stories were often serialised and filmed and had great appeal for schoolage and adolescent girls. As with all writers of commercial fiction of her period, Ayres was prolific, producing over 150 titles.

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Jeffrey Farnol b. 1878 d. 1952 The Broad Highway (1910) The Amateur Gentleman (1913) Born in Warwickshire in 1878, Farnol enjoyed a private education before being apprenticed to a Birmingham brass foundry. Having studied at Westminster School of Art, he nevertheless moved to New York to become a scene painter at the Astor Theatre but returned to England in 1910. Farnol’s fame lay in his ability to produce historical romances and escapist adventures. Like W. Riley (see entry) he might combine this with a real location. The Broad Highway is subtitled ‘A romance of Kent’ where the reader is invited to ‘read . . . of country things and ways and people . . . of blood . . . and love [and] when [the reader] shall have turned the last page . . . you shall do so with a sigh’. Farnol’s books combined such sentiments with a strong sense of the romance of history. The past becomes for the historical novelist a landscape into which one escapes in search of adventure. Thus the past is less a lost time than a geographical space peopled with individuals, where lives are more exciting than our own. In this sense the past of romantic historical novels is both more interesting than now and much safer. Yet Farnol was only too aware of how easy it is to pastiche such writing (the writing indeed from which he earned his living). ‘. . . trees and such like don’t sound very interestin’ – leastways – not in a book, for after all a tree’s only a tree and an inn, an inn; no, you must tell of other things as well.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, . . . ‘to be sure there is a highwayman –’ ‘Come, that’s better!’ said the Tinker encouragingly. ‘Then,’ I went on, ticking off each item on my fingers, come Tom Cragg, the pugilist –’ ‘Better and better!’ nodded the Tinker. ‘– a one-legged soldier of the Peninsula, an adventure at a lonely tavern, a flight through woods at midnight pursued by desperate villains, and – a most extraordinary tinker. So far so good . . . and it all sounds adventurous enough.’ (The Broad Highway, Ante Scriptum)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Sidney Horler b. 1888 d. 1954 PSEUDONYMS:

Peter Cavendish; Martin Heritage

Series: a number, including ‘Paul Vivanti’ and ‘Tiger Standish’ The Breed of the Beverleys (1921) The Mystery of No. 1 (1925) False-Face (1926) The House of Secrets (1926) The Secret Service Man (1929) Tiger Standish (1932) Tiger Standish Comes Back (1934) Sidney Horler was born in Leytonstone, Essex (now London).* He served in the Propaganda Section of Air Intelligence during the First World War (1918) after beginning a career as a journalist, first as a reporter on the Western Daily Press (1905–11) then as a special writer on the Daily Mail and Daily Citizen. After the war he acted as a sub-editor for John O’London’s Weekly (1919) before turning to novel writing. Horler was a journalist by profession but a thriller writer by temperament. A competitor for the readers of Edgar Wallace and E. Phillips Oppenheim, his thrillers are exciting adventures in which diabolical villains, often foreign or ‘homosexual’ (by suggestion), are defeated by manly and virtuous heroes like the Honourable Timothy Overbury ‘Tiger’ Standish. Despite being sold with the emblazoned motto ‘Horler for excitement’ his novels could not survive changes in taste nor his style make up for prejudice, his work being neither quaint, amusing, nor witty and his thrills not quite as thrilling as those of Sapper, whom he resembles in moral tone.

* The birthplace of Alfred Hitchcock eleven years later.

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E. M. Hull (Edith Maude Hull)* b. 1880 d. 1947 The The The The The The The

Sheik (1919) Shadow of the East (1921) Desert Healer (1923) Sons of the Sheik (1925) Lion-Tamer (1928) Captive of Sahara (1931) Forest of Terrible Things (1939)

Edith Hull was a pig farmer’s wife living in Derbyshire and had never seen a desert when she wrote The Sheik in 1919. She was following a long line of writers who found the romance of the desert irresistible, including Robert Hichens (see entry) and Elinor Glyn (see entry). The Sheik is a work full of violence and eroticism set in an exotic location. It is the first great erotic popular novel of the post-World War One period and its film version, with Rudolph Valentino (1921), was extraordinarily influential. Hull’s tale formed a background to a fashion for ‘the desert’ in books like Desert Love (1921) by Joan Conquest and Arthur Weighall’s The Dweller in the Desert (1920).

A(rthur) S(tuart) M(enteth) Hutchinson b. 1879 or 1880 d. 1971 If Winter Comes (1921) A. S. M. Hutchinson was born in India before moving back to Britain. If Winter Comes (1921) was his most famous work, translated into ten languages and running to forty-five editions by 1924. It told the poignant story of Mark Sabre trapped in a loveless marriage to the snobby and conventional Mabel in the little village of Penny Green, and the effect of the momentous social and personal changes that accompanied the period just before and after the First World War.

* The details of Hull’s birth and death remain matters of some debate. A reclusive personality, Hull also avoided being photographed.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

A(lan) A(lexander) Milne b. 1882 d. 1956 The Red House Mystery (1922) When We Were Young (1924) Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) The House at Pooh Corner (1928) Toad of Toad Hall (1929) play

Alan Alexander Milne, the son of Sarah Marie and John Vince Milne was born 18 January 1882 in Hampstead London. While growing up he attended his father’s school, Henley House, along with his two brothers Kenneth and Barrett. While at Henley House Alan was taught by H. G. Wells who would remain friends with Alan. While at Cambridge Alan and Kenneth both became writers for the publication Granta. The partnership lasted only two years ending when Kenneth left. Alan would later become the editor of Granta. After graduating, Alan took on the job of a freelance writer for a newspaper. His first book Lovers in London was a spectacular failure. He soon picked up a job writing for Punch and was persuaded by the editor to take the position of assistant editor. It was while working at Punch that Alan would meet and later marry Dorothy De Selincourt. The two were married in 1913. In February 1915 Alan volunteered for service in the war. He rose to the rank of Signal Officer and was eventually released from the army in 1919. Alan would later denounce the war in his 1934 work Peace with Honour but then retract some of his statements in his 1940 book War with Honour. In 1920 after returning home from the war Alan and Dorothy had their only son Christopher Robin Milne. After Christopher’s birth Alan penned a short verse as a present for his wife Dorothy. He promised her that she could keep any money made from the verse. After a wide response Milne was asked for more and more eventually resulting in The Doormouse and the Doctor. Alan had become so popular for his children’s verses that in 1924 he wrote When We Were Young. After the success of When We Were Young Milne began to work on a story based on his son and his son’s toys. He enlisted, Ernest Shephard, a friend from Punch to help with the illustrations. Instead of commissioning Shephard, Milne actually made him a partner in the story. Although achieving incredible success as a children’s author, Milne became very annoyed at the

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idea of being limited to writing only one style of story. Even though he had written much for adults before the ‘Pooh’ series by the 1930s Milne’s adult audience had nearly vanished. After Milne’s death in 1956 Dorothy Milne sold the rights of Winniethe-Pooh to the Walt Disney Company. Royalties from Pooh paid by Disney go to the Royal Literary Fund, part owner of the Pooh copyright. The Royal Literary Fund uses these royalties to run the Fund’s Fellowship Scheme, which places professional writers in universities throughout the United Kingdom.

J(ohn) B(oynton) Priestley b. 1894 d. 1984 The Good Companions (1929) Angel Pavement (1930) Let the People Sing (1939) J. B. Priestley was born in Bradford, went to a local school, fought in the First World War and later took a degree at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was a jounalist and critic as well as a prolific playwright. Although he began writing in 1918, his novel The Good Companions (1929) made his name, with its life-affirming message coming during the worst years of The Slump. His play An Inspector Calls (1947) was still running in the West End of London, after a successful revival, during 2001. Priestley’s moral vision was defined by the decline, both economic and social, that he saw around him. His books were intended as a social programme as much as works of fiction. In The Good Companions, a disparate group becomes unified as its members find fulfilment in a common cause. Elizabeth Trant, a wealthy spinster, befriends the hapless Dinky Doos, a group of stranded players, transforming them into the successful Good Companions. They recognize however, that their success cannot last; travelling theatre and concert groups will soon be replaced by the talking picture, but they have shared a glorious moment which has enriched their lives and made them wiser. Beneath the romantic sentiment, the Dickensian characters and setting, lies a hard core of realism, as Priestley insists that determination, hard work, and cooperation underlie happiness.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

In Angel Pavement, which followed The Good Companions, Priestley first attempted a serious novel with symbolic structure and probing characterization. Whereas the Dinky Doos travelled the open road, the characters of Angel Pavement inhabited London’s claustrophobic business world during the Great Depression, an economic nightmarereality that Priestley would later explore in his social [documentary work].9 Priestley’s work also exemplified his concept of ‘liberal socialism’, ‘that a spirited nation of good, hardworking people has not fulfilled its capability to realize the ideal community of men [sic] working in harmony’.

W(illiam) Riley b. 1866 d. 1961 Windyridge (1913) Known as the ‘Yorkshire Novelist’, Riley found fame with his first work, Windyridge (1913), the novel being also the first publication of Herbert Jenkins. In the early years of the 1920s, Riley’s books proved extremely popular. Windyridge Revisited appeared in 1928. Windyridge is typical of the ‘consolatory’ romances of the early twentieth century, providing a romantic storyline in a rural retreat. The tone of the book is elegiac and wistful and the story is infused with a religiosity that centres on homely values of the type exemplified by ‘Mother Hubbard’, one of the characters. The romanticism of the storyline is not seriously disturbed by the realisation that the sins of the city may also exist in a rural setting, and the ‘happy ending’ returns the reader to a sense of peace only to be found in the countryside. Riley’s evocation is both nostalgic and sentimental and falls easily into mawkishness. His heroine’s meditations are those of an emancipated mature woman whose desire for a (substitute) mother, family and husband allows the author to dramatise the ‘fate’ of a spinster following her heart. The book combines the reality of a newly independent womanhood with a conservative desire for home and peace. Thus the reader is led to understand that one must follow one’s heart and turn one’s back on materialism. The book also relied on its regional flavour to win readers. The realisation of a region (in this case, Yorkshire) is to be found in writers as diverse as Catherine Cookson (see entry), Winston Graham (see entry)

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or Daphne du Maurier (see entry) and it provides not only an anchored and realistic setting but also a sense of locatedness and attachment that offers the reader a fantasy of a real location greater than the actuality of the location itself. Such imaginative locatedness is found also in works of other regionalist novelists and it connects the reader to a sense of national homecoming. On her arrival, Grace Holden (the heroine of Windyridge) exclaims, ‘surely . . . it is good to be here; this people shall be my people’ (chapter 1). A sense of being lost and searching for a home (both literally and figuratively) is a component of many popular novels written before World War One.

Rafael Sabatini b. 1875 d. 1950 40 novels including: The Sea Hawk (1919) Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution (1921) Captain Blood, His Odyssey (1922) Captain Blood Returns (1931) The Gamester (1949) In the Shadow of the Guillotine (1955) Born in Jesi, Italy, Sabatini was educated in Switzerland and Portugal. Like so many other writers he was a member of British intelligence during World War One. Sabatini’s historical romances were sagas of love and revenge, sometimes using real historical personalities and sometimes using an historical milieu for a swashbuckling adventure. The books sold in millions and the film versions became minor classics of their genre – Captain Blood (1935); The Sea Hawk (1940); Scaramouche (1952).

Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile) b. 1888 d. 1937 Bulldog Drummond: The Adventures of a Demobilized Officer who Found Peace Dull (1920) The Black Gang (1922)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Third Round (1924) The Final Count (1926) The Female of the Species (1928) Temple Tower (1929) Tiny Carteret (1930) The Island of Terror (1931) The Return of Bulldog Drummond (1932) Knock-Out (1933) Challenge (1937) Herman McNeile was born in Bodmin in Cornwall on 28 September 1888 and was educated at Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire before going to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, South London. He served during the First World War, rising from a Captain to a LieutenantColonel and winning the Military Cross. As ‘Sapper’, McNeile created the adventure hero Bulldog Drummond, whose exploits against the diabolical Carl Peterson and other exotic villains were the most extreme expression of the 1920s adventure-thriller genre, with a high level of violence, xenophobia and sadism. Drummond is a figure characteristic of the soldier adventurer, for whom the war was an essential expression of their temperament (morally certain, masculine, anti-intellectual) and for whom peace was intolerable if it were not an extension of battle. That Drummond has a ‘fascistic’ personality would be an appropriate comment.

Mary Webb b. 1881 d. 1927 Precious Bane (1924) Webb was born in Leighton in Shropshire, the eldest child of George and Sarah Meredith who ran a boarding school. Educated at home by her father and a number of governesses, Webb found herself mistress of a household in which her mother was slowly recovering from a violent riding accident. Although she began writing juvenilia at finishing school, Webb only began to write seriously whilst convalescing from Grave’s disease, a thyroid problem from which she never fully recovered. Nine of her essays were published in 1917 as The Spring of Joy. Writing came to a

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halt for a time when her father died, and again slowed down when she married Henry Webb, a teacher, in 1912, later helping him as a market gardener. In the meantime she had taken to book reviewing, first for the Liverpool Post and later the Spectator. Five novels followed, one of which, Precious Bane (1924), won the Femina Vie Heureuse for 1924–5. Webb’s novels are pantheistic and retain a natural mysticism and transcendentalism that sees the landscape as a symbolic message from God. Compared to Thomas Hardy, Webb’s tales of passion and love are also tales of ‘overcoming’ set in the landscape of an imaginary Shropshire.

P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse b. 1881 d. 1975 PSEUDONYMS:

P. Brooke-Haven; Pelham Grenville; J. Plum; C. P. West; J. Walker Williams; Basil Windham Psmith (1915) Piccadilly Jim (1917) Their Mutual Child (1919) [published in England as The Coming of Bill (1920)] Leave it to Psmith (1923) Right Ho, Jeeves (1934) and many other short story collections P. G. Wodehouse, novelist, short-story writer and playwright, was born in 1881 in Guildford, Surrey, and died in Southampton, New York, in 1975. He attended Dulwich College from 1894 to 1900. After working as a bank clerk in London for a few years he assisted with and then took over the writing of a column in The Globe from 1902 until 1909, and was a drama critic for Vanity Fair from 1915 until 1919. His novels and stories are noted for their wit and style, for his engaging creation of characters, and for his adept handling of language. Wodehouse’s most memorable characters are the slightly inept gentleman Bertram Wilberforce Wooster (Bertie) and his efficient valet Jeeves, who is capable of solving all problems Bertie encounters. They first appeared in a short story, ‘The Man with Two Left Feet’, which Wodehouse wrote for the Saturday Evening Post in 1917. Most of the ‘Wooster’ stories appeared in this form first of all. Wodehouse, a prolific writer of musical comedies,


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

called Wooster’s world, ‘musical comedy without music . . . ignoring real life altogether’. Wodehouse lived in France during World War Two and broadcast for the Nazis. However, as time passed and defenders such as George Orwell attested to Wodehouse’s naïve involvement in the political and social tumult around him, the public seemed to accept him, and his work continued to enjoy wide popularity. Wodehouse received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1939 and was granted the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1975.

Virginia Woolf b. 1882 d. 1941 Mrs Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927) Orlando (1928) The Waves (1931) The Years (1937) Virginia Woolf was born the daughter of Leslie Stephen, the editor of The Dictionary of National Biography (1882), and Julia Duckworth on 25 January 1882. In the early years of her childhood she benefited from a free reign over her father’s impressive library. She suffered from a crippling mental illness for most of her life that eventually led to her suicide in March 1941. She and her older sister, Vanessa Bell, a painter, moved to Gordon Square, London in 1905 and quickly made friends with the informal Bloomsbury Group which included writers and artists such as the economist John Maynard Keynes and novelist E. M. Forster. Virginia married another writer and member of the Bloomsbury Group, Leonard Woolf, in 1912, and the two established the Hogarth Press in 1917 which published along with Virginia Woolf’s own writings, works by T. S. Eliot and translations of Freud. Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928) and The Waves (1931) all feature Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style and experimentation with narrative and character. Many of her works show her preoccupation with woman’s experience, as essays such as A Room of One’s Own (1929), based on a series of feminist lectures delivered at Newnham and Girton at the University of Cambridge, demonstrate and

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it is this interest that caught the attention of the Women’s Movement in the 1970s and made her work de rigeur on every campus in Britain and America. As such Woolf’s impact on the literary canon cannot be overstated although her work was never embraced by a popular readership.

P(ercival) C(hristopher) Wren b. 1885 d. 1941 Beau Geste (1924) Beau Sabreur (1926) Beau Ideal (1928) Percival Wren was born in Devon (in a house once occupied by Charles Kingsley), a direct descendant of Sir Christopher Wren. After Oxford, Wren travelled the world as everything from a hunter to a farm labourer, a navvy and a tramp. His most significant employment was in the French Foreign Legion, until finding work in the government at Bombay. During the First World War he fought with the Indian Army in East Africa until invalided out in 1917, unsuccessfully attempting to become a secret service agent in Morocco during the 1920s. Beau Geste (1924), loosely based upon Wren’s Foreign Legion experience, was a huge success, being turned into a play and a movie, which spawned copycat movies and numerous parodies. The book also became the start of a series. Although Wren wrote other novels of war and adventure, it was these romantic and exciting tales that offered just the right blend of exotic thrills and escapist adventure. These novels were the male equivalent of E. M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919), taking their place in a tradition going back to Ouida’s Under Two Flags (1867).

Dornford Yates (Cecil William Mercer) b. 1885 d. 1960 Berry and Co (first published in the Windsor Magazine, 1920) Blind Corner (1927) She Fell among Thieves (1935) Cecil Mercer lived long enough to see his books and style of writing go out of favour. A writer of high-society 1920s thrilling adventures usually


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

set in exotic parts of the South of France, Mercer was born in Walmer in Kent, but moved to Pau in France between 1922 and 1944 and then Southern Rhodesia until his death. Educated to become a barrister he did not do well at university and instead became a pupil of a prominent solicitor, not being called to the bar until 1909. Having served in the Balkans during World War One he was invalided out with severe rheumatism and became a full-time writer. As a ‘gentleman’ living beyond his means he then moved to France with his new wife whom he finally divorced for infidelity. The German invasion saw Mercer travel to Rhodesia. Here he again enlisted, gaining the rank of major. Mercer’s various series include a cast of ‘ladies and gentlemen’, their servants and their luxurious cars enjoying exciting adventure whilst defeating international villains or dangerous foreign types. In all, they are stories that are a curious blend of patriotism, snobbishness and English fascism.

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World War Two to Suez: The Late 1930s to 1956 The most notorious and widely read best-seller of the Second World War – among the working classes – was probably No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase. . . . Why Chase’s novel was not subject to prosecution is anyone’s guess. ( Joseph McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914–1950, p. 29)

Kingsley Amis b. 1922 d. 1995 Lucky Jin (1954) Colonel Sun (1968) a James Bond Adventure (Robert Markham) The Old Devils (1986) Kingsley Amis (father of Martin Amis [see entry]) was born in South London and educated at the City of London School for Boys and at Oxford. He was knighted in 1990. Amis wrote in a number of genres and was even commissioned to continue the James Bond books after Ian Fleming (see entry) died. Lucky Jim, partially based on his time as a lecturer, became an instant popular hit although the much praised wit seems tired and the book’s ambience has not yet benefited from nostalgia. Nevertheless, the book has a number of imitators including The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury, and the play The History Boys by Alan Bennett.

W(ilbert) V(ere) Awdry b. 1911 d. 1997 Thomas The Tank Engine (1946) Born in Hampshire in 1911, the son of a clergyman Awdry himself was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1936. He married and took a curacy near Birmingham where he lived until 1946 subsequently living in Cambridgeshire until his retirement in 1965 when he moved to Gloucestershire. The stories of Sodor, Thomas the Tank Engine and the Fat Controller began as bedtime tales for his son Christopher during World War Two.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Thomas the Tank Engine was published in 1946 and the series continued until 1972. The twenty-six books were reworked and reissued by Ladybird during 1984 and the combination of illustrations, simple language and nostalgic appeal made them a favourite with adults and children alike. The appeal to lovers of steam trains and model railways encouraged fathers to read the stories to their children. Despite being accused of a certain amount of racism and sexism, the books went on to become a firm favourite with children, culminating in theme park rides, railway preservation enthusiast days (especially at Christmas), a line of model railways produced by Hornby and a television series narrated by Ringo Starr.

James Hadley Chase (René Brabazon Raymond) b. 1906 d. 1985 PSEUDONYMS:

James L. Docherty; Ambrose Grant; Raymond Marshall

No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) You’re Lonely when You’re Dead (1949) Young Girls Beware (1959) and 37 others Born in London on 24 December 1906, René Raymond was educated in Rochester, Reading and Hastings. He joined the RAF, became a squadron leader and editor of the Royal Air Force Journal, after a number of jobs as an encyclopaedia salesman and as a wholesale publisher. Chase found fame with No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939), a work which to George Orwell exemplified a new brutishness in culture. The many thrillers that followed are set in America although Chase gained his knowledge from maps, slang dictionaries, etc., and rarely visited, going only to the obvious tourist spots. Many of the paperback authors of the immediate post-World War Two period copied his style and few travelled outside the UK. This is still the case with authors today. Stef Penny was prevented from going to Canada by agoraphobia but it did not prevent her from winning a major prize for The Tenderness of Wolves, set in Canada.

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Peter Cheyney b. 1896 d. 1951 PSEUDONYM:

Harold Brust

Series: Lemmy Caution; Slim Callaghan including: This Man is Dangerous (1936) Poison Ivy (1937) Dames Don’t Care (1937) Reginald Southouse Cheyney was born in London, trained as a lawyer, but worked in numerous jobs before taking up a full-time career as a thriller author. Cheyney was the first British imitator of the hard-boiled pulp thriller exemplified by Carroll John Daly and, more famously, by Dashiell Hammett. His Lemmy Caution books were violent and sexy and formed a bridge between the work of Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile [see entry]) and that of James Hadley Chase (see entry). His mock ‘American’ slang was also popular with actual American readers. French post-war noir thrillers in both fiction and film were greatly influenced by the work of James Hadley Chase (see entry) and Cheyney’s character Lemme Caution who gave rise to a number of copycat characters as well as translations. Such British imitations of American work allowed French authors distance from the American originals and space to work out the trauma of Nazi occupation through their plots.

John Creasey b. 1908 d. 1973 PSEUDONYMS:

Gordon Ashe; M. E. Cook; M. C. Cooce; Margaret Cooce; Henry St John Cooper; Norman Deane; Robert Caine Frazer; Elise Fecamps; Patrick Gill; Michael Halliday; Charles Hogarth; Brian Hope; Colin Hughes; Kyle Hunt; Abel Mann; Peter Manton; J. J. Marric; James Marsden; Richard Martin; Rodney Mattheson; Anthony Morton; Ken Ranger; William K. Reilly; Tex Riley; Jeremy York Gideon’s Day (1955) Gideon’s Week (1956)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Creasey was a prolific novelist, publishing 562 novels, most of them organised into series, each written in a distinctly different style and under a different pseudonym. The ‘Gideon’ series (by J. J. Marric), for example, are authentic police procedural novels; the ‘Roger West’ series contains detective novels based around a police superintendent; the ‘Patrick Dawlish’ series (by Gordon Ashe) centres on a secret service agent; the ‘Superintendent Folly’ series (by Jeremy York) are countryhouse-type murder investigations; and the ‘Dr Cellini’ series (written by Michael Halliday) concerns the fight against evil undertaken by an elderly psychiatrist. Although he worked in a range of related genres, his themes were connected to his belief that it is mankind’s destiny to work together for the common good. His novel Gideon’s Day was made into a film in 1958, directed by John Ford and starring Jack Hawkins. Creasey was a founder of the British Crime Writers Association in 1935. He was also an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate when he founded the All-Party Alliance in 1967, urging voters to choose the best candidate regardless of party, and urging shared political control of nations.

A(rchibald) J(oseph) Cronin b. 1896 d. 1981 Hatter’s Castle (1931) The Stars Look Down (1935) The Citadel (1937) The Keys of the Kingdom (1941) A. J. Cronin was born in Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, and studied medicine at Glasgow University. He practised medicine for many years in South Wales and London before devoting himself to writing. From 1921 to 1924 he made a special study of industrial medicine in South Wales, where he was appointed Medical Inspector of Mines. His time at the mines was later reflected in his works, such as The Stars Look Down, The Green Years (1944), and A Pocketful of Rye (1969). While Cronin’s novels received little critical acclaim, he was widely published and read internationally. His medical stories formed the basis for the hugely successful BBC television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook (1959–66; 1993). Cronin was awarded the American Booksellers’ Prize for The Citadel in 1937.

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Lloyd Douglas b. 1877 d. 1951 The Robe (1942) Douglas wrote ten novels, each of which made the bestseller lists; six were made into films, and one was the basis for a television series. His first novel, Magnificent Obsession (1929), led to a huge increase in the sales of Bibles in America during the 1930s, and the adaptation of his novel The Robe was the first film made in Cinemascope (in 1953) and won two Academy Awards. Lloyd Douglas was born into a religious family in Indiana; he was ordained as pastor of a Lutheran Church in 1903, and went on to become director of religious work at the University of Illinois. He later joined the Congregational Church and spent many years as a pastor of churches in the United States and Canada. In 1933 he retired from the ministry and became a full-time writer, his purpose being to present a Christian thesis in the form of a novel and to include human interest in the gospel stories. The recurrent theme in his work is that of the conversion of the atheist hero to a practising Christian. ‘If my novels are entertaining I am glad,’ he said, ‘but they are not written so much for the purpose of entertaining as for inspiration.’

Daphne du Maurier b. 1907 d. 1989 Jamaica Inn (1936) Rebecca (1938) Frenchman’s Creek (1942) My Cousin Rachel (1951) Du Maurier was the daughter of Sir Gerald du Maurier, actor-manager, and granddaughter of George du Maurier, author of Trilby (1894). Although she produced her first novel, The Loving Spirit, in 1931, it was with Rebecca (1938) that she became one of the most popular authors of the century. Accorded literary status as well as enjoying popularity, du Maurier was also the author of famous short stories such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ and many of her works were filmed. Rebecca is probably the greatest of women’s gothic romances, tales that are


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

a genre of particular appeal to women readers, [and] are pure escapism. . . . They are the female equivalent of the adventure stories of the Alistair MacLean type so popular with both men and women for much the same reasons. The stories have a woman as the main character, and contain elements of adventure, mystery, love and the supernatural, often in an historical setting, and written in the first person. The heroines encounter danger and misunderstanding, and the enmity of jealous rivals, but there is invariably a happy ending. The favourite locations for this type of novel are Cornwall, the Yorkshire Moors and Scotland, or similar wild areas of the country, and often involve stately homes with mysterious owners. They are, obviously, derived from the ‘gothick’ novels of the nineteenth century, and particularly from the work of the Brontë sisters. . . . The genre does overlap, to some extent, with the family story and with the historical novel, but certain authors, such as Victoria Holt and Mary Williams, while writing about family life in rural nineteenth-century England, typify the literary style and plot of this sort of novel.10 Rebecca’s opening paragraphs are some of the most famous in twentieth-century fiction. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. . . . The drive was a ribbon now, a thread of its former self, with gravel surface gone, and choked with grass and moss. The trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws. Du Maurier’s Brontë-esque introduction to her novel was itself the begetter of numerous literary look-alikes. Take, for instance, the opening paragraph of Sara Seale’s The Gentle Prisoner (voted ‘Romantic Book of the Month’ in Woman and Home [1945] and considered by Seale’s publisher Alan Boon – of Mills and Boon – ‘one of the great classic books we published’).

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The house, in the soft summer twilight, looked grey and forbidding. The high wall, which completely enclosed it, rose in a straggling circle from the silent moor, and only through the tall iron gates could the house itself be seen, strong and implacable with its shuttered windows blank to the enquiring eye. . . . The man, with his hand already on the chill iron scrolling, paused and shivered. He had an instinct not to enter, a faint presage of ill-luck, should he push those hostile gates ajar and slip inside. . . . Inside the gates, it was as if the barren moorland had blossomed under some magic wand, for he found himself in a rose-garden, which was as unexpected as it was beautiful. . . . He pulled at a bell at the side of the heavy front door, and to the old man who answered it, he said: ‘Mr Penryn, please.’ ‘I’ll see sir.’ The door swinging open reluctantly, revealed a dark, shadowy hall which echoed to their voices. ‘Mr Penryn is not officially in residence,’ the old man said severely, as if defending the shuttered windows, ‘but if you will give me your name, sir, I will enquire.’

Robert Graves b. 1895 d. 1985 Lawrence and the Arabs (1927) non-fiction Good-Bye To All That (1929) non-fiction I Claudius (1934) Count Belisarius (1938) Robert Graves was the son of the writer Alfred Perceval Graves and Amalie von Ranke. Born in Wimbledon, Graves was educated at Charter House School and St John’s College Oxford before enlisting in World War One. His first book of poems was published during that period but unfortunately having been gravely wounded on the Somme he was invalided out and spent time at Craiglockhart Military Hospital near Edinburgh where he met both Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. After the war and finding it difficult to get work he finally took up a post at Cairo University, but domestic circumstances led him to Deia in Majorca. Writing in a number of genres including mythology, science fiction, biography, history and poetry, Graves found fame with his story of the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Roman Emperor Claudius. I, Claudius was published in 1934, continuously reprinted during the 1950s and finally made into a successful television series in 1976. Although a number of writers have used the historical circumstances of Ancient Rome to structure their own narratives, Graves’s literary and historical scholarship still places his work at the forefront.

C(ecil) S(cott) Forester b. 1899 d. 1966 Payment Deferred (1926) Brown on Resolution (1929) Death to the French (1932) The Gun (1933) The African Queen (1935) The General (1936) The ‘Hornblower’ series including: The Happy Return (1937) Flying Colors (1938) A Ship of the Line (1939) Lord Hornblower (1946) Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950) C. S. Forester, born in Cairo and educated at Dulwich College in England, was a prolific journalist and novelist of historical fiction. The settings of his early work range from World War One, as in Payment Deferred (1926), to the Peninsular War, as in both Death to the French (1932) and The Gun (1933). His later novels, however, are set within the naval conflict of the Napoleonic Wars, and chronicle the life of his most popular fictional character Horatio Hornblower, a British naval officer. Forester narrates Hornblower’s career, from midshipman to admiral, with his succession of a dozen novels ultimately culminating in Lord Hornblower (1946).* This series re-articulates the typical Forester theme of personal forbearance in war. Forester’s novels of the Napoleonic War remain the male equivalent of the Regency romance aimed at women readers (see entry under Georgette Heyer). They spawned a host of imitators including Patrick * Confusingly, the novels were not written in the chronological order of Hornblower’s life.

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O’Brian’s ‘Jack Aubrey’ series (see entry), Douglas Reeman’s ‘Richard Bolitho’ series (see entry) and Dudley Pope’s ‘Nicholas Ramage’ and ‘Ned Yorke’ series (see entry) amongst a number of others.

Stephen Francis b. 1917 d. 1989 PSEUDONYM:

Hank Janson

‘Hank Janson’ series: 50 books including: Cactus (1956) Framed (1956?) Flight from Fear (1958) Stephen Francis was born in South London in 1917, the son of Stephen Francis and his wife May. Stephen senior was killed during World War One leaving his wife to struggle in poverty. After leaving school at fourteen, Francis became an office boy for a Fleet Street trade paper and thence drifted between jobs but not before joining the Labour Party League of Youth and the Communist Party (from which he was expelled). During World War Two he was a conscientious objector publishing a magazine called Free Expression from his home – an abandoned bus. In 1945 he began a small publishing business with a friend, but later went on alone, writing western novelettes and later crime stories based on Chicago reporter ‘Hank Janson’. When Dames Get Tough (1945) was followed by Scarred Faces (1945). These were very short ‘novels’ dictated to an assistant over weekends, which capitalised on the lack of American crime magazine imports. Their length was dictated by the availability of paper during rationing. It was not until Francis began his second series that he found wider success, becoming ‘South London’s Best Selling Author’ as one placard at Elephant and Castle announced. Despite (or even because of) his growing popularity amongst young male readers and directly because of the lurid erotic covers employed, Francis became the focus for censorious magistrates. Charged with publishing obscene material at trials in 1953 and 1954, the publishers of the Janson books were sent to jail. Francis also stood trial but the prosecution was abandoned. With sales of approximately five million books (50 titles) between 1948 and 1954 and total sales to 1971 of twenty


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

million, Francis nevertheless died in Spain poor and forgotten in 1989. His books retain cult status, however, amongst paperback collectors. Francis was one of a number of British working-class writers who capitalised on American themes and who followed the lead in gangstercrime and erotic violence offered by James Hadley Chase (see entry) and Peter Cheyney (see entry).

Erle Stanley Gardner b. 1889 d. 1970 PSEUDONYM:

A. A. Fair

The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933) The Case of the Sulky Girl (1934) The Case of Lucky Legs (1934) The Case of the Howling Dog (1935) The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) The Clew of the Forgotten Murder (1935) This Is Murder (1936) The Case of the Counterfeit Eye (1935) The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat (1936) and many others Although he was admitted to the California Bar in 1911, Gardner’s fame rests upon his fictional lawyer Perry Mason. The 82 ‘Mason’ stories ran from The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933) to The Case of the Postponed Thunder (1973; posthumous) and form the basis of the much loved courtroom showdown genre recently revived by Scot Turow and John Grisham. The Perry Mason television series ran from 1957 to 1966. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1889, Gardner graduated in 1909, marrying twice and practising law in Oxnard, California, between 1911 and 1918. Between 1923 and 1932 he contributed stories to magazines, becoming a full-time author in 1933. A reporter on crime trials and founder of a production company, Gardner also helped create the Court of Last Resort (Case Review Committee). In 1952 he was presented with the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award.

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William Golding b. 1911 d. 1993 Lord of the Flies (1954) William Golding was born on 19 September 1911 in St Columb Minor, Cornwall, England, to Alex A. Golding, a schoolmaster, and Mildred A. Golding. He attended Marlborough Grammar School before going to Brasenose College at Oxford where he received his BA in education in 1935 and his MA in 1960. From 1940 to 1945 Golding served in the Royal Navy, in which he became a commander. During this time Golding found war to be evidence of man’s brutality, and war became the prime source of his extreme pessimism. He began his career as a social worker and later taught English and philosophy at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, from 1939 to 1940 and 1945 to 1961. Golding became a visiting professor at Hollins College in 1961–2. Lord of the Flies (1954) was published to immediate acclaim and adapted for cinema in 1963 by Peter Brook. He received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Darkness Visible in 1980, the Booker McConnell Prize for Rites of Passage in 1981, the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983, and was knighted in 1988.

Georgette Heyer b. 1902 d. 1974 PSEUDONYM:

Stella Martin

The Black Moth: A Romance of the Eighteenth Century (1921) The Regency Buck (1935) Beau Wyndham (1941) and numerous others Heyer published her first novel when she was seventeen, having enjoyed an education at various expensive girls schools and having attended a history lecture series at Westminster College. In 1925 she married and accompanied her husband to East Africa and in 1928 moved to Yugoslavia for a year. Heyer’s work is to the popular historical romance as du Maurier’s is to the popular gothic romance (see entry): a standard and a reference.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Concerned with the ‘romance’ of historical fact and filled with an admiration for the work of Jane Austen, Heyer chose as her period ‘the Regency’, which was not only of historical interest but also contained a contemporaneous and modern sensibility that was both escapist and factual (that is, ’real’). The Regency provided civilised manners, picaresque detail, historically accurate backgrounds and actors and a mannered, Austenesque language (including accurate period slang). Heyer’s novels contained some of the sentiments of Austen with the verve of Baroness Orczy (see entry) and paralleled C. S. Forester’s own interest in the period and in the Napoleonic Wars, which became the male equivalent of the Regency woman’s romance. Heyer produced almost sixty romance and mystery novels between 1921 and her death in 1974, appealing to a very wide range of woman readers but especially adolescents and older women. Her work was always considered ‘intelligent’ if popular, but such appeal sometimes brought only grudging praise from reviewers. Of one novel The Times Literary Supplement tartly commented, April Lady is a tale of true love in the high society of Regency days, a genre in which Miss Heyer is accomplished. The story is exciting and gracefully told, with a liberal seasoning of the slang of the period. Such a careful writer should not introduce a Foreign Office clerk who expects to be sent abroad on a diplomatic mission; but in other respects the picture of the times is attractive and accurate.11 Heyer also wrote classic-style detective stories, including Footsteps in the Dark (1932) and Death in the Stocks (1935).

James Hilton b. 1900 d. 1954 Lost Horizon (1933) Goodbye Mr Chips (1934) Random Harvest (1941) Hilton began his writing career as an undergraduate at Cambridge during World War One, providing articles for the Manchester Guardian. He wrote his first novel at seventeen and published it two years later as Catherine Herself (1920). He was also contributing a twice-a-week column

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to the Irish Independent. Success, however, took until 1931 with And Now Goodbye. In 1933, Hilton was invited to contribute a short story to the non-conformist British Weekly – it became Goodbye Mr Chips (1934). In 1934 the Atlantic Monthly published the story in the United States to great praise. A play (1938) and film version (1939) followed. Lost Horizon (1933), an earlier novel, also now became a bestseller, bringing into general use the term ‘Shangri-La’. Random Harvest followed in 1941. Hilton’s work was extremely successful in his lifetime (especially in the United States) and continued to find a popular readership into the 1960s. His work contained mass appeal but also won critical praise and awards.

(Ralph) Hammond Innes b. 1913 d. 1998 The Doppleganger (1937) Air Disaster (1937) Sabotage Broadcast (1938) The Trojan Horse (1940) The Killer Mine (1947) The Lonely Skier (1947) Air Bridge (1951) Campbell’s Kingdom (1952) The Mary Deare (1956) and many others Born in Sussex in 1913 and educated at Cranbrook School in Kent, Innes worked at the Financial News from 1934 to 1940, serving in the Royal Artillery during World War Two and ending the war with the rank of Major. In 1978 he was awarded a CBE (Commander, Order of the British Empire). Mystery, suspense and romance were central to Innes’s successful exploitation of the theme of man’s [sic] struggle with the natural elements. His most significant book is The Mary Deare (1956), which deals with a sea captain’s fight to save his ship after it runs aground. Innes was known for exciting and cliff-hanger thrillers written in a Buchanesque style. Alongside Alistair Maclean (see entry) he dominated the thriller market for over twenty years.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

No one since Buchan has kept the flag of romantic adventure more bravely aloft. . . . Innes . . . has preserved some of the Buchan values, a sense of knight errantry, the tug of landscape, a basic charity of outlook.12

W(illiam) Somerset Maugham b. 1874 d. 1965 Liza of Lambeth (1897) Of Human Bondage (1915) The Moon and Sixpence (1919) Ashenden; or, The British Agent (1928) The Razor’s Edge (1944) Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris on 25 January 1874, learning to speak French before learning English, and orphaned at ten years old. His unhappy childhood spent with a dour uncle in Whitby formed the basis for the novel Of Human Bondage (1915). After going to Heidelberg University but failing to complete his studies, Maugham travelled before going to study medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital in London where he qualified in 1898 although he did not practise. Liza of Lambeth (1897) documents the social deprivation surrounding his work in the hospital. After leaving medicine to become a writer, Maugham travelled the world and starved in Paris, success coming with his plays and with the novels completed during the First World War. Later in his career, his satiric and pungent attacks on the foibles of his class and the writers he mixed with led to accusations of libel with the publication of Cakes and Ale (1930). A curiosity remains his creation of secret agent Ashenden, which capitalised on the popularity of the thriller genre in the 1920s. Maugham was one of only a few pre-war authors from Great Britain to become bestsellers in the United States. Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge (1944) totalled over 3 million sales. Other successful British exports included Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca, 1938; My Cousin Rachel, 1952; see entry), Agatha Christie (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, 1926; And Then There Were None, 1940; see entry), James Hilton (Lost Horizon, 1935; Random Harvest, 1941; So Well Remembered, 1945; see entry), A. J. Cronin (The Citadel, 1941; see entry), E. Phillips Oppenheim (The Great Imper-

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sonation, 1920; see entry), P. G. Wodehouse (Jeeves, 1924; see entry), E. M. Hull (The Sheik, 1926; see entry), George Orwell (1984, 1949; see entry) and D. H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1932).

Margaret Mitchell b. 1900 d. 1949 Gone with the Wind (1936) Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on 8 November 1900. Educated first at Washington Seminary, Atlanta, between 1914 and 1918, she graduated from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1919. Twice married, Mitchell nevertheless had a career as a journalist and feature writer. She received a Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and the Bohmenberger Memorial Award in 1938. Mitchell’s reputation rests on one phenomenonally successful work, the focus of which is a romantic saga set in the ‘Old South’ during America’s Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes play out their complex relationships against the backdrop of the death of ‘cavalier’ and plantation Georgia. The book was made into one of Hollywood’s most enduring films. The book and film, as well as Mitchell’s life, continue to fascinate readers and critics up to the present day.

Nicholas Monsarrat (John Turney) b. 1910 d. 1979 The Cruel Sea (1951) The Tribe that Lost Its Head (1956) Born in Liverpool, Monsarrat was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, abandoning a law degree for literature. Having written before World War Two it was the war, nevertheless, that gave him the experiences that inspired The Cruel Sea (1951). Monsarrat was one of the great novelists of the sea story – a genre much exploited during the century. He died before completing a threevolume saga of seafaring life beginning in the Napoleonic period.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) b. 1903 d. 1950 Animal Farm (1945) 1984 (1949) Eric Arthur Blair was born in India where his father was a civil servant. In 1907, on moving back to Britain, Blair was sent to Eton, later going out to join the Indian Imperial Police in Burma where he remained until 1928. Returning to England from time spent in Paris, he became a bookshop assistant and novel reviewer. In 1936 he fought in Spain for the Republicans, joined the Home Guard during World War Two, worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1940 to 1943 and wrote for Tribune, the Observer and the Manchester Evening News. He died in 1950 aged 46 having suffered from tuberculosis. Orwell (who took his pen name from a Suffolk river) began publishing since 1928 with an article for Le Monde, later following with a documentary social piece, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). His fame rests not only with his documentary work but with his more famous fictional tales, the social allegory Animal Farm (1945) and the bleak political morality tale 1984 (1949). These two books, with their mixture of narrative and of social and political commentary represent probably the most famous two fictional titles produced by an English author in the twentieth century. Like Joseph Heller’s, ‘Catch 22’, ‘1984’ has entered the English language as shorthand for totalitarianism, as has ‘Big Brother’ (used in 2000 to 2008 for a game show!), ‘mini’ and ‘Newspeak’. Orwell is, without doubt, the most important British writer of the twentieth century even if there remains considerable debate over whether he was ever a true novelist, or a moralist who merely used fiction as a vehicle.

Mary Renault (Mary Challans) b. 1905 d. 1983 Promise of Love (1939) Return to Night (1947) The Last of the Wine (1956) The Bull from the Sea (1962) The King Must Die (1958) The Praise Singer (1978)

The Late 1930s to 1956 223

Mary Challans decided when she was young that she wanted to be a writer. She also believed that a good writer must participate actively in life and so she enrolled in a nursing school. Her experiences in nursing school provided her with material for her first novel, Promise of Love (1939), which was a resounding success. During World War Two, Renault continued her nursing career and wrote in her spare time. After the war she published Return to Night (1947), which won her the MGM prize and brought her name to the attention of American readers. Mary Renault travelled extensively in France, Italy, Africa, Greece, and the Aegean islands. Her experiences on these travels inspired her post-war novels, which were mainly historical. Renault was most impressed with Greece and it became the setting for The Last of the Wine (1956), dealing with the Theseus myth and taking place during the Peloponnesian War.

Nevil Shute (Norway) b. 1899 d. 1960 A Town Like Alice (1950) The Far Country (1952) On the Beach (1957) Trustee from the Toolroom (1960) Shute served in both World Wars, was an engineer at an airship factory and the manager of an aeroplane factory. He emigrated to Australia in 1949. At one time Shute’s two most famous books were almost the most famous works in English but he has now faded in popularity. Shute is best remembered for On the Beach (1957), a novel about nuclear holocaust. The book is set in Melbourne, Australia, in the year 1963 and tells the story of the few people in the world who survived the atomic warfare that completely wiped out the northern hemisphere. Together they must face the reality that the radiation is heading toward them and determine how they will handle their inevitable end. Critics claim that the novel was Shute’s attempt ‘to caution his readers against the unbridled proliferation of warfare technology.’ Between the year it was published and Shute’s death in 1960, On the Beach sold well over two million copies. The novel was released as a film in 1959.13


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

According to The Times Literary Supplement, On the Beach [was] intended clearly as a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, the characterization is so weak that the reader, faced with the extinction of the human race as represented by Mr Shute’s characters, is left comparatively unmoved.14

Mickey Spillane (Frank Morrison Spillane) b. 1918 I, the Jury (1947) Vengeance Is Mine (1950) My Gun Is Quick (1950) Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) Mickey Spillane was born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn on 9 March 1918. Having attended Kansas State University, he served in World War Two in the Air Force and was twice married. Beginning in 1935, Spillane sold stories to comic books, later graduating to novels, of which I, the Jury (1947) was first intended as a comic-book story, in which Mike Hammer may have ended up as ‘Mike Danger’. Spillane is the stylistic successor to Carroll John Daly; the most popular Black Mask writer. Mike Hammer is such a similar character to Daly’s Race Williams that many have observed Hammer could well be William’s literary son. Spillane’s protagonists – Mike Hammer, Tiger Mann, The Deep, Morgan the Raider, Gill Burke – are direct pulp descendants of Daly’s Williams (and Satan Hall). They are nononsense characters who act first and think second, without exception modern avengers. In turn, they influenced contemporary pulp series, particularly Don Pendleton’s Executioner paperback saga and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films.15 It was Spillane’s novels rather than those of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler which brought the hard-boiled American novel to Britain – the real McCoy compared with Peter Cheyney’s comic hero Lemmy Caution or James Hadley Chase’s imitation style (see entries).

The Late 1930s to 1956 225

‘No, . . . I’m the jury now, and the judge, and I have a promise to keep. Beautiful as you are, as much as I almost loved you, I sentence you to death.’ (Her thumbs hooked in the fragile silk panties and pulled them down. She stepped out of them. . . . She was completely naked now. . . .) The roar of the 45 shook the room. [She] staggered back a step. Her eyes were a symphony of incredulity. . . . She looked down at the ugly swelling in her naked belly where the bullet went in. A thin trickle of blood welled out. . . . ‘How c-could you?’ she gasped. I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in. ‘It was easy’, I said. (I, the Jury, ch. 13)

J(ohn) R(onald) R(euel) Tolkien b. 1892 d. 1973 The Hobbit, or There and Back Again [children’s book] (1938) Series: The Lord of the Rings: vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) vol. 2: The Two Towers (1954) vol. 3: The Return of the King (1955) The Silmarillion (1977) John Tolkien was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the son of a bank manager and a pianist. Tolkien became an academic after graduating from Exeter College, Oxford, and military service in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the First World War. A period of work as an assistant on the Oxford English Dictionary (between 1918 and 1920) was followed by work at the University of Leeds, which led to a professorship (1924–5) and a move to Oxford where he became Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon (1925–45) and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature (1945–59). At Oxford, Tolkien met and collaborated with Charles Williams and C(live) S(taples) Lewis (see entry), forming a conservative, Catholic club called the ‘Inklings’. Tolkien’s temperament and religious convictions made him particularly anti-modern: nostalgic for a rural organic past and with a dislike of


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

‘Americo-cosmopolitanism’, Soviet ‘new-townism’ and the ‘magia [sic]’ of machinery. His preference for a lost and heroic age before the war and before electricity was shared by many contemporaries, although his support for Franco during the Spanish Civil War was not. The Hobbit (1938) reflects much of this postwar temperament and nostalgia but it is in The Lord of The Rings (developed over a fourteen-year period) that Tolkien’s moral vision becomes fully mature – a work for adults as much as for children. Tolkien’s creation of ‘Middle Earth’ with its folktale and Anglo-Saxon sensibility nevertheless is a conservative and moral analogue of twentieth-century history. It represents a retreat and a critique when viewed from such a position and this is why, perhaps, Tolkien rejected any moral message, allegorical or hidden. It is, however, impossible to reject the view that The Lord of the Rings is a sustained elegy on the very nature of ‘Englishness’ itself – a world of rural peace, harmony and yeomanly expression: England as a fairystory land. As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned, in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk. They dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown. Thus, the only craft little practised among them was shoe-making; but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things. Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted. It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours. (Prologue: The Fellowship of the Ring) Tolkien’s charming, absurd, helpless hobbits, along with Gandalf, the elves, dwarves, orcs and other creatures of his imagination, created an epic ‘total’ vision which has consistently appealed to adults as well as children, is consistently voted the most important fiction to come out of Britain in the twentieth century (in popular polls) and has formed

The Late 1930s to 1956 227

the basis for a whole fictional industry of fantasy novels and mythic lost worlds. Tolkien’s influence has been immense both in literature and in alternative lifestyles, a trend that was set to continue with the release of the movie trilogy (2002 to 2005). The Lord of the Rings was even turned into a musical in March 2007, it opened in London to mixed reviews. The Hobbit is currently in production for release during 2009.

Dennis Wheatley b. 1897 d. 1977 The Devil Rides Out (1934) The Haunting of Toby Jugg (1948) To the Devil a Daughter (1953) The Ka of Grifford Hillary (1956) and numerous black magic, adventure and historical romances Brought up in London and educated at Dulwich College, Wheatley served in the artillery in the First World War and thence until 1919 when he was invalided out. Having joined his father’s wine company in the same year, he became its sole proprietor in 1926. As a member of the Joint Planning Staff of the War Cabinet between 1941 and 1944 Wheatley knew Maxwell Knight of MI5 and may have had an association with Aleister Crowley. Wheatley’s reputation rests with The Devil Rides Out (1934),* in which he successfully combined two genres which were in decline by the early 1930s: the ‘shocker’ of the First World War and the supernatural tale of the 1920s. By amalgamating these two, using knowledge of black magic rituals learned from acquaintance with Aleister Crowley, by cashing in on Nazi symbolism (Hitler had just come to power) and by appending an ‘infamous’ author’s note about the dangers of dabbling in the supernatural, Wheatley created a uniquely exciting supernatural thriller. Although unable to compete with the more violent and erotic thrillers

* The Richleau books take the Duke from age 18 in 1894 to his death in 1960 at 85. They were purposely based on Dumas’s ‘Musketeers’ cycle with the exiled monarchist (and his fondness for Hoyo de Monterrey cigars) in the role of Athos, the conservative Richard Eaton as d’Artagnan, Simon Aron (the Liberal Jew) as Aramis, and the democratic American, Rex Van Ryn, as Porthos.16


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

which became fashionable after World War Two, Wheatley’s books found new readers with the mass consumption of paperbacks during the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968 The Devil Rides Out was filmed (Seven Arts/Hammer Films joint production), starring Christopher Lee and Charles Gray, but Wheatley was disappointed with the result. More catastrophically, the reinvention of the supernatural horror thriller by Peter Blatty (The Exorcist, 1971), Stephen King (Carrie, 1974) and James Herbert (The Rats, 1974) and the subsequent films of both Blatty’s and King’s work relegated Wheatley’s thrillers to a world that appeared nostalgic and quaint. Despite this, Wheatley’s 50 books sold over 40 million copies in Britain, all the books were republished in 2005. By contrast, in recent years, Wheatley’s relationships with Aleister Crowley, Maxwell Knight (of MI5) and counter-espionage operations have provided the biographical thrills that the fiction alone can no longer support.

1957 to 1974


The Paperback Years: 1957 to 1974 And I want to be a paperback writer. (The Beatles, Paperback Writer)

Richard Bach b. 1936 Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) Sometimes a writer catches the zeitgeist and finds a niche for a book that espouses the philosophy of a way of life. The success of such a book is also its downfall as times change and attitudes retrench. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a bird who files for the love of it rather than the necessity. The book which was only 10,000 words long included photos of seagulls by Russell Muson. Having been offered to a number of publishers it was finally taken up by Macmillan and broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. Since the time of Marie Corelli (see entry) there has been a taste for uplifting and sentimental ‘lifestyle’ books which are often filled with melodramatic emotion, deal with loss or melancholy and propose a spiritual answer. It may be said that such books often coincide with a period of social upheaval and loss of faith. Other exponents of such books include the American Mitch Albom, the Irish writer Celia Ahern and the Brazilian writer Paulo Coehlo.

H(erbert) E(rnest) Bates b. 1905 d. 1974 PSEUDONYM:

Flying Officer X

Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944) Love for Lydia (1952) The Darling Buds of May (1958) Bates’s early writing in the 1920s utilised his knowledge of rural English life, gained as a provincial journalist. However, it was during the 1930s


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

that he became known as a writer about the countryside, especially for his novels The Poacher (1935) and My Uncle Silas (1940). In 1941 he was commissioned as a short-story writer by the British government, to write about the Royal Air Force, and published several books (such as The Greatest People in the World and How Sleep the Brave) as ‘Flying Officer X’. The three novels he published under his own name at the end of the war further increased his reputation as a powerful novelist (Fair Stood the Wind for France, and two set in Burma during the Japanese invasion, The Purple Plain and The Jacaranda Tree). It has been suggested, however, that it was in his post-war novels that Bates more effectively demonstrated his power as a novelist, especially when he revisited the pastoral subject matter of his earlier writing, notably with The Darling Buds of May (1958), for which he is now probably best known, following the very successful ITV adaptation.

Enid Blyton b. 1897 d. 1968 Child Whispers (1922) Five on a Treasure Island (‘Famous Five’ series; 1942 onwards: 21 books) First Term at Malory Towers (1946: 6 books) and several school series Little Noddy Goes to Toyland (1949) and many others Enid Blyton is without doubt the most successful children’s writer of all time and certainly one of the very few to be banned, abused and pilloried as well as to be celebrated, pastiched and loved. Her vast output, all written by herself, ran from adventures to bible stories and plays to poetry and appeared in magazine, comic and book form. Blyton was born into an artistic household, but a temperamental one. After her parents split up she became a ‘governess’ and teacher. The family had moved to Beckenham just down the road to where Edith Nesbit (see entry) lived in Eltham, the Kentish suburbs still being rural in aspect. Having begun teaching Blyton also began publishing verse and short stories and in 1923 her income was sufficient to become a writer full time. The Famous Five novels were conceived during World War Two as was Malory Towers about a girl’s school and Noddy followed in 1949. The sort of girl’s who might have once read the Malory Towers stories graduated to more substantial ‘real world’ topics during the 1960s and 1970s with the work of Judy Blume whose books tackled the difficult

1957 to 1974


topics of growing up such as menstruation, divorce, bullying and sexuality. Blume’s books ushered in a vogue for children’s books with adult themes, a trend that continues to this day, but which has far from destroyed the older world of girl’s school fantasy as originated by Angela Brazil (see entry) and continued by J. K. Rowling (see entry). Perhaps there is only so much ‘growing up’ and ‘reality’ readers can be bothered with when it is not laced with the escapism and intimacy offered by writers such as Jacqueline Wilson whose Tracy Beaker (The Story of Tracy Beaker [1991] onwards) stories about a girl in a residential home and foster care which have become a huge television hit and whose books are presented in cartoon covers. Other books by Wilson cover bullying, a mother covered in tattoos who is somewhat promiscuous and a family living in a bed and breakfast hostel. The unthreatening presentation of both the cover and print design have enabled Wilson to reach over 17 million young girl readers.

Anthony Burgess b. 1917 d. 1993 A Clockwork Orange (1962) ‘Enderby’ series (4 novels, 1963–84) Anthony Burgess is best known for his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange that was adapted into a movie by Stanley Kubrick. Anthony Burgess was merely a pen name for John Burgess Wilson. Born in Manchester on 25 February 1917 into a Catholic family of Scottish and Irish descent, he experienced a traumatic childhood watching his mother, Elizabeth, and his only sister, Muriel, die of influenza. The tragic nature of both their deaths was to have a profound effect upon Burgess’s life and work. Burgess attended Xaverian College and the University of Manchester and graduated with a degree in English Literature in 1940. Nevertheless, the outbreak of World War Two lead to his enlistment in the army where he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Educational Corps from 1940–6. While he was stationed in Oxfordshire during 1942, as the musical director of an army dance band, he married his first wife, Llewla Jones. Burgess was later stationed in Gibraltar as a member of the Army Education Corps. It was this experience that would inspire his first novel, A Vision in Battlements. After the war, Burgess became a teacher.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Burgess’s main motivation for writing was to provide security for his family. He saw writing as a trade, sacrificing substance for readability. Throughout his lifetime, Burgess would move around through various European countries including Italy and Switzerland, ultimately settling in Monaco, During his time on the continent he would continue writing in addition to his other endeavours as a critic, journalist, broadcaster and composer. Burgess would write over fifty books, thirty of those being novels. He would return to London during the 1990s and would die from lung cancer on 22 November 1993.

Sheila Burnford b. 1918 d. 1984 The Incredible Journey (1961) Born in Scotland, Burnford made her home in Ontario and was known primarily as the author of The Incredible Journey, for which she won a number of literary awards. The novel is the story of two dogs and a cat that trek through the wilds of Canada back to their home. The book was extremely popular with children and adults, one of a number of novels written in the twentieth century and centred on animals. These include Tarka the Otter (1927) by Henry Williamson, Ring of Bright Water (1961) by Gavin Maxwell, Watership Down (1972) by Richard Adams (see entry) and the non-fictional books by Joy Adamson. Burnford also wrote Mr Noah and the Second Flood (1973), an ecological parable, and Bel Ria: Dog of War (1977).

Eric Carle b. 1929 The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) Books for very young children have existed since the nineteenth century, but the idea of sharing a book with an adult, perhaps at bedtime, is a more recent phenomenon. Nevertheless it is now considered an important stage in bridging the gap between home and school as well as getting a child used to reading. The most significant early reader is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Carle was born in Syracuse, New York State, but his parents returned to Germany where he

1957 to 1974


was educated until his return to New York in 1952 where he became a graphic designer for The New York Times. His most famous book, with its distinctive art work was published in 1969 and has sold over 25 million copies, many being treasured by parents as a memory of their children’s early years. In this respect the book is far more than a sum of its parts. Carle’s philosophy of childhood reading is worth quoting at length: With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates – will they be friendly? I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a position message. . . . I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.* In 1999, President George Bush claimed the book as a favourite when he was growing up even though he was 23 at the time of its publication.

(Sir) Arthur C(harles) Clarke b. 1917 d. 2008 Prelude to Space (1951) Childhood’s End (1953) The City and the Stars (1956) Master of Space (1961) The Space Dreamers (1969) Rendezvous with Rama (1973) The Fountains of Paradise (1979) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 2010: Odyssey Two (1982) 2061: Odyssey Three (1988)

* 8.3.08.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Arthur Clarke, born in Somerset, England, is Britain’s most famous writer of science fiction. His style is typified by a fidelity and precision regarding the various scientific topics with which his stories deal. Clarke’s first significant work was a non-fiction article entitled ‘ExtraTerrestrial Relays’, submitted to Wireless World. The article is considered to have predicted satellite communications. Drawing upon the wealth of his non-fiction publications, such as Interplanetary Flight (1950), The Challenge of the Sea (1960), and Profiles of the Future (1962), Clarke’s fiction uniquely investigates futuristic notions of time and space travel and other themes of exploration. His work, notably with a screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick, found cult status. Clarke’s essentially hopeful, progressive vision should be contrasted with the darker post-modern concerns of writers like William Gibson. There are only a few science-fiction writers who capture the general public’s imagination in print. There are some well-known names in British science-fiction writing of whom Iain M. Banks (see entry) is perhaps the best known nowadays. Brian Aldiss and J. G. Ballard formed part of a new wave in the 1960s. Aldiss’s short story ‘Super Toys last all Summer Long’ was planned as a film by Stanley Kubrick, but realised by Stephen Spielberg. On the whole science fiction in print rather than on the big screen remains a minority interest.

James (du Maresq) Clavell b. 1924 d. 1994 King Rat (1962) Tai-Pan (1966) Shogun (1975) Noble House (1980) Clavell was born in Australia, brought up in England and became a US citizen in 1963. During World War Two he joined the Royal Artillery and in 1942 was captured by the Japanese in Java. He subsequently spent three and a half years in Changi prison camp and was one of only 10,000 out of 150,000 inmates to survive. He later used his experiences in prison as a basis for his first novel, King Rat. This was the first of several novels set in the Far East which concern themselves with the tensions between East and West and the struggle for wealth and power. His long and richly detailed novels are recognisable for their exotic settings and strong plotlines.

1957 to 1974


Clavell’s early interests were primarily with film, and he worked in television production in New York and as a screenwriter in Hollywood. His first screenplay was The Fly (1958), and he later collaborated on the screenplay for The Great Escape (1963). He also wrote 633 Squadron (1964), and wrote, produced and directed Five Gates to Hell (1959), Walk Like a Dragon (1960), To Sir with Love (1966) and The Last Valley (1969). He began writing novels during the 1960 screenwriters’ strike.

Jackie Collins b. 1941 (or late 1930s) The World is Full of Married Men (1968) The Stud (1969) The Bitch (1979) Hollywood Husbands (1986) American Star (1998) Lucky (1998) Hollywood Kids (1994) Hollywood Divorces (2003) Lovers and Players (2005) Married Lovers (2008) and many others Jackie Collins is an English writer living in London and Los Angeles but she is closely associated with Hollywood, which is the setting for many of her ‘romances’. Her themes are sex, power, money and love, and the novels are believed to reflect her own inside knowledge of the film industry and the celebrities with whom she associates. She created a strong and beautiful heroine, Lucky Santangelo, for the novel Chances (1981), who has subsequently featured in many books. Collins reflects (or caricatures) the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the accuracy of her writing in this respect has led some readers to claim that they have identified her characters as well-known real-life individuals. The novels themselves are long, racy and glossily packaged and became the prototype of the ‘sex and shopping’ genre of the 1970s and 1980s. Several of Jackie Collins’s novels have been successfully adapted for television and for film, notably The Stud, which was filmed in 1978, and starred her sister, Joan Collins, as did its sequel, The Bitch (1979). Collins’s career has continued into the twenty-first century with new books regularly appearing.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Len (Leonard Cyril) Deighton b. 1929 The Ipcress File (1962) Funeral in Berlin (1964) Billion-Dollar Brain (1966) SS-GB (1978) and many others Deighton was born in Marylebone in London. During his National Service he worked as a photographic technician in the Royal Air Force Special Investigation Branch. Later he attended St Martin’s College of Art and the Royal College of Art. Before becoming a writer Deighton had a variety of jobs including time as a waiter which gave him an interest in cooking, later put to good use when he became an illustrator for the Observer for which he provided an illustrated cooking guide. The Ipcress File (1962) was to be the first of many works of espionage set in the Cold War, the Second World War or in the aftermath of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The use of realistic detail and anti-heroic characters with burnt-out personalities is in contrast to the heroics of Ian Fleming’s James Bond (see entry). In this respect, Deighton’s style owes something to the fiction of the social and psychological realists of the 1950s.

Dorothy (Enid) Eden b. 1912 d. 1982 PSEUDONYM:

Mary Paradise

The Vines of Yarrabee (1962) One of the best known gothic novelists and historical romancers, Eden was born in New Zealand but settled in Great Britain. Her most famous book was Never Call it Loving: A Biographical Novel of Katherine O’Shea and Charles Stewart Parnell (1966), a fictional account of two famous figures from Irish history. As Mary Paradise, she also wrote gothic romance tales. Story settings range from Edwardian London (Speak to Me of Love, 1972) to the Australian Outback (The Vines of Yarrabee, 1962).

1957 to 1974


J(ohn) T(homas) Edson b. 1928 PSEUDONYMS:

Rod Denver; Chuch Nolan

The Ysable Kid (1962) ‘Floating Outfit’ series (37 novels, 1961–87) ‘Waco’ series (7 novels, 1962–81) ‘Civil War’ series (14 novels, 1963–88) ‘Calamity Jane’ series (9 novels, 1965–79) ‘Rockabye County’ series (10 novels, 1968–82) ‘Old Devin Hardin’ series (6 novels, 1975–82) ‘Cap Fog’ series (6 novels, 1977–87) ‘Bunduki’ series (4 novels, 1975–8) and many others (20 novels, 1965–96) John Edson was born on 17 February 1928 in Worksop, England. An uneventful career following army service abroad included owning a fishand-chip shop and being a postman, but his western yarns led to a freelance writing career after 1968 (although he had written for children’s comics such as Rover, Hotspur, and Victor previously). Like Penny Jordan (see entry), Edson could write a ‘novel’ in four to six weeks, and like James Hadley Chase (see entry) he never needed to visit America to create one of his stories. His output of over 100 novels remains popular, and being published in paperback first (‘where the money is’ as Edson put it) they continue a pulp tradition in British publishing aimed at an adolescent and older working-class male readership. Edson’s western heroes were the movie versions of the real thing: John Wayne and Audie Murphy. His attitude towards the genre was essentially conservative and his influences those of the pulp authors Nelson G. Wright and Robert Cade, who were writing in the mid-1930s. Alongside Edgar Rice Burroughs (see entry) and Edgar Wallace (see entry), these authors influenced Edson’s work for the comic Victor in the 1960s and his later novels.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Ian Fleming b. 1908 d. 1964 Casino Royale (1954) Moonraker (1955) Diamonds are Forever (1956) From Russia, With Love (1957) Dr No (1958) Goldfinger (1959) Thunderball (1961) The Spy who Loved Me (1962) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) You Only Live Twice (1964) The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) The son of Major Valentine Fleming, Conservative Member of Parliament for South Oxfordshire (killed in action 1917), and Evelyn Beatrice (née St Croix Rose), Fleming went to Eton and then Sandhurst Military Training College. After a period in Austria he failed the Foreign Office exam and became a journalist with Reuters before the outbreak of war, when he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, becoming personal foreign manager of Kemsley Newspapers and remaining there until 1957. Fleming’s first novel to feature James Bond was Casino Royale (1953), written partly whilst at his Jamaica retreat Goldeneye. By his death in 1964 Fleming had sold over forty million books. Fleming’s reputation rests squarely with the creation of James Bond (Secret Agent 007), himself an amalgamation of the Buchanesque imperial hero and the cynical killer of a Mickey Spillane thriller. With the filming of the books from Dr No (1962) onwards, Bond has become the most famous fictional character of the twentieth century and this, not least because of the memorable array of villains set against him (Dr No and Blofeld amongst many others), the organisations they represent (SMERSH; SPECTRE) and the women he seduces (Pussy Galore; Rider Honeychile). Kingsley Amis (see entry) and later John Gardner continued to write ‘Bond’ novels after Fleming’s death and Bond movies are still being made in the twenty-first century. Fleming’s style of spy thriller is continued today by Gerald Seymour (see entry) and by Anthony Horowitz with his ‘Alex Rider’ series for children.

1957 to 1974


Frederick Forsyth b. 1938 The The The The

Day of the Jackal (1971) Odessa File (1972) Dogs of War (1974) Fourth Protocol (1984)

Forsyth started writing as a reporter. He worked for Reuters and the BBC. Between 1956 and 1958 he served in the RAF as a pilot. At the time, he was the youngest pilot ever to have earned his wings (he was only nineteen years old). The author’s first bestseller, The Day of the Jackal, published in 1971, was based on Forsyth’s own coverage of a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. For the novel, he created a professional killer, ‘The Jackal’. Forsyth established his writing style as journalistic, a style which carried into his second and third bestsellers, The Odessa File (1972) and The Dogs of War (1974). The Dogs of War drew upon Forsyth’s experience as a correspondent in West Africa, where he covered the situation in Biafra. His novel deals with a military coup in the same region. Forsyth says of his novels, ‘my books are 80% plot and structure. The remaining 20% is for characters and description.’

Winston (Mawdsley) Graham b. 1909 or 1910 d. 2003 Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783–1787 (1945) No Exit: An Adventure (1949) Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788–1790 (1946) Marnie (1960) Graham’s style of suspense and crime attracted director Alfred Hitchcock, who filmed Marnie in 1961. In addition to crime fiction, Graham has also written a series of historical novels set in eighteenthcentury Cornwall. A firm believer in stories with strong narratives and plenty of suspense and local atmosphere, especially in his historical romances, Graham is concerned with the interplay of the mundane and the criminal in any period or place. The atmospheric tales of Cornwall were adapted for a highly successful television series.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Arthur Hailey b. 1920 d. 2004 Hotel (1965) Airport (1968) Wheels (1971) Arthur Hailey was born and brought up in Luton, Bedfordshire, attending elementary school but unable to win a scholarship to the local grammar school and thus pursue a career in journalism. After work as a junior in an estate agent’s, Hailey joined the RAF during World War Two but afterwards, with little success in ‘civvy’ street, he emigrated to Canada in 1947. Hailey finally found work as a real-estate agent and then as an assistant editor on the trade journal Bus and Truck Transport, and later as a promotion manager for Trailmobile. Success finally came with a play and a novel. The Final Diagnosis (1959) was chosen for a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Choice and by the Literary Guild of America. Hotel (1965), Airport (1968) and Wheels (1971) were each a huge success and made into successful films, confirming Hailey as the master of the corporate saga. Hailey’s ten major novels account for 160 million sales.

Joseph Heller b. 1925 d. 2000 Catch-22 (1961) Something Happened (1974) Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1925 and served in the US Air Force during World War Two before acquiring a degree from New York University and a Master’s from Columbia, after which he spent two years studying at Oxford University as a Fulbright Scholar between 1949 and 1950. Heller taught English at Pennsylvania State University for two years, later worked in New York for Time (1952–6), Look (1956–8) and McCall’s (1958–61) magazines before becoming a full-time writer. Heller’s first novel, Catch-22, was published in 1961 and is a satire on the US Air Force as a bureaucracy gone beyond its rightful limits; this novel proved to be Heller’s most successful. Heller also participated in

1957 to 1974


the writing of screenplays, namely, Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Casino Royale (1967), and Dirty Dingus Magee (1970). ‘Catch 22’ entered the language as shorthand for a double bind.

Victoria Holt (Eleanor Burford Hibbert) b. 1906 d. 1993 PSEUDONYMS:

Philippa Carr; Elbur Ford; Katherine Kellow; Jean Plaidy;

Ellalice Tate Together They Ride (1943) Mistress of Mellyn (1960) The Royal Road to Fotheringay (1955) Eleanor Burford Hibbert was one of Britain’s most popular novelists during the twentieth century, writing in a number of romance subgenres under a collection of pseudonyms, the most famous of which were Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt. Her writing included historical novels (as Plaidy), gothic romance (as Holt) and family sagas with historical backgrounds (as Philippa Carr). As Jean Plaidy, Hibbert took actual royal and dynastic history and retold the events through the eyes of the women involved, whether Queen Victoria, Katherine of Aragon, Mary, Queen of Scots or Caroline of Ansbach (George II’s wife) etc. When Hibbert began writing as Victoria Holt similarities between her work and that of Daphne du Maurier (see entry) suggested that Holt was actually a pseudonym for the latter author! As Victoria Holt, Eleanor Hibbert continued a gothic tradition straight from Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) and the Brontës, and as Jean Plaidy she continued a tradition with its origins in W. Harrison Ainsworth (1805–82).

Susan Howatch b. 1940 Penmarric (1971) Cashelmara (1974) The Rich are Different (1977) Sins of the Fathers (1980)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Now resident in the United States, Susan Howatch was born in Leatherhead, Surrey, in 1940, took a degree at King’s College, London, in 1961 and became a law clerk before emigrating in 1964. A writer of ‘gothic’ tales and generational sagas, Howatch became a bestseller with Penmarric (1971). Despite its wild setting in North Cornwall, Penmarric is pointedly unlike Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (see entry), the story resembling rather the Forsyte series of novels by John Galsworthy (d. 1933), the house itself being a building of ‘pseudoGothic clumsiness’. Like Cashelmara (1974), the tale concerns a dynastic family struggle (over 55 years). Such fiction looks back to the nineteenth-century domestic novel and forward to the ‘Aga saga’ and contemporary romance.

W(illiam) E(arl) Johns b. 1893 d. 1968 169 books in a number of series including ‘Biggles’ (The Camels are Coming, 1932; 95 books thereafter), science fiction, factual books, adult books and other children’s series. For any boy brought up in the 1950s and 1960s, who played with Meccano or Scaletrix or made World War Two models from plastic or balsa wood, the name of Biggles (James Bigglesworth) will bring a certain thrilling and vicarious nostalgic pleasure. Biggles and his companions Algy Lacey and Ginger Hebblethwaite came to epitomise the RFC and RAF in two world wars and Biggles became the epitome of the flying hero and air ace who used airpower to defeat foreigners and criminals anywhere a plane could reach. He is a hero straight out of the days when flying was exciting and air travel just beginning. Biggles is a man of rugged manly patriotism in the mould of the heroes of the adult thrillers of the 1930s. Johns was born the son of a Hertfordshire butcher’s daughter and a tailor and after leaving school became a sanitary inspector, before marrying and being sent off to Gallipoli during World War One. Returning to England he trained to be a pilot only to be sent back to the Western Front where he was shot down and interned. In the 1920s he began writing, but he was also an illustrator and began to earn a living with his pictures. After being commissioned to write factual articles about the airforce he turned to fiction in 1932 with the first collection of Biggles

1957 to 1974


stories. The tales were enhanced by being written by somebody who had experienced the actual events. Nevertheless, Even Johns’s friends were later to express disbelief about his exploits. In 1993, Sir Peter Masefield, one of his oldest friends, wrote: ‘there is no doubt at all that Johns never went to India or served with the Royal Air Force on the North-West Frontier or in Iraq. He liked to gild the lily a bit!’ It was a polite way of admitting that Johns was a serial liar. (Daily Mail 24 July 2004, p. 4)

Ken Kesey b. 1935 d. 2001 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) Ken Kesey was born in Colorado, and studied both at the University of Oregon and Stanford University. His work as an attendant in a mental hospital served as a backdrop to his most famous novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), which was subsequently made into a popular film. His vibrant characterisation of the various patients and employees of a mental ward in the 1960s adopts a dysfunctional hero as the central symbolic figure of modern American culture. He further drew on personal experience for his later novels, setting Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) in a small town in Oregon, whilst addressing his eclectic lifestyle with the band of so-called ‘Merry Pranksters’ in various works such as the loosely autobiographical Kesey’s Garage Sale (1973) and The Further Inquiry (1990).

Louis L’Amour b. 1908 d. 1988 PSEUDONYMS:

Tex Burns; Jim Mayo [Under Tex Burns, L’Amour continued the Hopalong Cassidy stories of Clarence E. Mulford (d. 1956).] Hondo (1953; UK, 1954) and many others


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Born Louis Dearborn La Moore in North Dakota in 1908, he served in the United States Army during World War Two before marrying Katherine Adams in 1956. A tough man, he worked in physically tough jobs including prize fighting and as a longshoreman, tug-boat deckhand, miner, and elephant handler. His writing made him the most distinguished western novelist since Zane Grey (d. 1939) and he was the recipient of a number of awards including the Congressional Gold Medal in 1983. L’Amour’s work is an essentially epic and traditional view of the West despite the numerous ‘updating’ attempts of others in both prose and on film. He produced 108 books, including 87 novels, and sold upward of a quarter of a billion copies of his work, sometimes at the rate of 15,000 to 20,000 per day!

D(avid) H(erbert) Lawrence b. 1885 d. 1930 White Peacock (1911) Sons and Lovers (1913) The Rainbow (1915) Women in Love (1921) Aaron’s Rod (1922) Kangaroo (1923) The Plumed Serpent (1926) Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) The Virgin and the Gypsy (1930) D. H. Lawrence was born in Nottinghamshire in 1885, the fourth child of a miner and a schoolteacher. Having attended Nottingham High School and Nottingham University College he became a schoolteacher and began writing. His first novel, The White Peacock (1911), coincided with the death of his mother. Suffering from tuberculosis and having formed a scandalous relationship with Frieda Weekley (née Richtofen), Lawrence could not earn a living from his novel writing even though he produced The Rainbow (1915) and Women in Love (completed 1916). Travel across Europe, Asia and America did not save Lawrence from scandal and difficulties. He died aged 44 in Vence. Lawrence is the only really great novelist (barring Orwell) to become truly popular as well. Critical recognition failed to save his career during his lifetime but the (sometimes prurient) excitement surrounding the

1957 to 1974


paperback publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) in 1960 by Penguin and the subsequent trial to defend liberal and artistic values made his work a cause célèbre for the ‘Sixties generation’. Many of his books have been filmed and his reputation sets him among the most significant British novelists of the twentieth century.

Doris Lessing (Doris May Tayler) b. 1919 The Golden Notebook (1962) The Grass is Singing (1949) Doris Lessing was born in Persia (present-day Iran) on 22 October 1919 as Doris May Tayler, to British parents. Lessing’s father was a clerk at the Imperial Bank of Persia and her mother was a nurse. Swayed by the prospect of becoming rich the family moved to Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) to take up maize farming in 1925; a plan that ultimately failed. Insisting on a proper up-bringing, Lessing’s mother enforced a strict system of rules at home. At the age of 13 she dropped out of an all-girl high school in Salisbury which marked the end of her formal education. However, Lessing was a voracious reader and consumed everything from Dickens to Dostoevsky. Leaving home to both escape her mother’s rules and work she took up employment as a nursemaid. Here, she expanded her literary framework by reading subjects such as sociology and politics. At the age of 19 Lessing married and had two children. Within a few years, feeling trapped, Lessing fled her marriage. In 1949 she moved to London with her youngest son, and published The Grass is Singing, her first novel. This work was as much a product of imagination as memory. It combined her experiences of childhood in Africa, marriage and interior life, to create a tension filled novel. As with her first novel, most of her work is influenced by her experiences growing up in Africa. Lessing’s later work addresses gender and race politics, as well as issues of class. In her next two novels, Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and The Summer Before the Dark (1973) she explored the relationship between the individual and society. During the late 1970s and early 1980s Lessing wrote mostly science fiction, in the ‘Canopus in Argos’ series. Her most famous novel, The Golden Notebook, was published in 1962.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, having been preceded by V. S. Naipaul (Trinidad and Tobago/United Kingdom) in 2001, Harold Pinter in 2005 and previously William Golding, whose Lord of the Flies (1954) was a central book of the decade and has remained a firm favourite of exam boards ever since.

C(live) S(taples) Lewis b. 1898 d. 1963 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) Prince Caspian (1951) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) The Silver Chair (1953) The Horse and his Boy (1954) The Magician’s Newphew (1955) The Last Battle (1956) Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Perelandra (1943) That Hideous Strength (1946) The Screwtape Letters (1942) C. S. Lewis, widely referred to in his childhood as ‘Jack’ was born 29 November in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After the death of his mother, he and his brother were sent to boarding school then Malvern, and Oxford University. With the outbreak of World War One he enlisted in the British army. In April of 1918, Lewis was injured in the Battle of Arras, recuperated, but eventually discharged a year later returning to his studies at Oxford. In the same year, he published his first work, ‘Death in Battle’. In 1925, he was elected a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he served as tutor in English Language and Literature for twentynine years until leaving for Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1954. In 1929 Lewis became a Theist and two years later a Christian. In 1933 Lewis used his rediscovery of Theism and belief in Christ for his first theological publication, The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism, depicting his voyage from scepticism to belief. His discussions with J. R. R. Tolkien (a devout Roman Catholic), Hugo Dyson and other ‘Inklings’, took place the same year.

1957 to 1974


The first of Lewis’s Space Trilogy novels, Out of the Silent Planet was published in 1938 followed by Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945). In 1941, from 2 May until 28 November, The Guardian published thirty-one ‘Screwtape Letters’, advice one devil would give to another about how to tempt Christians. The immediate success of these led to his broadcasts on BBC radio discussing the topics of faith and religion that he continued for the rest of his life. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950 and within the next few years the rest of the series of seven books, collectively called ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, were published. This series was Lewis’s attempt to engage with Christianity for a young readership. Lewis died in the house that he shared with his brother on 22 November 1963. His death, however was largely ignored because on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated and Aldous Huxley also died.

Norah Lofts b. 1904 d. 1983 PSEUDONYMS:

Juliet Astley; Peter Curtis

Jassy (1945) The Concubine (1963) The King’s Pleasure (1969) Also the following series: Gad’s Hall; Sir Godfrey Tallboys; Suffolk House Trilogy Norah Robinson was born in Norfolk on 27 August 1904. Educated at Norwich Teaching College, she took up teaching between 1925 and 1936. In 1933 she married Geoffrey Lofts. Her reputation as a historical novelist gained her the Georgette Heyer Prize in 1978 and, like Heyer (see entry), she has an ability to create historically interesting and accurate worlds that are nevertheless also a convenient background for dramatic and romantic tensions. The tradition of the historical romance has a pedigree that takes it back to Sir Walter Scott but which in the twentieth century has largely been confined to the vague category of women’s romance. For a further consideration of this phenomenon see under Georgette Heyer.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Alistair MacLean b. 1922 d. 1987 H.M.S. Ulysses (1955) The Guns of Navarone (1957) South by Java Head (1958) Fear is the Key (1961) The Golden Rendezvous (1962) Ice Station Zebra (1963) When Eight Bells Toll (1966) Where Eagles Dare (1967) Force 10 from Navarone (1968) Puppet on a Chain (1969) Caravan to Vaccares (1970) Breakheart Pass (1974) MacLean, the son of a Scots minister, spent his childhood in the Scottish Highlands, and was educated at Inverness and at Glasgow University before joining the Royal Navy during World War Two, after which he became a school teacher. H.M.S. Ulysses (1955) was written at the suggestion of a publisher after MacLean won a short-story competition. MacLean’s novels are traditional adventure-thrillers often set in wartime situations. Many of his books have been made into successful films, especially The Guns of Navarone (in 1961), When Eight Bells Toll (in 1971) and Where Eagles Dare (in 1968). His work remains the epitome of the adventure story.

Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) b. 1926 d. 2005 PSEUDONYMS: Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Richard Marsten

Series: ‘87th Precinct’ Cop Hater (1956; UK, 1958) The Mugger (1956; UK, 1958) And numerous other ‘Precinct’ tales as well as 9 titles by Evan Hunter including: The Blackboard Jungle (1954; UK, 1955)

1957 to 1974


Evan Hunter (born Salvatore A. Lombino) was brought up in New York, attending school and college there until entering the Navy during World War Two and thereafter teaching in high school and working for a literary agent. The 87th Precinct novels form the longest ‘police procedural’ series in the world and although the tales are fictional and the city anonymous, it is clear they are set in New York, just as Dashiell Hammett (b. 1894, d. 1961) set his in San Francisco, Raymond Chandler (b. 1888, d. 1954) in Los Angeles and ‘Bay City’, and Elmore Leonard (b. 1925) in Florida. American crime fiction has strong attachments to location. McBain’s city has both a physical geography and a municipal organisation. Characters such as Steve Carella, Bert Kling and Mayor Meyer ‘work’ the city within stories that follow the bureaucracy as well as the detective ability of a team of police. McBain’s stories have not only won a number of prestigious crime fiction awards, but they have also proved to be extremely popular, putting the author among the top twenty novelists writing in English in the twentieth century.

Grace Metalious b. 1924 d. 1964 Peyton Place (US 1956; UK 1957) Return to Peyton Place (US 1959; UK 1960) The Tight White Collar (1960) No Adam in Eden (US 1963; UK 1964) Metalious was known for one book, Peyton Place (1956), which chronicled a small town’s infidelities and secret vices. Adapted for television and for film it proved the model for the hundreds of soap operas that followed its example. The Times recorded of Metalious’s world that it was little more than a record of characters stuck in ‘sex-ridden adolescence’ – a formula that has never failed to please ever since!


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

James (Albert) Michener b. 1907 d. 1997 Tales of the South Pacific (1947; UK, 1951) short stories The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1953) Hawaii (1959; UK, 1960) Centennial (1974) Chesapeake (1978) Texas (1985) Educated in Pennsylvania and at the University of Northern Colorado and at St Andrews, Scotland, Michener went on to become a Professor before joining the United States Navy during World War Two where he rose to become a Lieutenant-Commander. In 1949 he became a freelance writer but continued to be involved with education and local and government organisations. In 1948 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, one of many awards and honours. Tales of the South Pacific (1947), a set of short stories, formed the basis for the highly successful musical South Pacific (1949). Michener placed the reason for his popularity in the widened horizons offered to people because of World War Two. His work also coincided with the rise of television viewing – his books, he claimed, acting as an antidote for such undemanding entertainment. Michener, in that sense, attempted to create absorbing sagas set on a broad historical and geographic stage, which offered entertainment and education but, in their breadth and length, were Tolstoyan in sensibility. It might be argued that only in an age dominated by television and the insatiable desire for information could his books have succeeded. Michener’s success may perhaps be considered the product of the very technologies he found suspect.

Michael (John) Moorcock b. 1939 Breakfast in the Ruins (1962) and 33 others (many with alternative titles) Numerous series including: Colonel Pyat; Corum; Jerry Cornelius Chronicles; Dancers at the End of Time; Chronicles of Count Brass; Elric; Michael Kane; Von Bek Family and others.

1957 to 1974


The only major author in Britain also to have been a successful rock musician, Moorcock was instrumental in continuing the fantasy genre after J. R. R. Tolkien (see entry). His utilisation of pulp influences, especially from the ‘sword and sorcery’ world of Robert E. Howard (d. 1936) creator of Conan the Barbarian, helped open up a market for writers of other-world adventures and for comic fantasists such as Terry Pratchett (see entry). Moorcock has proved a prolific author with numerous fantasy and adventure series. Currently he is also involved with the creation of virtual worlds and the interactive opportunities of web cyberspace, an area that has come to be more and more significant for a growing number of post-modern and fantasy writers. Moorcock’s 1971 novel, Warlord of the Air was a faux Edwardian adventure that was a precursor of much ‘what if’ history. The popularity of such a genre is evident in much fantasy including work by Philip Pullman (see entry) and Alan Moore (see entry) and has been given the name ‘steampunk’ just as work based on the old American pulp magazines has been dubbed ‘dieselpunk’ and science-fiction worlds ‘cyberpunk’.

Andrea Newman b. 1938 A Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1969) Another Bouquet (1978) A Sense of Guilt (1988) Andrea Newman was brought up in Dover, Kent, and later in Shropshire and Cheshire. She graduated from London University in 1960 to take up work as a civil servant and later as a teacher. She is best remembered for A Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1960) and the subsequent erotic television series that created the sort of scandal once enjoyed by Elinor Glyn. Much of Newman’s work has been televised, and she continues to write television drama.

Mario Puzo b. 1920 d. 1999 The Godfather (1969) Fools Die (1978) The Sicilian (1985)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Last Don (1996) The Family (2001) Born on 15 October 1920, Puzo was the son of illiterate Neapolitan immigrants. Puzo grew up one of twelve children in the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ neighbourhood on Manhattan’s West Side. When Puzo was 12 years old, his father abandoned his family. It was his mother’s determination to support and protect her family that would influence Puzo in his creation of his most famous male character, Don Corleone. Puzo would serve in the military during World War Two and afterwards attended New York’s School for Social Research and Columbia University. In 1969 Puzo wrote The Godfather, which developed the themes of love, crime, family and ‘old world values’ in an epic saga. Puzo also wrote screenplays for Hollywood, for which he won two Academy Awards for ‘The Godfather’ series. He died in 1999 at the age of 78. He still had two unpublished novels left. One was Omerta, which was published in 2000, the other being The Family, which was completed by his companion Carol Gino in 2001.

Harold Robbins (Francis Rane) b. 1916 d. 1997 Never Love a Stranger (1948) The Dream Merchants (1949) A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952) 79, Park Avenue (1955) The Carpetbaggers (1961) The Pirate (1961) Harold Robbins (Francis Rane) was born on 21 May 1916 in New York. He became a millionaire in his twenties and rose meteorically from being a stock clerk at Universal Pictures to being their executive director of planning and budgeting. Robbins used male pulp genres and turned them into women’s romance. He was the first of the so-called ‘blockbuster’ novelists and his books, when published in paperback, were eagerly bought by a generation of women who could afford holidays in Spain and Greece and who would purchase holiday thrills at airport lounge bookshops. His novels are long, complicated and filled with the sex and violence that

1957 to 1974


seem to accompany his powerful, rich jet-setters. Critically derided, the novels still sold in their millions with The Carpetbaggers (1961) considered the fourth most read book! According to one’s predilection either he or Stephen King is the biggest selling American author of all time. Jackie Collins commented, on his death, He was certainly my big inspiration. Really successful writers give their readers a world they know intimately, and Harold certainly knows his world. From his luxurious yachts in the south of France to his lavish jet-set parties, Harold was king. He was larger than life and a real charmer. I will miss him and his ferocious talent. But his books will go on entertaining forever.17

Bernice Rubens b. 1928 d. 2004 Madame Sousatzka (1962) Bernice Rubens was born on 26 July 1928 into a Welsh Jewish family living in Cardiff. After completing her education at Cardiff High School for Girls and the University College of South Wales and Monmouth, she taught at a boys’ school in Birmingham (1948 to 1949), later learning to become a documentary film-maker with the United Nations. In 1968 she received the American Blue Ribbon for film-making and in 1970 the Booker Prize (for The Elected Member). Using a ‘plain’ style and utilising numerous genres, Rubens’ territory is the sometimes tragic struggle of individuals for self-realisation, suffering setbacks as often as triumphs. Lonely, guilty, incompetent to communicate their longing to give and to receive love, conscious of the dimensions of their failure, [Rubens’] characters experience life as pain. The pessimism of her vision is ameliorated by two factors, however, one being the grimly farcical nature of the comic episodes which rescue her novels from sentimentality, and the other, the occasional evidence that redemption is a possibility, at any rate for some individuals. . . . Those with the strength to confront the dark forces may survive and grow, but, for the majority of Rubens’ characters, the best that can be achieved is avoidance of pain through a retreat into the self.18


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Wilbur Smith b. 1933 When the Lion Feeds (1964) The Dark of the Sun (1965) The Sound of Thunder (1966) Shout at the Devil (1968) Goldmine (1970) Diamond Hunters (1971) Golden Fox (1990) Elephant Song (1991) River God (1993) Seventh Scroll (1995) Birds of Prey (1997) Monsoon (1999) Wilbur Smith was born on 9 January 1933 in Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and was educated at Rhodes University before moving to live in South Africa. Authentic in their African settings, Smith’s stories are adventures in an imperial mode, selling extremely well in Britain and Europe where nostalgia for African adventures, hunts, safaris and exploration is still a field to exploit. At the beginning of the 1990s Smith had sold in excess of 55 million copies translated into fourteen languages. Scribbling school essays in Nothern Rhodesia, the young Wilbur Smith never held back on the blood and guts. ‘Smith,’ said his English master, reeling from pages of ritual slaying and horrible accidents, ‘you’re a bloodthirsty young savage. Tone it down, can’t you?’ Smith never did tone it down. Over the past four decades he has published some 30 bestselling thrillers set on the African continent. . . . Yet for Wilbur Smith, the gold standard of adventure fiction remains H. Rider Haggard’s Victorian classic, King Solomon’s Mines. Haggard’s blockbuster was published in 1885 and advertised, without undue modesty, as ‘the most amazing story ever written’. ‘I’d go along with that,’ says Smith. ‘I was 13 when I picked up King Solomon’s Mines and I was absolutely enchanted by it. It had everything a boy wanted to know about – hidden treasure, maps written in blood, warfare and witchcraft and mysticism. Rider Haggard was

1957 to 1974


able to weave the magic carpet and I was swept along by it, and inspired by it too. It made me realise what an enormous treasure chest of stories Africa was and it has stayed with me over the years of my own writing. In fact there are echoes of King Solomon’s Mines in a lot of my own books. . . . Still, [with a bit of sex thrown in,] Rider Haggard’s basic formula has stood me in good stead for 40 years. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.’ (From The Times, 17 March 2001)

Jacqueline Susann b. 1926 d. 1974 Valley of the Dolls (hardback in UK, 1966; paperback in UK, 1968) Once is Not Enough (UK, 1973) Born in Philadelphia the daughter of Robert Susann, a society portrait painter, and his schoolteacher wife, Jacqueline moved to New York to take up stage acting and then television acting and compering. She died of cancer in September 1974. Susann’s first book, Valley of the Dolls (1966), was an immediate hit (with sales of 5 million copies), taking its influence from Harold Robbins (see entry) and Grace Metalious (see entry) and influencing writers like Jackie Collins (see entry). It portrays the glamorous worlds of Broadway and Hollywood and the entrapments of sex and drugs amongst the super-successful. Its heroines, Anne Wells, Nelly O’Hara and Jennifer North, are drawn through their beauty or ability into ‘the secret, drugfilled, love-starved, sex-satiated, nightmare world of show business’!

Morris (Langlo) West b. 1916 d. 1991 PSEUDONYMS:

Michael East; Julian Morrin

Gallows on the Sand (1955) Kundu (1956) The Devil’s Advocate (1959) The Naked Country (1960) The Shoes of the Fisherman (1963) The Ambassador (1965)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Tower of Babel (1968) Vanishing Point (1996) West is an Australian novelist and playwright born in Victoria, who trained for the priesthood but left it before taking vows. After war service his first novel, Moon in My Pocket (1945), dealt with the conflicts facing a Catholic novitiate. In 1955 he left Australia for Italy, where his fourth novel, Children of the Sun (1957), a tale of Neopolitan slum urchins, attracted attention along with The Salamander (1973). However, West is best known for The Devil’s Advocate (1959; filmed 1973), an international bestseller. His novels, some of which he dramatised, deal with significant religious and political issues in an essentially humanist context.

Joseph (Aloysius, Jr) Wambaugh b. 1937 The The The The The The

New Centurions (1971) Blue Knight (1972) Onion Field (1973) [non fiction] Choirboys (1975) Black Marble (1978) Glitter Dome (1981)

Wambaugh was born in East Pittsburgh, the son of a police officer, graduated from college with a BA in 1960 and an MA in 1968, worked in the Los Angeles Police Department (between 1960 and 1974) and rose to become a detective sergeant. His first book, The New Centurions (1971), gave a vivid, ‘objective’ account of police routine and mundane work in which violence was put in an appropriate and realistic context. Special attention was paid to the lives of ordinary ‘beat’ cops: the men amongst whom Wambaugh served as a police officer. The Onion Field (1973) was a documentary true-crime narrative similar to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1963), interested in the psychology of the killers and in narrating a lost world of marginalised proletarian Americans.

1957 to 1974


Herman Wouk b. 1915 The Caine Mutiny (1951) Youngblood Hawke (1962) The Winds of War (1971) War and Remembrance (1978) Born in New York and educated at Columbia, Wouk served in the United States Naval Reserve between 1942 and 1946. A radio writer and scriptwriter before the war, Wouk became a full-time novelist in 1946, won a Pulitzer Prize for The Caine Mutiny (1951) and became Visiting Professor of English at Yeshiva College (1952–8) before enjoying further academic and artistic positions and awards. His monumental novels The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) are essentially family sagas set in epic mode – his sentiments conservative and traditional.

John Wyndham (John Harris) b. 1903 d. 1969 PSEUDONYMS:

The The The The

John Benyon; Johnson Harris; Lucas Parkes

Day of the Triffids (1951) Kraken Wakes (1953) Midwich Cuckoos (1955) Trouble with Lichen (1960)

The greatest twentieth-century British science fiction author before Arthur C. Clarke (see entry), Wyndham worked in farming, commercial art and law whilst selling stories to magazines. During the 1930s he used a variety of pseudonyms to get published in America, before joining the Civil Service and the army during the Second World War. After the war, again with an eye to American markets, he tried a new genre – science fiction, a term he disliked and a genre he tried to modify. His novels are some of the greatest works in the genre, including The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Midwich Cuckoos (1955) and The Trouble with Lichen (1960).


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

His tales are pessimistic, Cold War catastrophe epics, which include natural disasters brought about by alien forces that cannot be controlled, but which create circumstances that purge British sensibilities and leave a chastened remnant of survivors. ‘There were only five million or so of us in the first Elizabeth’s time – but we counted,’ she said. . . . ‘I was just thinking . . . nothing is really new, is it . . . ? . . . I think we have been here before, . . . and we got through last time. . . .’ (The Kraken Wakes, Phrase Three)

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The Last Decades: 1975 to the Present When did I first begin to read and write? I can’t recall the time when I could not read. There was Chatterbox Annual, then Rainbow Comic every week and Tiger Tim’s Weekly. The first book I owned was Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I must have been about eight at the time. But at what age did I advance to Charles Garvice, Ethel M. Dell, and Ruby M. Ayres? Odd. But I did not read Elinor Glyn at this period . . . her The Career of Catherine Bush led me to . . . real reading. (Catherine Cookson, Catherine Cookson Country: Her Pictorial Memoir, p. 11)

Dan Abnett b. 1965 A number of series including Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Abnett is a highly successful, but little-known author who has spent his career in the world of graphic novels, comic books, television novelisations and fantasy gaming spin-offs. He is the author or co-author of a number of series including Sinister Dexter, Darkblade, Real Ghostbusters, Terminator 2, Warhammer, Star Trek: Voyager and Dr Who. Such books tend to be read by fans of the original films or television series, or in the case of Warhammer after playing fantasy war games. The books tend to be ‘anonymous’ in authorship as readers are interested in back stories and content rather than in the person who wrote the novel. Books such as these are very often sold in gaming and hobby shops as much as in book shops.

Douglas Adams b. 1952 d. 2001 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) Life, the Universe and Everything (1982) So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1983)


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Adams began his career as a producer and script editor with the BBC, working on radio programmes and on television serials such as Dr Who. His witty and whimsical science fiction fantasy spoofs became extremely popular and found a ready audience when broadcast on radio. Richard Dawkins dedicated his book The God Delusion to Adams who styled himself as a ‘radical atheist’. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was made into a film in 2005.

Richard (George) Adams b. 1920 Watership Down (1972) Shardik (1974) The Plague Dogs (1977) Girl in a Swing (1980) Maia (1984) Traveller (1988) Daniel (2006) Richard Adams was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England, in 1920. He served in the British Army in the Second World War, before finishing his education at Worcester College, Oxford, in 1948. Adams then served as a civil servant in the Department of the Environment until becoming a full-time writer in 1974. His first novel, Watership Down (1972), is a story of a displaced community of rabbits and their contact with the human world. It was for Watership Down, which has appealed to both children and adults, that Adams was presented with the Guardian Award for children’s literature and the Carnegie Medal in 1973. His next novel, Shardik (1974), was a ‘lost world’ adventure in the style of Henry Rider Haggard and John Buchan (see entry). It is set in the ‘Beklan Empire’ and is the story of a sacred bear god and the characters its influence affects. While Richard Adams continued to write children’s literature and use animals as main characters in his novels, he tended more towards adult readers in later years with such works as Girl in a Swing (1980) and Maia (1984). The Plague Dogs (1977) exposed issues of animal experimentation. Adams served as writer-in-residence at the University of Florida in 1975 and at Hollins College in 1976. He is a member of the Royal Society of Literature and Royal Society of Arts, and was the President of The

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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals between 1980 and 1982.

Monica Ali b. 1967 Brick Lane (2003) Monica Ali was born in Bangladesh of English and Bangladeshi parents, but came to live in Manchester when she was 3. Later she studied at Oxford and came to live in London before writing the story of Bangladeshis living in the East End. The book became a successful film but not before Bangladeshis had interrupted filming as a protest at the way the book and film portrayed them.

Ted Allbeury b. 1917 d. 2006/2005 PSEUDONYMS:

Richard Butler; Patrick Kelly

Omega Minus (1975) The Alpha List (1979) and many others Allbeury was born in Stockport, Lancashire, and educated in Kent. A professional soldier, his biographers claim that Allbeury was already a Lieutenant Colonel in British Intelligence by the age of twenty!* What is certain is that he later became an advertising executive and owned shares in one of Britain’s first pirate radio stations. The disappearance of his four-year-old daughter in 1970 led, ironically, to a career in crime and thriller writing. Allbeury’s tales are traditional spy stories often centred on Berlin.

* Only a T. E. leB. Allbeury is recorded as an officer during the period 1937 to 1947, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942 and part of the Regular Army Intelligence Corps under ‘Emergency Commissions’ in 1946.


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Martin Amis b. 1949 The Rachel Papers (1973) Money: A Suicide Note (1984) London Fields (1989) Martin Amis is the son of Kingsley Amis (see entry). Educated in Britain, Spain and the United States he took English at Oxford before becoming a successful journalist during which time he published his first book to much acclaim, being recognised as a major voice in British fiction writing. His writing joined a British sensibility to an American storytelling energy. Here was a writer both literary and hip. Nevertheless, for a number of critics Amis is a disappointment being too wedded to style for style’s sake and his books have never quite realised their potential with Amis consistently being overlooked for the Booker Prize. In 2007 he was embroiled in controversy over an article he wrote condemning Islam and its culture.

Virginia Andrews b. 1923 d. 1986 Flowers in the Attic (1979) My Sweet Audrina (1982) The Seeds of Yesterday (1984) Andrews was an American novelist and artist born in Portsmouth, Virginia. A writer of gothic horror and melodrama, she was a great believer in ESP and reincarnation, and believed that, while writing a novel, she experienced whatever her characters experienced. Andrews’ commercial success was the result of a trilogy of novels, beginning with Flowers in the Attic (1979) and ending with Seeds of Yesterday (1984), which also produced a huge and devoted following of fans. After her death her family agreed that another writer could continue to write ‘in the style of Virginia Andrews’ and approximately twenty novels have been published by her original publisher, Pocket Books, in this same or similar style. The novels are credited to ‘the new Virginia Andrews’, and include the ‘Cutler Family’ series, the ‘Landry’ series and

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the ‘Casteel’ saga. It is believed all these new titles are the work of Andrew Neiderman.

Jeffrey Archer b. 1940 Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1975) Kane and Abel (1980) First Among Equals (1984) and many others including A Prisoner of Birth (2008) As well as being a very successful author of thrillers, Archer is well known as a politician and an art collector, and he has also represented Great Britain internationally as a sprinter. In 1969 he became the youngest member of the House of Commons, as MP for Louth, but resigned in 1974 as a bankrupt, at which point he began writing. Some time later Archer suggested that this was done solely in order to make money to clear his debts. His first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, was published in 1975, after which he continued to produce a succession of best-selling novels and to be active in politics (including as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, 1985–6); he was made a life peer in 1992 (Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare). The revelation of an earlier scandal led to his withdrawal from the London mayoral elections in 2000 and his expulsion from the Conservative Party for five years. His prosecution for perverting the course of justice in 2001 (following an earlier libel case) ended with his imprisonment and the loss of his peerage. He nevertheless continues to write and remains Britain’s most successful contemporary male author. Archer continues to produce novels and plays at a prodigious rate, his latest thriller being A Prisoner of Birth (2008) which is based on Archer’s time at Belmarsh high security prison. It was described by one critic as ‘completely’ unreadable (London Lite, 11 March 2008).

Jake Arnott b. 1961 The Long Firm (1999) He kills Coppers (2001)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The crime novel is less popular amongst novelists in Britain than in the United States, but is highly successful in the hands of writers like Martina Cole (see entry) and Jake Arnott. Arnott left school at 16 and did a number of relatively menial jobs including working as a life model and as a part-time worker for Leeds Social Services. It was while there that he began to write. His books use realistic settings and historical events from the 1960s and 1970s to paint a picture of gangland based loosely on the lives of the Kray twins and others and painting a rather clichéd image of life and crime in the past which has partially taken its influences from old newspaper cuttings and the television show The Sweeney and may itself have influenced the highly successful run of British gangster movies and television shows like Life on Mars. Characterised as writing for ‘geezers’, a sort of antidote to ‘chick lit’, the stories also chronicle a deviant history of the past featuring homosexual villains.

Margaret Atwood b. 1939 Handmaid’s Tale (1986) Cat’s Eye (1989) Alias Grace (1996) The Blind Assassin (2000) Oryx and Crake (2003) Margaret Atwood was born on 18 November 1939 in Ottawa, Canada. She spent her formative years growing up in Ottawa, Ontario, Quebec and Toronto. She attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto and later attended Radcliffe College attaining her Masters degree. Atwood has held many teaching and writing posts and various academic positions throughout her career. She remains one of Canada’s foremost literary figures. In her extremely prolific writing career, Margaret Atwood has written critically acclaimed novels, poetry, short stories, criticisms, screenplays, radio scripts, children’s books, reviews and articles and she has been translated into over thirty languages. She is best known however for her work in fiction and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize four times

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with Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996), and Oryx and Crake (2003). She finally won the Booker Prize for fiction in 2000 with her novel The Blind Assassin. Her works often focus on powerful and active female characters. Atwood takes turns between evaluating the modern, real and urban world, and creating fantastic, futuristic civilisations typical of the science-fiction genre. At the centre of most of Atwood’s works are complicated tales of sexual politics and most have indefinite and vague endings.

Jean M. Auel b. 1936 The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980) The Valley of Horses (1982) The Mammoth Hunters (1985) Auel is an American writer of what have been described as ‘prehistoric romances’. Her ‘Earth’s Children’ series of five novels, beginning with The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), are sagas about prehistoric Europe and describe early tribes; they are the result of ‘meticulous’ research. Auel uses the ‘Stone Age’ setting to explore issues such as gender roles and social structures. She has received a number of awards, including the Scandinavian Kaleidoscope of Art and Life Award (1982) and the American Academy of Achievement (1986), and several honorary degrees. Despite all this, these tales of Cro-Magnon life are essentially romances, which even include a blonde ‘bombshell’ as a character!

Desmond Bagley b. 1923 d. 1983 The Snow Tiger (1975) and many others A British writer of crime novels and action and adventure thrillers, Bagley began his writing career in South Africa, where his first novel


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Golden Keel (1963) was set. His most popular works were published during the 1960s and 1970s by Doubleday. His fast-moving stories, embellished with much local ‘colour’ and devoid of cynicism, have been compared to those of his contemporary Hammond Innes (see entry). However, Bagley’s interests were much more widely spread and he was less concerned with heroes and villains than with more technical, scientific issues or natural disasters. Bagley wrote a total of sixteen novels, of which three were filmed. He also left two unfinished manuscripts which were later completed and published by his wife Joan.

David Baldacci b. 1960 Absolute Power (1996) The Winner (1997) Saving Grace (1999) David Baldacci was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1960. He received a degree in Political Science from the Virginia Commonwealth University. Baldacci also went on to law school and received a degree from the University of Virginia. He wrote throughout his time at school and honed his skills during the next nine years while he practised law near Washington, DC. Eventually he decided to pursue novel writing and after three years he had finished his first book Absolute Power. At first he was unsuccessful in pitching the book to various publishers but when the book was finally printed in 1996 it became an international bestseller. The success of the novel helped Baldacci achieve his original goal of writing screenplays. The book arrived on screens a year later and starred Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. He has since written fourteen other novels and seven screenplays. His works have been translated into thirty-seven different languages and over 40 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide. Baldacci has also started a popular series for younger readers entitled Freddy and the French Fries.

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Iain (Menzies) Banks b. 1954 PSEUDONYM:

Iain M. Banks

The Wasp Factory (1984) The Bridge (1986) Consider Plebus (1987) as Iain M. Banks Canal Dreams (1989) Use of Weapons (1990) as Iain M. Banks The Crow Road (1992) Complicity (1993) Iain Banks is a Scottish novelist, born in Fife, Scotland, in 1954. After attending Gourock and Greenock High Schools, he graduated from the University of Stirling in 1975. In 1977 Banks worked as a nondestructive testing technician in Glasgow, Scotland, and then as an expediter–analyser in 1978 for IBM in Greenock, Scotland. Until publishing his first novel in 1984, he worked as a clerk to a London solicitor. Banks has produced work described as thrilling, fantastical, horrifying, and perverse, exhibiting elements of fantasy and science fiction. His first novel, The Wasp Factory (1984), is the story of a teenage boy’s psychotic actions towards animals and other characters in the book. Many of the novels confront issues of insanity, murder, sexuality and the grotesque and sinister sides of human nature. Other novels include The Bridge (1986), where Banks develops a fictitious community segregated by railroads. Under his pseudonym, Iain M. Banks, he has become the leading voice in British science fiction, revitalising and subverting the ‘space opera’. With one exception, his contribution to the genre is set in ‘the Culture’, a far distant anarcho-socialist society whose wealth and stability rest on unlimited energy, unlimited resources, long life and the presence of intelligent computers who enjoy ‘human’ sentience. Death, imperialism and the determinants of human nature are all themes in his work but he is pre-eminently concerned with choice and its context.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Clive Barker b. 1952 The Hellbound Heart (1986) Weaveworld (1987) Cabal (1988) ‘Abarat’ series (2002) To a large extent Clive Barker rethought the horror genre and moved it away from the more traditional terrors of Stephen King (see entry) and James Herbert (see entry), concentrating instead on more radical and repressed elements such as sexuality, the body (and its fluids), sadomasochism and the goth sensibility. This approach may relate to his ‘queer’ sense of his own gay sexuality. Through his film-making he has been able to create a whole pantheon of ghouls not related to vampires or Frankenstein’s monster of whom ‘Pinhead’ is the most famous, being one of the race of ‘cenobites’ or ‘engineers’ who wait to be called across the threshold by the human race. Nowadays, Barker mixes horror with the fantastic to create what he rather pretentiously calls the ‘fantastique’ or the ‘dark fantastic’. The horror story probably peaked some time ago, but combining chillers with serial killing, Tolkien-esque plots, crime writing, vampire hunting or historical mystery may revive it. This is certainly so with the work of Richard Laymon. James Herbert (see entry) looks back to older writers in the genre and reinvents them for a contemporary readership whilst Peter James mixes straightforward horror fiction with psychological crime fiction, technological plots and supernaturalism or the paranormal. There is, however, a growth in horror and gothic books for children, by such writers as Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) (see entry), R. L. Stine (see entry) and Anthony Horowitz and a boom in romance books about vampires.

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Maeve Binchy b. 1940 Light a Penny Candle (1982) The Glass Lake (1994) A Circle of Friends (1991) and ten other books including collections of short stories Maeve Binchy was born just outside Dublin, graduated from University College, Dublin, in 1960, and subsequently became a teacher. She began her writing career by submitting articles on travel and teaching to the Irish Times, where she was made Women’s Editor in 1968. In addition to her novels Binchy has also written collections of short stories, and several plays for stage and television. In 1995 her novel A Circle of Friends, which is set in University College, Dublin, and concerns the lives of three young women and their developing relationships, was made into a film starring Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell, and successfully boosted her already high book sales. She has consistently been a best-selling author since the publication of her first novel, Light a Penny Candle (1982). Binchy’s novels are set in Ireland and draw on her own experience there. She is particularly noted for writing about young women and about relationships between family and friends, thus attracting a large proportion of female readers.

Malorie Blackman b. 1962 Noughts and Crosses (2001) and over 50 other works in a number of genres Blackman was brought up in Peckham in South London. Although her interests took her towards teaching she became a systems programmer instead and then went on to graduate from the National Film and Television School. Blackman’s first book was a collection of horror and science-fiction short stories, but she did not find real success until Noughts and Crosses, the beginning of a series of books looking at the relationship between race, violence and love in a ‘fictional dystopia’.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The book was featured in a 2003 BBC survey to find the ‘nation’s best loved books’ and since then she has expanded the series to explore more problematic areas of race and culture. Part of her motivation was the fact that she is ‘a black woman writer’ who wishes to show ‘black children just getting on with their lives, having adventures, and solving their dilemmas’. Blackman is also responsible for a number of stage plays and television scripts. There are few authors relating the experiences of black children in Britain but S. I. Martin’s Jupiter Williams should be noted as an attempt not only to show the black experience in Britain but to put it in an historical context.

Michael Bond b. 1926 A Bear called Paddington (1958) Michael Bond was born in Newbury, Berkshire and was schooled in Reading. During World War Two he served in both the air force and army. After being demobbed he began to write for magazines but branched out into radio plays and early children’s television. It was as a camera man that he wrote the first story of the little Peruvian bear who ate marmalade: Paddington. By 1967 the series had made Paddington a household name and Bond was able to concentrate on writing. There is a statue to Paddington at Paddington Station, a television commercial used old television clips on the fiftieth anniversary and there is a range of branded goods.

Barbara Taylor Bradford b. 1933 A Woman of Substance (1979) Voice of the Heart (1983) Hold the Dream (1985) Act of Will (1986) To Be the Best (1988) The Women in His Life (1990)

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Power of a Woman (1997) A Sudden Change of Heart (1999) The Heir (2007) Bradford’s blockbuster sagas made her one of the most popular writers of the 1980s with sales of over 30 million copies (by the end of the century this had almost doubled). She began writing at ten when her father bought her a second-hand typewriter. The story she composed on it was submitted to a children’s paper and published. By her twentieth year Bradford had read Dickens and the Brontës and, with the help of her mother, set her sights on an artistic career. Having attended school in Leeds she found her first job on the Yorkshire Evening Post during 1948, doing shorthand but secretly writing short articles, until graduating to work on Woman’s Own, the London Evening News and, briefly, as an executive editor for the London American. In 1963 she married Robert Bradford and moved to the United States. In the States, Bradford edited and compiled popular books on homemaking and décor that enjoyed good sales and newspaper syndication. At nearly forty, Bradford had still not written a novel and was concerned she might never be able to. Nevertheless, I thought long and hard. In the end, I decided that I wanted to write a saga, perhaps a family saga, but certainly a saga. I wanted to write about England, more specifically, Yorkshire. I wanted it to be one of those long, traditional, old-fashioned novels about a woman who makes it in a man’s world, at a time when women weren’t expected to do that. I wanted to write about a woman of substance . . . the phrase stuck.19 A Woman of Substance was published in the United States in 1979 and in the United Kingdom in 1980 with the first paperback run reaching 1.4 million and first-year paperback sales reaching 3.5 million. In twenty years the book sold 18 million copies.

Raymond Briggs b. 1934 Father Christmas (1973) Fungus the Bogeyman (1977) The Snowman (1978) When the Wind Blows (1982)


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The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Lady (1984) Ethel and Ernest (1998) Before taking to children’s illustrated books, Briggs worked in advertising, but found a niche in illustrating nursery rhymes and books by writers such as Allan Ahlberg (see entry). He has the ability to combine the naïve prettiness of his illustrations with a strong moral position. Writing and illustrating both adult and children’s material Briggs has bridged the gap between the comic strip and the morality tale with stories about politics, nuclear war and his parents which are often as tragic as they are beautiful. The Snowman has been made into a television cartoon and a stage play and is a favourite at Christmas. His unusual ‘fuzzy style’ of illustration has been called peculiarly English and the moral perspective in his adult work links to writers such as George Orwell (see entry).

Terry Brooks b. 1944 ‘Shannara’ series including the Original Shannara Trilogy: The Sword of Shannara (1977) The Elfstones of Shannara (1982) The Wishsong of Shannara (1985) ‘Landover’ series Magic Kingdom for Sale—SOLD! (1986) Terry Brooks was born in Illinois in 1944. As an undergraduate Brooks studied English Literature at Hamilton College. It was during his time here that he first encountered J. R. R. Tolkien’s series The Lord of the Rings. These novels were to have the most impact on his future writing. Brooks attended Washington and Lee University’s Law School and acquired a law degree. While practising law he wrote his first novel, The Sword of Shannara. The novel was extremely successful and allowed Brooks to become a full-time writer. While Brooks has written works elaborating upon his first Shannara work, he has developed countless histories and worlds for his other series. Brooks remains primarily a fantasy author, switching back and forth between his different mythologies.

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Dan Brown b. 1964 Angels and Demons (2001) The Da Vinci Code (2003) Dan Brown is probably the author of the biggest selling thrillers of all time. He specialises in big conspiracy theory books which take esoteric or pseudo-theology and build them into fast-paced action adventures featuring an athletic, bachelor professor called Robert Langdon, a ‘symbologist’ whose expertise is required by those needing explanations for secret codes, secret societies and strange symbols. The adventures inevitably start with a murder, usually gruesome and cryptic and perpetrated by a hired killer who works for a secret organisation. Langdon is thrown into these adventures, flies in ultra-fast planes, hops across most of Europe, finds himself pitted against the Illuminati or the Vatican and unravels mysteries which will always ‘rock’ the establishment (usually the Church) if revealed. The books are backed up with encyclopaedic information of a semi-factual variety garnered from books on such things as physics and particle accelerators, the ‘Priory of Sion’ and the fate of the Templars and these are woven together in an impossible web of intrigue. It is of interest that in many ways Brown is the inheritor of the British conspiracy thriller tradition that flourished in the 1920s and 1930s and as such his stories may fade as quickly as those by E. Phillips Oppenheim (see entry) or Dornford Yates (see entry). The books caught the imagination of the public, who at the start of the twenty-first century had lost faith in its leaders and were happy to believe a conspiracy or secret society was ruling the world. Ridiculous though his tales of derring-do are they may say much, inadvertently about social neuroses.

(Dame Mary) Barbara Cartland b. 1901 d. 2000 Jigsaw (1925) and over 500 other titles In the period after the First World War, Barbara Cartland was one of the ‘bright young things’. She wrote a gossip column for the Daily Express,


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

two plays, and her first novel, Jigsaw, which was published in 1925. During the 1970s she became known as the ‘Queen of Romance’ and was one of the most prodigious best-selling authors, having written over 500 novels between 1925 and 1999. International sales of her novels, which have been translated into 36 languages, are reputed to exceed 600 million. Cartland’s name is synonymous with a particular style of historical romantic fiction which adheres quite strictly to a recognised formula and which reflects her own very traditional moral code. Most are set between 1790 and 1890. In her writing Cartland reflects a romanticised view of the world of the English upper classes and the manners and ideals of the aristocracy. She is also known for her links with the Royal family: she married Alexander McCorquodale in 1927, thus becoming stepmother to Raine, Countess Spencer, stepmother to the late Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer. After divorcing her first husband, she married his cousin, Hugh McCorquodale, in 1936. She has had a number of public roles, including Chief Lady Welfare Officer for Bedfordshire during World War Two, a county councillor for Hertfordshire, chairman of the St John Ambulance Brigade and founder and chairman of the National Association for Health. She was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1991. A popular figure in the media, Cartland championed the causes of nurses, midwives and gypsies, and was particularly outspoken on the subject of spiritual and physical health. As both a health pundit and an advocate of femininity, Cartland attracted the opprobrium of critics whose dislike of her self-assuredness and eccentric liking for all things pink led to vitriolic reviews and personal attacks, nowhere more so than in the following example from Kate Saunders in The Sunday Times, 31 July 1994. Barbara Cartland . . . [looks] like a cross between Nosferatu and a knitted crinolin lady perched on a lavatory roll. . . . Dame Barbara moves through the world spreading sweetness and light – Gawd bless’er! . . . Traditional, Cartland-style romantic love is a ghastly drug, which persuades women to . . . knuckle down to domestic servitude.

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Trudi Canavan b. 1969 The Black Magician Trilogy starting with The Magician’s Guild (2001) Since the 1990s there has been a revival of interest in fantasy literature that appeals both to adolescents and to adults. Most marked in this regard is the work of Philip Pulllman (see entry) and J. K. Rowling (see entry). Nevertheless, a number of writers have used not only the mythic style of J. R. R. Tolkien (see entry) to map their own creations, but have also borrowed from Star Wars, role play and fantasy gaming and the sword and sorcery adventures of R. E. Howard and Ursula Le Guin, mixing magic, adventure and imagined universes in order to create scenarios for dragon hunts or magical trials in empires of the future or long ago. As with much fantasy there is not only the creation of an imagined map, but also the use (following Tolkien) of invented new languages. The Australian writer Trudi Canavan won much praise for her three Black Magician books which tell the story of Sonea, a child of the slums who is also a rogue magician. The novel was hailed as one of the best fantasy stories to emerge in recent years. Terry Brooks (see entry), an American born in Illinois, is the author of the Sword of Shannara a direct homage to Tolkien which became a New York Times bestseller in 1977. With the exception of David Gemmell (b. 1948, d. 2006) most writers in the Tolkien-esque tradition remain American or Canadian. These include Robin Hobb (Margaret Ogden); Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney Jnr [b. 1948, d. 2007]); Stephen Erikson (Steve Lundin); David Farland (Dave Wolverton); Raymond E(lias) Feist; Kate Elliott (Alis Rasmussen). All create series with ongoing adventures in the epic fantasy tradition. Christopher Paolini (b. 1983) from Southern California is the creator of the highly successful Eragon books, a self-published book until taken up by Alfred A. Knopf on a recommendation from Carl Hiaason (see entry). In essence it is a mixture of Star Wars and the fairy story ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. The story follows Eragon a poor boy who finds a blue stone in the forest that turns out to be a dragon’s egg, whilst looking for food for the winter. This in turn forces the boy to become an adventurer who, with an old sword and advice from an old story teller, sets out to remove the evil emperor and become a ‘dragon rider’.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Caleb Carr b. 1955 The Angel of Darkness (1998) Caleb Carr is both a novelist and military historian and has written a number of non-fiction books on the Cold War and terrorism. He is the son of Lucien Carr, a key figure in the Beat generation. Carr combines writing with movie screenplays. In The Angel of Darkness, Car invented a type of gaslight thriller where a serial killer stalks nineteenth-century New York City and meets or is chased by real characters such as Theodore Roosevelt in a series of fictional scenarios. The work owes much to the fascination with fin de siècle city life, the revival of interest in Jack the Ripper and a sort of historical tourism, where we may return to a past filled with interesting people, half forgotten places and mysterious scenarios. The format of the novel proved an instant hit, reviving the serial killer motif, the Sherlock Holmes style detective (alienists and Freudians of every hue) and the conspiracy plot amongst recognisable historical circumstances. The best of these novels is Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder whose central character is Sigmund Freud. The conspiracy element in many of the copy cat novels is similar to Dan Brown’s contemporary tales (see entry).

Tom Clancy b. 1947 The Hunt for Red October (1984) Patriot Games (1987) Clear and Present Danger (1989) In the mid-1980s, Clancy was an insurance salesman selling policies for boats and cars; by the early 1990s he was one of the world’s best-selling authors, specialising in highly detailed and accurate political and ‘techno-thrillers’ many of which have been made into films. The key themes and subject matter of his fiction are espionage and the military, and he has been acclaimed for his knowledge of and detailed references to the US military, the FBI, CIA and weapons/military technology.

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His first novel, The Hunt for Red October (1984), is a fictional account of the race between US and Soviet forces to claim a defecting Russian submarine captain and his state-of-the-art vessel, and was described by President Ronald Reagan as ‘non put-downable’. It was filmed in 1990, as were two subsequent novels. Their success has significantly contributed to the continued popularity of Clancy’s work as a novelist. The impetus for The Hunt for Red October came after Clancy attended a seminar at the United States Naval Institute, read an article on a rogue Russian submarine mutiny and immersed himself in technological books and manuals. It all suggested a novel to Clancy, who describes himself as a ‘technology freak’. Clancy has also written several non-fiction books that examine different areas of the United States armed forces, such as: Submarine, Armoured Warfare, and Fighter Wing. Most recently, Clancy has developed an interest in computer games and has co-founded the company Red Storm Entertainment. A collector of guns and military memorabilia, Clancy was also one of Ronald Reagan’s favourite authors.

Harlan Coben b. 1962 Gone For Good (2002) Just One Look (2004) The Woods (2007) Harlan Coben was born in Newark, New Jersey. He later attended Amherst College and studied Political Science. After college, he worked for his grandfather at a travel company before beginning to write in 1990. Coben currently lives in New Jersey with his wife Anne Armstrong-Coben and their four children. Thriller writer Harlan Coben made his writing debut in 1995 with Deal Breaker, the first novel featuring his popular protagonist Myron Bolitar. This series, now containing eight novels, follows sports agent Bolitar as he solves mysteries involving his clients. Tell No One was adapted into a popular French film (Ne Le Dis a Personne [2006]) and Coben has won many awards for his writings. He is the only writer to win all three major mystery writing awards: the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Martina Cole b. 1958 Dangerous Lady (1992) The Jump (1995) and numerous others Cole is the queen of the British ‘cockney’ gangster saga, setting her books amongst the criminal underworld of London and Essex where she was born. In this her writing coincides with the vogue for British crime movies begun by Guy Ritchie, although her appeal is to female readers, especially those wanting a holiday read with a strong central female character. Her policewomen, DI Burrows is a re-occuring character. For the most part the stories are energetically told and read as try outs for televison screenplays, a trait Cole shares with Lynda La Plante (see entry), from whom she has borrowed in terms of atmosphere. These are books that are sold to their women readers much as techno-thrillers are sold to men. The blurb for Maura’s Game (2002) for instance, tells us that: Mora [sic] Ryan was the queen of the criminal underworld when she pulled off the most audacious gold robbery of all time. Since then she’s retired from a life of crime to be with the only man she has ever loved. But enemies from her past are closing in and they’re about to learn that they should never cross Mora [sic] Ryan. The dangerous lady is back and she is as lethal as ever . . . Mora’s Game is an explosive novel of East End violence and corruption . . . [Cole combines a] unique blend of emotional drama and shocking realism. Other novels such as The Ladykiller ‘erupt into an orgy of vicious sexual depravity’, Faces (2007) deals with Danny Cadogan, ‘the most feared Face in the Smoke’ whose downward spiral is ‘gritty, gripping and utterly unforgettable’ whilst other tales tell a ‘cracking yarn’ in the tradition of Jackie Collins (see entry).

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Shirley (Ida) Conran b. 1932 Lace: A Novel (1982) The Magic Garden (1983) Lace II (1985) The Legend (1985) Savages (1987) Crimson (1992) Tiger Eyes (1994) Shirley Conran was born on 21 September 1932 in London. She married the designer and entrepreneur Terence Conran in 1955, and although that marriage ended in 1962, she co-owned and became fabric designer of Conran Fabrics (1957–62). This led to the beginning of her writing career, starting first as a design consultant and part-time writer until she proceeded to full-time writer and finally editor of Life and Style from 1972 to 1974. Conran’s first novel, Lace (1982), became a bestseller, pleasing readers with its extravagance and glamour. Savages, her second novel, was published in 1987 and, like Lace, it centred on rich, goodlooking women. Crimson (1992) involves a wealthy English romance writer and her dealings with love and betrayal. A common theme in the books is sexuality and sexual relationships. Her aim, in writing her novels, was to highlight women’s feelings, in contrast to male authors who, she felt, lacked such insight. Conran has also contributed to the women’s self-help genre with her series of books beginning with Superwoman (1975).

Catherine Cookson (née McMullen) b. 1906 d. 1998 PSEUDONYM:

Catherine Marchant

Kate Hannigan (1950) Fifteen Streets (1979) Colour Blind (1975) Maggie Rowan (1954) Katie Mulholland (1967)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Cinder Path (1978) Tilly Trotter (1978) The Baily Chronicles (1988) The Harrogate Secret (1988) The Gillyvors (1990) Bill Bailey’s Lot (1990) Bill Bailey’s Daughter (1990) The Love Child: A Novel (1990) ‘Mary Ann’ series: 9 novels (1954–81) ‘Mallen Novels’: trilogy (1973–74) Between her first book, Kate Hannigan (1950), and her death in 1998, Cookson sold over 90 million copies of her novels.* In 1998 it is estimated that a third of all popular fiction borrowed from local libraries was by Cookson and a year before her death nine of the top ten most borrowed books were Cookson novels. From the mid-1990s Cookson’s books were consistently televised, she had given her name to a burgeoning tourist industry in the North-East, and had been honoured by the University of Newcastle and the Royal Society of Literature as well as gaining the DBE (Dame of the British Empire) and the OBE (Order of the British Empire). Cookson was born into abject poverty (like Edgar Wallace; see entry) in a slum district of Tyneside, an illegitimate child of a family riven by violence and drunkenness. The denial of this origin and the repression of knowledge about her illegitimacy set up a traumatic reaction in McMullen which was brought to a crisis after her marriage to a schoolteacher, Tom Cookson, and subsequent multiple miscarriages leading to a breakdown. The importance of these years to Cookson have been documented in numerous biographies and Cookson’s own autobiography, Our Kate (1969), a book as significant as her novels in its direct appeal to the experience of millions of women. Introduced to a love of poetry at school (although she had to leave a the age of thirteen), Cookson nevertheless took to novels, using a story background of local and personal knowledge, an approach that made her novels at once socially realistic and regionally distinct. Nevertheless, Cookson always staunchly distanced herself from mere regionalism as indeed she did from being labelled as a women’s romance writer, her husband Tom linking her rather with a tradition of fire-side storytelling going back nearly two centuries. * This figure has been challenged but the upper figure is credible.

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In these days of advertising, she is often classified as a romantic novelist, which she certainly is not; at least in the loose way in which this word romantic is today applied to novels; she is a story-teller. And one must again remember her upbringing prior to and during the First World War: no wireless – this came in the 1920s – no TV; only reading, if possible; but certainly there was the listening to tales told and retold by members of the family, detailing events which had occurred much earlier, perhaps going back even to her greatgrandmother’s time before the 1850s.20 The family saga, often a blend of historical and generational romance and featuring a central, strong female figure or a number of mothers, daughters and wives over three generations, was continually exploited during the latter half of the twentieth century. Prominent popular exponents included Lena Kennedy (b. 1912, d. 1986), a London East Ender who started writing aged sixty-seven (Maggie, 1979); Marie Joseph, whose tales of Lancashire mill girls in the 1930s first appeared in 1975; and Maisie Mosco, whose Almonds and Raisins (1979) charted life for a Jewish family in a Manchester slum before the First World War. Most successful of all these writers is Josephine Cox, who although born in poverty (into a family of ten children) in Blackburn, Lancashire, and forced to work as a vinegar bottle labeller at fourteen, has risen to become one of Britain’s most popular historical saga writers with tales of Lancashire families, their struggles with poverty and the successes and tragedies that affect the strong central female protagonists. Other regional writers of historic and nostalgic sagas include Sally Warboyes, Harry Cole and Harry Bowling (1931–99), Elizabeth Waite and Patricia Burns whose stories are based in East or South London, Evelyn Hood who writes about Scotland, Iris Gower who sets her books in Wales, Josephine Cox whose stories are set in the north and Lyn Andrews (Lynda M. Andrews), Joan Jonker, Audrey Howard and Anne Baker whose stories concentrate on Merseyside. Mary Jane Staples and Susan Sallis also write highly successful, but non-regional specific sagas as does Deborah Moggach. Another successful variation is the story of the orphaned girl who has to make her way in a wicked world and who is supported by the strength of other women en route. Lesley Pearce’s tales are a bridge between the saga writer and Barbara Taylor Bradford (see entry) or Jackie Collins (see entry), combining tales of love and overcoming with a lacing of a more modern sensibility. Penny Vincenzi (on the other hand takes the business saga of Bradford and combines it with the sex and labels of Collins.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Jilly Cooper b. 1937 Riders (1984) Rivals (1989) Polo (1992) The Man who Made Husbands Jealous (1993) Pandora (2002) Wicked! (2006) and many others Jilly Cooper was born in Yorkshire and was initially a journalist, eventually becoming a columnist for The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday. Her early fiction consisted of short romantic stories for teenage magazines, which were later extended to become a series of novels (Emily, Bella, Imogen, Prudence, Harriet and Octavia), published in the mid- to late 1970s. Cooper writes fast-paced romances which are littered with glamorous, celebrity-style characters such as the promiscuous upper-class cad Rupert Campbell-Black, who appears in several novels. Much of her fiction is set in the Home Counties, and her themes have been described succinctly as ‘sex and horses’ especially her ‘Rutshire’ series.

Bernard Cornwell b. 1944 PSEUDONYM:

Susannah Kells

Series: ‘Sharpe’ Sharpe’s Eagle (1981) and many others Cornwell graduated from the University of London in 1967 and became a television producer for the BBC in London from 1969 to 1976. He was later the head of current affairs for the BBC in Belfast from 1976 to 1979. From Belfast he went to Thames Television in London as a news editor from 1979 to 1980. As a historical action novelist and the creator of the ‘Sharpe’ series, Cornwell explores not only the Napoleonic Wars but also the era of King

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Arthur. The Sharpe novels concentrate on the life of Richard Sharpe, a military officer serving under Wellington during the Peninsular Campaign and after. Each book concerns a different battle, with the Battle of Waterloo the last, completing the series. Cornwell acknowledges that Sharpe’s character was inspired by C. S. Forester’s ‘Hornblower’ (see entry). Sharpe’s viewpoint highlights Cornwell’s painstaking attention to detail, from the uniforms that the soldiers wore to the type of weapons used in battle.

Patricia (Daniels) Cornwell b. 1956 Postmortem (1990) Body of Evidence (1991) From Potter’s Field (1995) Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper (Case Closed) non-fiction (2002) Book of the Dead (2007) The Front (2008) and many others Patricia Cornwell has seen many of her novels reach the bestseller list. Since 1990, her combination of close detail and complex mystery surrounding the life of Dr Kay Scarpetta have made her extremely popular. Cornwell’s time in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, where she worked as a computer analyst and as a volunteer police officer provided her with plenty of background to construct the cases facing Scarpetta, a medical examiner. In Postmortem (1990), Scarpetta accepts the challenge of finding a serial rapist in Richmond, displaying forensic and technological skills. In her later novels Cornwell created Temple Gault, another serial killer, as an intellectual match for Scarpetta. Cornwell was born on 9 June 1956 in Miami, Florida, and graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a degree in English Literature. She is a member of the International Crime Writers Club, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Association of Medical Examiners. In 2000 she became the highest paid female author of all time with an estimated £20 million advance on three books. With this she overtook Barbara Taylor Bradford (see entry), who had been the best paid woman


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

writer since 1979. In Great Britain, this position is currently held by J. K. Rowling (see entry).

Michael Crichton b. 1942 PSEUDONYMS:

John Lange (8 novels, 1966–72); Jeffrey Hudson; Michael

Douglas The Andromeda Strain (1969) Congo (1980) Jurassic Park (1990) Next (2006) Born in Chicago, Crichton attended Harvard Medical School. One of the novels he wrote to subsidise his post-graduate studies, The Andromeda Strain (1969), had already become a bestseller and had been sold to Hollywood before he graduated. Each of Crichton’s novels displays his detailed knowledge of particular and very specialised subjects, including genetics, biophysics, primatology and international economics, and he is known as the creator of the ‘techno-thriller’. Crichton has directed six films, including Coma, Westworld, and The Great Train Robbery (from his novel), and he created the enormously successful television series ER. He has also collaborated as writer, co-writer or co-producer on numerous other films. The adaptation of his novel Jurassic Park (1990) was one of the most successful films ever made, enjoying two sequels. In addition to his work with film and as a writer, Crichton runs a software company and designs computer games.

Clive Cussler b. 1931 Raise the Titanic (1976) Requiem for a Princess (1988)

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Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois, and attended Pasadena City College, Orange Coast College, and California State University. From 1961 to 1965 Cussler owned Bestgen & Cussler Advertising in Newport Beach, California, but after the success of his novels featuring Dirk Pitt he devoted himself to writing underwater adventures. As the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency he is responsible for the discovery of many shipwrecks including that of the Confederate submarine Hunley and the U-20, the German submarine that sank the Lusitania. Dirk Pitt, hero of Cussler’s adventures and the Special Projects Director of the fictional version of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), is a character straight out of comic books, with a tanned face, opaline green eyes, broad shoulders, a love for classic cars, shipwrecks, tequilla with lime, and beautiful women. A superficial resemblance to the tradition of international espionage thriller writers masks a debt to pulp fiction, television and B-movies. Indeed Pitt’s actions are very similar to those of International Rescue in Thunderbirds, with an almost tongue-in-cheek pulp writing style: The stranger pushed a handgun with silencer into a pocket, knelt down to eye level, and nodded at the blood spreading through the material of Koplin’s parka. ‘I’d better get you to where I can take a look at that.’ Then he picked Koplin up as one might a child and began trudging down the mountain toward the sea. ‘Who are you?’ Koplin muttered. ‘My name is Pitt. Dirk Pitt.’ ‘I don’t understand . . . where did you come from?’ Koplin never heard the answer. At that moment, the black cover of unconsciousness abruptly lifted up, and he fell gratefully under it. (Raise the Titanic, ch. 2) The recycling of such clichés highlights affinities with other media, especially television ‘space opera’. The following dialogue (aboard a ship about to sink in stormy waters during 1948) could just have easily been scripted between engineer ‘Scotty’ and ‘Captain Kirk’ on board the Starship Enterprise. The formula has sold over 70 million copies of Dirk Pitt’s adventures so far. Li Po answered. ‘Bridge’. ‘Put the captain on!’ Gallagher snapped.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

A second’s pause, and then, ‘This is the captain.’ ‘Sir, we’ve got a hell of a crack in the engine room, and it’s getting worse by the minute.’ Hunt was stunned. He had hoped against hope that they could make port before the damage turned critical. ‘Are we taking on water?’ ‘The pumps are fighting a losing battle.’ ‘Thank you, Mr Gallagher. Can you keep the engines turning until we reach land?’ ‘What time frame do you have in mind?’ ‘Another hour should put us in calmer waters.’ ‘Doubtful,’ said Gallagher. ‘I give her ten minutes, no more.’ ‘Thank you, Chief,’ Hunt said heavily. ‘You’d better leave the engine room while you still can.’ (Requiem for a Princess, ch. 1) Cussler’s work makes explicit the interchangeable nature of dialogues and series shared between popular genres, making them both hybrid and formulaic. Such scenes, re-enacted in the above dialogues, are reworked and usually recycled in genres with tangential relationships (in this case where ships – or star ships – are in peril). Cussler’s style is reminiscent of much popular adolescent television viewing of the later 1960s and early 1970s, recycled now as text.

Roald Dahl b. 1916 d. 1990 James and the Giant Peach (1961 USA, 1967 UK) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964 USA, 1967 UK) Matilda (1988 UK) Other works: The Twits (1980) The BFG (1982) The Witches (1983) Both in Wales, Dahl was the son of Norwegian immigrants who sparked his creativity and passion for storytelling at a young age. His time in school was considered by him to have been most unpleasant. After graduation he enlisted in the Royal Air Force. After service during World

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War Two, Dahl was transferred to Washington were he met the author C. S. Forester (see entry) who encouraged him to embark on a literary career. Much of Dahl’s early work was intended for adults, his short stories were published in The New Yorker, Harpers, and Atlantic Monthly. Nevertheless, over a decade after the publication of his first children’s novel The Gremlins in 1943, Dahl began to concentrate primarily on children’s stories. Throughout the course of his career Dahl wrote a total of nineteen children’s books as well as nine short stories, screenplays and television scripts. His greatest successes were his children’s novels, which he credited to his ability to conspire and empathise with children against adults, a tactic that allowed him to connect strongly with his youthful audience. Perhaps Dahl’s greatest strength was his ability to infuse the experiences of his childhood into his stories. Dahl was able to capture the challenges of being a child through a unique and comedic lens. While his stories are certainly fantastical his themes are both honest and relatable. Dahl’s distinctive approach to storytelling speaks to children in a way that few authors are capable of doing, establishing his reputation as one of the most influential and adored children’s authors of the twentieth century.

Louis de Bernières b. 1954 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994) A Partisan’s Daughter (2008) Novelist Louis de Bernières was born in London. He joined the army at the age of 18, went to university and thereafter held a wide range of odd jobs including being a landscape gardener, motorcycle messenger, car mechanic and, apparently, a gaucho in Argentina. Later, he taught English in Colombia, the South American writing style inspiring his first three novels. The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (1990), Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (1991) and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (1992). After appearing in Granta magazine’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists 2’, list in 1993, he wrote Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. In addition to his


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

novels, de Bernières regularly writes short stories for newspapers and magazines. His other works, the introduction to The Book of Job, one of a series of books reprinted from the Bible and published as separate stories in 1998, Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World a play that was eventually performed on BBC Radio 4 in 1999, and Birds Without Wings (2004) have gained him critical acclaim. De Bernières lives in London.

Colin Dexter b. 1930 Series: ‘Inspector Morse’ Last Bus to Woodstock (1975) Last Seen Wearing (1976) The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977) Service of All the Dead (1979) The Dead of Jericho (1981) The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983) The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986) The Wench is Dead (1989) The Jewel that was Ours (1991) The Way through the Woods (1992) Morse’s Greatest Mystery (1993) The Daughters of Cain (1994) Death is Now My Neighbour (1996) Colin Dexter’s major literary contribution is the ‘Inspector Morse’ detective series, which has established Dexter as a pivotal figure in modern English detective fiction. Detective Chief Inspector Morse of the Thames Valley Constabulary is a petulant character, fond of beer and tobacco, but still held in high esteem by his associate detective, Sergeant Lewis. An obvious parallel can be seen between this pair and that of Doyle’s Holmes and Watson (see entry). Dexter adapts and updates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s technique of reader mystification. Indeed, Dexter is a master of the ability to mislead the reader in identifying the culprit. In the style of the classic mystery novelist, Dexter presents all of the clues available to the detective, but in such a way that the reader fails to identify the criminal until after the detective accuses the guilty party. Dexter creates an intricate puzzle using misleading clues and false trails. Ultimately, Dexter’s ability to take the reader on a single-minded quest for

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the truth enables him to contribute to the preservation of a slowly dying genre. The Inspector Morse television series is one of the most successful of all time and enjoys enormous audiences both in Britain and across the world.

Ben Elton b. 1959 Gridlock (1991) Popcorn (1996) and others including Blind Faith (2007) Benjamin Charles Elton is the son of the physicist and educational researcher Lewis Elton and the nephew of the historian Sir G. R. Elton. Born 3 May 1959 in Catford, London, he went to Godalming Grammer School in Surrey, and the University of Manchester. After leaving university he became a stand-up comedian and comedy writer. His first novel, Stark was made into an Australian TV film in 1993 in which he starred. He is most famous for his vitriolic attacks on Thatcherism during the 1980s and for his scripts for the ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Thin Blue Line’ series of television comedies. Elton has recently achieved success writing lyrics for and producing musicals. He lives in London and Fremantle, Western Australia where he was had dual citizenship since 2004.

Nicholas Evans b. 1950 The Horse Whisperer (1995) Nicholas Evans suddenly became internationally famous when he sold his novel The Horse Whisperer (1995) for 8.15 million dollars (for North American book rights, foreign rights and film rights) – before it was even completed. The film rights were sold for 3 million dollars, the largest sum ever for a first novel, and the subsequent film was directed by and starred Robert Redford, with Kirsten Scott Thomas. Set in Montana, the novel portrays a romance between a British magazine editor and a man who communicates with and cures horses.


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Before he began writing novels, Evans trained as a journalist and later became a screenwriter and filmmaker, and produced a documentary on the director David Lean. Evans’s second novel, The Loop, was published in 2000.

Sebastian Faulks b. 1953 Birdsong (1993) Charlotte Gray (1995) Engleby (2007) Devil May Care (2008) Having left Cambridge, Faulks became literary editor of The Independent before moving on to become Deputy Editor for The Independent on Sunday. He continues his television and newspaper journalism today despite his success as a novelist. Charlotte Gray has been made into a film. In 2008 he was commissioned to write another James Bond story to mark the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth (see entry). Faulks is a versatile stylist so that on the hundredth anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth in 1908 he was commissioned to write a new adventure. This was Devil May Care. Faulks had already done a Fleming pastiche in Pistache. The book, with Faulks ‘writing as Ian Fleming’, is a clever blend of literary adventure (with a great villain, a Bond girl and a Middle-eastern setting) and filmic touches from the 1960s. The Fleming franchise is so lucrative that other writers have been commissioned to write as Fleming (who died in 1964 aged 56). These include Kingsley Amis, a number by John (Edmund) Gardner (d. 2007) and the young Bond series by Charlie Higson. Devil May Care was also Amazon’s biggest fiction pre-order of 2008.

Helen Fielding b. 1958 Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999)

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Although there are four books of Bridget Jones’s adventures, it is with the first two and their films that the character became a household name. What started out as a column in the Independent and Daily Telegraph was turned into highly successful books that caught the imagination of the ‘thirty-something’ generation who were financially successful but unsuccessful in love. Using the framework offered by Pride and Prejudice the stories tell the hapless adventures of Bridget with Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy. The success of the books has allowed Fielding to move to Hollywood.

Colin Forbes (Raymond Harold Sawkins) b. 1923 d. 2006 PSEUDONYMS:

Jay Bernard; Richard Raine

The Stone Leopard (1975) Avalanche Express (1977) The Janus Man (1988) The Savage Gorge (2006) Sawkins served in the British Army from 1942 to 1946 and as with many writers who served in the war the experience fed into his work. Tramp in Armour (1969) is a novel that concerns five soldiers who get trapped behind enemy lines in their tank. Their adventure has them trying to get back to their division, though on the way, they almost sink in quicksand and almost get burned to death. Another novel, The Stone Leopard, was published 1975. This novel features a hunt for a leader of the French Resistance who is trying to overthrow the government in France. Sawkins also created works in the same genre under his other pseudonyms, whilst as Forbes he unites the plot structure of Agatha Christie (see entry) with the exotic locations of Ian Fleming (see entry) and the political detail of Frederick Forsyth (see entry) in order to create highadventure thrillers.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Dick Francis (Richard Stanley Francis) b. 1920 Dead Cert (1962) Nerve (1964) For Kicks (1965) Odds Against (1965) Flying Finish (1966) Blood Sport (1967) Forfeit (1969) Enquiry (1969) Rat Race (1970) Bonecrack (1971) Smokescreen (1972) Slay-Ride (1973) and many others Richard (Dick) Francis was born in Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, but was educated in Maidenhead. As a steeplechase jockey he had a successful career both as an amateur (1946) and as a professional (from 1948), winning the Steeplechase Jockey Championship in 1954. His horse ‘Devon Lock’ mysteriously fell fifty yards from the winning post of the Grand National in 1956. He retired as a jockey in 1957 and in 1962 published his first tale of racing and mystery, Dead Cert. Francis’s tales of the turf are in the direct tradition of Nat Gould (see entry), realistic and full of the subculture of the track. During the late twentieth century Francis was extraordinarily popular, especially as a writer borrowed from local libraries: Wild Horses (1995), for instance, sold almost 600,000 copies in paperback.

George MacDonald Fraser b. 1925 d. 2008 ‘Flashman Papers’ series: Flashman (1969) Royal Flash (1970)

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Flash for Freedom (1971) Flashman at the Charge (1973) Flashman in the Great Game (1975) Flashman’s Lady (1977) Flashman and the Redskins (1982) Flashman and the Dragon (1986) Flashman and the Mountain of Light (1990) and others George MacDonald Fraser was born on 2 April 1925 in Carlisle, England. He is an author and a journalist who was appointed deputy editor of the Glasgow Herald newspaper from 1964 to 1969 before becoming a full-time author after the success of Flashman (1969), which revivified Thomas Hughes’s bully from Tom Brown’s Schooldays and put him in a series of comic–heroic Victorian adventures. Flashman is a rogue, a cad, a coward and a bully, not to mention a womaniser who uses cunning and grovelling to wheedle his way around the significant events and historical characters of the nineteenth century. Fraser was involved with scriptwriting the Three Musketeers films with Richard Lester as well as scriptwriting Octopussy, a James Bond film. His love of historical romance also provided the impetus for a pastiche of the ‘swashbuckling’ high seas adventures of Rafael Sabatini (see entry), Jeffrey Farnol (see entry) and C. S. Forester (see entry), called the Pyrates (1983) – a work he called ‘an historical pantomine’. Fraser’s slogan, like Charles Read’s before him, is ‘Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait.’

Alexander (Fergus) Fullerton b. 1924 PSEUDONYM:

Anthony Fox

Series: ‘Everard’ including: The Blooding of the Guns (1976) Fullerton attended the Royal Naval College from 1938 until 1941. From 1942 to 1949 he served as a Russian interpreter for the Navy, and eventually became a lieutenant in the submarine squadron. This became a


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logical source of material for Fullerton’s novels. His first book, Surface!, published in 1953, deals with submarines. Fullerton created a series of World War One and World War Two naval adventure novels known as the ‘Everard’ series. Two of the books from this series are The Blooding of the Gun, published in 1976, and The Torch Bearers, published in 1983. Most of these stories deal with an individual having to call upon his courage (or lack thereof) when faced with danger and all are full of technical and historical detail.

Alex Garland b. 1970 The Beach (1996) Garland was born in London and spent his later teenage years travelling in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines. In 1992, he received a degree from Manchester University. Before completing The Beach, Garland entertained hopes of becoming a comic-book or comic-strip illustrator, following in the footsteps of his cartoonist father, Nick Garland. ‘Everything I know about writing, I learned through drawing comic strips’, Garland admits, and this seems apposite for the most significant writer to emerge in Britain from the ‘blank’ generation: ‘twenty somethings weaned on video games, TV and a decade’s worth of pop’. ‘Video culture . . . my culture’, Garland claims, an enthusiasm transferred finally to books. The Beach, with its mixture of tourist brochure, Lord of the Flies, Heart of Darkness and backpacker nightmare, is a book aimed at a lost generation in search of meaning. Garland sees the book, in which a backpacker finds himself in the clutches of a cult group in Thailand, as a rejection of the blandishments of New Ageism. Nevertheless, The Beach may be the first work of bestselling fiction in Britain to have transferred the visual world of pop culture into an unironic textual narrative in 2002 Alex Garland and Danny Boyle produced the hit Zombie movie 28 Days Later.

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John Grisham b. 1955 A Time to Kill (1989) The Firm (1991) The Pelican Brief (1992) The Client (1993) The Chamber (1994) The Rainmaker (1995) The Runaway Jury (1996) The Partner (1997) The Street Lawyer (1998) The Appeal (2008) John Grisham is an American novelist, born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 1955. After moving to various southern towns because of his father’s job in construction work, his family eventually settled in Southaven, Mississippi, where he still lives. He attended Mississippi State University, received his law degree from the University of Mississippi, and was admitted to the bar in Mississippi in 1981. He established a criminal law practice in Southaven in 1981, and soon switched his concentration to civil law. Hoping to improve Mississippi’s educational system, Grisham decided to enter the political realm and was elected for two terms as a representative to the Mississippi State Legislature. He served from 1984 to 1990 when he resigned, disillusioned by his inability to make a significant impact, but continued his legal practice. After witnessing a courtroom scene of a young rape victim confronting her violator, Grisham was motivated to write a story of a young black girl whose white rapist is killed by her father. This became his first novel, A Time to Kill (1989). Although it was not an instant success his first novel has become one of his most famous. Grisham’s plots, settings, and characters draw from his legal and political experience and from his Southern heritage. Amongst the many authors who occupy themselves with courtroom drama and the legal themes found in the work of John Grisham is (L.) Scott Turow (b. 1949) whose books, Presumed Innocent (1987) and Burden of Proof (1990), found success with much the same readership.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Arthur Golden b. 1957 Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate where he specialized in Japanese art. He went on to study at Columbia University learning Mandarin and Japanese history. He has also attended Beijing University and Boston University. Golden has taught in Tokyo also. Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) was Golden’s first novel. The work has been extremely successful and has also won critical and popular praise as a film.

Sue Grafton b. 1940 ‘Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Murder’ series (1982–2007): A Is for Alibi (1982) B Is for Burglar (1985) C Is for Corpse (1986) G Is for Gumshoe (1990) K Is for Killer (1994) Other novels: Keziah Dane (1967) The Lolly-Madonna War (1969) Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Grafton is the daughter of the attorneycum-mystery novelist C. W. Grafton. After the completion of her degrees, Grafton held various small jobs in California, including working as a medical secretary and hospital admissions clerk. She began writing novels in her late teens and found work in television writing scripts. Grafton, who is published in twenty-eight countries, currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky and Santa Barbara, California. Despite her early work in the film and television industry, she is undoubtedly most famous for her A–Z detective novels, which feature a private investigator Kinsey Millhone based in Santa Theresa, California. Her attention to style, detail, and overall talent for narrative, garnered from years of

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observation and constant practice, have earned her an avid audience, as well as several awards – among which include such honours as the Cartier Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, three Anthony awards and three Seamus awards.

Philippa Gregory b. 1954 Wideacre (1987) The Other Boleyn Girl (2000) The Queen’s Fool (2003) Philippa Gregory was born in Kenya in 1954 and moved to England two years later. She was educated in Bristol and then went on to Cardiff to study at the National Council for Training Journalists. Gregory has worked as a journalist, reporter, and producer for BBC radio. Gregory studied history at the University of Sussex and received her doctorate at Edinburgh University specialising in eighteenth-century literature. At this time she completed her first novel, Wideacre, the first in the ‘Wideacre’ trilogy, which became an instant bestseller. Since this first work, Gregory has continued to produce historical fiction. She has been successful in merging history and romance in the mode of Georgette Heyer (see entry), but her most successful novels focus on the drama surrounding the ‘real’ events of the Tudor dynasty. Recently her novel, The Other Boleyn Girl has been adapted for the screen.

Mark Haddon b. 1962 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003) Mark Haddon was born in Northampton in 1962 and graduated from Oxford University, later completing a Masters Degree in English Literature at Edinburgh University. Having worked with people with mental and physical disabilities he then went on to become an illustrator and cartoonist for a number of magazines.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is the story of a boy with Asperger’s disease and is aimed both at an adult and a children’s readership and was, like the books of J. K. Rowling, published in two separate editions for adults and children.

Laurell K. Hamilton b. 1963 ‘Anita Blake’, vampire hunter series (1993–4 onwards) Born in Heber Springs, Arkansas but brought up by her grandmother in Indiana, Hamilton graduated in English and Biology before embarking on her first mixed genre novel, Guilty Pleasures about the vampire hunter, Anita Blake. Mixing genre expectations from science fiction, romance, erotica and horror and including a rewriting of the vampire myth and a female heroine created a new form, the vampire ‘paranormal romance’ whose main exponents are American and which owes much to the symbiotic relationship of popular film, television and books as well as to the advent of Slash fiction. This new and problematic ‘genre’ is hard to categorise, sometimes being considered ‘supernatural crime thrillers’ or horror. Hamilton has also published comic books, and contributed to The Ravenloft and Star Trek novelisations. Writers of this type of fiction are often asked to write in a ‘Hamiltonesque’ style.

Robert Harris b. 1957 Fatherland (1992) Enigma (1995) Imperium (2006) Ghost (2007) Robert Harris was born in Nottingham on a council estate. He got the taste for becoming a writer after visiting the local print works where his father worked. He studied English Literature at Cambridge University and the went on to work for the BBC as a journalist on Panorama and Newsnight before becoming the Political Editor of the Observer at the age of 30.

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Harris has worked in both non-fiction and fiction becoming well known in the former before taking up novel writing. He is particularly known in the first phase of his writing career for Selling Hitler (1986) and Good and Faithful Servant (1990). From 1992 onwards he has concentrated on historical fiction about Nazi Germany and Ancient Rome and contemporary political fiction, especially Ghost supposedly based on the Blair years.

Thomas Harris b. 1940 Black Sunday (1975) Red Dragon (1981) The Silence of the Lambs (1988) Hannibal (1999) Hannibal Raising (2006) Thomas Harris was born in Mississippi, Missouri, in 1940. Before working as a writer, Harris spent some time working as a news reporter and editor for the Associated Press in New York City. All four of Harris’s novels have been made into motion pictures. Each of these novels concerns similar themes, dealing with crime and detection. Harris is the creator of Hannibal Lecter, a grand guignol villain set in a gothic world of psychopathic violence. Harris is one of the few authors to be able to sell between 600,000 and 700,000 harbacks in Britain.

Sarah Harrison b. 1946 The Flowers of the Field (1980) A Flower That’s Free (1984) Hot Breath (1985) An Imperfect Lady (1988) Cold Feet (1989) Forests of the Night (1991) Foreign Parts (1992) Be an Angel (1993)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Sarah Martyn was born in Devon on 7 August 1946. Having gained a degree at the University of London she married Jeremy Harrison in 1969, working as a journalist and raising a family. Harrison’s work combines family sagas with comic tales of the historical novelist ‘Harriet Blair’. Harrison’s first two books were set across nearly fifty years of the twentieth century, encompassing the First World War, the Suffragettes, etc., and detailing the lives of three generations caught up in the turbulence of the period. She returned to historical sagas with An Imperfect Lady (1988). Forests of the Night (1991) departed from both Harrison’s earlier areas of interest to deal with male relationships and male sexual identity.

James Herbert b. 1943 The Rats (1974) The Fog (1975) The Survivor (1976) Fluke (1977) The Spear (1978) Lair (1979) Shrine (1983) Domain (1984) The Magic Cottage (1986) Sepulchre (1987) Creed (1990) The Ghosts of Sleath (1994) and many collections of short stories Along with Stephen King (Carrie, 1974), James Herbert helped reinvent the literary horror genre in the 1970s with his first book, The Rats (1974). This tale of a plague of mutant black rats drew heavily on old American nuclear disaster B-movies, horror comics and sciencefiction television series such as Quatermass. The story is violent and erotic and mixes pastiche with a real horror sensibility. Stephen King (see entry) jokingly named the style that he and Herbert invented ‘splatterpunk’, but both rejected such easy thrills after their first book. Herbert then turned to supernatural thrillers and may be considered a successor to Dennis Wheatley. Total sales neared forty million books

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by the late 1990s, but unlike the books of Stephen King few have been filmed. The Secret of Crickley Hall (2006) is a homage to the classic ghost tale.

Carl Hiaasen b. 1953 Tourist Season (1986) Double Whammy (1987) Strip Tease (1993) Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World (1998) Sick Puppy (2000) American journalist and novelist Carl Hiaasen was born 12 March 1953 in Plantation, Florida. After completing his degree in journalism at the University of Florida, he became a reporter for The Miami Herald, where he continues to work today. Before embarking on his career as a solo author, Hiaasen wrote three mystery thrillers with fellow journalist William Montalbano: Power Burn, Trap Line and Death in China. All three novels draw upon the joint reporting experiences of the authors, allowing their novels to resonate with a keen investigative tone. His subsequent novels and anthologies – both fictional and otherwise – delve into his concerns as a journalist and resident of Florida – specifically the problems posed to the environment through the introduction of developers driven by profit desire ingrained by a ruthless capitalist market, corrupt politicians and inept tourists. Tourist Season, is an early marker of the style and themes that would permeate his later novels. Hiaasen’s unique style and presentation has earned him recognition in several literary circles and the London Observer has called him ‘America’s finest satirical novelist’.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson) b. 1929 PSEUDONYMS:

Martin Fallon; James Graham; Hugh Marlow

The Eagle has Landed (1975) Exocet (1983) Edge of Danger (2001) and many others Patterson is one of the great World War Two espionage adventure writers. The Eagle has Landed (1975) centred on Wehrmacht commandoes attempting to kidnap Churchill. The plot also topically included the Irish Republican Army and thereby successfully updated the war novel by rewriting it as a ‘terrorist’ style tale, with a nod towards both current IRA activity in the United Kingdom and such daring raids as that by the Israeli army on Entebbe. It was during this period that the activities of secret anti-terror groups such as Mossad and the SAS became popular with the general public.* By 1979, The Eagle has Landed had sold 18 million copies in forty-two languages. The cliff-hanger thriller, combining excitement and swift moving action, proved one of the most endurable genres of the twentieth century.

Eric Hill b. 1927 Where’s Spot (1980) Eric Hill was born in London, but left school to begin a job as a messenger for an art firm where he worked his way up until he was producing artwork for magazines such as Lilliput. Further career moves took him into advertising, but it was the birth of his son that made him think about a suitable story to tell at bedtime. From this he created the simple, but effective Spot books. He now lives on a ranch in California. When I first drew Spot I realized that . . . I was copying the markings on an aircraft. I grew up drawing aircraft. I wasn’t an author, but I * The Eagle has Landed pre-dates the SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in 1980.

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decided to make my own book . . . I using flaps . . . I based the story on a young pup hiding from its mother.* There is a small industry producing books for toddlers and the very young of which the ‘Dear Zoo’ series by Rod Campbell, ‘Duck’ series by Jenny Tyler and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright and the books illustrated by Violet Easton (David McKee) are examples. For fractionally older children there is the work of Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen, Shirley Hughes, Helen Oxenbury or first readers by Roderick Hunt, Allan Ahlberg and Colin McNaughton. Butterworth’s Percy the Park Keeper appeared in 1989 and has sold over 4 million copies. Mog, the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr which was first published in 1970 is for children listening to their parents or teacher reading as is the Animal Ark series by Lucy Daniels, the word rhyming series by Colin and Jacqui Hawkins or Jill Murphy’s Five Minute’s Peace about a mother elephant trying to have a moment’s quiet away from her offspring – something to make parents smile as much as children. Francesca Simon, author of the ‘Horrid Henry’ books and ‘Daisy Meadows’ (Sue Bentley, Linda Chapman, Narinder Dhami and Sue Mongredien) were amongst the most borrowed authors in British libraries during 2007 as was Sally Grindley who combines writing books for very young children with work on adult novels and John Cunliffe, the creator of Postman Pat and Rosie and Jim. Perhaps the most popular with adults as well as children are the writer/illustrator team of Allan and Janet Ahlberg (d. 1994) whose work appeals both because of its clever organisation, but also because it has a wit that is amusing to parents: The Jolly Postman actually contained pockets with letters: Burglar Bill told the story of a house thief who finds a baby and is then robbed by Burglar Betty the baby’s mother; The Worm Book featured such things as worms in famous historical incidents and how to catch a worm admiring itself in the mirror (!); Please Mrs Butler is a verse book in the style of A. A. Milne (see entry). In all the partnership has sold nearly 20 million books. For early school-age children there is Dick King Smith’s ‘Babe’ series about a pig and his ‘farmyard friends’ which has, unusually for books aimed at this age group been made into two films. The Nestle Smarties Book Prize is an important recognition of the work of authors for younger readers and Martin Waddell is an outstanding example of such a writer having won the prize twice for Farmer * 10.2.08.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Duck and Can’t you Sleep, Little Bear? In his books Waddell tries to capture the idea of pretending and the idea of sharing (with a parent). There even exists a Book Marketing Council campaign for ‘Best Books for Babies’ started by the writer Tony Bradman, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, Whitbread Children’s Book Award and the position of the Children’s Laureate to recognise work in all fields of writing for the young.

Susan Hill b. 1942 I’m the King of the Castle (1973) The Woman in Black (1982) The Mist in the Mirror (1992) Susan Hill was born in 1942 in Yorkshire. Her seaside home would later provide inspiration for her novel A Change for the Better, as well as for the short story ‘Cockles and Mussels’. By the time she began studying English at King’s College in London, Hill had already written and published her first novel, The Enclosure. Hill became famous writing ghost stories such as The Woman in Black and The Mist in the Mirror. However, she also writes non-fiction about her family and life in the English countryside (The Magic Apple Tree and Family) as well as children’s books (The Glass Angels, Beware, Beware). Since 2004, Hill has been adding mystery novels to her repertoire as well. Her works have won her several awards such as the 1971 Somerset Maugham Award (I’m the King of the Castle), 1972 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (The Albatross), 1972 Whitebread Novel Award (The Bird of the Night), and the 2006 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for The Various Haunts of Men. Viewed as a whole, certain patterns, images and devices can be seen recurring through Hill’s varied fiction . . . Typically Hill’s writings revolve around wealthy, well-to-do families of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many of these families are dysfunctional, broken, or about to be broken and the protagonists appear isolated, or awkward in the company of others . . . Hill’s novels are rarely, if ever, conventionally ‘romantic’, filled as they are with darker, more disturbing images of death, loss and haunting. – James Proctor,

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Peter Hoeg b. 1957 Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1993) Hoeg is a Danish author with previous careers as an actor, dancer, drama teacher and a sailor, and whose first book, Forstilling om det tyvende arhundrede (1983) (translated as The History of Danish Dreams, 1995), tells the story of four families through dreams, spoof fairy-tales and contemporary documentary. The tale’s experimental style mirrors the exploration of alienation and emptiness felt by the characters. Hoeg, himself, lives a reclusive life, allegedly without car, television or telephone. From a first book, originally produced in only seven copies, Hoeg continued to write until Froken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (1993) was translated into English and became a surprise bestseller during 1995 (with continuous sales thereafter) in both Britain and the United States. Hoeg topped The Observer bestseller list during the same year with over 140,000 sales in the UK. Marketed as a murder thriller amongst the smart set of Scandinavia, the work is also concerned with the ‘terror of modern life’ set in an unforgiving landscape of snow and ice. The plot concerns Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a ‘half Inuit, half Danish glaciologist’ who stumbles upon a mystery surrounding the death of a neighbour’s child. Much of the novel also contains descriptions of Greenland allowing Smilla to be both detective and adventurer. The complexity of plotting, nature of the thematic concerns and seriousness of purpose may make Miss Smilla one of many bestsellers bought but never fully read.

Wendy Holden b. 1965 Simply Divine (2000) Bad Heir Day (2001) Azur Like it (2004) The Wives of Bath (2005) Filthy Rich (2008)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Wendy Holden is one of Britain’s foremost exponents of ‘chick lit’, that genre fiction aimed at young, usually single women who enjoy their romance spiced with shopping. Helen Fielding (see entry) and a number of Jane Austen spin-off films helped start the genre and its authors whose books are usually marketed through supermarkets and are brightly decorated in pinks, acid greens or lilac. Holden’s books feature characters such as Champagne D’vyne a celebrity socialite or the beautiful but ruthless Belinda who wants to catch a ‘rich and famous man’. Such books are often described as ‘delicious’ or ‘wicked’ by reviewers – akin to indulging in too much chocolate in secret! The books centre on young successful women making their way in business whilst trying to catch a man who needs to be wealthy, good looking and sexually fantastic. The term seems to have emerged around 1995 but was soon in use to describe books about women who were frivolous and definitely girly but who retained a post-feminist sense of themselves without overtly having to declare the fact. Thus the genre plays with motifs of shopping, shoes, make up and clothes as well as chic restaurants and city life. Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City (1997) and the television series (1990–2004) and film (2008) that followed as well as Ugly Betty have established the feeling of sophisticated girls with money and leisure, who are high flyers but frustrated in love. Indian writers like Rajashree and Swati Kaushal and Latino writers have also used the genre with a regional or ethnically orientated twist. Nevertheless, the majority of books in the genre feature white, middle-class women. The books are different from romance novels in that they feature a number of characters, highlight the frivolous side of life and feature sexual encounters which do not carry any romantic connotations. They are also decidedly metropolitan and anti-provincial in outlook putting them at odds with Aga saga romances or family sagas. The similarity with the earlier novels of Jackie Collins (see entry) with their Hollywood sex, drugs and designer labels cannot be ignored just as Collins owes much of her success to the previous work of Jaqueline Susann (see entry). The difference is that ‘chick lit’ avoids the question of drugs and the endings are unambiguous and happy. Other writers include Meg Cabot (b. 1967) who originates from Indiana and who is best known for the ‘Princess Diaries’ (2000 onwards) and has specialised in ‘chick lit’ for teens and younger girls. In Britain there is Sophie Kinsella (Madeleine Wickham [see entry]) who worked as a financial journalist before taking to writing the ‘Shopaholic’ series featuring the misadventures of Becky Bloomfield, herself a financial

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journalist. Books by Cathy Hopkins appeals to teenage girls or younger, whilst growing in popularity are books by the sisters Tilly and Louise Bagshawe (b. 1972) who also produce chick lit with titles such as Sparkles (2006) and Career Girls (2007). Tilly Bagshawe’s second book, Showdown was called ‘The Horse Whisperer and National Velvet meet Jackie Collins’ by Publishers’ Weekly and the book features the usual mix of luxury and excess.

Sheila Holland (Charlotte Lamb) b. 1938 d. 2000 Follow a Stranger (1973) and 159 others Without doubt, Holland remains one of Britain’s most successful and least known or regarded literary figures. Her writing is to popular contemporary romance what Catherine Cookson’s is to the historical saga (see entry). Born in the East End of London and convent educated, Holland found work at the age of sixteen in the Bank of England. Later, she worked as a secretary at the BBC, her appetite for lunch-time romance-reading fuelling her own desire to participate in the genre. Using a variety of pen names to produce the type of romance she herself enjoyed, Holland finally wrote her first Mills and Boon novel, Follow a Stranger in 1973. Significantly, writing as Charlotte Lamb allowed Holland to produce work that explored taboo areas such as child abuse and rape. Such concerns reflected the changes in women’s social position and interests as well as providing entertainment for a generation who were more sexually aware and yet who still desired a certain conventionality. Holland’s extraordinary output of 160 novels is not untypical of the professional writers who write for the romance industry. What remains of interest is that as Charlotte Lamb, Holland was able to find a voice as an independent writer and not just as an anonymous name amongst many others. By the time of her death she was the most famous and successful ‘modern’ romance writer of the second half of the twentieth century, with sales of 70 million and library borrowing in the hundreds of million.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Nick Hornby b. 1957 Fever Pitch (1992) High Fidelity (1995) About a Boy (1999) Hornby rose rapidly to fame on his autobiographical ‘novel’ about his memoirs of childhood, his love of football and the symbiotic relationship of the two. Fever Pitch (1992) was an extraordinary coup, summing up a world of memories and football enthusiasm shared by a whole generation of men between their early thirties and middle age, appealing to a spirit of new ‘laddishness’ and answering to a need for a malecentred sensibility outside the realm of feminism. Although not strictly fiction the book could be read as a novel of nostalgia. Hornby’s film adaptation converted the book to a fictional narrative. High Fidelity (1995) was also filmed, but this time by Hollywood; the film of About a Boy appeared in 2002.

Khaled Hosseini b. 1965 The Kite Runner (2003) A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where his father was a diplomat for the Afghan Foreign Service and his mother a teacher of Farsi and history at a Kabul high school. Hosseini’s family relocated to Paris in 1976, which by luck spared them from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. After being granted political asylum, Hosseini’s family moved to San Jose, California in the autumn of 1980. Hosseini attended Santa Clara University, where he showed no signs of literary enthusiasm, graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He then entered the University of California (San Diego’s School of Medicine) the next year and received his medical degree in 1993. Hosseini completed his residency at Ceders-Sinai Hospital in Los Angles in 1996. It was while practising medicine between 1996 and 2004, that Hosseini began to write his first novel The Kite Runner which was to

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become an international bestseller. After The Kite Runner, Hosseini stopped practising medicine and had his second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, published in 2007. Hosseini currently serves as a goodwill envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Hosseini’s works have been greatly influenced by Persian poetry and his childhood in Afghanistan. One might conclude they would not have had as significant an impact without the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the United States invasion of Afghanistan.

Michel Houellebecq (pronounced Welbek) b. 1956 (birth certificate: 1958) Atomised (1998) It is rare for a European author to be successful in Britain. One exception is Michel Houellebecq who was borne on the Island of Réunion. He lived in Algeria before moving to France where he took his grandmother’s name. A precocious and literary character, he became somewhat of a literary luminary with his first book Extension du domaine de la lutte in 1994, but it was with Les Particules Elementaires (Atomised) that he found fame in Britain. The New York Times thought his work a ‘nihilistic classic’. Ever controversial his more recent work, Plateforme (2001) found the author in court following accusations of race hatred against Islam, but he was acquitted.

Conn Iggulden b. 1971 ‘Emperor’ series (2003) ‘Conquerer’ series (2007) with Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006) non-fiction Iggulden was a teacher of English before taking up writing. A reader as well as a fan of men’s historical adventures, Iggulden created the ‘Emperor’ series, which starting with The Gates of Rome (2003) and traces the history of a Roman conqueror not unlike Julius Caesar, whilst the ‘Conqueror’ series is loosely based on Ghenghiz Khan and Kublai Khan.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

His most successful book is the Dangerous Book for Boys, a non-fiction spoof of the boy’s annuals of the years up to the late 1950s with hobby, historical and activity tips for a wet afternoon. Packaged as the sort of vintage book your grandfather would own, it immediately hit a nostalgic note with readers and sold over 500,000 copies, spawned a number of imitations and even created a reprint market for similar books from the past.

Kazuo Ishiguro b. 1954 Remains of the Day (1989) Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki but came to live in Britain in 1960 whilst his father worked at the National Institute of Oceanography. He is one of a number of novelists to graduate from the Creative Writing Course at the University of East Anglia, the first university in Britain to offer such a course. Whilst at the university Ishiguro met Angela Carter who acted as an early mentor. Although he started writing in 1982, it was not until 1989 that Ishiguro found fame with Remains of the Day which then became an instant British film classic. The story, which is about a repressed butler in a great house in England between the wars and afterwards, tells of the major events of British history and how historical decisions impact upon the lives of those that simply serve. A poignant story of lost love and lost opportunities both personal and political, it also captures the ‘inscrutable’ nature of British social hierachy.

P(hyllis) D(orthy) James (White) b. 1920 PSEUDONYM:

P. D. James

Cover her Face (1962) Shroud for a Nightingale (1971) Death of an Expert Witness (1972) And many others James served as a nurse during the Second World War, after which she entered the National Health Service as an administrator for psychiatric

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units and thence became a Senior Civil Servant in the Home Office, where she worked for much of the rest of her life, rising to considerable seniority. She wrote her first novel in her thirties having cared for her invalid husband. Cover her Face (1962) established James as a writer in the same tradition as Agatha Christie (see entry) and Dorothy L. Sayers – her own detective, Adam Dalgliesh, being both tragic and introspective. Her stories, such as Shroud for a Nightingale (1971), are often as much about institutions, bureaucracy and organisations as about detection; nevertheless, James has, alongside Colin Dexter (see entry), kept the traditional and conservative British detective genre alive into the twenty-first century.

Penny Jordan b. 1946 Falcon’s Prey (1981) and over 100 other titles Penny Jordan is one of a number of authors who work for Mills and Boon and who regularly outsell more conventional writers who nevertheless ‘show’ in bestseller lists. Working on novelettes of little more than 55,000 words, Jordan expects to finish a ‘novel’ every four to six weeks – a rate to be compared to novelists of the pre-World War One period or the ‘anonymous’ hack authors of the mushroom publishers just after World War Two. Having married, worked in mundane jobs in insurance, two firms of solicitors and a bank, Jordan took up writing in 1976, publishing with Mills and Boon in 1981. Using ‘only one plot’ Jordan’s romances are ‘brand’ bestsellers with over 85 million books sold. Jordan is one of a number of romance writers to have found success through association with Mills and Boon. Such writers include Mary Burchell (Ida Cook, d. 1987) from the 1930s, Denise Robins (b. 1897, d. 1985), Sara Seale, Charlotte Lamb (Sheila Holland, see entry), Jane Fraser (Rosamunde Pilcher; see entry) and Vanessa James (Sally Beauman), who ‘graduated’ in order to be able to pursue less restrictive individual careers. This does not include men who write in the genre such as Roger Sanderson who specialises in ‘doctor’ stories or Iain Blair who writes


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

under the name Emma Blair. Betty Neels (1910–2001) became a romance writer by accident having wandered in to her local library where she heard a woman bewailing the lack of good romances. Her first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam was published in 1969 when Neels was 59, an age when a number of women writers of popular fiction have begun their second careers. Her doctor novels are full of polite, well-mannered people who have integrity and honesty, her stories being both warm and comforting in changing times, a trait that connects her with Marie Corelli. Her last book, Emma’s Wedding was produced in 2001 when she was 90! Nora Roberts is an American writer who is said to have sold 280 million books of which she is reputed to sell an average of 15 million a year. She is rarely out of the New York best-seller lists. If true, this is a rate of sales that would put Roberts amongst the most successful writers of all time. Roberts was one of the writers who shifted the genre to more realistic portrayals of relationships but is still aware that mothers with small children have little time to read and look for a less taxing book with a happy ending to while away their time at home. Cecelia Ahern’s PS I Love You is one of the few romantic novels to become a mainstream bestseller. The maudlin tale of a dead husband’s letters from the grave which help his widow cope with grieving and face the future was a number one bestseller in the United Kingdom and is now a film in the tradition of ‘Ghost’.

M(ary) M(argaret) Kaye b. 1908 d. 2004 Shadow of the Moon (1956) The Far Pavilions (1978) and detective novels including: Death in Berlin (1955) Mary Kaye was born in Simla, India, on 21 August 1908. Educated in Somerset, she married Geoffrey Hamilton in 1942 and has two daughters. Kaye became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Kaye’s best known work centres on the conflict of identity suffered by those born in India and torn between two cultures, but they are also love stories and romance sagas set against exotic locations.

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Jonathan Kellerman b. 1949 ‘Alex Delaware’ series (1985–2007) When the Bough Breaks (1985) Survival of the Fittest (1997) ‘Petra Connor’ series (1997–2007) Twisted (2004) Other works: The Butcher’s Theater (1988) The Conspiracy Club (2003) Jonathan Kellerman, who was born in New York City grew up in Los Angeles and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA. Kellerman continued his education at the University of Southern California, where he also received his Ph.D. in psychology, specialising in the treatment of children. He completed his internships for clinical and paediatric psychology at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where his research into the effects of isolation on children battling cancer led to the creation of the Psychosocial Program at the hospital in 1977. The Psychosocial Program, which functions as a division of the oncology ward, is unique in that it is the first programme in the world to approach emotional aspects of paediatric cancer in a comprehensive manner. Kellerman began his writing career as a senior at UCLA, although he did not publish until 1980. His early books were medical texts, many of which focused upon behavioural medicine. Kellerman’s novels, which he began publishing in 1985 with When the Bough Breaks, are generally mystery/suspense narratives that focus on psychology and psychopathology. For example, he brought his knowledge and expertise in the field of child psychology to life with his best-selling crime series, which focus on Alex Delaware, a child psychologist. What is perhaps most interesting about many of Kellerman’s fictional works is the interweaving of his different novels, particularly his ‘Delaware’ and ‘Connor’ series. The two series support each other through the introduction of minor characters in the former which appear in a larger role and setting in the latter, and vice versa.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Leo Kessler b. 1926 ‘Cossacks’ series (1977–9) ‘Otto Stahl’ series (1981–4) ‘Rommel’ series (1979–81) ‘Sea Wolves’ series (1982) ‘Storm Troop’ series (1983–6) ‘Stuka Squadron’ series (1983–4) ‘Wotan/Panzer Division’ series (1975–86) Although German by birth, Kessler came to Britain before World War Two and joined the army as a volunteer in 1943. Having studied in Britain and Germany he took up university positions in England and America, also acting as German correspondent for The Times Educational Supplement. In 1973 he became a full-time author. Kessler’s forte are war adventures written from the point of view of the German Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. These novels (published, like J. T. Edson’s books and Mills and Boon, in popular paperback editions) created a vogue for stories about the war told by unwilling ‘ordinary’ soldiers caught up in the machinations of Nazi world domination. The stories were especially popular during the 1970s and 1980s and often concentrated on the SS or stormtroopers fighting against overwhelming odds. Kessler’s work complemented the success enjoyed by writers such as Sven Hassel (Sven Pederson, b. 1917), whose Wheels of Terror (1959) documented the lives of soldiers in a German penal regiment.

Stephen King b. 1947 PSEUDONYM:

Richard Bachman

Carrie (1974) Salem’s Lot (1975) The Shining (1977) Cujo (1981) Christine (1983)

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Pet Sematary (1983) Skeleton Crew (1985) It (1986) Misery (1987) The Tommyknockers (1987) The Dark Half (1989) Needful Things (1992) The Green Mile (serial, 1996) and many others Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine, in 1947. Graduating with a qualification to teach in high school, he was unable to find work and produced short stories for men’s magazines whilst taking casual employment. Once settled as a teacher, King continued writing and sold Carrie (1974) to Doubleday. Alongside James Herbert (see entry), King reinvented the horror genre with his book Carrie (1974) and the subsequent Brian de Palma film adaptation (1976). King is without doubt the most significant horror writer since H. P. Lovecraft (d. 1937) and the most famous since Edgar Allan Poe (1809–49). Yet he is much more than that, for he is the bestselling American author of all time, a writer not only of novels and short stories, but also of comic-book scripts, films, television screenplays and Internet ‘publications’. During the 1980s he enjoyed phenomenal success, becoming almost a one-man publishing industry in a way not seen since the first quarter of the century. King has said of his own (early) works that they were often wilfully ‘derivative’, exercises in rewriting classic tales or scenarios. King is also insightful (and realistic) regarding the significance and limits of the horror genre formula as he pursues it. But horror fiction is really as Republican as a banker in a three-piece suit. The story is always the same in terms of its development. . . . I said that horror fiction was conservative and that it appeals to teenagers – the two things go together because teenagers are the most conservative people.21 This conservative position has been challenged by more radical horror writers such as Clive Barker (see entry), whose own writing might not have found such acceptance without King’s ground-breaking work.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Sophie Kinsella (Madeleine Wickham) b. 1969 ‘Shopaholic’ series (2000–7) The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (2000) Shopaholic and Baby (2007) Other works: Can You Keep a Secret? (2004) The Undomestic Goddess (2005) Madeleine Wickham, who writes under the pseudonym Sophie Kinsella, was born in London on 12 December 1969. She studied at New College, Oxford, where she completed one year of music before turning to politics, philosophy and economics. She began her writing career at the age of 24, while working as a financial journalist in London. Wickham completed several novels as Madeleine Wickham before submitting her first work as ‘Sophie Kinsella’ to her publisher. Wickham continued to write anonymously as Sophie Kinsella until finally revealing her identity in her novel entitled Can You Keep a Secret? in 2004. In 2006, her novel The Undomestic Goddess was nominated for Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction Best Novel Award. She is perhaps best-known for her ‘chick-lit’ ‘Shopaholic’ series, which she began in 2000. The series follow the life and adventures of financial journalist Becky Bloomwood, who is incapable of managing her own finances and subsequently finds herself in financially sticky situations as a result of her inability to control her obsession with shopping.

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Dean Koontz b. 1945 Chase (1974) Whisper (1981) Strangers (1987) Lightening (1988) Midnight (1989) Cold Fire (1991) Hideaway (1992) Dragon Tears (1993) Intensity (1995) Sole Survivor (1997) Fear Nothing (1997) Seize the Night (1998) ‘Frankenstein’ series: 3 novels (from 2005 to 2008) ‘Odd Thomas’ series: 4 novels (from 2005 to 2008) To classify Dean Koontz’s novels under one genre is near impossible due to his use of numerous pseudonyms. Fortunately since the 1980s Koontz has dropped his use of pen names and has mostly written under his own. He is best known for works that blend horror and science fiction with memorable characters and original ideas. Koontz has been a prolific writer with his books published in thirty-eight languages and having sold 200 million copies. Koontz was the only child of Ray and Florence Koontz. He was born in Evertt, Pennsylvania on 9 July 1945. Koontz grew up in very poor circumstances and suffered the abuse of his alcoholic father, eventually attended Shippenburg State College in Pennsylvania and graduated with a major in English and a minor in communications. Afterwards he worked as a teacher in the Appalachian Poverty Program and as a high school English teacher before getting established as a writer. It was in college that Koontz discovered his love of writing, which allowed him an escape from his poor family situation. In college Koontz was awarded the Atlantic Monthly Creative Writing Award for a short story he wrote in class. Koontz’s first novel was published in 1968. The next four years were devoted to the science-fiction genre. Nevertheless, Koontz wanted to branch out and explore other genres. On the advice of his publishers he adopted numerous pseudonyms. He would


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use Deanna Dwyer for his gothic romances, K. R. Dwyer for suspense, David Axton for adventure and so forth. Indeed, Koontz has written using eight to ten pen names. He emerged as a serious writer with his novel Chase, which revolved around the return of a Vietnam veteran. He gained further acclaim with his novels Whisper and Strangers, the latter of which was his first hardcover bestseller.

Judith Krantz (Judith Tarcher) b. 1928 Scruples (1978) Princess Daisy (1980) Mistral’s Daughter (1983) I’ll Take Manhattan (1986) and others Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl (2000) non-fiction Judith Krantz found fame with Scruples (1978) when she swapped from writing articles for magazines to novel writing. She is the queen of the ‘sex and shopping’ novel (also known as the ‘shopping and fucking’ novel) but she herself has remained happily married – ‘a nice Jewish girl’ as she calls herself. Shopping is a form of sex. . . . For many years if I was prevented from shopping for enough time . . . say a month . . . I got a yearning, itchy, jumping feeling. Even a short bout of good shopping can cure more ills than penicillin. Scruples was about the world’s best boutique, and when it appeared, many people told me that owning a boutique was their dream and I’d unconsciously tapped into it. In many ways owning clothes was a form of magical thinking. The sad fact is that I believed profoundly, from third grade on, that if I only had absolutely the right clothes and enough of them, all my problems of growing up would be solved. And a little part of me still thinks that, even though I realize it’s not true.22 Krantz is one of a number of American writers including Stephen King (see entry) and Danielle Steel (see entry) who also have fan-oriented websites. Some critics here recognised that Krantz’s chosen genre may be more than the crude and valueless entertainment it seems to be.

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Certainly the derogatory label ‘shopping and fucking novels’ (S & F) does not suggest that the genre has any great weight. Yet there is value in both elements of the label. Shopping is relevant because the Krantz characters move in a designer milieu; the brand names, the shop names and the locations are important to establish that the characters move in circles which are themselves the stuff of fantasy, evidenced by the popular success of magazines which purport to lay bare the lifestyles of the rich and famous, to purvey a fantasy vision of what life is really like for the chosen few. Yet it is ultimately an egalitarian vision in a way – success is not dependent on unachievable imponderables, birth, family, history or even merit. Entry to the chosen few depends simply on wealth. . . . This kind of fantasy is the equivalent of the techno thrills in some adventure stories, the snobbish insistence on the right way to mix Bond’s martini, and is surely neither more nor less reprehensible or trivial but rather a way of asserting control over an apparently hostile area of society. The traditional woman’s role of shopper, selector of the products to be consumed by the rest of the family, burdened with this never-ending chore – this task is transformed in a Krantz novel into the ultimate consumer delight, where unlimited wealth offers unlimited opportunity to select indulgences in opulence and splendor. It is no accident that Scruples, Krantz’s first and most successful book, is about a shop, the apotheosis of shops, the consumer’s earthly paradise. The second half of the insulting ‘S & F’ label is also significant. Male fiction has described female sexuality and told us how we ought to feel, Krantz’s sex scenes are idealized from a woman’s viewpoint – aspirational rather than coercive, portraying what we might want for ourselves rather than what men think we ought to want.23

Hanif Kureishi b. 1954 Buddha of Suburbia (1990) The Black Album (1995) Hanif Kureishi was born in Bromley, Kent. He studied philosophy at King’s College, London and went on to have an early and glittering career in theatre and television. He followed this with screenplays for various films including My Beautiful Laundrette which was nominated


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for an Academy Award. His first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia was the coming-of-age story of Karim growing up in the suburbs of London amongst a plethora of characters who exemplified aspects of the metropolitan experience. The book was the first to tackle a racially mixed Britain and came out in favour of a version of multi-culturalism that fitted the ‘mix and match’ 1980s sense of market-led Thatcherite choice.

Lynda La Plante (Lynda Titchmarsh) b. 1946 Widows (1983) – ‘Dolly Rawlins’ novelisation series The Legacy (1987) Prime Suspect (1991) – ‘Jane Tennison’ novelisation series The Red Dahlia (2006) Lynda La Plante (from her marriage to Richard La Plante) was born in Liverpool and trained at RADA before working in the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and as a television actress. Nevertheless she turned her talents to writing screenplays, of which Widows was the first. It told the story of a group of widows of gangsters who planned their own heist. The series was followed by Prime Suspect featuring the policewoman Jane Tennison. To accompany her writing and producing for television, La Plante also enjoys a highly successful career as a novelist, The Red Dhalia being published in 2007.

John le Carré (David Cornwell) b. 1931 The Spy who Came in from the Cold (1963) The Looking-Glass War (1965) A Small Town in Germany (1968) Smiley’s People (1980) The Honourable Schoolboy (1982) The Little Drummer Girl (1983) A Perfect Spy (1986) The Russia House (1989) The Constant Gardener (2001) Le Carré is, alongside Len Deighton (see entry), the most famous writer of contemporary British spy fiction, inheritor of the work of Buchan, Le

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Queux and Edgar Wallace (see entries) despite his more modern antiheroic style. Although receiving numerous literary awards, le Carré has never been quite accepted as a writer of ‘literature’ by literary critics. This may come from his extraordinary success, especially with his third book The Spy who Came in from the Cold (1963), which had sold twenty million copies by the end of the twentieth century.

Andrea Levy b. 1956 Small Island (2004) Whilst there are a number of Asian British authors there are relatively few who were born to West Indian parents. Andrea Levy’s novels concentrate on the experience of being dual cultured. Small Island, which won both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2004, is based on the story of her parents coming to Britain in 1948 on the SS Windrush. Although living in Britain Levy still feels a strong tie to West Indian roots. Indeed, ‘saying that I am English doesn’t mean that I want to be assimilated; to take on the white culture to the exclusion of all others . . . I cannot live without rice and peas.’ James Proctor, accessed 8.2.08. It was inconceivable that we Jamaicans, we West Indians, we members of the British Empire would not fly to the Mother Country’s defence when there was threat. But, tell me, if Jamaica was in trouble, is there any major, any general, any sergeant who would have been able to find that dear Island? Give me a map, let me see if Tommy Atkins . . . can point to Jamaica. . . . But give me that map, blindfold me, spin me round three times and I, dizzy and dazed, would still place my finger squarely on the Mother Country. (Small Island, ch. 12)

Robert Ludlum b. 1927 d. 2001 The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971) The Osterman Weekend (1972)


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The The The The The The

Chancellor Manuscript (1977) Matarese Circle (1979) Bourne Identity (1980) Holcroft Covenant (1985) Bourne Supremacy (1986) Matarese Countdown (1997)

Prior to becoming a writer in 1971, Ludlum was a Broadway and television actor. His espionage tales have proved highly successful, some filmed and others being turned into television mini-series. One character, Jason Bourne, appears in a number of novels. In many ways Ludlum inherits elements of both Ian Fleming (see entry) and Alistair MacLean (see entry), with comparisons made to John le Carré (see entry) and even Graham Greene. The interesting difference is that Ludlum’s books have consistently reminded critics of films rather than novels, incorporating visual elements ‘like watching a James Bond movie’ (Entertainment Weekly). The complexity of plotting, the fast pace and erotic action as well as the obligatory exotic location and technical details helped Ludlum sell over 210 million books.

Yann Martel b. 1963 Life of Pi (2001) Yann Martel was born on 25 June 1963. Though he was born in Salamanca, Spain he is a resident of Canada. He studied philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario after which he began to travel the world. Martel travelled to India where he spent a significant amount of time reading religious texts and visiting various temples and mosques. His first major literary achievement came in 2001 with the publication of Life of Pi. Martel claims to have been inspired for this story while on a hill near Bombay. Despite critical acclaim and prizes for the book accusations of plagiarism surfaced a year after original publication. Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar did not, in the end, press charges.

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Alexander McCall Smith b. 1948 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998) ‘The Sunday Philosophy Club’, ‘von Ingelfeld’, ‘Sunday Street’ series Alexander McCall Smith used his African background (he was born in Zimbabwe) to create Precious Ramotswe, creator of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. The book is as much about Africa and Africans as it is about detection and the reader is treated to a number of back stories told in an almost childlike fashion that nevertheless contain both a real sympathy for the characters without a hint of condescension and a heart warming sense of life in an African country where things are, on the whole, working well. It would not be unreasonable to compare the books to those by Miss Read (see entry), where both deal in the small affairs of rural life: round the village green or under the blue skies of Africa. The first book was made into a film by Anthony Mighela in 2007. She stopped. It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin. (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, ch. 7)

Colleen McCullough b. 1937 Tim (1974) The Thorn Birds (1977) An Indecent Obsession (1981) Colleen McCullough was born in 1937 in Wellington, New South Wales, Australia. McCullough spent much of her early adulthood in the Australian Outback working in a variety of jobs, such as a teacher, a library worker and a bus driver. Eventually she obtained a position as a medical technician and became an associate in neurological research at Yale (1967–76), all the while writing in the evenings. From 1976, she committed herself to writing full-time.


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McCullough is best known for The Thorn Birds (1977). Common to her novels, plots touch on taboo subjects, like the mentally challenged in Tim (1974) and a priest’s sexual desires in The Thorn Birds. Her strengths lie in turning cliché storylines into fresh plots. She often highlights the rebirth of dull or ordinary women into animated and extrovert people; however, her novels’ themes are not particularly feminist. McCullough takes criticisms in her stride, commenting that as time passes, if her novels endure, then they can be deemed to be good literature.

Ian McEwan b. 1948 In Between the Sheets (1978) The Cement Garden (1978) Black Dogs (1992) Amsterdam (1998) Atonement (2001) Born in Aldershot, Hampshire, McEwan spent his childhood in the various locations where his father was posted as an army officer. A student on the MA Creative Writing Course at the University of East Anglia with Malcolm Bradbury, he has gone on to have a glittering career, winning the Booker Prize in 1998. McEwan’s writing has covered everything from ‘perverse, even gothic, material’ to writing about World War Two using Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park as a foundation. Although he has sold consistently well amongst ‘serious’ readers for many years, it was with the film of Atonement that he reached a wider audience.

‘Andy McNab’ b. 1959 Bravo Two Zero (1993) non-fiction Immediate Action (1995) biography Remote Control (1997) ‘Nick Stone’ series (1998) ‘Boy Soldier’ series with Robert Rigby (2005) ‘Andy McNab’ was the leader of the failed Bravo Two Zero mission into Iraq during the first Gulf War. Having been captured and tortured he

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returned to Britain, was awarded the DCM and MM and began to write his memoir of the events which became Bravo Two Zero and which not only revived the war story, but went on to become the biggest selling factual war story of all time creating in its path a swathe of SAS inspired tales including those by Chris Ryan (see entry). McNab runs survival and other training courses for journalists and keeps both his real name and facial features a secret for fear of terrorist reprisals, a piece of clever publicity hokum, but highly effective in giving his work the authenticity it claims.

Alan Moore b. 1953 Watchmen (1987) (in book form) V for Vendetta (1995) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999) From Hell (1999) (in book form) Whilst Europe, The United States and Japan have honourable histories of cartoon strips and graphic novels, Britain has reserved that form of art for children. This tradition ended with the appearance of Raymond Briggs (see entry) and Alan Moore whose ‘scripting’ and reinvention of super-hero strip cartoon books and serious graphic novels has made him one of the most influential writers in Britain today. Moore uses literary devices and historical research to rethink both the super-hero tradition and the real history of people like Jack the Ripper. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen brought back literary characters from earlier thrillers as if they were super heroes. Moore, whose life story is as colourful as his stories, is an anarchist and snake worshipper who lives in the unlikely English provincial town of Northampton. He is also a favourite with fans and of film makers and many of his tales have been turned into successful film adaptations, but he can also be a litigious perfectionist and apparently hard to work with.

Kate Mosse b. 1961 Labyrinth (2005) Sepulchre (2007)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Kate Mosse was born in West Sussex and educated at Chichester High School and New College, Oxford. A woman of the media, Mosse became both a broadcaster and an author, and is a regular guest on both television and radio. She frequently writes short stories and articles that have appeared in a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Labyrinth her most famous work has been translated in to more than thirty-six languages, selling over a million English copies to date.

Patrick O’Brian (Geoffrey Jenkins) b. 1914 d. 2000 Master and Commander (1969) Post Captain (1972) HMS Surprise (1973) The Mauritius Command (1977) Desolation Island (1978) Fortune of War (1979) The Surgeon’s Mate (1980) The Ionian Mission (1982) Treason’s Harbour (1983) The Far Side of the World (1985) Reverse of the Medal (1986) Letter of Marque (1988) The Thirteen Gun Salute (1989) When O’Brian died he was the focus of intense journalistic interest; a popular and unheralded teller of tales of Nelson’s navy he seemed to exemplify intelligence in a genre not considered critically significant. He also had a personal background that intrigued the media. His fictional hero is Jack Aubrey.

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Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters) b. 1913 d. 1995 A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977) A Leper of St Giles (1981) The Potter’s Field (1989) and 17 others Edith Pargeter remains one of the most successful of the classic ‘queens’ of crime, alongside P. D. James (see entry), Agatha Christie (see entry), Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ruth Rendell (see entry). Despite the acclaim of the Cadfael series she was also the writer of contemporary crime fiction (Inspector Felse), historical novels and translations. Indeed, her translations from Czech won her the gold medal of the Czechoslovak Society for Foreign Relations, an award to be prized alongside those from the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Mystery Writers of America (who awarded her an ‘Edgar’). Pargeter is best known as Ellis Peters, creator of the medieval monk detective, Brother Cadfael. Cadfael lives in twelth-century Shrewsbury. After a life of battle and adventure he has settled into the life of a monk (and expert herbalist) using his knowledge to act the detective in a way that combines contemporary interest in detective fiction with a taste for historically accurate medieval romance. It is hard to see how Peter’s love of the medieval could have failed to influence the extraordinarily successful Name of the Rose (1983) by Umberto Eco.

James Patterson b. 1947 Double Cross (2007) The Fifth Horseman (2006) James Patterson is a crime thriller writer who has become the most borrowed American author in British libraries. He is best known for his series featuring detective Alex Cross. Also, he has created a series called the ‘Woman’s Murder Club’ featuring Lindsay Boxer. The most notable novel from this series is The Fifth Horseman. His novels Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls have both been adapted into films starring the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

American actor Morgan Freeman. Patterson was the first author to hold number one titles on both the New York Times Adult and Children’s lists.

Rosamunde Pilcher b. 1924 PSEUDONYM:

Jane Fraser

The Shell Seekers (1988) and many others Rosamunde Pilcher was born on 22 September 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England. She attended public schools in England and Wales. From 1942 to 1946 she was in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. In 1946 she married a company director, Graham Hope Pilcher, and moved to Scotland. Pilcher began her career with romantic novels, which she wrote under the pseudonym of Jane Fraser. These first novels provided the basis for Pilcher to write more complex historical romances and family sagas. In 1987 she finished what was considered her first serious novel, The Shell Seekers, about a woman looking back at her life. The novel was an immediate bestseller. September (1990), Pilcher’s next novel, was centred on a family celebration in the Highlands of Scotland, told from the perspective of an older female member of the family. The book confirmed Pilcher’s bestseller status in Britain and the United States. Her work was considered more serious and literary by ordinary readers who disdained sagas and romances. Pilcher’s books concentrate on older women coming to terms with loss or bereavement and ageing. They often end ambiguously rather than merely ‘happily ever after’.

Dudley Pope (Bernard Egerton) b. 1925 d. 1997 ‘Lord Nicholas Ramage’ series: Ramage (1965) Ramage and the Drum Beat (1967) Ramage and the Freebooters (1969) Governor Ramage R.N. (1973)

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Ramage’s Prize (1975) Ramage and the Guillotine (1975) Ramage at Trafalgar (1986) and others ‘Yorke’ series: Buccaneer (1981) and others Egerton served in World War Two and was torpedoed during the Battle of the Atlantic. He was thus invalided out in 1943 to become instead Naval Defence correspondent for the Evening News. He left this job only in 1959 to become a full-time writer. The Napoleonic era has proved to be the male equivalent of the Regency period for women’s historical romance. It provides excitement, glamour, adventure, and nostalgia whilst avoiding the overt jingoism of imperialist romance. Despite the use of ‘realistic’ dialogue and period details the books are designed as escapist yarns whose feel is essentially contemporary. Pope combines detail, action and battles. His series of buccaneering tales centring on Ned Yorke keeps alive the minor subgenre of pirate tales that includes Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883), J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet (1898), Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (1922) and F. Tennyson Jesse’s Moonraker (1927).

Terry Pratchett b. 1948 The ‘Discworld’ series (27 books to date) ‘Bromeliad’ trilogy Many science fiction titles Terry Pratchett, born 28 April 1948 in Beaconsfield, England, is one of Britain’s most recognisable, and most read, authors. Pratchett began his career working as a journalist in Buckinghamshire, Bristol, and Bath. He then worked for the Central Electricity Board in the Western Region from 1980 until 1987, though his true passion has always been writing novels. Pratchett wrote his first full-length work of fiction when he was seventeen and published it as The Carpet People in 1971. He received the British


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Book Award citation in 1993 as Fantasy and Science Fiction Author of the Year. However, Pratchett is best known for his popular Discworld series, which won him the British Science Fiction Award in 1989. Discworld is a humorous fantasy series that depicts a world that rests on a turtle’s back. Discworld, as well as most of Pratchett’s other works, often parodies writers such as J. R. R. Tolkien (see entry) and Larry Niven. His novels spoof modern trends and New Age philosophy. J. K. Rowling follows Pratchett’s penchant for coining new and absurd words to create an alien parallel universe. The result in both cases is strikingly intimate novels as the reader feels connected to the author through a common understanding of a singular language. It has been reported that Terry Pratchett is the most shop-lifted author at W. H. Smith’s. Indeed it appears from most bestseller and best loved short lists that he is one of Britain’s favourite authors coming before even J. K. Rowling whose work he has criticised. During December 2007 the 59-year-old revealed that he had a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, but said ‘there is time for at least a few more books’ (Metro, 13 December 2007). Another writer of humorous fantasy is Tom Holt (b. 1961) whose rather uncategorisable work takes mythic settings and reworks them in amusing whimsical novels.

Phillip Pullman b. 1946 ‘His Dark Materials’ series: Northern Lights (1995) The Subtle Knife (1997) The Amber Spyglass (2000) Before settling in North Wales, Pullman attended school in England, Zimbabwe and Australia. He attended Exeter College at Oxford University studying English and taught after graduating. He has become a public figure in the field of education, and his criticism of academics in England has been widely discussed. He is best known for the extremely popular and controversial His Dark Materials trilogy. The children’s books focus on Lyra, a young girl, and her world. They have gained great critical acclaim including: the

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Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Award, and the Whitebread Book of the Year Award (the first time given to a children’s book). This series, as well as his other children’s literature, enjoys a diverse readership in terms of age, and the first novel in the trilogy, Northern Lights (1995) was adapted as a major motion picture in the winter of 2007. His writing has also received much criticism, especially from Christian readership. His novels have been called atheistic and distinctly antiChurch, accusations he is happy to accept.

Ian Rankin b. 1960 The Flood (1986) Knots and Crosses (1987) Hide and Seek (1991) Strip Jack (1992) A Good Hanging (1992) The Black Book (1993) Mortal Causes (1994) Black and Blue (1997) The Naming of the Dead (2006) Ian Rankin was born in Fife, Scotland and educated at the University of Edinburgh. Before becoming a full-time writer Rankin held many jobs including being a grape picker, taxman and punk musician. Rankin’s first novel, The Flood, was published in 1986. In 1987 he published Knots and Crosses, which was the first of a series of novels to include Inspector John Rebus. The Rebus books have been translated into twenty-two languages. His 1997 book, Black and Blue, part of the ‘Rebus’ series, received the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction award. The The Naming of the Dead, which was published in 2006 saw Rebus ‘retire’. Recognition from readers and critics alike have placed him among the Britain’s top crime-thriller writers. He is also a passionate Scot, including the names of Scottish authors and Scottish contemporary events in his work. By the mid 1990s it was obvious that a revival of Scottish art was taking the place of political independence. The authors involved were either ‘serious’ writers little


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known outside Scotland or commercial writers whose subjects were not overtly Scots. Some were saga writers like Evelyn Hood or romantic writers such as Emma Blair (real name, Iain Blair) who did not count on the literary map, although their books sold in hundreds of thousands. The major Scottish authors in 1995 were Iain Crichton Smith, Robin Jenkins, William McIlvanney, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman (who had just emerged), Iain Banks (see entry), Janice Galloway and William Boyd (whose subjects were not Scottish). Within the next ten years Irvine Welsh (see entry) and Ian Rankin were at the forefront of Scottish writers and the best known. Detective fiction and Scottish fiction seems to have thrived together. Another writer with a Scottish detective is Louise Welsh whose years as a second-hand book dealer in Scotland led to her critically acclaimed first novel The Cutting Room (2002) which was a gothic novel of Glasgow. Nevertheless, there still seems to be room for the more traditional whodunit with television providing series such as Midsomer Murders (original books by Caroline Graham intended as a pastiche of Agatha Christie [see entry]; series name and screenplays by Anthony Horowitz), the Morse spin off, Lewis (from Colin Dexter [see entry]), the detective series by Peter Robinson featuring Inspector Banks and Dalziel and Pascoe from the books by Reginald Hill. Some writers add flavour by setting their detectives in romantic or historical settings. Donna Leon’s detective is the Italian Commisario Brunetti whilst Barbara Nadel has a Turkish detective called Cetin Ikmen. Boris Akunin sets his tales in Tzarist Russia and Nadel also has an East End undertaker called Francis Hancock, whilst other authors like Anne Perry choose to use Victorian detectives or create romantic adventures as does Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Metz) whose Amelia Peabody novels deal with crime and international intrigue amongst Egyptologists. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles combines writing sagas with novels about her everyman-detective Bill Slider. By far the most famous historical detective writer was Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter: 1919–95 [see entry]) whose Brother Cadfael novels combined medieval history with detection. Some writers such as Dan Brown (see entry), David Baldacci (see entry), Robert Grisham (see entry) and Robert Harris (see entry) combine the detective story with the thriller. Karin Slaughter’s books deal with brutal slayings (see entry) as do those by Minette Walters and Kathy Reichs (see entry) and Patricia Cornwell’s (see entry) with forensics; still other writers combine the traditional detective story with more hard-

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nosed gangster or criminal fiction. Such writers include, Sue Grafton (see entry), Carl Hiaason (see entry), Martina Cole (see entry), Lynda la Plante (see entry), Robert Goddard and John Harvey. Mary Higgins Clark, however, writes mysteries which centre on sensible, intelligent young women and have thereby become favourites with adolescent girls.

Claire Rayner b. 1931 The ‘Performers’ series: 12 novels (1973–87) The ‘Poppy Chronicles’ series: 6 novels (1987–91) One of Britain’s best loved and most remembered ‘agony aunts’, Rayner began her career as a nurse before turning to journalism. As with so many popular women’s writers she began to write gothic romance before turning to the saga.

Douglas Reeman b. 1924 PSEUDONYM:

Alexander Kent

As Alexander Kent: Richard Bolitho – Midshipman (1966) and others As Douglas Reeman: A Prayer for the Ship (1958) and others A writer fascinated by the sea, Reeman joined the Royal Navy and saw action in World War Two in the Battle of the Atlantic, and the


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Mediterranean and Normandy campaigns. A keen sailor like Dudley Pope (see entry), Reeman is fascinated by the details of naval life and maritime history. As Alexander Kent he is the author of the ‘Richard Bolitho’ series set during the Napoleonic War, and as Douglas Reeman he writes of the First and Second World Wars. His works are action adventures and he is probably the most popular latter day exponent of the naval saga.

Kathy Reichs b. 1950 Deja Dead (1998) Cross Bones (2005) Break No Bones (2006) Bones to Ashes (2007) Kathleen ‘Kathy’ Reichs was born in Chicago. She attended the America University for Anthropology where she received both her MA and Ph.D. in physical anthropology. Reichs is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina. Reichs also works for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in the state of North Carolina and she is one of only fifty forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. As well as publishing academic papers and books she also writes novels. All of her works follow forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan whose lifestyle is quite similar to Reichs herself. Within the novels the heroine solves murders and explains deaths using forensic anthropology. Whilst her application of forensics is reminiscent of Patricia Cornwell and her plots similar to Dan Brown (see entry), her style harks back to the golden age of American thrillers and Raymond Chandler.

Ruth Rendell b. 1930 PSEUDONYM:

Barbara Vine ‘Inspector Wexford’ series: From Doon with Death (1964) A New Lease of Death (1967)

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Wolf to the Slaughter (1968) The Best Man to Die (1969) A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970) No More Dying Then (1971) Murder being Once Done (1972) Some Lie and Some Die (1973) The Water’s Lovely (2006) Not in the Flesh (2007) and others A very private individual, Rendell is nevertheless, probably the most famous British female crime writer after Agatha Christie (see entry). Her books use psychological insight, a greater level of realism, and police procedural style to create intimate and disturbing tales. As Barbara Vine she writes gothic tales as well as being the author of books whose central characters are psychologically motivated, a theme popular since Robert Bloch’s Psycho (1959). Her ‘Inspector Wexford’ books have been regularly adapted for television. Rendell was awarded a CBE in 1996 and a life peerage as Baroness Rendell of Babergh was conferred in 1997.

J(oanna) K(athleen) Rowling b. 1966 Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry Harry

Potter Potter Potter Potter Potter Potter Potter

and and and and and and and

the the the the the the the

Philosopher’s Stone (1997) Chamber of Secrets (1998) Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) Goblet of Fire (2000) Order of the Phoenix (2003) Half-Blood Prince (2005) Deathly Hallows (2007)

Born in Chepstow, Rowling studied French and Classics at university before beginning her career as a teacher of English Language in Portugal where she met and married Jorge Arantes with whom she had a daughter. After her divorce, Rowling returned to Britain where she lived in Edinburgh, taught French and finished an adventure book for children featuring the orphan Harry Potter. Published in 1997, the book was intended as the first of seven, charting Potter’s life and magical adven-


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

tures. To obscure the fact that the author was a woman, Rowling’s publishers persuaded her to use initials like J. R. R. Tolkien (see entry). The almost immediate success of the books and Rowling’s extraordinary rise in fame and fortune is well documented. With the film version of the first book, Rowling rose to become Britain’s highest paid author, surrounded by a whole Harry Potter industry. The stories themselves are curiously conservative and traditional with their public school backgrounds reminiscent of Billy Bunter, Jennings or Malory Towers and their wizardry suggestive of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis (see entry) (two authors Rowling says she has no interest in, and both representative of a genre she consciously avoids). Even boardingschool life is also, curiously, a bête noire for the author. Nevertheless, with its magic railway, school adventures, fantasy and invented works, Rowling has been able to capture both a children’s and an adult market with the books repackaged for ‘grown up’ readers. Unlike Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings was an adult rethinking of The Hobbit, Rowling is the first author of children’s work to be simultaneously read as an author for adults. Rowling’s last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows caused a publishing sensation and there was a purchasing frenzy around the world. Indeed, the Rowling empire is worth approximately £2 billion worldwide and therefore it was extremely important that no information leaked from the book into the public domain before publication. An attempt by one pair of thieves to sell the contents (which they had stolen from the publishers) for £50,000 to The Sun resulted in swift imprisonment. The book went on to sell 5 million copies in twenty-four hours. In December 2007 Rowling sold a handwritten collection of short stories called The Tale of Beedle The Bard at auction at Southerbys for £1.95 million. The book forms the core of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. During June 2008, an 800 hundred word prequel to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories sold for £25,000 at a charity auction. By 2008, Rowling has sold 375 million books and has made almost £600 million pounds.

Salman Rushdie b. 1947 Midnight’s Children (1981) The Satanic Verses (1988) The Baburnama (2002)

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Educated at Cathedral School in Bombay and then King’s College, Cambridge, Rushdie graduated in 1968 with a Masters degree in history. For a time he was an actor before becoming a freelance copy-editor in London between 1970 and 1980. The publication of Midnight’s Children (1981) brought Rushdie to the wider public attention that his first book, Grimus (1979), lacked. Prizes, including Booker (1981), English Speaking Union Award (1981), James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1982) and many others followed for Rushdie’s complex tales of Anglo-India told in a magic-realist style. The Satanic Verses (1988) was also shortlisted for the Booker and the Whitbread Prize but was banned in India and South Africa. Nevertheless, this confirmed him as Britain’s leading novelist. Rushdie’s background seems to incline him naturally towards characters who inhabit the Borderline. One thinks of Omar Khayyam in Shame, ‘a peripheral man’: or that novel’s narrator who, like Rushdie himself is ‘an emigrant from one country’ and ‘a newcomer in two’; of Adam Aziz in Midnight’s Children; and above all, of Saleem Sinai, born at the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947, an Anglo-Indian, a changeling. In each of these novels, however, by centering the Borderline character as the ‘I’ narrator, the perspective is remade and Borderline territory is transformed into ‘a strange middle country’, a position of vantage from which the narrator tells his story, or, more accurately, his ‘so many stories’.24 The publication of The Satanic Verses brought extraordinary (and extra literary) attention. In the book a rather infantile (but calculated) attack on the fundamentalism of one character overly reminiscent of the Ayatollah Khomeini brought the wrath of devout Muslims all the way from Pakistan to Bradford and the Iranian government pronounced a fatwah (or death sentence) on Rushdie and broke off diplomatic relations with Britain. Rioting caused the death of demonstrators in India and the book’s Japanese translator was assassinated. Penguin Books and a syndicate of other publishers nevertheless published the paperback and Rushdie was given a bodyguard of Special Branch officers and went into hiding. The cult status of The Satanic Verses meant that large numbers of ordinary readers purchased the book in order to see what the fuss was about. Few read much of it and it remained one of the great unread but heavily purchased books of the century. Rushdie has long considered himself undervalued in Britain and a scathing attack on London life led him to relocate to New York. His high profile as a personality as well as a writer means that he lives the life of


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

a socialite whose celebrity status is a guarantee of media publicity. Thus he has recently been seen as an ‘extra’ in the film version of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2000). Rushdie was awarded a CBE for his services to literature in 2007.

Chris Ryan b. 1961 The One that Got Away (1995) non-fiction ‘Geordie Sharp’ series (from 1996) ‘Matt Browning’ series (from 2003) ‘Alpha Force’ series (from 2002) The secret SAS regiment became known publicly after the Iranian Embassy siege of 1980, but really entered the imagination after the disastrous Bravo Two Zero mission in the first Gulf War. Since then a number of books have been written about the mission, but the two most famous survivors are Andy McNab (see entry), the commander and Chris Ryan who both have gone on to become famous authors but who dispute the actual history of those events which certainly may have been less glorious than recounted in McNab and Ryan’s books. Like McNab, Ryan combines writing adventure thrillers and exciting Alpha Force stories for children with advice on survival and motivational techniques.

Dora (Jessie) Saint (Miss Read) b. 1913 Village School (1955) Village Diary (1957) Hobby Horse Cottage (1958) Storm in the Village (1958) Thrush Green (1959) Fresh from the Country (1960) Winter in Thrush Green (1961) Village Affairs (1978) Return to Thrush Green (1979) Village Centenary (1981)

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Dora Saint worked for many years as a primary school teacher turning first to short humorous articles about the profession, which she published with Punch before writing for The Times Education Supplement and later the BBC Schools Department. An article for the Observer caught the eye of publisher Robert Lusty of Michael Joseph, who suggested that she write a novel about life as a school teacher in the manner of the Punch articles. The subsequent book, Village School (1955), began a longrunning saga of village life based on the fictional villages of Thrush Green and Fairacre and the gentle goings-on of the inhabitants. By the late 1990s more than 50 novels had appeared and Saint (to whom Lusty had suggested the rather prim Jane Austen-like name ‘Miss Read’) became one of the most borrowed authors in the library system. Written to evoke happy, nostalgic and traditional thoughts, Saint’s books have created an entire country ‘universe’ similar to that of the long-running BBC serial The Archers. A curious bonus in her work is the inclusion of illustrations by John Strickland Goodall, continuing an almost lost tradition of combining adult fiction with pictures.

Alice Sebold b. 1962 The Lovely Bones (2002) The tale of a raped and murdered 14-year-old who watches the consequences of her death from Heaven formed the unlikely scenario for Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones which, despite its literary pretentions, is full of the sort of cracker-barrel sentimentalisation of the ‘spiritual’ and comforting that was peddled at beginning of the twentieth century by Theosophists and spiritualists. The dead girl even has a roommate in Heaven! On its release it was heavily and extensively marketed and was a favourite of reading groups. There were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connection – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life. (The Lovely Bones, ch. 23)

Vikram Seth b. 1952 A Suitable Boy (1993) Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta, his father Prem Seth was an executive of a shoe company and his mother, Laila Seth served as a judge. Seth is the oldest of three children. He completed primary education in India but left to study at Oxford University. From there he went on to study economics at Stanford University and while there was a Fellow in Creative Writing from 1977–8. In the early 1980’s Seth studied classical Chinese poetry at Nanjing University, China. Seth’s first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse was published in 1986 and explores the experiences of group of friends living in California. His novel A Suitable Boy was an award-winning epic of Indian life, Seth is also known for his poetry. He was also asked to write a libretto for the English National Opera which was performed in 1994.

Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) b. 1904 d. 1991 Green Eggs and Ham (1960) The Cat in the Hat (1957) One Fish Town Fish Red Blue Fish (1960) Hop on Pop (1963) Oh the Places You’ll Go (1990) Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1960) How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957) Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield Massachusetts to Henrietta Seuss and Theodor Robert Geisel on 2 March 1904. Theodor attended Fremont Intermediate School and later enrolled at Dartmouth College. Theodor’s father and grandfather were both brewers.

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While at Dartmouth he became a member and eventually editor of the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. During his time there he was relieved of his position as a penalty for throwing a party on campus in which he served alcohol. He continued to work for the Jack-O-Lantern but now signed his works with his middle name so as to hide from the administration. He first signed with the name Dr Seuss just after graduating from Dartmouth. After Dartmouth Geisel entered Lincoln College, Oxford to earn a Ph.D. in literature. While there he met his future wife Helen Palmer. The two were married in 1927 and Geisel returned to the United States with his new wife before achieving his degree. He used Dr in his pen name as an acknowledgement of his father’s unfulfilled dream for him to achieve his doctorate from Oxford. During the Great Depression Seuss supported his family by making up slogans and advertising cartoons for companies such as General Electric, NBC and Standard Oil. He wrote his first children’s stories in 1937 when inspired by the rolling sea on an ocean journey. During World War Two, Seuss supported himself with a career as a political cartoonist. In 1942 he switched from just political cartooning to a more direct support of the war effort by making posters and in 1943 joined the army. He achieved the rank of commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. His films encouraged the war effort and one, Design for Death, a study of Japanese culture even won the 1947 Academy Award for best documentary. After World War Two Seuss and his wife moved to La Jolla, California where he returned to writing children’s novels. It was in these years that he wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957). During this period Life magazine also published a report on the nation’s literacy that greatly disturbed Seuss. In May of 1954, Life wrote how many children were unable to read because they found their books boring. In response Seuss’s publisher drew up a list of 400 words he felt children must know. He asked Seuss to cut the list to 250 and write a book with only those words. Seuss returned to his publisher with The Cat in the Hat (1957) using 220 of the words on his publishers list. It is rumoured that Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham (1960) in response to a bet by Bennet Cerf that Seuss could not write a book using only fifty words. Seuss died on 24 September 1991. Although he wrote many books for children he never had any children of his own.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Gerald Seymour b. 1941 Harry’s Game (1975) Red Fox (1979) and many others including Rat Run (2005) Born in Guildford, Seymour became a news reporter for ITN covering many high profile terrorist cases before publishing Harry’s Game in 1975. The story featured the IRA and subsequent books have featured Arab, German, Italian and Israeli terrorist organisations and secret services and scenarios familiar from newspaper headlines. The thrillers take international settings such as the Middle East, Russia, Central America and Afghanistan and plot fast paced and exciting story lines within them. Although the thriller has to some extent become an American genre dominated by the films and books of Tom Clancy (see entry) and Robert Ludlum (see entry) there are still British writers who are extending the spy genre beyond the Cold War stories of Ian Fleming (see entry), Len Deighton (see entry) and John le Carre (see entry). One such is Stephen Leather who writes ‘big international thrillers’ mainly with a terrorist background and set in the far east. Robert Goddard, however, uses provincial towns and encrypted secrets to motivate his stories. Ken Follet’s four most famous spy stories deal with World War Two, Eye of the Needle becoming a very successful film. Nevertheless, it must be said that the British thriller is shifting to the ‘secret’ army adventures of Andy McNab (see entry) and Chris Ryan (see entry).

Tom Sharpe b. 1928 ‘Wilt’ series: Wilt (1976) The Wilt Alternative (1979) Wilt on High (1984) Also: Riotous Assembly (1971) Indecent Exposure (1973)

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Porterhouse Blue (1974) Blott on the Landscape (1975) Vintage Stuff (1982) and others Tom Sharpe was educated at Lancing College and at Pembroke College, Cambridge, before doing National Service and then emigrating to South Africa as a social worker and teacher. Deported from South Africa he took up lecturing at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. Sharpe’s amusing tales of college teaching were recorded in Wilt (1976), filmed using Middlesex University premises. His books, many of which have been made into television series, sum up a type of farcical awfulness amid slapstick belly laughs.

Sarah Shears b. 1910(?) d. 2001 ‘Courage’ series (1973–7) ‘Louise’ series (1975–7) ‘Annie Parsons’ series (1978–80) ‘The Neighbours’ series (1982–6) ‘The Village’ series (1984–6) The Landlady (1980) Deborah Hammond (1981) The Apprentice (1981) The Old Woman (1987) The Sisters (1988) Born in Kent at the start of the century, Shears was forced to leave school at fourteen and was then apprenticed as a post-office clerk before drifting between numerous other jobs as a nanny, gardener, housekeeper and housemaid. Whilst working, she wrote children’s books and magazine articles but continued to find her main income first from a job in sales and then as a warden of an old people’s home. Her writing took over on her retirement and her tales of country life and ordinary family events make her popular with older women readers who dislike the ‘racier’ women’s romances.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Sidney Sheldon b. 1917 d. 2007 The Other Side of Midnight (1974) Bloodline (1977) Rage of Angels (1980) If Tomorrow Comes (1985) Memories of Midnight (1990) The Stars Shine Down (1992) The Sky is Falling (2001) and many others Sheldon was a writer/producer of such television programmes as ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘Hart to Hart’ before becoming a novelist at the age of 53. His first novel, The Naked Face (1970), immediately won Best First Mystery Novel of the Year but sold few copies, whereas his second attempt, in the glamour-novel style and featuring a strong, resourceful and beautiful heroine, sold 7 million paperbacks – it was called The Other Side of Midnight (1974). By 1991, Sheldon was in competition for the title of most read author in the world with stories that were essentially implausible but exciting melodramas.

Karin Slaughter b. 1971 ‘Grant County’ series including: Blindsighted (2001) Faithless (2005) Skin Privilege (2007) Karin Slaughter was born in Georgia in the year 1971. She is best known for her thriller novels in the ‘Grant County’ series. The series follows the lives of three main characters that reside in the fictional town of Heartsdale, Georgia. The stories of the three characters constantly intertwine as they are forced to solve murder mysteries together. Slaughter is also is known for her short story anthology entitled Like a Charm. The book is a collection of various thriller-style short stories written by various authors. The first and last short stories of the novel are written

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by Slaughter, each story involving a bracelet that brings bad luck. She is credited with the creation of the word ‘investigoogling’ in 2006.

Zadie Smith b. 1975 White Teeth (2000) Zadie Smith is the daughter of a Jamaican mother and English father. Smith’s experience as a dual-cultured Briton has shaped her writing, but she chose to write about a range of multi-ethnicities in White Teeth, going backward and forward from the present to World War Two to shape her story. The book was heavily praised by Salman Rushdie (see entry) and taken up by the literary liberal establishment as something of a literary miracle (a political, rather than an artistic judgement which is a problem with any work that deals with multi-culturalism) and it won every prize on offer. Perhaps the book caught the hopes of the new century. It remains a book more praised than read.

Danielle Steel b. 1947 Going Home (1973) The Promise (1978) The Ring (1980) Loving (1980) To Love Again (1980) A Perfect Stranger (1982) Once in a Lifetime (1982) Secrets (1985) Fine Things (1987) Star (1989) Daddy (1989) Heartbeat (1991) The Long Road Home (1998) Mirror Image (1998)


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Born in New York and educated at New York University and in Europe, Steel began her working life in public relations before turning to fulltime authorship in 1973. She is undoubtedly the most popular writer in the [glamour] genre, and the most prolific. Her stories are about rich and privileged women, whose characters are explored in some depth. However, they invariably tire of life in high society, and long for fulfillment in the creative arts. All suffer some dramatic experience of tragedy which changes their lifestyle and strengthens their character. Danielle Steel uses the same plot over and over again, changing the locations and the characters, but still manages to retain credibility. After Catherine Cookson, Steel is the most borrowed woman writer in the British library system.24 Steel remains one of Britain’s best loved and most borrowed authors. She has recently branched out into DVDs and a range of cosmetics.

R(obert) L(awrence) Stine b. 1943 Co-wrote ‘Fear Street’ series 1989–92 and other series including ‘Goosebumps’ in 1992, titles include: Welcome to Dead House (1992) Stay Out of the Basement (1992) Say Cheese and Die (1992) Welcome to Camp Nightmare (1994) It Came From Beneath the Sink (1995) Born 8 October 1943 Stine discovered his passion at quite an early again. The oldest of three he found a typewriter in his family attic and began to write stories and jokes. In 1965 he graduated from Ohio State University and moved to New York City to pursue a career as a writer. While in New York he created the humour magazine Bananas and wrote many joke books aimed at children under the pen name Jovial Bob Stine. He had previously picked up the name while writing for an Ohio State magazine The Sundial. In 1969 Stine married Jane Waldhorn.

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In 1986 Stine got his start as a horror author with his first novel Blind Date. Stine soon followed with four more and that year also co-created and worked as head author on the Nickelodeon television show Eureeka’s Castle. In 1989 he embarked on a new horror series, ‘Fear Street’ for 8 to 12 year olds. The series would later rise to be the best-selling young adult series in America. In 1992 Parachute Press launched Stine’s ‘Goosebump’ series. The series, much like ‘Fear Street’ was a horror series geared towards young readers. Stine first published Welcome to Dead House in the 1992 and would publish three more novels in the first year eventually writing sixty-two books for the ‘Goosebumps’ series culminating with Monster Blood IV in 1997. The books have been printed in twenty-eight languages and to date have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. In the 1990s Stine was a three time winner of USA Today’s best-selling author. Today Stine is working on a new series: ‘Goosebumps Horrorland’. The series will be released in 2008.

Jessica Stirling (Peggy Coughlan and Hugh C. Rae) Series: ‘The Stalker Family Trilogy’ ‘Holly Beckman Trilogy’ ‘The Patterson Family Trilogy’ ‘Jessica Sterling’ is the name used by Peggy Coghlan (b. 1920) and Hugh C. Rae (b. 1935), two Glasgow writers who produced popular family sagas centred on Scotland and the East End of London.

Meera Syal b. 1963 Anita and Me (1996) Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee (1999) Meera Syal is best know as a comedy actress and she joins Ben Elton (see entry), Stephen Fry and Alan Titchmarsh as yet another celebrity


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who writes novels. Nevertheless Anita and Me was short listed for a number of prizes and was made into a film. Meera Syal won the ‘Media Personality of the Year’ at the Race and Media Awards for the Commission for Racial Equality in 2000. I just learned very early on that those of us deprived of history sometimes need to turn to mythology to feel complete, to belong. (Anita and Me, Prologue)

Craig Thomas b. 1942 Rat Trap (1976) Firefox (1977) Wolfsbane (1978) Snow Falcon (1979) Firefox Down (1983) and many more Born in Cardiff, Thomas graduated from University College in 1967 to become a teacher. Like other writers of technological thrillers, Thomas’s work deals with international plots, exciting settings and adventure. Rat Trap (1976), Thomas’s first novel, is an ‘aircraft hijack’ thriller using a cast of Middle Eastern terrorists. As with Tom Clancy (see entry) or Michael Crichton (see entry), Thomas utilises current politics and technological fears (in this case 1970s terrorism) in order to make his narrative sufficiently plausible and relevant. Firefox (1977) established Thomas as a techno-thriller writer but fans consider his work more subtly nuanced with greater care paid to characterisation and narrative. The story of Firefox dealt with the ‘theft’ of a MIG-31 Firefox during the height of late 1970s Cold War concerns. A film staring Clint Eastwood followed and the narrative is taken up again in Firefox Down (1983). Thomas uses a number of re-occurring characters throughout his novels.

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Sue Townsend b. 1946 The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (1985) The Queen and I (1991) and six other titles including Queen Camilla (2006), Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004) and The Queen and 1 (1992) Born and brought up in Leicester, Townsend worked in a number of jobs including in a factory, as a shop assistant and in a garage before finding success with writing. She won the Thames Television playwright’s award which was followed by the first of a series of books detailing the life and loves of Adrian Mole, a self-knowing but troubled teenager. The Queen and I (1991), a comic novel in which the Royal Family end up in a Leicester Council estate, was also made into a play whilst the Adrian Mole stories formed the basis of a successful television series. Townsend’s use of comic ‘diaries’ forms a link to the success of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996), and her ability to find a simultaneous readership of both younger and older readers presaged the later success of J. K. Rowling (see entry).

Joanna Trollope (Joanna Potter) b. 1943 PSEUDONYM:

Caroline Harvey

Eliza Stanhope (1978) Parson Harding’s Daughter (1979) The Choir (1988) A Village Affair (1989) A Passionate Man (1990) The Rector’s Wife (1991) Legacy of Love (1992) and many others including Friday Nights (2008) Trollope began her working life as a teacher, having graduated from St Hugh’s College, Oxford. A winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Major Award in 1980, her historical and contemporary romances


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

are identified with the ‘Aga saga’ style: intrigue, sexual dalliance and hidden family secrets behind the curtains, all in apparently idyllic rural settings. Nevertheless, Trollope’s books deal with: social institutions and relationships – marriage, sexuality, parenthood, the generation gap, growing old and sibling rivalry . . . and are rooted not only in the their physical environment but also their historical context. Reading Trollope’s novels gives one the strong impression that she has her finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary Britain. . . . One of Trollope’s favourite themes is misconceptions between couples [which] can slip, almost imperceptibly, into disaster. The happy ending . . . leads some critics to think that Trollope’s work is not ‘serious’. Such a generalisation is wrong . . . because . . . does writing have to be hard and grim to classify as literature. (Amanda Thursfield, British Council Website

Alice Walker b. 1944 The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) Meridian (1976) The Color Purple (1982) Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the last of eight children born to sharecropping parents. The poverty created by this new ‘slavery’ deeply affected her outlook on life. Injured by a chance BB gun pellet hitting her eye (a problem later corrected), Walker was nevertheless able to go to Spelman College on a disabled student bursary, whence she transferred to Sarah Lawrence College. Here her writing talent was discovered but pregnancy and facial disfigurement left her lonely and suicidal. A coincidental trip to Africa led to her first collection of poems (Once, 1968). Several more volumes of poetry followed. The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) was her first novel and dealt with the humiliation of the black exploited population of the South – a theme that crystallised around the fate of black women. Meridian (1976) chronicled civil rights protests but it was with The Color Purple (1982), a story of violence, abusive relationships and the hostility of black men towards their wives and daughters, that she found world-wide

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bestsellerdom. Her heroine Celie, a victim of incest and abuse, finds not only new hope by the book’s end but also lesbian love. Promoted as an insight into the black American psyche the book was promoted on chat shows, especially as the choice of the highly influential television presenter Oprah Winfrey, and made into a film by Steven Spielberg. To date over half a million copies have been bought in the United Kingdom alone. A writer, academic and activist, Walker is also the recipient of numerous international awards, mostly for The Color Purple.

Fay Weldon b. 1931 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) Fay Weldon has written in a number of genres including, novels, children’s books, drama, non-fiction, screen plays and journalism. She was brought up in New Zealand but returned to Britain when she was 10 where she read Economics and Psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Having worked in both the Foreign Office and as a journalist she then took up novel writing in 1967. Her work to date includes over twenty books in a number of genres and a regular newspaper column. Perhaps the high point of Weldon’s novel-writing career was with the publication of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil which went on to become a highly successful television serial.

Irvine Welsh b. 1961 Trainspotting (1993) The Acid House (short stories) (1994) Marabou Stork Nightmares (1995) Ecstasy (1996) Filth (1998) Glue (2002) Porno (2002) The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006) Irvine Welsh was part of an incredible revival of Scottish national literature at the end of the twentieth century leading up to devolu-


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

tion. Like the novelist James Kelman and the playwright Liz Lochhead he has no use for the romanticism of the Highlands, preferring instead the hard realist tones of working-class slang and drug-culture aggression. Trainspotting (1993), although originally a series of short stories/ sketches, became one of the greatest cult books of the last decade of the twentieth century with a new poetics brought from the violent language of Edinburgh’s heroin-addicted underclass. He pierces her flesh and injects a wee bit slowly, before sucking blood back intae the chamber. Her lips are quivering as she gazes pleadingly at him for a second or two. Sick Boy’s face looks ugly, leering and reptilian, before he slams the cocktail toward her brain. She pulls back her heid, shuts her eyes and opens her mooth, givin oot an orgasmic groan. Sick Boy’s eyes are now innocent and full ay wonder, his expression like a bairn thit’s come through oan Christmas morning tae a pile ay gift-wrapped presents stacked under the tree. They baith look strangely beautiful and pure in the flickering candlelight. – That beats any meat injection . . . that beats any fuckin cock in the world . . . Ali gasps, completely serious. It unnerves us tae the extent that ah feel ma ain genitals through ma troosers tae see if they’re still their. Touchin masel like that makes us feel queasy though. (Trainspotting: ‘the Skag Boys’)

Mary Wesley b. 1912 PSEUDONYM:

Mary Aline Farmer

The Camomile Lawn (1984) Harnessing Peacocks (1985) The Vacillations of Polly Carew (1986) Not That Sort of Girl (1988) Second Fiddle (1988) A Sensible Life (1990) A Dubious Legacy (1992) An Imaginative Experience (1994) Part of the Furniture (1997)

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Wesley was born in Surrey, England, the daughter of Violet and Colonel Harold Mynors. After an education with numerous governesses, she was able to secure a place at Queen’s College, London (1928 to 1930) and then at the London School of Economics (1931 to 1932), going on later to have a career in the Civil Service. After her divorce from Charles Eady (Lord Swinfen) she married another writer, Eric Siepmann, in 1952, although he died in 1971. Her books included works for children such as The Sixth Seal (1969) before she turned to adult fiction, combining in novels of manners quirky plots and darkly humorous incidents amongst the middle classes.

Phyllis A. Whitney b. 1903 d. 2008 Red is for Murder (1943) and many others Born in Yokohama of American parents, Whitney was fifteen years old when she moved to the United States. After graduating, she began writing stories for pulp magazines and worked as a children’s librarian in Chicago. She combined a dual career as a highly popular mystery writer for young people as well as a short-story writer and novelist for adults. Gothic settings are favoured by Whitney, who combines such elements with the thriller to produce atmospheric women’s romances. The combination proved irresistible and put her in the top 100 writers regularly borrowed from British libraries during the 1980s – a matter of significance because her work was first published in America and she had to wait some years to find popularity in Great Britain. Her first book, The Red Carnelian [Red is for Murder] (published first in 1943) had to wait until 1976 to be published in the United Kingdom once her popularity had been established. From the late 1960s onwards her work was published on both sides of the Atlantic and made her the ‘reigning queen of gothic’ (New York Times), President of the Mystery Writers of America, and helped sell 50 million copies of her books.


Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900

Jeanette Winterson b. 1959 Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985) Sexing the Cherry (1989) Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester but was adopted and brought up in Accrington in Lancashire where she was subject to a strict Pentacostal Evangelical upbringing. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was exploratory of female sexual politics and religious sensibility and became a highly successful television serial. In recent years her novel writing has been combined with journalism and editing.

Appendix 1 Number of individuals out of every 1000 who could not sign their name on a marriage register: 1896–1907

1896–1900 1901–1905 1905–1907




32 20 27

37 24 27

69 44 54


Appendix 2 Extract from Beatrice Harraden, ‘What Our Soldiers Read’, Cornhill Magazine, vol. XLI (Nov. 1916) Turning aside from technical subjects to literature in general, I would like to say that although we have not ever attempted to force good books on our soldiers, we have of course taken great care to place them within their reach. And it is not an illusion to say that when the men once begin on a better class of book, they do not as a rule return to the old stuff which formerly constituted their whole range of reading. My own impression is that they read rubbish because they have had no one to tell them what to read. Stevenson, for instance, has lifted many a young soldier in our hospital on to a higher plane of reading whence he has looked down with something like scorn – which is really very funny – on his former favourites. For that group of readers, ‘Treasure Island’ has been a discovery in more senses than one, and to the librarians a boon unspeakable. We have had, however, a large number of men who in any case care for good literature, and indeed would read nothing else. Needless to say, we have had special pleasure in trying to find them some book which they would be sure to like and which was already in our collection, or else in buying it, and thus adding to our stock. The publishers, too, have been most generous in sending us any current book which has aroused public interest and on which we have set our hearts. For we have tried to acquire not only standard works, but books of the moment bearing on the war, and other subjects too. The following are items from two or three of our order books. The order books have been chosen at random, but the items are consecutive; and the list will give some idea of the nature of our pilgrimages from one bedside to another bedside, and from one ward to another. One of Nat Gould’s novels; Regiments at the Front; Burns’s Poems; A book on bird life; ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’; Strand Magazine; Wide World Magazine; The Spectator; A scientific book; Review of Reviews; ‘By the Wish of a Woman’ (Marchmont); one of Rider Haggard’s; Marie Correlli [sic]; Nat Gould; Rider Haggard; Nat Gould; Nat Gould; Nat Gould; Good detective story; Something to make you laugh; Strand Magazine; Adventure story; ‘Tale of Two Cities’; ‘Gil Blas’; Browning’s Poems; Tolstoy’s ‘Resurrection’; Sexton Blake; ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’; Nat Gould; Wide World Magazine; Pearson’s Magazine; ‘Arabian Nights’; Jack London Shakespeare; Nat Gould; ‘The Encyclopedia’; Rex Beach; Wm. Le Queux; Strand Magazine; Nat Gould; Something in the murder line; Country Life; The Story Teller Magazine; one of Oppenheim’s novels; ‘The Crown of Wild Olive’; ‘Kidnapped’; Nat Gould; Shakespeare; Nat Gould; Silas Hocking; Oppenheim; Le Queux; Nat Gould; Nat Gould; Jack London; ‘Handy Andy’; ‘Kidnapped’; ‘Treasure Island’; Book about rose growing; ‘Montezuma’s Daughter’ (Rider Haggard); ‘Prisoner of Zenda’; Macaulay’s Essays; ‘The Magnetic North’ (Elizabeth Robins); Nat Gould; 356

Appendix 2


Sexton Blake; Modern High Explosives; ‘Dawn’ (Rider Haggard); ‘Wild Animals’; Book on horse-breaking; ‘Radiography’; ‘Freckles’ (by Gene Stratton-Porter); ‘The Blue Lagoon’; ‘Caged Birds’; ‘The Corsican Brothers’; ‘Sherlock Holmes’; French Dictionary; Kipling; ‘Mysticism’; Nat Gould; ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’; ‘Mystery of Cloomber’ (Conan Doyle); and so on. These are, of course, only a few items. I should say that on the whole, and leaving out entirely books on technical and special subjects, the authors most frequently asked for are: Nat Gould, Charles Garvice, Wm. Le Queux, Rider Haggard, Guy Boothby, Oppenheim, Rex Beach, Conan Doyle, Marie Corelli, Joseph and Silas Hocking, Jack London, Dickens, Mrs. Henry Wood, Kipling (whose ‘Barrack Room Ballads’ they learnt by heart), Dumas, Ian Hay, Baroness Orczy, and Hornung’s Raffles. And very favourite books are those dealing with wild animals and their habits, with ferrets, rats, and birds, and all stories of adventure and travel, and of course detective stories.

Appendix 3 Booksellers from whose returns the Bookseller compiled its bestseller list during the 1930s and 1940s under the title ‘What the Other Fellow is Selling’ London, W1: J. & E. Bumpus, Ltd London, EC4: A. & F. Denny, Ltd London, WC2: W. & G. Foyle, Ltd London, EC4: Jones and Evans Bookshop, Ltd London, SW7: Lamley & Co. London, SWI: Hugh Rees, Ltd London, W1: Selfridge’s Book Dept London, WC2: W. H. Smith & Son, Ltd. London, W1: Times Book Club London, W1: F. J. Ward London, W2: Wm Whitely, Ltd London, EC3: Alfred Wilson, Ltd Belfast, W. Erskine Mayne Bristol: Wm George’s Sons, Ltd Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes Cambridge: Deighton Bell & Co., Ltd Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd Cheltenham Spa: Banks of Cheltenham, Ltd Chester: Philipson & Golder Dublin: Eason & Son, Ltd Durham: House of Andrews Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot Exeter: A. Wheaton & Co., Ltd

Glasgow: John Smith & Son (Glasgow), Ltd Glasgow: W. & R. Holmes Glasgow: Jackson, Son & Co. Guildford: Biddles, Ltd Hanley: Webberley, Ltd Hove: Combridges Hull: A. Brown & Sons Ipswich: W. E. Harrison & Sons Liverpool: Philip, Son & Nephew Liverpool: Henry Young & Sons, Ltd Manchester: W. H. Willshaw Newcastle-on-Tyne: Mawson, Swan & M., Ltd. Norwich: Jarrold & Sons, Ltd Nottingham: Henry B. Saxton Oldham: J. A. Bardsley, Ltd Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd Oxford: Slatter & Rose, Ltd Ramsgate: Blinko & Sons, Ltd Rugby: George Over, Ltd St Andrews: W. C. Henderson & Son, Ltd Seaford: Ronald Gibson Sheffield: A. B. Ward Swansea: Morgan & Higgs, Ltd


Appendix 4 From the Mass Observation Archive (ref. FR 2537): ‘Reading in Tottenham, November 1947’ Lists of fiction subjects were shown to all those questioned (as with non-fiction subjects) and their comments were invited. Some of these are: On love stories: ‘I like old fashioned novels. Love and happy endings I suppose – by big writers.’ ‘I remember queuing up after the last war to get two books, one called ‘This Freedom’; and ‘If Winter Comes’. There’s been nothing like them since, only ‘Gone with the Wind’. I liked that, but there’s no big books by big writers, is there?’ (Housewife, aged over 41, elementary education) ‘I don’t like modern books at all, especially love stories – they’re too trashy and they’re unpleasant and they’ve got no story in them – they’re not a patch on the old ones that kept you interested – something happening all the way through.’ (Housekeeper, aged over 41, single) On horror stories: ‘I love them horror stories. Sort of make yer creep they do, and those detective stories. Real clever some of them are. The men as write them must have brains, some of ’em. ’Cos, some of them aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. It gets yer out of yerself as you might say when you read a good one and it makes yer think.’ (Woman, sugar boiler, aged over 41, elementary education.) On adventure: ‘I buy those westerns and thrillers they sell in the shops, you know, about a bob apiece.’ (Youth, 16–20 yrs, engineering worker, elementary education) On fiction in general: ‘Like books on philosophical problems – horror stories bore me to tears. I like reading books about men who have created changes – when you read books like that you pick up such a lot of facts.’ (Man, aged over 41, local govt official, secondary ed.) ‘I read mystery stories for amusement. . . . I’ve read several American stories about white men and niggers [sic].’ (Man, aged 21–40, photographic blockmaker, secondary education) ‘I don’t like my love stories too sloppy, though like some books are, and I like to be able to guess who committed the murder and sometimes I look at the 359


Appendix 4

end. I know I shouldn’t but I often do.’ (Woman, aged 21–40, elementary education) ‘I like a good mystery story and I like adventure stories very much. I’ve had some very good books from the library round here. I’ve belonged to it so long that I’ve read nearly all the books. I like a good book like ‘Gone with the Wind’ and other picture novels but they’re hard to find really. They say, like everything else, a good book’s hard to find.’ (Man, corporation worker, aged 21–40, secondary ed.) Favourite fiction subject When asked to give their favourite fiction subject (as opposed to saying which were of interest) the largest proportion plumped for ‘Detective and mystery’ – three people in every ten. It will be remembered that ‘Travel and adventure’, the most popular non-fiction subject, was the favourite of less than one in ten, and was of interest only to three in ten. The second most popular fiction subject is ‘Love’: this is just half as popular as ‘Detection and mystery’, but then it appeals only to the female half of the population. Historical stories are the next most popular, and then short stories. It is interesting to compare subjects of interest with subjects preferred: subjects were mentioned in the following order, the percentage mentioning them is given in brackets after: Of Interest


Detection (60%) Short stories (35%) Love (34%) Adventure (31%) Funny (30%) Historical (27%) Horror (21%) Others mentioned by less than one in five

Detection (30%) Love (15%) Historical (10%) Short stories (9%) Adventure (7%) Funny (6%) Others mentioned by less than one in twenty

Although the percentages of people in any social group preferring any subject is necessarily small, some interesting facts emerge. For instance, those people who are married without young children are very much more interested in love stories than the single people – but love stories are more frequently mentioned as their favourite subject by the single group; that is, though fewer single people like love stories, those who do are more vehement in their affection. Those with young children seldom say they like love stories best and are very much more interested in detection. Favourite subjects show many of the same variations as subjects of interest – interest in detection, love and adventure decreases with class and education: interest in history and humour increases. Why humorous books should be so much the prerogative of the middle-class is hard to explain. The feminine interest in love stories is even more marked when it comes to making the choice of one favourite – they are the favourite of more than a quarter of the women, and of only one man in a hundred. They are more popular with

Appendix 4


women at home than those in jobs, but since women in jobs care little for detective stories, love stories are still their favourite form of fiction. Women in jobs show an extremely high degree of interest in historical stories – possible they think of the romantic historical novel of the ‘Gone with the Wind’ or ‘Forever Amber’ type. Enthusiasm for detective stories, love and adventure declines slightly with distance from the library – perhaps this is fortuitous, perhaps it is a revolt against the books in the 2d. library on which an increasing proportion depend. There is considerable discrepancy between the favourite subjects of those who read mainly non-fiction and the rest. Among non-fiction readers, detective stories are still the most popular, but by a very short head, and they are chosen by less than two in ten. Short stories are next in importance, then historical subjects, then funny or satirical books; no other subject is mentioned more than once in ten replies. Love stories come very low on the list – they are mentioned only by one person in a hundred. The biggest difference between the two groups is the drop in the interest in detective and love stories among the non-fiction readers, which is compensated for by a slight increase in interest in almost all other subjects. Library members show little peculiarity in their fiction tastes – they are a little less interested in detection, love and short stories and rather more interested in adventure stories and historical subjects, but the differences are small. The greatest interest in adventure stories is a little unexpected, but the numbers of detective and love stories in 2d. libraries probably explains why these are read more often by those outside the Public Library. Those least interested in detective stories are the book-buyers, but they are mainly middle-class people. . . . Love stories are also popular with those who favour indoor activities and hobbies – perhaps these are the quiet and unadventurous people, looking for restful light reading. Historical novels are popular with cinema-goers – the influence of the costume drama – and short stories with those who like gardening and sport, and those who have no spare time. Fiction authors The names quoted were very scattered, and no one author was mentioned by as many as one person in ten. The name most frequently given was that of Edgar Wallace, mentioned by not quite one in ten: this, of course, is due to the popularity of detective and mystery stories. Since Wallace has been dead for some years it is interesting that he is still the favourite in spite of a flood of similar stories since his death. The next most popular detective story writer is Agatha Christie, who comes sixth on the list of authors, and who is mentioned by about 3%. She represents the more modern type of writer, but she is only slightly more popular than the old-fashioned – Conan Doyle – ninth on the list and mentioned by 2%. Leslie Charteris, author of the ‘Saint’ books is equally popular. The author second most frequently mentioned is Charles Dickens, but third and fourth come the representatives of the good old-fashioned love story – Ethel M. Dell and Ruby N. Ayres [sic]. Naomi Jacob, whose stories are more of a family type, comes next, although this kind of book is considerably less popular. Between Christie and Conan Doyle come Zane Grey and P. G. Wodehouse, then Charteris and W. W. Jacobs. After this came the more ‘highbrow’ names, in


Appendix 4

this order – Shaw, Priestley, Wells, A. J. Cronin, Dumas, Edgar Allen Poe [sic], Scott, Hugh Walpole, G. K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, Dorothy Sayers and Shakespeare. Three less ‘highbrow’ names are mentioned equally frequently – Sax Rohmer, Rafael Sabatini and Warwick Deeping. All other authors were mentioned by less than 1%. The numbers are too small to make class, age or other breakdowns reliable.

Appendix 5 From Mills and Boon, ‘A FINE ROMANCE . . . is hard to find!’ Every Mills & Boon reader and every aspiring Mills & Boon writer has a very clear picture of what makes our books so successful. . . . We believe that the so-called formula is only the beginning, that originality, imagination and individuality are the most important qualities in a romance writer. . . . Each of our authors must possess an individual touch, her own particular way of telling a story, and this quality is vital. . . . The story doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated – in fact, a simple tale introducing only a few characters besides the hero and heroine is often very successful. Make sure, however, that the characters are convincing. . . . A would-be writer should be aware all the time of everyday patterns of speech, and should try to make the characters as true to life as possible. . . . All Mills & Boon authors spend a good deal of time checking the material used in their books, because they realise how quickly the recognition of a fault or inaccuracy can spoil the reader’s enjoyment of a scene. . . . When attempting a Mills & Boon novel, concentrate on writing a good book rather than a saleable proposition. A good book sells itself and is good indefinitely, while a ‘saleable proposition’ tends to be based on what is saleable at the time of writing – even if a publisher snaps it up, the world will have moved on by at least nine months by the time it finally appears. Think of what you, as a reader, would like to read. . . .


Appendix 6 British Library loans, 1987–8, showing the top 100 authors as recorded by the Bookseller (13 July 1990) Top 10 adult fiction authors (by alphabetical order) Agatha Christie Ed McBain Catherine Cookson Alistair MacLean Dick Francis Ruth Rendell Jack Higgins Wilbur Smith Victoria Holt Danielle Steel Top 100 adult fiction authors (by alphabetical order) Ted Allbeury Charlotte Vale Allen Margery Allingham Lucilla Andrews Virginia Andrews Evelyn Anthony Jeffrey Archer Desmond Bagley Barbara Taylor Bradford Iris Bromige Elizabeth Cadell Victor Canning Philippa Carr John le Carré Barbara Cartland James Hadley Chase Agatha Christie Jon Cleary Virginia Coffman Jackie Collins Catherine Cookson Jilly Cooper Sara Craven Janet Dailey Len Deighton R. F. Delderfield Dorothy Eden

J. T. Edson Elizabeth Ferrars Colin Forbes Helen Forrester Frederick Forsyth Dick Francis Alexander Fullerton John Gardner Catherine Gaskin Michael Gilbert Winston Graham Graham Greene John Harris James Herbert Georgette Heyer Jack Higgins Patricia Highsmith Jane Aitken Hodge Victoria Holt Hammond Innes Michael Innes Brenda Jagger P. D. James Penny Jordan Marie Joseph M. M. Kaye Lena Kennedy 364

Alexander Kent Stephen King Louis L’Amour Charlotte Lamb Norah Lofts Robert Ludlum Helen MacInnes Alistair MacLean Ngaio Marsh Graham Masterson Anne Mather Daphne du Maurier Ed McBain Philip McCutchan Carole Mortimer Maisie Mosco Betty Neels Christopher Nicole Pamela Oldfield Ellis Peters Jean Plaidy Dudley Pope Anthony Price Claire Rayner Miss Read Douglas Reeman Ruth Rendell

Appendix 6 Harold Robbins Denise Robins Tom Sharpe Sarah Shears Sidney Sheldon Nevil Shute Helen Van Slyke

Wilbur Smith Danielle Steel Jessica Steel Mary Stewart Jessica Sterling Leslie Thomas E. V. Thompson


John Wainwright Phyllis A. Whitney Kate Williams Sara Woods Margaret Yorke

Appendix 7 Comparative library loans between 1988 and 1998 by genre Registered Loans by Category (%) 1988–89


Adult Fiction General Fiction Historical Mystery and Detection Horror Science Fiction War Humour Light Romance Westerns Short Stories

17.8 3.5 12.8 0.7 0.8 1.8 0.7 14.1 1.2 0.5

22.1 2.9 12.8 0.4 0.8 1.3 0.2 10.6 0.7 0.2




Source: Public Lending Right, 1999.


Appendix 8 Waterstone’s and Channel 4’s survey to discover the greatest books of the twentieth century (1996): the following are the top works of fiction 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35.

Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien) Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell) Animal Farm (George Orwell) Ulysses (James Joyce) Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger) To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez) The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) Trainspotting (Irving Welsh) The Wild Swans (Jung Chang) The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) Lord of the Flies (William Golding) On the Road (Jack Kerouac) Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) The Color Purple (Alice Walker) The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien) The Outsider (Albert Camus) The Trial (Franz Kafka) Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie) A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess) Sons and Lovers (D. H. Lawrence) To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf) If This is a Man (Primo Levi) Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov) The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks) Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust) Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck) Beloved (Toni Morrison) Possession (A. S. Byatt) Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) A Passage to India (E. M. Forster) 367

368 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84.

Appendix 8 Watership Down (Richard Adams) Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder) The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez) Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro) The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera) Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) Howard’s End (E. M. Forster) Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh) A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth) Dune (Frank Herbert) A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) Perfume (Patrick Suskind) Doctor Zhivago (Boris Pasternak) Gormenghast Trilogy (Mervyn Peake) Cider with Rosie (Laurie Lee) The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) The Magus (John Fowles) Brighton Rock (Graham Greene) The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (Robert Tressell) The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov) Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin) The French Lieutenant’s Woman (John Fowles) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Louis de Bernières) Slaughterhouse 5 (Kurt Vonnegut) A Room with a View (E. M. Forster) Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis) It (Stephen King) The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene) The Stand (Stephen King) All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque) Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Roddy Doyle) American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis) Lady Chatterley’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence) The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe) The Rainbow (D. H. Lawrence) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke) The Tin Drum (Günter Grass) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Alexander Solzhenitsyn) Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) The Alexandria Quartet (Lawrence Durrell) Cry the Beloved Country (Alan Paton) High Fidelity (Nick Hornby) The Van (Roddy Doyle) Earthly Powers (Anthony Burgess) I, Claudius (Robert Graves) The Horse Whisperer (Nicholas Evans)

Appendix 9 Which companies owned what imprints at the end of the twentieth century Company


Reed Elsevier

Butterworth Heinemann Charles Knight Publishing Ginn Mitchell Beazley Tolley Elsevier Science


Penguin Viking Frederick Warne Simon & Schuster Meridian Michael Joseph Longman Addison Wesley Longman

News Corporation

HarperCollins Collins Flamingo


Thomson Nelson


Secker & Warburg Vintage Transworld Corgi Anchor Bantam Black Swan Random House Bodley Head Chatto & Windus Jonathan Cape Doubleday Mandarin (Continued)



Appendix 9


Imprint Methuen Hutchinson


Macmillan Macmillan Heinemann ELT Sidgwick & Jackson Picador Pan


Weidenfeld & Nicolson Orion Phoenix Cassell

Hodder Headline

Hodder & Stoughton New English Library Headline

Source: Key Note, 1999.

Appendix 10 From the Bookseller (Web page: 20 Dec. 1999) It was only a matter of time before Internet booksellers began giving books away free. Last week’s offer of free books from was only the latest wheeze in an Internet price war that is as gripping as it is alarming. In the space of just two hours gave away 20,000 books at a cost of more than £100,000. In return, it got 40,000 book buyers to register their e-mail addresses, and lengthy articles in at least two national newspapers. In terms of marketing spend it was a cheap deal. The genesis of this latest battle for market share on the Internet can be dated back to May this year, when US Internet bookseller pushed the discounts it offered on New York Times bestsellers up from 40% to 50%. The move was immediately followed by and as a tidal wave of escalating discounts swept across the US. According to Rick Latham, managing director of W. H. Smith, WHS Online (which includes the Internet Bookshop),’s move was not ‘mouldbreaking’, the Internet Bookshop had discounted Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum (Doubleday) at 50% last Christmas and started discounting bestsellers at 50% in March. But if did not break the mould, it certainly swept away the pieces, and it did not take long for UK Internet booksellers to follow the lead set by their cousins across the pond. WHS Online (which relaunched officially in April) and its subsidiary the Internet Bookshop were the first to move, boosting the discount on bestselling hardbacks from 40% to 50% at the beginning of June, two weeks after’s increase. Barely a week later both and announced similar strategies as the pricing war hit UK based Internet sites. One week on and trumped everyone when it announced a summer promotion with paperback bestsellers such as Lisa Jewell’s Ralph’s Party (Penguin) and Ian McEwan’s Booker winning Amsterdam (Vintage) priced at £2, or, in some cases, a discount of 70%. WHS Online retaliated in mid-July with an offer of an extra 10% discount on all of its 1.4 million titles until 11th August. This pushed the discount on its bestselling hardbacks and summer reading titles to 60%. Publisher reaction to this has, so far, been minimal. As managing director of Simon Murdoch points out, it is the Internet booksellers that are taking the hit, with publishers enjoying increased sales and, in some cases, increased publicity as a result of the booksellers’ sacrifice. But the furore which erupted around Thomas Harris’s novel Hannibal (W. M. Heinemann), which was heavily discounted both online and offline, has raised fears about the sense and long-term viability of such pricing strategies, even if they are limited to a small selection of bestselling or specially promoted titles. 371


Appendix 10

Internet booksellers argue that these short-term promotions on a minority of titles are about buying market share and encouraging book buyers to use the Internet. But as the size of the market grows so will its influence on the traditional book trade, with discounting likely to become a serious issue faced by all booksellers. The Internet book market was thought to be worth about £30 million in 1998 (roughly the size of two Foyles bookshops or one small chain), but with increasing numbers using the Web, and growing confidence in virtual shopping, predictions that over the next five years the Internet will account for between 15% and 20% of the book market do not seem that far fetched. The fact is that nobody knows how fast it is going to grow, but estimates that suggest Internet book sales could be worth as much as £600m by 2003 are probably not far off the mark. If this proves true, then, as Sridhar Gowda, owner of the small independent bookshop Country Bookstore, which operates its own Website (, argues, traditional booksellers will need to be active on the Net. If they are not, they will risk seeing their market share eroded, as has already happened in the face of competition from supermarkets and book superstores. There are suggestions that this is already happening. According to Whitaker BookTrack, the general retail market (which includes high street booksellers, independents and supermarkets) has fallen marginally in the first half of this year when compared to last year, with sales in the first six months of 1991 of £331.7m against £333.5m last year. It is difficult to imagine that the Internet is not a factor in this. But if traditional booksellers do decide to compete in this arena, what strategy can they employ? The challenge they must face is at what level they will need to discount to compete with Internet booksellers. How will this affect pricing in their offline store? How should the traditional retailers react when bestsellers are used as loss-leaders by retailers who are more interested in market share than profit, and who have deeper pockets than most bricks and mortar booksellers? Publishers face a completely different set of questions. As Internet bookselling grows, so too will its influence on publishers’ trade terms. There has already been some resistance to’s efforts to move to direct supply, but in the long term it is inevitable. With WHS Online backed by W. H. Smith, the UK’s largest bookseller, and part of Bertelsmann, one of the largest media groups in the world, it will be difficult for publishers to hold firm on terms. It is inevitable that Internet booksellers will not want to continue funding their discounts alone. Special promotions on the high street already receive special terms from publishers and this model could easily transfer to the Internet. It could be said that a sustainable business model for selling books on the Internet has not yet been discovered and, ultimately, discounts will be clawed back, although no one spoken to in relation to this article seemed to imagine that this was a possibility in the short term. If the business model for Internet bookselling retains its current form then it may only be a matter of time before the whole industry starts taking the hit for the unprofitable discounts that the consumer has now been educated to expect. If this is the case, it is almost exactly what the industry feared would happen after the demise of the Net Book Agreement. More books may be being sold but at cheaper prices meaning, inevitably, less investment in the future for new authors and ultimately less range.

Appendix 10 373 On the other hand, the Internet and Internet booksellers have helped to create a ‘buzz’ about books that is unparalleled in recent publishing history. A bookseller,, is the leading e-commerce company in the world. Rather than being pushed into the background by new technologies, the written word has emerged as central to the e-revolution. The industry, authors, booksellers, publishers, ignore this at their peril.

Appendix 11 Comparative paperback bestseller lists showing relative change over the last decade of the twentieth century 1992 1. Jilly Cooper (Br) 2. Jeffrey Archer (Br) 3. Wilbur Smith (SA) 4. Frederick Forsyth (Br) 5. Barbara Taylor Bradford (Br) 6. Catherine Cookson (Br) 7. Catherine Cookson (Br) 8. Dick Francis (Br) 9. Stephen King (US) 10. Tom Clancy (US) 11. Danielle Steel (US) 12. Sidney Sheldon (US) 13. Danielle Steel (US) 14. Judith Krantz (US) 15. Len Deighton (Br) 16. John Grisham (US) 17. Jean Auel (US) 18. Stephen Fry (Br) 19. Ken Follett (Br) 20. Ben Elton (Br) 21. Jack Higgins (Br) 22. Joanna Trollope (Br) 23. Rosamunde Pilcher (Br)

1999 1. Maeve Binchy (IR) 2. John Grisham (US) 3. Patricia Cornwell (US) 4. Nick Hornby (Br) 5. Tom Clancy (US) 6. Danielle Steel (US) 7. Danielle Steel (US) 8. Jeffrey Archer (Br) 9. Catherine Cookson (Br) 10. Robert Harris (Br) 11. Stephen King (US) 12. Nicholas Evans (Br) 13. Danielle Steel (US) 14. Sidney Sheldon (US) 15. Sebastian Faulks (Br) 16. James Patterson (US) 17. Dick Francis (Br) 18. Terry Pratchett (Br) 19. Catherine Cookson (Br) 20. Patricia Cornwell (US)

Source: Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, 2001. Joanna Trollope, Josephine Cox, Ruth Rendell and P. D. James all narrowly missed top-twenty status. Removing authors who entered the list for one book or for special reasons (after the award of a literary prize) leaves a remarkably conservative result. Readers’ tastes and publishers’ instincts remain static for long periods.


Appendix 12 World Book Day 2000 Poll to find Britain’s favourite writers World Book Day 2000 was part of a continuing UNESCO project to foster reading awareness amongst children. It was sponsored in the United Kingdom by HarperCollins and carried out by public relations company Coleman Getty on behalf of Book Marketing Ltd. Over 4,000 bookshops and libraries were polled to find Britain’s favourite writers. It is not surprising that Roald Dahl and J. K. Rowling (both children’s writers) headed the list, nor that they were followed by Terry Pratchett (who appeals to both younger and older readers). Discounting these writers (as well as Jane Austen who polled seventh, Dickens who polled thirteenth and Shakespeare who came in at number 50 on the original list), the following authors represented the most famous fiction writers for adults at the Millennium. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

Catherine Cookson Maeve Binchy Dick Francis Stephen King Danielle Steel J. R. R. Tolkien Wilbur Smith Patricia Cornwell John Grisham Josephine Cox Rosamunde Pilcher Bernard Cornwell Agatha Christie Joanna Trollope Patrick O’Brian Georgette Heyer Ruth Rendell

18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

Iain Banks Jack Higgins Mary Higgins Clark Anne McCaffrey Ellis Peters Ian Rankin Sebastian Faulks Tom Clancy Barbara Erskine Margaret Forster Dean Koontz George Orwell Graham Greene James Patterson Colin Forbes P. G. Wodehouse Colin Dexter


Notes Notes to Introduction to the Second Edition 1. See for instance Tania Modleski, Loving With a Vengeance: Mass-produced Fantasies for Women (Routledge, 1982). This book was one of the first to take Harlequin romances, gothic novels and soap opera seriously and to try to avoid either applying high cultural criticism or the value judgements made by male critics of popular culture. As a first stage in reconstructing women’s popular reading habits Modleski’s approach broke new ground. Her book was followed by a steady stream of others including Romance Revisited edited by Lynne Pearce and Jackie Stacey (Lawrence and Wishart, 1995) which brought the story of women’s fiction into the age of AIDS as well as looking at inter-racial romance. For one of the best and most carefully considered contemporary approaches to the subject, especially the introductory overview since the 1980s see Merja Makinen, Feminist Popular Fiction (Palgrave, 2001). 2. Richard Todd, Consuming Fictions: The Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today (London: Bloomsbury, 1996). 3. Ibid., p. 8. 4. Ibid., p. 20. 5. Ibid., p. 117. 6. Ibid. 7. S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), p. 233. 8. Ibid., p. 238. 9. Leslie Shepard, The History of Street Literature (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1973), p. 31. 10. Ibid., pp. 31–2. 11. See especially the ‘guilt’ theory of working-class literary production and it’s gender implications put forward by Pamela Fox in Class Fictions (Durham and London: Duke University, 1994) ‘where resistance’ is paramount rather than individuals ‘overcoming’ of adversity. 12. John J. Richetti, Popular Fiction Before Richardson: Narrative Patterns 1700–1739 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 2. 13. John Carey, The Intellectuals and Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880–1939 (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 6. 14. Ibid., p. 12. 15. D. J. Taylor, After the War: The Novel and England since 1945 (London: Flamingo, 1993); Peter Ackroyd, Albion (London: Vintage, 2004). 16. Taylor, After the War, p. xxiv. 17. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing, p. 233. 18. Kate Flint, The Woman Reader 1937–1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 12. 19. Ibid., pp. 11–12. 376

Notes 377 20. There has been a positive explosion of interest in detective writing amongst academics since the 1980s, most notably the Crime Files series from Palgrave, but also books such as Stephen Knight, Crime Fiction 1800–2000 (Palgrave, 2004) and the resurrection of journals such as Clues. Much emphasis has been placed on the serious intellectual study of the novels of Agatha Christie which conveniently combine the best features of the middle-brow romance (with its emphasis on economic home-making) and the puzzle mystery. In the early years of the twenty-first century the detective genre shows no signs of losing its power especially with its grip on much television viewing. 21. Evening Standard, 20 Aug. 2007. 22. Metro, 21 Apr. 2005. 23. The Times, 27 Feb. 2007. 24. Amy Cruse, The Victorians and their Books (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1935), p. 29. 25. Evening Standard, 12 Nov. 2007. 26. Philip Waller, Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 335. 27. Sir Stanley Unwin, The Truth About Publishing (London: George Allen Unwin Limited, 1926), p. 263. 28. Ibid., p. 6. 29. Evening Standard Supplement, 2 Dec. 2005. 30. Guardian, 14 Mar. 2007. 31. Evening Standard, 29 Nov. 2004. 32. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing, p. 243. 33. Guardian, 29 July 1999. 34. Independent, 1 Aug. 2007.

Notes to Chapter 1: Origins, Problems and Philosophy of the Bestseller 1. Bram Stoker, quoted in Richard Dolby, ‘Hall Caine’, The Bram Stoker Society Journal, no. 11 (1999), p. 24. 2. Thomas F. G. Coates and R. S. Warren-Bell, Marie Corelli: The Writer and the Women (London: Hutchinson, 1903), p. 264. 3. Robert Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch, tr. William Weaver and Stephen Sartarelli (London: Vintage, 1994), p. 16. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid., p. 40. 9. George MacDonald Fraser, quoted in Million, no. 2 (Mar.–Apr. 1991), pp. 6–7.

Notes to Chapter 2: How the British Read 1. Augustus D. Webb, The New Dictionary of Statistics (London: Routledge and Sons, 1911).



2. Charles Jeffries, Illiteracy: A World Problem (London: Pall Mall, 1967), p. 6. 3. Cyril Burt, ‘The Education of Illiterate Adults’, in British Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 15 (1945), p. 21. 4. See David Barton and Mary E. Hamilton, Researching Literacy in Industrialised Countries: Trends and Prospects (Lancaster: Lancaster University/UNESCO, 1990). 5. See Anon., A Right to Read: Action for a Literate Britain (London: British Association for Settlements, 1974). 6. Greg Brooks, ‘What national surveys tell us about performance in reading’, on the National Library Trust Database website (Oct. 1999). 7. Information from ‘Reading Habits in the UK’, on the National Literacy Trust Database website (Oct. 1999); Anon., Adult Literacy in Britain (London: The Stationery Office, 1997); and Anon., Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society: Further Results from the International Adult Library Survey (Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1997), quoted in Jennifer Wellman, unpublished research paper (South Bend: University of Notre Dame, 1999). 8. Ibid., p. 21. 9. Information from ‘Most Borrowed Authors and Books’, on the Public Lending Right Database website (Oct. 1999). 10. See Anon., Attitudes towards Reading: A Report (London: National Literacy Trust, 1998), p. 19. These figures are obviously contradicted by the suggestion in the Moser Report (1999) that at least 23 per cent of Britons may be illiterate, a suggestion repeated in the Daily Telegraph two years later (10 Feb. 2001). The Evening Standard (25 Mar. 1999) claimed that ‘7 million adults can’t read’. The ability to read at all is different from a low level of reading capability, at which level many such people operate (there is, of course, no absolute measure of competence). The extreme variations of measurement suggest difficulties inherent in testing and monitoring and in experimental expectations. 11. John Conston, quoted in Joseph McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914–1950 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 87. 12. Clive Bloom (ed.), Literature and Culture in Modern Britain, 1900 to 1929 (Harlow: Longman, 1996), p. 123. 13. McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing, p. 64. 14. Edith Thompson and her lover Frederick Bywaters were convicted during 1922 for the murder of her husband. Despite pleas for clemency Edith was hanged. The case became one of the most celebrated and notorious in British criminal history, not least because of the erotic and romantic nature of Edith’s diaries, her ‘novelistic’ imagination and the combination of these with her lower middle-class origins. 15. Bloom, Literature and Culture, 1900 to 1929, p. 134. 16. Clive Bloom, Literature, Politics and Cultural Confusion in Britain Today (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), p. 201. 17. Clive Bloom and Gary Day (eds), Literature and Culture in Modern Britain, 1956 to 1999 (Harlow: Addison Wesley/Longman, 1999), p. 126. 18. Kristina Zurcher, unpublished research paper (South Bend: University of Notre Dame, 1999). 19. Bookseller, Jan. 1951.

Notes 379 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

Ibid., Feb. 1953. Zurcher, unpublished paper. Bookseller, Aug. 1957. Ibid., Oct. 1961. Ibid., Aug. 1961. Amy Cruse, The Victorians and Their Books (London: Allen and Unwin, 1935), p. 315. See ‘Reading Habits in the UK’ (National Library Trust, Oct. 1955). See ‘Most Borrowed Authors and Books’ (Public Lending Right, Oct. 1999). Mass Observation Archive, no. 782 ‘US13’ (26/4/1940), p. 124. Ibid., p. 125. Ibid., p. 125. Ibid., pp. 125–6. Ibid., p. 127. Ibid., p. 128. Ibid., p. 129. Chris Smith, quoted in the Evening Standard, 3 Feb. 2000. John Feather, A History of British Publishing (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 137. J. A. Sutherland, Fiction and the Fiction Industry (London: Athlone Press, 1978), p. xxi. Ibid., p. xxi. Elyce Deeb, quoted in Clive Bloom, Literature, Politics and Cultural Confusion in Britain Today, p. 73. Christina Foyle, quoted in the Bookseller, May 1953. S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), p. 255. Ibid., p. 256. Bookseller, March 1920. Ibid., [no month] 1923. Ibid., March 1940. Sutherland, Fiction and the Fiction Industry, p. 5. Christina Foyle, quoted in the Bookseller, March 1940. Sutherland, Fiction and the Fiction Industry, p. x. Ibid., p. xi. Michael Grant, Penguin’s Progress (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960), p. 20. Bookseller, Dec. 1957. Ibid., Oct. 1969. Ibid., July 1969. Ibid. Guardian, 31 Jan. 1976, in Sutherland, Fiction and the Fiction Industry, pp. 12–13. Bookseller, March 1994. Ibid. Ibid. Guardian, 7 March 1992. As early as April 1968 the Bookseller had noted the importance of computerisation to book trade work, first used by the Greater London Council when ordering using IBM computers.



61. Key Note, p. 47. 62. In 1994 only Dillons and Hammicks opposed the NBA (see Bookseller, Sept. 1974). 63. Bookseller, Dec. 1998. 64. Key Note, p. 6. 65. Ibid.

Notes to Chapter 3: Genre: History and Form 1. Anon., The Life of Florence L. Barclay: A Study in Personality (London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1921), p. 240. 2. Ibid., pp. 242–3. 3. Ibid., p. 24. 4. Ibid., p. 310. 5. Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918–1939 (London: Hutchinson, [1940] 1985). 6. For an explicit commentary on European fascism, see Rex Warner, The Aerodrome (1941). The first novelistic reference to fascism in Britain seems to be in Bruce Graeme, Blackshirt (1925). 7. Bookseller, June 1955. 8. Martin J. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850–1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 102. 9. Joseph McAleer, ‘Scenes from Love and Marriage: Mills and Boon and the Popular Publishing Industry in Britain, 1908–1950’, in Twentieth Century British History, vol. 1, no. 3 (1990), p. 267. 10. Ibid., p. 270. 11. Ibid., p. 272. 12. George Paizis, ‘Love and the Novel: The Poetics and Politics of Romantic Love’ (unpublished manuscript), p. 17. 13. Ibid., p. 1. 14. Ibid.

Notes to Chapter 4: Literature for Children 1. Peter Hunt, ‘Defining Children’s Literature’ in Sheila Egoff, Gordon Stubbs, Ralph Ashley and Wendy Sutton (eds), Only Connect (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) pp. 2–17 at 15. 2. Ibid., p. 3. 3. Marcus Crouch quoted ibid., p. 3. 4. Hunt, ‘Defining Children’s Literature’, p. 3. 5. Ibid., p. 15. 6. John Cooper and Jonathan Cooper, Children’s Fiction 1900–1950 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), p. vii. 7. Ibid. 8. Jeffrey Richards, in Mary Cadogan, Frank Richards, The Chap behind the Chums (Claverley, Shropshire: Swallowtail, 1988), pp. 2–3. 9. Maurice Hall, ‘I Say You Fellows! The Biography of Charles Hamilton (Sutton, Surrey: Wharton Press, 1990), p. 15.

Notes 381 10. Richards, in Cadogan, Frank Richards, p. 2. 11. Mary Cadogan, The Woman Behind William (London: Macmilan, 1986), p. xv. 12. Ibid., p. 22. 13. Ibid., p. 7. 14. Ibid., p. 6. 15. Peter Haining, Paths to the Riverbank (London: Blandford, 1983). 16. Ibid., p. 17. 17. Ibid., p. 19. 18. Barbara Stoney, Enid Blyton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974), pp. 46–7. 19. Ibid., pp. 134–5. 20. Cadogan, Frank Richards, p. 2. 21. Stoney, Enid Blyton, pp. 148–9. 22. Ibid., p. 166. 23. C. S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds (1982), p. 2. 24. Roger Lancelyn Green, J. M. Barrie (London: Bodley Head, nd), p. 29.

Notes to Chapter 5: Further Thoughts on Literature for Children 1. No. 38 ‘School Bombing’ of the ‘Battle’ series was actually banned in Britain. 2. Peter Hunt, An Introduction to Children’s Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 96. 3. Clive Bloom, Cult Fiction: Popular Reading and Pulp Theory (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1996), p. 7. 4. Hunt, Introduction to Children’s Literature, p. 107. 5. Harry Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Pimlico, 1999), p. 290. 6. Hunt, Introduction to Children’s Literature, pp. 101–2. 7. Ibid., p. 102. 8. Ricketts, Unforgiving Minute, p. 289. 9. Ibid. 10. Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill (London: Macmillan [1906] 1987), p. 8. 11. Ricketts, Unforgiving Minute, p. 289. 12. Hunt, Introduction to Children’s Literature, p. 103. 13. Rudyard Kipling, Rewards and Fairies (London: Macmillan, [1910] 1923), p. 1. 14. H. G. Wells, Little Wars (New York: De Capo Press [1913] 1979), p. 1. 15. George Orwell, ‘Why I Write’ in Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988), p. 21. 16. Ibid., p. 57. 17. Ibid., p. 23.



Chapter 6: The Best-Selling Authors of the Twentieth Century 1. Anon., Life of Florence L. Barclay: A Study in Personality (London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1921), p. 240. 2. David Pringle, Imaginary People (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), p. 105. 3. Rosemary Herbert, Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 1113. 4. Vivien Allen, ‘Hall Caine: Prince of Romantic Novelists’, Million, no. 8 (March–April 1992), p. 44. 5. John Lucas, in Lesley Henderson, Twentieth Century Romantic and Historical Writers (London: St James, 1990), p. 283. 6. Brian Stableford, ‘Yesterday’s Bestsellers: Robert Hichens and The Garden of Allah’, Million, no. 3 (May–June 1992), pp. 50–1. 7. Pringle, Imaginary People, p. 213. 8. Penelope Dell, Nettie and Sissie: A Biography of Bestselling Novelist Ethel M. Dell and her Sister Ella (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1977), pp. xiii–xiv. 9. Henderson, Twentieth Century Romantic and Historical Writers, p. 365. 10. Mary Hicken and Ray Prytherch, Now Read On: A Guide to Contemporary Popular Fiction (Aldershot: Gower, 1990). 11. Times Literary Supplement, 18 January 1957. 12. Christopher Wordsworth, quoted in Million, no. 7 (Jan.–Feb. 1992), p. 9. 13. Karen Lorenz and Annie Thompson, research paper (unpublished). 14. Times Literary Supplement, September 1957. 15. Herbert, Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writers, p. 978. 16. Pringle Imaginary People, pp. 63–4. 17. Jackie Collins, quoted on Web page: 18. D. L. Kirkpatrick (ed.), Contemporary Novelists (London: St James, 1972), p. 585. 19. Quoted in Richard Joseph, Bestsellers: Top Writers Tell How (Chichester: Summersdale, 1998), p. 152. 20. Catherine Cookson, Catherine Cookson Country: Her Pictorial Memory (London: Heinemann, 1986), p. 30. 21. Quoted in Clive Bloom, Gothic Horror: A Guide from Poe to Stephen King (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), pp. 96–7. 22. Judith Krantz, Internet home page. 23. Wendy Bradley, ‘Judith Krantz’, Million, no, 2 (March–April 1991), p. 31. 24. Shirley Chew, in D. L. Kirkpatrick, Contemporary Novelists (London and Chicago: St James, 1986) p. 728. 25. Hicken and Prytherch, Now Read On, p. 26.

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Bibliography 387 Henderson, Lesley (ed.), Contemporary Novelists (London: St James Press, 1991). —— (ed.), Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers (London: St James Press, 1990; 2nd edition, 1990; 3rd edition, 1991). —— (ed.), Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, 3rd edition (Chicago: St James Press, 1991). Herbert, Rosemary, Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Hicken, Mandy and Ray Prytherch, Now Read On: A Guide to Contemporary Popular Fiction (Aldershot: Gower, 1990). Hobson, Margaret and Jennifer Madden, Children’s Fiction Sourcebook (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1995). Hodges, Sheila, The Story of a Publishing House, 1928–1978 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1978). Hoggart, Richard, The Way We Live Now (London: Chatto and Windus, 1995). Holland, Steve, The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing (Westbury: Zardoz Books, 1993). Hollis, Patricia, The Pauper Press: A Study in Working-Class Radicalism of the 1830s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970). Hughes, Helen, The Historical Romance (London: Verso, 1987). The Idler, vol. 4 (Aug. 1893–Jan. 1894). The Independent, 28/3/90; 20/9/90; 18/2/91; 17/10/91; 6/10/91; 21/12/91; 31/12/91; 28/10/99; 8/12/99; 1/8/07. The Independent on Sunday, 17/11/91. Isaac, Peter (ed.), Six Centuries of the Provincial Book Trade in Britain (Winchester: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1990). Jeffries, Charles, Illiteracy: A World Problem (London: Pall Mall, 1967). Jenkins, Henry, Textual Poachers (London: Routledge, 1992). Johnson, Paul, 20th-Century Britain: Economic, Social and Cultural Change (Harlow: Longman, 1994). Jones, Stephen (ed.), James Herbert – By Horror Haunted (London: New English Library, nd). —— and Kim Newman (eds), Horror: 100 Best Books (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992). Joseph, Richard, Bestsellers: Top Writers Tell How (Chichester: Summersdale, 1998). Keating, Peter, The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel, 1875–1914 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1989). Kendall, Maurice (ed.), The Source and Nature of Statistics of the United Kingdom (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1952). Kinnell, Margaret, Managing Fiction in Libraries (London: Library Association, 1991). Kirkpatrick, D. L. (ed.), Contemporary Novelists (Chicago: St James Press, [1986] 1988). Lee, Alan J., The Origins of the Popular Press in England, 1855–1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1977). Linklater, Andro, Compton Mackenzie: A Life (London: Chatto and Windus, 1987). Livling, Edward, Adventures in Publishing: The House of Ward Lock, 1854–1954 (London: Ward Lock, 1954). Lowenthal, Leo, Literature and Mass Culture (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1984).



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Name Index Abnett, Dan 259 Acker, Kathy 48 Ackroyd, Peter 11 Adams, Douglas 259–60 Adams, Richard 123, 232, 260–1 Adamson, Joy 232 Agutter, Jenny 150 Ahern, Celia 229, 312 Ahlberg, Allan 272, 303 Ahlberg, Janet 303 Aiden, Pamela 2 Ainsworth, W. Harrison 241 Akunin, Boris 332 Albom, Mitch 229 Aldiss, Brian 234 Ali, Monica 15, 16, 261 Allbeury, Ted 261 Allen, Grant 164 Allen, Richard 48, 91 Allingham, Margery 192, 327 Amis, Kingsley 1, 207, 238, 262, 290 Amis, Martin 106, 207, 262 Anderson, C. W. 133 Andrews, Lyn 281 Andrews, Virginia 262–3 Anikin, Mikhail 40 Appleton, Honor C. 132 Archer, Jeffrey 101, 263 Ardizzone, Edward 132 Arnott, Jake 13–4, 263–4 Ashe, Gordon (John Creasey) 209, 210 Asimov, Isaac 90 Astley, Juliet (Norah Lofts) 247 Atkinson, M. E. 132 Attwell, Mabel Lucie 132 Atwood, Margaret 264–5 Auel, Jean M. 265 Austen, Jane 1–2, 8, 29, 33, 64, 76, 79, 81, 217, 324, 375 Avery, Harold 132 Awdry, W. V. 17, 207–8

Axton, David (Dean Koontz) 318 Ayres, Ruby M. 81, 194, 259, 361 Bach, Richard 3, 229 Bachman, Richard (Stephen King) 314 Bagley, Desmond 265–6 Bagshaw, Louise 75, 307 Bagshawe, Tilly 307 Baigent, Michael 40 Baker, Anne 281 Baldacci, David 266, 332 Baldwin, Stanley 117 Ballantyne, R. M. 133, 143, 146, 153, 154, 164, 166 Ballard, J. G. 234 Banbury, Sir Frederick 67 Banks, Iain M. 234, 267, 332 Barclay, Florence L. 24–5, 80, 110–13, 165 Barker, Cicely Mary 132 Barker, Clive 268, 315 Barker, Pat 7 Barker, R. E. 99 Barrie, J. M. 132, 146–7, 166–7 Bart, Lionel 48–9 Bates, H. E. 229–30 Baxendale, Leo 157 Beaman, S. G. Hulme 132, 133 Beatles, The 91 Beaverbrook, Lord 60 Benchley, Peter 77 Bennett, Alan 207 Bennett, Arnold 34, 167 Benyon, John (John Wyndham) 257 Berdoll, Linda 2 Beris, Carrie A. 2 Bernard, Jay (Colin Forbes) 291 Besant, Walter 33 Bestall, Alfred 132 Binchy, Maeve 74, 269 Blackman, Malorie 17, 269–70 Blackwell, Sir Basil 94 393


Name Index

Blair, Emma (Iain Blair) 36, 311–12, 332 Blair, Iain 36, 311–12, 332 Blair, Kathryn 9 Blake, Nicholas 71 Blake, Quentin 132 Bland, Herbert 183 Blatty, Peter 228 Bloch, Robert 335 Blond, Anthony 89 Blume, Judy 230 Blyton, Enid 129, 132, 139–43, 151, 192, 230–1 Boccaccio 93 Bok, Edward 152 Bond, Michael 270 Boon, Alan 212 Boon, Charles 125 Bourne, Sam 18 Bowling, Harry 281 Boyars, Marion 94 Boyce, Leah 103 Boyd, William 332 Bradbury, Malcolm 207, 324 Bradford, Barbara Taylor 270–1, 281, 283 Bradman, Tony 304 Brand, Max 89 Brazil, Angela 129, 132, 134–5, 136, 151, 157, 168, 231 Brent-Dyer, Elinor M. 132 Brereton, Capt. F. S. 133 Brickell, Paul 86, 120 Briggs, Raymond 10, 271–2 Bromfield, Louise 85 Brooke-Haven, P. (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 Brooks, Terry 272, 275 Brown, Dan 1, 14–15, 21, 37, 40, 107, 124, 273, 276, 332, 334 Brust, Harold (Peter Cheyney) 209 Buchan, John 34, 38, 69, 86, 108, 113, 131, 168–70, 181, 260, 320 Bukowski, Charles 128 Bullen, Anne 132 Bunyan, John 4 Burchell, Mary 126, 311 Burgess, Anthony 128, 231–2

Burgess, Melvin 58 Burn, Alan 94 Burnett, Frances Hodgson 86, 157 Burnford, Sheila 232 Burns, Patricia 6, 281 Burns, Tex (Louis L’Amour) 243 Burridge, Richard 98 Burroughs, Edgar Rice 38, 86–7, 113, 161, 170–1, 237 Burroughs, William 91 Burrows, Ken 102 Burt, Sir Cyril 51, 53 Bush, George W. 233 Bushnell, Candace 76, 306 Butler, Richard (Ted Allbeury) 261 Butler, Samuel 85 Butterworth, Nick 303 Cabot, Meg 306 Cade, Robert 237 Caine, Thomas Hall 23–4, 25, 37, 82, 110, 171–2 Calder, John 91, 94 Callaghan, Jim 95 Callagy, Robert 102, 103 Calman, Claire 75 Campbell, Rod 303 Canavan, Trudi 275 Cannon, Curt (Ed McBain) 248 Capote, Truman 256 Carey, Thomas 140 Carle, Eric 232–3 Carlyle, Thomas 146 Carnegie, Andrew 64 Carr, Caleb 13, 107, 276 Carr, Philippa (Victoria Holt) 241 Carrol, Lewis 146 Carter, Angela 163 Cartland, Barbara 25, 35, 45, 108, 112, 123, 126, 194, 273–4 Cartwright, Stephen 303 Cavendish, Peter (Sidney Horler) 196 Chandler, Raymond 249 Charteris, Leslie 113, 115, 361 Chase, James Hadley 86, 87, 207, 208, 209, 216, 224, 237 Chase, Phyllis 140 Cheetham, Rosemary 103 Cheyney, Peter 87–8, 209, 216, 224

Name Index Christie, Agatha 1, 35, 38, 47, 81, 85, 113, 123, 161, 162, 191–2, 220, 291, 327, 332, 335, 361 Clancy, Tom 77, 101, 115, 276–7, 342, 348 Clark, Mary Higgins 333 Clarke, Arthur C. 122, 233–4, 257 Clarke, Tom 60 Clavell, James 77, 234–5 Cleland, John 93 Coben, Harlan 277 Coehlo, Paulo 5, 229 Cole, Harry 6, 281 Cole, Martina 1, 14, 263–4, 278, 333 Cole, Sophie 125, 126 Colgan, Jenny 75 Colhoun, Henry 19 Collins, Hunt (Ed McBain) 248 Collins, Jackie 34, 38, 44, 91, 101, 235, 253, 255, 278, 281, 306 Collins, Joan 101–4, 235 Collins, Norman 61 Collins, Wilkie 32 Conquest, Joan 197 Conrad, Joseph 34 Conran, Shirley 11, 279 Cooce, M. C. (John Creasey) 209 Cooce, Margaret (John Creasey) 209 Cook, M. E. (John Creasey) 209 Cookson, Catherine 1, 6, 21, 36, 38, 53, 97, 101, 109, 126, 162, 194, 200, 259, 279–81, 307, 346, 375 Cooper, Henry St John (John Creasey) 209 Cooper, James Fenimore 146, 166 Cooper, Jilly 14, 73, 101, 282 Corelli, Marie (Mary Mackay) 24–5, 57, 110, 172–3, 194, 229, 312 Cornwell, Bernard 282–3 Cornwell, Patricia 283–4, 332, 334 Coughlan, Peggy (Jessica Stirling) 347 Coupland, Douglas 128 Cox, Josephine 281 Cradock, Mrs H. C. 133 Creasey, John 122, 209–10 Crichton, Michael 101, 115, 171, 174, 284, 348 Crichton Smith, Iain 332 Crompton, Richmal 136–7, 192


Cronin, A. J. 116, 210, 220 Crowley, Aleister 119–20, 227, 228 Cumming, Primrose 133 Cunliffe, John 303 Curtis, Peter (Norah Lofts) 247 Cushing, Peter 150 Cussler, Clive 284–6 Dahl, Roald 5, 129, 132, 137, 145–6, 286–7, 375 Dalrymple, William 16 Daly, Carroll John 224 Daniels, Lucy 303 Darke, Tiffanie 75 Davidson, Maryjanice 8 Dawkins, Jane 2 Dawkins, Richard 260 de Angeli, Marguerite 132 de Bernières, Louis 287–8 Deane, Norman (John Creasey) 209 Deeping, Warwick 81, 82, 193 Defoe, Daniel 4 Deighton, Len 236, 320, 342 Dell, Ethel M. 24–5, 34, 35, 57, 69, 81, 108, 112, 157, 193–4, 259, 361 Denver, Rod (J. T. Edson) 237 DeVere Stackpoole, H. 86 Dexter, Colin 36, 288–9, 311 Dickens, Charles 1, 23, 29, 32, 33–4, 38, 48–9, 79, 81, 86, 146, 361, 375 Disney, Walt 137, 142, 143, 150, 199 Dorien, Ray 126 Douglas, Lloyd 110, 211 Douglas, Michael (Michael Crichton) 284 Douglas, Norman 85 Doyle, Arthur Conan 38, 46–7, 79, 86, 153, 164, 171, 173–5, 183, 288, 361 Doyle, Paddy 3 Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) 340–1 du Maurier, Daphne 117, 201, 211–13, 217, 220, 242 Dunsany, Lord 123 Dwyer, Deanna (Dean Koontz) 318 Dwyer, R. K. (Dean Koontz) 318 Dyson, Hugo 246


Name Index

East, Michael (Morris West) 255 Easton, Violet 303 Eastwood, Clint 224, 348 Eco, Umberto 327 Eden, Dorothy 236 Edson, J. T. 237, 314 Edwards, Ellen 132 Edwards, Monica 133 Eliot, George 29 Eliot, T. S. 40, 47, 204 Elliott, Kate 275 Ellis, Bret Easton 96 Ellis, Havelock 183 Ellroy, James 13 Elton, Ben 163, 289, 347 Erikson, Stephen 275 Evans, Joannie 103 Evans, Nicholas 74, 101, 289–90 Faber, Geoffrey 84 Fair, A. A. (Erle Stanley Gardner) 216 Fairlie Bruce, Dorita 132 Falkner, J. Meade 329 Fallon, Martin (Jack Higgins) 302 Fanthorpe, Lionel 90 Farland, David 275 Farmer, Mary Aline (Mary Wesley) 352 Farnol, Jeffrey 23, 108, 195, 293 Farrar, Frederick 153 Farrow, G. E. 132 Faulks, Sebastian 7, 290 Fecamps, Elsie (John Creasey) 209 Feist, Raymond E. 275 Fenton, Kate 2 Fielding, Helen 8, 75–6, 290–1, 306, 349 Fielding, Henry 75 Findlater, Richard 98 Fine, Anne 26 Fisher Unwin, T. 60–1 Fleming, Ian 38, 44, 97, 115, 122, 123, 151, 161, 162, 187, 207, 236, 238, 290, 291, 322, 342 Flying Officer X (H. E. Bates) 229, 230 Follet, Ken 342 Follick, Mont 63

Forbes, Colin (Raymond Harold Sawkins) 291 Ford, Elbur (Victoria Holt) 241 Forest, Antonia 132 Forester, C. S. 120, 123, 214–15, 218, 283, 287, 293 Forster, E. M. 15, 154, 204 Forsyth, Frederick 108, 239, 291 Fox, Anthony (Alexander Fullerton) 293 Foyle, Christina 79, 81 Francis, Dick 101, 292 Francis, Stephen (aka ‘Hank Janson’) 90, 92, 161, 215–16 Fraser, George MacDonald 48–9, 292–3 Fraser, Jane (Rosamunde Pilcher) 311, 328 Frazer, Robert Caine (John Creasey) 209 Freeman, Morgan 328 Freud, Sigmund 159, 204 Fry, Stephen 347 Fullerton, Alexander 293–4 Furley, Phyllis 2 Gaarder, Jostein 74 Galloway, Janice 332 Galsworthy, John 242 Gammerman, Judge Ira 103 Gardner, Erle Stanley 216 Gardner, John 238, 290 Garland, Alex 294 Garner, Alan 3 Garvice, Charles 56–7, 80, 165, 175, 259 Geisel, Theodor Seuss (Dr Seuss) 340–1 Gemmell, David 275 Gerard, Louise 125, 126 Gibson, Charles (Charles Garvice) 175 Gibson, William 234 Gill, Patrick (John Creasey) 209 Gladstone, W. E. 23 Glyn, Elinor 56, 110, 113, 157, 175–6, 194, 197, 251, 259 Goddard, Robert 333, 342 Goldberg, Lucianne 103

Name Index Golden, Arthur 16, 296 Golding, William 217, 246 Gollancz, Victor 79, 82, 85 Goodman, Richard 7 Goodyear, R. A. H. 132 Goscinny and Uderzo 5 Gould, Nat 56, 80, 157, 165, 176–9, 292 Grafton, Sue 296–7, 333 Graham, Caroline 332 Graham, James (Jack Higgins) 302 Graham, Winston 70, 200, 239 Grahame, Kenneth 138–9, 156–7, 157, 179 Grange, Amanda 1–2 Graves, Robert 213–14 Gray, Alasdair 332 Gray, John 75 Green, Peter 121 Greene, Graham 322 Gregory, Philippa 297 Grenville, Pelham (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 Grey, Frank R. 132 Grey, Zane 243–4 Grindley, Sally 303 Grisham, John 35, 77, 97, 101, 295, 332 Guedalla, Philip 115 Gurdjieff, G. I. 158 Gwynne, Howell 151–2 Haddon, Mark 2, 26, 297–8 Haggard, H. Rider 151, 254–5, 260 Hailey, Arthur 77, 240 Halliday, Michael (John Creasey) 209, 210 Hamilton, Charles (Frank Richards) 135–6, 141, 168 Hamilton, Laurell K. 298 Hammett, Dashiell 85, 249 Hampson, Frank 157 Hannon, Ezra (Ed McBain) 248 Hardy, Thomas 10, 11, 203 Harling, Robert 121 Harmsworth, Alfred (Lord Northcliffe) 60 Harraden, Beatrice 356–7


Harris, Charlaine 8 Harris, Johnson (John Wyndham) 257 Harris, Robert 298–9, 332 Harris, Thomas 101, 123–4, 299 Harrison, Sarah 299–300 Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia 332 Hart, Caroline (Charles Garvice) 175 Harvey, Caroline (Joanna Trollope) 349 Harvey, John 333 Hassel, Sven 120–1, 314 Hawes, James 107 Hawkins, Colin and Jacqui 303 Heath Robinson, W. 132 Heidcamp, Annette 99 Heinrich, Willi 121 Heller, Joseph 128, 222 Hemingway, Ernest 85, 183 Henley, W. E. 147 Henty, G. A. 108, 133, 143, 153, 154, 164 Herbert, James 34, 228, 268, 300–1 Hergé, Georges Prosper Remi 5 Heritage, Martin (Sidney Horler) 196 Heyer, Georgette 125, 214, 217–18, 247 Heyerdahl, Thor 83 Hiaasen, Carl 275, 301, 333 Hichens, Robert 179–81, 197 Higgins, Jack (Harry Patterson) 77, 120, 302 Higson, Charlie 135, 290 Hilder, Rowland 132 Hill, Eric 302–3 Hill, Reginald 332 Hill, Susan 17, 304 Hilton, James 218–19, 220 Hislop, Victoria 18 Hitchcock, Alfred 64, 239 Hobb, Robin 275 Hodges, S. Walter 132 Hoeg, Peter 74, 99, 305 Hogarth, Charles (John Creasey) 209 Holden, Wendy 305–7 Holland, Dr Bernard 63 Holland, Sheila (Charlotte Lamb) 163, 307, 311 Holt, Tom 330


Name Index

Holt, Victoria (Eleanor Burford Hibbert) 241 Holtby, Winifred 117 Home, Stewart 48, 91 Hood, Evelyn 6, 281, 332 Hope, Anthony 164, 170 Hope, Brian (John Creasey) 209 Hopkins, Cathy 307 Horler, Sidney 57, 85, 113, 157, 169, 181, 196 Hornby, Nick 105–6, 308 Horowitz, Anthony 132, 135, 238, 268, 332 Hosseini, Khaled 16, 308–9 Houellebecq, Michel 309 Howard, Audrey 281 Howard, R. E. 38, 123, 275 Howatch, Susan 241–2 Hudson, Jeffrey (Michael Crichton) 284 Hughes, Colin (John Creasey) 209 Hughes, Shirley 303 Hughes, Thomas 48–9, 293 Hull, E. M. 108, 180, 194, 197, 205, 221 Hunt, Kyle (John Creasey) 209 Hunt, Roderick 303 Hunter, Evan (Ed McBain) 248–9 Hutchinson, A. S. M. 197 Huxley, Aldous 115, 122, 161 Huxley, Julian 115 Huysman, J. K. 128

Jesse, F. Tennyson 329 Johns, W. E. 132, 143, 242–3 Jonker, Joan 281 Jordan, Penny 6, 237, 311 Jordan, Robert 275 Joyce, James 163

Igguldon, Conn 309–10 Inkpen, Mick 303 Innes, Hammond 219–20, 266 Ishiguro, Kazuo 16, 118, 310

Kaushal, Swati 306 Kaye, M. M. 312 Kellerman, Jonathan 313 Kellow, Katherine (Victoria Holt) 241 Kells, Susannah (Bernard Cornwell) 282 Kelly, Patrick (Ted Allbeury) 261 Kelman, James 3, 332, 352 Kennedy, Lena 281 Kent, Alexander (Douglas Reeman) 123, 333–4 Kerouac, Jack 128 Kerr, Judith 303 Kesey, Ken 128, 243 Kessler, Leo 121, 314 Keynes, John Maynard 204 King, Stephen 25, 38, 90, 97, 101, 228, 253, 268, 300, 314–15, 318 King Smith, Dick 303 Kinsella, Sophie (Madeleine Wickham) 306–7, 316 Kipling, Rudyard 15, 79, 138, 151–6, 158–60, 164 Knight, Frank 133 Knight, Maxwell 227, 228 Knopf, Alfred A. 275 Koontz, Dean 16, 317–18 Krantz, Judith 318–19 Kubrick, Stanley 122, 231, 234 Kureishi, Hanif 15, 129, 319–20

Jacob, Naomi 81 James, Henry 34 James, M. R. 34 James, P. D. 192, 310–11, 327 James, Peter 17, 268 James, Vanessa 311 Janson, Hank 90, 92, 161, 215–16 Jenkins, Amy 75 Jenkins, Herbert 79 Jenkins, Robin 332 Jerome, Jerome K. 156

La Plante, Linda 320, 333 Lamb, Charlotte (Sheila Holland) 307, 311 L’Amour, Louis 243–4 Lane, Allen 36, 84–5 Lange, John (Michael Crichton) 284 Lawrence, D. H. 1, 10–11, 91, 93–4, 123, 162, 221, 244–5 Laymon, Richard 268 le Carré, John 73, 121, 320–1, 342 Le Guin, Ursula 275

Name Index Le Queux, William 113–15, 181, 321 Leather, Stephen 342 Leavis, F. R. 1, 11, 94 Leavis, Q. D. 84 Lee, Christopher 150, 228 Lee, Laurie 156 Leigh, Richard 40 Lejeun, C. A. 62 Leon, Donna 332 Leonard, Elmore 35, 249 Lessing, Doris 245–6 Lever, Charles 66 Levy, Andrea 15, 321 Lewis, C. S. 132, 144–5, 147, 225, 246–7, 336 Llewelyn Davies, Arthur and Sylvia 146–7 Lochhead, Liz 352 Locke, W(illiam) J(ohn) 181–2 Lofting, Hugh 137 Lofts, Norah 247 London, Christopher 120 Long, John 79, 80 Loos, Anita 113 Lovecraft, H. P. 38, 123, 128, 315 Lowndes, Dorothy Margarette Selby (Dolf Wyllarde) 125, 190 Ludlum, Robert 21–2, 28, 321–2, 342 Lusty, Robert 339 Macaulay, Rose 113 Macdonald, Ann-Marie 21 Mackenzie, Compton 85 MacLean, Alistair 120, 219, 248, 322 Macleod, Jean S. 126 Macmillan, Harold 84 Madden, Cecil 62 Mann, Abel (John Creasey) 209 Mannix, Daniel P. 91, 151 Manton, Peter (John Creasey) 209 Marchant, Catherine (Catherine Cookson) 279 Marlow, Hugh (Jack Higgins) 302 Marric, J. J. (John Creasey) 209, 210 Marryat, Captain 157 Marsden, James (John Creasey) 209 Marsten, Richard (Ed McBain) 248 Marston, Edward 13 Martel, Yann 21, 322


Martin, Richard (John Creasey) 209 Martin, S. I. 15, 270 Martin, Stella 125 Marx, Karl 158 Masefield, Peter 243 Mason, A. E. W. 182–3 Matheson, Richard 8 Mattheson, Rodney (John Creasey) 209 Maugham, W(illiam) Somerset 220–1 Maurois, André 85 Maxwell, Gavin 232 Maxwell, Robert 94 Mayo, Jim (Louis L’Amour) 243 McAleer, Joseph 207 McBain, Ed (Evan Hunter) 248–9 McCall Smith, Alexander 13, 16, 323 McCrussan, Lauren 75 McCullough, Colleen 97, 323–4 McEwan, Ian 28, 324 McIlvanney, William 332 McNab, Andy 324–5, 338, 342 McNaughton, Colin 303 McNeile, Herman Cyril (‘Sapper’) 113 Metalious, Grace 161, 162, 249, 255 Michener, James A. 250 Mighela, Anthony 323 Miller, Henry 94 Miller, Wade 91 Mills, Gerald 125 Milne, A. A. 47, 130, 131, 133, 138, 139, 179, 191, 198–9, 303 Miss Read (Dora Saint) 76, 123, 162, 323, 338–9 Mitchell, Margaret 118, 161, 221 Mitchison, Naomi 133 Moggach, Deborah 281 Monsarrat, Nicholas 120, 221 Montalbano, William 301 Moorcock, Michael 250–1 Moore, Alan 10, 17, 251, 325 Morrin, Julian (Morris West) 255 Morris, Marcus 157 Morton, Anthony (John Creasey) 209 Morton, H. V. 117–18, 156 Morton-Sale, Isobel 132 Mosco, Maisie 281 Mosley, Sir Oswald 82 Mosse, Kate 325–6


Name Index

Mrs Braddon 32, 56 Mulford, Clarence E. 243 Mulford, Sidney 151 Murphy, Jill 303 Nadel, Barbara 332 Naipaul, V. S. 15, 246 Needham, Violet 132 Neels, Betty 312 Nelson, Joseph 56 Nesbit, Edith 183–4 Newbolt, Henry 133, 158 Newman, Andrea 251 Niven, Larry 330 Nolan, Church (J. T. Edson) 237 North, Freya 75 O’Brian, Patrick 123, 214–15, 326 O’Brien, Deirdre 126 O’Flaherty, Liam 85 O’Flanagan, Sheila 17 O’Neil, Gilda 6 Onions, Oliver 188 Orczy, Baroness (‘Emma’ Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara) 151, 185, 218 Orwell, George (Eric Blair) 33, 121, 136, 158, 158–9, 160, 204, 221, 222, 272 Osborne, John 159 Ouida 33, 37, 57, 110, 205 Owen, Peter 96 Owen, Wilfred 213 Oxenbury, Helen 303 Oxenham, Elsie 132 Pack, Scott 20 Paolini, Christopher 275 Paradise, Mary (Dorothy Eden) 236 Pargeter, Edith (Ellis Peters) 327, 332 Parkes, Lucas (John Wyndham) 257 Parkinson, Dan 7 Patterson, Harry (Jack Higgins) 302 Patterson, James 327–8 Paul, Stanley 86 Peake, Mervyn 132 Pearce, Lesley 17, 281 Peckinpah, Sam 121 Pendleton, Don 224 Penny, Stef 208

Pepys, Samuel 4, 14 Perdue, Lewis 40 Perry, Anne 13, 332 Peters, Elizabeth 332 Peters, Ellis (Edith Mary Pargeter) 192, 327, 332 Phillips Oppenheim, E. 85, 184, 196, 220–1, 273 Pilcher, Rosamunde 311, 328 Pinter, Harold 246 Plaidy, Jean (Victoria Holt) 241 Plum, J. (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 Poe, Edgar Allan 146, 315 Pollock, Major Hugh 141 Pope, Dudley (Bernard Egerton) 215, 328–9, 334 Potter, Beatrix 132, 133, 137–8, 142, 163, 185–6 Pratchett, Terry 5, 251, 329–30, 375 Price, Marjorie M. 126 Priestley, J. B. 117, 118, 199–200 Pullman, Philip 14, 26, 28, 131, 132, 144, 147, 157–8, 251, 275, 330–1 Puzo, Mario 251–2 Quiller-Couch, Arthur 33 Quinn, Seabury 171 Rackham, Arthur 132 Radcliffe, Anne 4, 241 Rae, Hugh C. (Jessica Stirling) 347 Rafcam, Nal 90 Raine, Richard (Colin Forbes) 291 Rajashree 306 Ramée, Louise 33 Ranger, Ken (John Creasey) 209 Rankin, Ian 13, 331–3 Ransome, Arthur 132, 141–2, 158, 186–7 Raymond, Ernest 69 Rayner, Claire 333 Reagan, Ronald 277 Redford, Robert 101, 289 Reeman, Douglas 123, 215, 333–4 Reichs, Kathy 17, 332, 334 Reilly, William K. (John Creasey) 209 Remi, George (Hergé) 5 Renault, Mary (Mary Challans) 222–3 Rendell, Ruth 192, 327, 334–5 Renin, Paul 91

Name Index Rhoades, Walter C. 132 Rhodes, Cecil 158 Rice, Anne 7, 8 Richard, Grant 79 Richards, Frank (Charles Hamilton) 132, 135–6, 141, 168 Richards, I. A. 11 Richardson, Samuel 4 Riley, Tex (John Creasey) 209 Riley, W(illiam) 200–1 Robbins, Harold 38, 48, 88–90, 91, 94, 252–3, 255 Roberts, Charles G. D. 133 Roberts, Nora 312 Robins, Denise 126 Robinson, Peter 332 Robson, W. W. 62 Rohmer, Sax 48, 81, 85, 113, 187 Roosevelt, Theodore 138 Rossetti, D. G. 171 Rothermere, Lord 60 Rowland, Effie A. 165, 188 Rowling, J. K. 5, 14, 17, 21, 26, 106, 129, 131, 132, 133, 144, 147, 162, 168, 231, 275, 284, 298, 330, 335–6, 375 Roy, Arundhati 15 Roy, Brandon (Florence L. Barclay) 165 Rubenfeld, Jed 13, 18, 276 Rubens, Bernice 253 Ruck, Berta 108, 188–9 Rush, Philip 133 Rushdie, Salman 15, 129, 336–8 Russell, Lord 93 Ryan, Chris 325, 338, 342 Sabatini, Rafael 157, 170, 201, 293, 329 Sackville West, Victoria 85 Saint, Dora (Miss Read) 76, 123, 162, 323, 338–9 Sallis, Susan 281 Sanderson, Roger 6, 36, 311–12 Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile) 169, 181, 196, 201–2, 209 Sassoon, Siegfried 213 Saunders, Kate 274 Sayers, Dorothy L. 85, 192, 327 Schmoller, Hans 99


Scliar, Moacyr 322 Scott, Ridley 110 Scott, Sir Walter 4, 247 Seale, Sara 9, 126, 212, 311 Searle, Ronald 132 Sebold, Alice 21, 339–40 Seierstad, Asne 16 Seth, Vikram 3, 15, 21, 340 Seymour, Gerald 238, 342 Shakespeare, William 135, 375 Sharpe, Tom 342–3 Shaw, George Bernard 11, 183 Shears, Sarah 343 Sheldon, Sidney 91, 344 Shepard, E. H. 132, 139, 198 Shute, Nevil 223–4 Simon, Francesca 303 Slaughter, Karen 17, 332, 344–5 Smith, Anna 66 Smith, Chris 72 Smith, Henry Edward 66 Smith, Henry Walton 66 Smith, Wilbur 74, 123, 254–5 Smith, William Henry 66 Smith, Zadie 15, 16, 129, 345 Snicket, Lemony 17, 107, 268 Sosnowski, David 8 Spillane, Mickey 151, 224–5 Staples, Mary Jane 281 Steel, Danielle 53, 318, 345–6 Stevenson, Robert Louis 38, 151, 329 Stine, R. L. 147, 268, 346–7 Stirling, Jessica (Peggy Coughlan and Hugh C. Rae) 347 Stoker, Bram 23–4, 86, 164 Stonebraker, Florence 91 Strachey, Lytton 115 Strickland Goodall, John 339 Susann, Jacqueline 91, 255, 306 Sutherland, Joan 125, 126 Swift, Graham 11 Swift, Jonathan 4 Syal, Meera 15, 129, 163, 347–8 Tanner, Charles W. 171 Tate, Ellalice (Victoria Holt) 241 Taylor, D. J. 11 Tennant, Emma 2 Tennyson Jesse, F. 86


Name Index

Thackeray, William Makepeace 23, 81, 146 Thomas, Craig 348 Thompson, Edith 60–1 Thompson, Flora 156 Thorne, Guy 58–9 Thursfield, Amanda 350 Titchmarsh, Alan 347 Tolkien, J. R. R. 1, 14, 26, 123, 129, 132, 144, 145, 157, 225–7, 246, 251, 272, 275, 330, 336, 367 Tolstoy, Leo 81 Townsend, Sue 349 Travers, P. L. 132, 137, 158 Trocchi, Alexander 128 Trollope, Anthony 81, 86 Trollope, Joanna 74, 349–50 Tunnicliffe, C. E. 132 Turow, Scott 295 Tyler, Jenny 303 Unwin, Philip 83 Unwin, T. Fisher 194 Uttley, Alison 133 Valentino, Rudolph 197 van Abbe, S. 132 Van Der Beek, Harmsen 142 Van Lustbader, Eric 22 Verne, Jules 113 Vincenzi, Penny 281 Vine, Barbara (Ruth Rendell) 334, 335 Waddell, Martin 303–4 Waite, Elizabeth 6, 281 Walker, Alice 350–1 Walker Williams, J. (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 Wallace, Edgar 34, 57, 81, 85, 113, 115, 151, 157, 161, 162, 169, 189–90, 196, 237, 280, 321, 361 Wallace, Lew 110 Waller, Robert James 74 Walpole, Horace 4 Walpole, Hugh 71 Walters, Minette 332 Wambaugh, Joseph 256 Warboyes, Sally 6, 281

Ward, Mrs Humphry 86 Watkins-Pitchford, Denys 132 Webb, Beatrice 183 Webb, Mary 202–3 Weighall, Arthur 197 Weisberger, Lauren 28 Weldon, Fay 351 Wells, H. G. 34, 57, 110, 113, 115, 122, 151, 156, 164, 174, 183 Welsh, Irvine 163, 332, 351–2 Welsh, Louise 13, 332 Wesley, Mary 352–3 West, C. P. (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 West, Morris 255–6 West, Rebecca 194 Westmacott, Agatha Christie (Agatha Christie) 191 Westmacott, Mary (Agatha Christie) 191, 192 Wheatley, Dennis 119–20, 151, 227–8, 300 Whitehouse, Mary 95–6 Whitney, Phyllis A. 353 Williams, Charles 225 Williamson, Henry 133, 232 Wilson, Jacqueline 5, 133, 163, 231 Windham, Basil (P. G. Wodehouse) 203 Winfrey, Oprah 19, 74 Winterson, Jeanette 354 Wodehouse, P. G. 47, 132, 203–4, 221 Wood, Mrs Henry 110, 164 Woolf, Leonard 204 Woolf, Virginia 34, 43, 161, 163, 204–5 Wouk, Herman 257 Wren, P. C. 151, 205 Wright, Nelson G. 237 Wyllarde, Dolf (Dorothy Margarette Selby Lowndes) 125, 190 Wyndham, John (John Harris) 122, 257–8 Yates, Dornford (Cecil William Mercer) 113, 169, 205–6, 273 Yeats, W. B. 153 York, Jeremy (John Creasey) 209, 210

Subject Index

academic opprobrium 42 Adult Literacy Campaign 51 advances 20–1, 75, 97, 101, 102, 105–6, 173 adventure stories 7, 359 advertising 19, 56, 73, 78–9, 83, 104–5 Aerial Age stories 113–15 aesthetic values 101–4 Aga sagas 35, 36, 38, 349–50 age of reading, the 27 Amazon 83, 100, 371 anthropomorphised animals 137–9 anti-Americanism 92 AOL 161 art fiction 43 artistic quality 84 Arts Council of Great Britain 94, 95 attention span 62 authenticity 76–7 authors: age 108; age group of audience 131; anonymity 30, 33; authority 24–5; benefits of bestsellerdom 97; branding 33, 38; celebrity 17–18, 23–4, 33–4, 105–6, 347–8; cult of 25, 30; domination of women 101; elite 101; emergence of professional 32–5; favourite, 1947 361–2; favourite, 2000 375; favourite, 2003 5; favourite, 2007 5; gender divisions 36; imagination 140–1; influences 108; longevity 122–3; Mills and Boon’s encouragement of new 126; motivation 34; pulp fiction 30; regional 129; self-pastiche 39; talent (craft) 40; types of bestselling 161; women 31; workingclass 34 avant-gardism 48 awards and prizes 16, 104; see also individual prizes

baby boomer generation 149–50 backlists 79, 82, 85, 128 Badger Books 90 Barnes and Noble 100 Beano 57 Becontree Heath, Essex 64 belle lettres 43 Best Books for Babies campaign 304 bestseller lists 5, 18, 83, 99–100, 101, 358, 374 bestsellerdom 24, 97 bestsellers, definition 1, 28–31, 37, 162 biographies 115 Black Lace 128 Bloomsbury Group 204 blurbs 90 83, 100, 371 book clubs 82–3, 86, 96 Book Marketing Council 304 Book of the Month Club 82 Book Society 82 book trade; see also publishing industry: internationalisation 161; and the Internet 371–3; modernisation 77–8; regulation 78; tensions with readers demands 27 Booker Prize 2–3, 104 books: appeal 22; bestsellers subsidising 101; buying 72–3; demand 67; as information source 27–8; market development 77–81; prices 65; readers selection criteria 69–72; seizures 92–3 Books Etc. 104 Bookseller 60, 62, 79, 82, 92, 98–9, 100, 118, 126, 371–3 booksellers 19, 36, 104–5, 358 Booksellers’ Association 78, 94, 98 booming 161–2 Boots 65, 66 403


Subject Index

Borders 104 bovver boot adventures 91 boys’ school stories 132, 135–7 branding 21–2, 33, 38, 97, 98, 126, 143, 311 British Association of Settlements (BAS) 51–2 British Council Website 350 British Crime Writers Association 210 Canada 92, 126–7 capital investment 77 capitalism 50 Carter Brown Mystery 91 Cassell 79 Catholic Association 92 celebrities 163 censorship 42, 92–6, 142, 151 Chapman and Hall 79 character, in popular fiction 43, 45–6 characters, female 74–6 Chatto and Windus 36, 37 Chaucer Press 92 cheap editions 79–81 chick lit 2, 7, 35–6, 73, 107, 305–7, 316 childhood 131 children: changes in reading habits with age 74; encouragement to read 73; reading habits 57; and television 62 Children’s and Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Act, 1955 92, 95 children’s literature: adult as enemy 145–7; adult cross over 2, 129, 131–2, 144, 275, 298, 336; adventure stories 132, 139–43; American influence 157; animal stories 133, 137–9; appeal across age ranges 25–6; awards 303–4; Blyton’s domination of market 139–43; boys 133, 135, 149–50; boys’ school stories 132, 135–7; Carle’s philosophy 233; censorship 142; as commercial classification 130–1; and commercial culture 150; concepts 131; contempt for 151; definition 26, 130–1; fantasy

132, 144–5, 157–8; genre survivors 132–3; genres 132–3, 133–47; girls 134, 150; girls’ school stories 132, 133–5; historical 133; horror 346–7; and identity 158–60; illustrations 132; influence on adult reading habits 157; library lending statistics 68; maturation 134, 230–1; morality 133; narrative 142; neo-paganism 157–8; and popular culture 149–51; public school adventures 129; religiosity 157–8; Roald Dahl 145–6; science fiction 144; secret societies 135, 137; sense of history and 152–6; serious 151–60; sexual awareness 134; and television 149; themes of loss and recovery 156; for toddlers 302–4; traditionalism 147–8; war comics 149–50; young children 133 cinema 150–1; audience numbers 60; influence on reading 57–61, 137 class 22, 34, 133, 150; and library usage 68; and literacy 53, 54–5 class consolidation 35–6 classic writers, exclusion 29 classicism 41 classics, the 53, 81 Cold War 121–2 Collins 80 Collins vs. Random House 101–4 Colonial Library of Copyright Books 79 comics 57, 92, 135, 143, 144, 149, 149–50, 150, 157, 237, 325 commercial culture 150 Communist Party of Great Britain 92 competition 105 conservatism 108, 127, 129 contractual obligation 101–4 convention 41, 42, 46 copyright 33, 100 Copyright Act (1842) 79 corruption 60–1 costume romances 35 country romance 35 cover art 90, 98, 131, 215

Subject Index crime and detective fiction 13–14, 35, 36, 40, 86, 107, 123, 249, 256, 263–4, 288–9, 296–7, 310–11, 327, 331–3, 334–5, 360, 361 critical contempt 151 cross-cultural literature 129 cult fiction 91, 128 cult followings 48 cultural degeneracy 32 Daily Chronicle 141 Daily Express 60, 63 Daily News 60–1 Dandy 57 Dangerous Lady 278 Day’s Circulating Library 65 Dell 85 demand 80 Dent 80, 81 depravity, definition 92 Dillons 104, 105 discounting 19, 104 distribution 32, 77 The Eagle 57, 143, 144, 157 e-books 25 educational levels 63 educational reforms, 1870 54 educational standards 52 Edwardian, intellectual landscape 155 England and Englishness 152–7 English canon 29 entrepreneurialism 17 ephemerality 39 eroticism 36, 87, 89, 91, 128 escapism 118, 121 ethnographic change 129 Evening Standard 93 Everett and Co. 79 Everyman’s Library 80, 81 F. W. Woolworth 84 factual content, increase in 115 family sagas 6, 35, 36, 281 fan mail 16–17, 141 fan-oriented websites 318 fantasy 90, 123, 129, 132, 144–5, 157–8, 251, 272, 275, 329–30 female pornography 33


Festival of Britain 85 fiction: definition 28; favourite authors, 1947 361–2; favourite authors, 1987–8 364–5; favourite subjects 360–1; greatest books of the twentieth century 367–8; increase in demand for 78–9; Mass Observation survey 359–62; power of 34; respectability 23 fiction ‘bureaux’ 56 film industry 28, 115, 119 film novelisations 58–9 film scripts 25 flim rights 101 France 92 Frasers’ Magazine 12 Free Expression 215 Futura 97 gang life and sex and adventure thrillers 35 gay erotica 128 Gem 136 gender boundaries 36 genre fiction; see also individual genres: academics and 109; categorisation 109–10; children’s literature 132–3, 133–47; competing sub-genres 128–9; cult fiction 128; decay 38; development of divisions 108–9; divisions 107–8; emergence of 35–6; exploitation 123–4; favourite 360–1; library loans 366; longevity 122–3; mixed 107; morality tales 110–13; revival 123; social commentary 115–18; stability 108; status 36; stratification 35–6 genre writers 26, 34 ghost tales and tales of the supernatural 35, 119 girls’ school stories 132, 133–5, 230–1 Gollancz 78, 105–6 Good Housekeeping 56 gothic fiction 4, 7, 35, 107, 129, 241, 242, 335, 353 Granta 198 graphic novels 10, 325


Subject Index

greatest books of the twentieth century 367–8 Guardian 98 Hammer Films 150–1, 228 Hammicks 104 hardbacks: library purchasing 83; market 81–3; and the paperback revolution 85; prices 80; production numbers 99 Harlequin 126–7, 127–8 HarperCollins 106 Harper’s Bazaar 56 Harrods 65 health boom, the 123 Heinemann 24, 82 Herbert Committee, the 93 historical fiction 35, 115, 133, 247, 274, 293, 361 history, sense of 152–6 HMV Media Group 21, 104 Hodder and Stoughton 85, 141 Hogarth Press 204 Hollywood 115, 119, 176 homage 46–7 Horizon 136 Hornet 57 horror 35, 40, 74, 86, 119–20, 268, 300–1, 314–15, 346–7, 359 hot huddles of sensation 58 Hotspur 57, 144, 157, 237 house names 33, 90 Hutchinson 79 Hutchinson Famous Novels series 56–7 identity, children’s literature and 158–60 illiteracy 27, 31, 32, 51–2, 53–4, 54, 61; see also literacy Illustrated London News 55 illustrations 132, 339 imagination 140–1 imaginative history 27 imperial adventure 35, 123 imprints 369–70 impulse buys 97 incomes 63 intellectual landscape 155

International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) 52–3 international rights 100 internationalisation 161 Internet, the 25, 83, 100, 371–3 John Cassell 78 John Menzies 104 Jonathan Cape 78, 82 juvenile romance 35 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial 93–4, 245 Ladybird 208 language 42, 43–5, 49 Left Book Club 82 legitimacy 41 libraries 24, 30, 32; book buying 73, 83, 96–7; book stock 59–60; building rate 72; Carnegie 67; censorship 94; changing needs of users 72–7; closures 72; commercial 64–7, 96; community focus 67–8; diversification 68; effect of television on 63–4; financial cutbacks 97; financing 72; function 72; and genre divisions 109; heavy and light borrowers 72–3; loans 5, 64, 68, 126, 280, 292, 303, 307, 346, 353, 364–5, 366; and Mills and Boon 125, 126; public 67, 96–7; usage 68–73 Libraries and Museums Act, 1964 96 Library Association 94 life, identification with fiction 24–5 lifestyle 44–5, 129 Lion 157 literacy 30–2, 34; and class 53, 54–5; decline 148; levels 51–4, 54, 355; and moral debasement 61; in practice 54–7 literary competence 31 literary festivals 18 literary imagination 28 literary kitsch 49–50 literary production, modes and methods of 26–7 literary thrillers 35

Subject Index literary universes, evolution of 48–9 literature, as lifestyle 129 litigation 40 The Living Page (TV programme) 63 London 54, 92–3 London Novels 56 loss and recovery, themes of 153–6, 156 lost identity 158–60 Love Spell Book Club 7 Macmillan 78, 79, 85, 229 magazines 35, 56 magic realism 139, 152–7, 163 Magnet 136 mail order 83 market: demands 32; development of 77–81; and the paperback revolution 84 market research 83, 98 market success 83 marketing 34, 83, 98, 124 mass culture 50 mass literature 50 mass multi-media publishers 105–6 Mass Observation, library usage interviews 69–72, 359–62 men’s fiction 76–7 merchandising 150 Mercury Books 94 Mere Christianity 145 mergers and takeovers 105 Mermaid Series 85 Michael Joseph 85, 98, 161–2, 339 middle-class, reading habits 55 Mills and Boon 6, 9, 35, 36, 57, 65, 92, 111, 123, 124–8, 162, 190, 194, 212, 307, 311–12, 314, 363 minimalism 43 modern fiction 109 Modern Publishing Company 56 modernity 46 moral debasement 60–1 moral reform 34, 38 morality: children’s literature 133; Victorian 37 morality tales 110–13 MORI surveys 54 Mudie’s library 65, 126


multi-culturalism 15–16, 129, 150, 320 multiple storylines 88–9 mundane settings 112 mushroom publishers 86, 90, 92 myth 46 narrative 42–3, 142 Nash’s Magazine 140 The Nation 178 National Book League 62, 94 National Book Trust 51 National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) 51–2 National Library Trust 68 National Service 90 National Year of Reading 51 Nelson 79–80 neo-paganism 157–8 Nestle Smarties Book Prize 303–4 Net Book Agreement 78, 104 New English Library 91, 151 New York Times bestseller lists 99 News of the World 55, 56, 60 newspapers 54–5, 73; circulation figures 60; as entertainment 55; and television 62 nihilism 49 Nobel Prize for literature 217, 246 non-fiction 115, 361 novelettes 33, 56–7, 86 Obscene Publications Act 93, 95 Office for National Statistics 52 Orange Prize 104 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 52 Oxford University Press 80 OZ obscenity trial 95 packaging 91, 124 panache 42–3 paperbacks 57, 78; ascendancy 91; bestseller lists 374; first million sellers 120; prices 84; production numbers 92, 99; and pulp fiction 86–92; revolution 83–6; sales figures 78, 84, 99, 162 Parachute Press 347


Subject Index

paranormal romance 298 pastiche 46–8, 290, 293 patriotism 133, 135 Penguin 19, 36, 78, 79, 84–5, 86, 91, 93–4, 106, 120, 245 perceptual history 27 personal identity, lost 158–60 pessimism 118 plagiarism 40, 48, 322 plots 25 Pocket Classics 80 poetry 81 popular classics 50 popular culture 26, 42, 49–50, 149–51 popular fiction: character in 43, 45–6; contempt for 13; cynicism 49–50; definition 39; fate of 37–8; imitative 39; language 42, 43–5; legitimacy 10; mythic mode 46; and precedent (tradition) 40–1; reinvention 43, 46; remarketing 38; and serious fiction 41–2; shelf life 38 pornography 33, 86, 91, 128 precedent (tradition) 40–1 pricing 28, 80, 84 print, pervasiveness of 27 print runs 96, 98–9, 99 private obsession 47 production figures 98–9 profitability 83, 97, 98, 101 proletarianisation 50 promotion 17–20 promotional budgets 97, 104–5 propaganda literature 172, 341 pseudonyms 30, 33, 36, 90, 317–18 public domain 79 Public Lending Right 68 public school adventures 129 publication figures 58–9 Publishers’ Association 78, 94 Publishers’ Circular 65 publishing industry: current situation 96–106; imprints 369–70; market development 77–81; mergers and takeovers 105; modernisation 31–2, 98; organisation 36; the

paperback revolution 83–6; patterns of 161; post-war recovery 96; women in 74, 98 puffing 162 pulp fiction 30, 38, 81, 86–92, 161 quality 11–12, 84 race 269–70 racism 142, 149–50 radio broadcasting 64, 73, 82, 149 Railway Library 79 Random House 18, 40, 101–4, 106 readers: conservatism 73; demands 27; social attitudes 73; women 73–6 Reader’s Library 58–9, 79 reading: corrupting influence on women 60–1; increase in popularity 58–61; influence of cinema 57–61, 137 reading ages 51–2 reading habits 31; see also libraries: children 57; consistency 4–5; gender preferences 73–7; heavy and light borrowers 73; influence of children’s literature on adult 157; influence of television 61–4, 64, 81; liberalisation 94–5; magazines 56; Mass Observation survey 69–72, 359–62; middle-class 55; newspapers 54–5; novelettes 56–7; the serialised novel 56; soldiers, WWI 356–7; teenage 74; women 12–3, 60–1, 360–1; working class 54–5 realism 121–2, 123 regional literature 6, 129, 332, 351–2 re-issues 79–81 religiosity 157–8 remarketing 37, 38 Reprint Society 82 retroism 49 Richard and Judy Book Club 18–19, 22 Right Book Club 82 rights 101 Robert Hale 89

Subject Index romance 27, 35–6, 36, 40, 46, 91–2, 107, 109, 123, 124–8, 127 romances 6–9, 74, 307, 311–12, 359, 360, 363 Routledge (George) 78, 79, 177 Rover 237 Royal Literary Fund 199 royalties 100 sales figures 3–4, 5, 25, 39, 80, 83. see also individual authors; accuracy 161–2; book club 83; and class 22; first million seller paperbacks 120; influence of television 17–19, 22, 63–4, 74; Internet 371–3; lack of records 28–9; library 73, 83, 96–7; longevity 162; on-line 100; overall 161; paperbacks 78, 84, 99, 162; supermarkets 97; US 99, 162 Sampson Low, Marston and Company 142 SAS 324–5, 338 scale, economy of 82 science fiction 35, 40, 86, 88, 90, 109, 122, 144, 145, 171, 234, 251, 257–8, 267, 317, 329–30 self-pastiche 39 semi-literate population 51 sensationalism 88, 91, 94–5 serial rights 83 serialised novel, the 56, 65 serious fiction 2–3, 7, 41–2, 104; children’s literature 151–60 seven-penny library 79 seven-penny series of Copyright Fiction 79 sex and shopping novels 35, 318–19 sexuality 91, 319 Shilling Series 79 shop-lifting 330 shopping 319 short stories 25 Signet 90 Simon and Schuster 25 Simplified Spelling Bill 63 Sixpenny Novel Series 79 Slash writing 9–10 Smart Novels 56


social commentary 115–18 Society of Authors 33, 78, 93, 94 Society of Young Publishers 94 Soho, London 92–3 Soviet Union 94 Sphere 110 spiritual consolation 110–12 spiritualism 153 spy fiction 35, 113, 121–2, 169, 320–1, 321–2 Stanley Unwin 19 state of the nation books 115–18 Strand Magazine 23–4, 55 style 42–3 subversion 91 Sunday Companion Library 56 supermarket sales 97 supernatural thrillers 119–20 sword and sorcery 123, 251 Sydney Referee 177 talking books 68 Teacher’s World 141 team writers 90 technological detail 76–7 technological thrillers 113–15, 276–7, 348 teenagers 74 television: and children’s literature 149; debilitating effects 63; and genre fiction 115; and illiteracy 61; influence on book sales 17–19, 22, 63–4, 74; influence on reading 61–4, 81 Tesco 97 thrillers 14–15, 113–15, 342 Time Warner 161 The Times 93, 110, 112–13, 138, 249 Torstar 127 town romance 35 tradition 40–1 Truth 178–9 twentieth century, defining 27 Two Shilling Net Novel Series 79 typography 38–9 UNESCO 51, 99 uniform publishing 79


Subject Index

United States of America: interest in 86; Mills and Boon market 126–7; and the paperback revolution 85; pulp magazines 86, 87, 88; sales figures 99, 162 Universal Book Club 86 unpredictability 39 utopia, search for 156 Valiant 57, 144, 157 value judgements 11–12 vampire romances 7–9 vernacular literature 41 Victor 157, 237 Victorian sentimentality 37, 137 violence 87 Virgin 128 Vogue 56 W. H. Smith 66–7, 78, 82, 94, 96, 98, 104, 105, 126 war gaming 156 wartime adventure 86, 120–1, 123, 314 Waterstone’s 20–1, 83, 100, 104, 105 websites 17, 318 westerns 35, 38, 58, 86, 122, 237, 243–4 Whitbread Prize 26, 104, 146, 331 Wizard 57

Woman 56 Woman’s Own 56 Woman’s Weekly 56 women: appeal to 22; authors 31; book buying 101; conservatism 73; domination of bestseller lists 101; illiteracy 51, 61; literacy 31, 53; magazines 56; ‘post’-feminist 75–6; publishing staff 74, 98; readers 73–6; reading habits 12–13, 60–1, 360–1; and television 63; women’s role 31 women’s fiction: domestic 111; erotica 128; identification of life with fiction 24–5; and literacy 31 Women’s World Library 56 working class, literacy 54–5 World Book Day, 2000 375 World Classics 79–80 World War One 27, 32, 37, 51, 54, 113, 120, 167, 176, 184, 198, 202, 205, 206, 213, 218, 225, 227, 246, 356–7 World War Two 54, 81, 115, 118, 120–1, 136, 204, 215, 219, 223, 227, 231, 248, 249, 250, 260, 270, 341 writing 54 yellow-backs 66

Title Index Aaron’s Rod 244 About a Boy 308 Absolute Power 266 The Acid House 351 Act of Will 270 The Admirable Crichton 146, 166 Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction 349 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 174 The African Queen 120, 214 After the War 11 Air Bridge 219 Air Disaster 219 Airport 240 The Albatross 304 Albion 11 The Alchemist 5 Alias Grace 264, 265 Alice in Wonderland 137 Almonds and Raisins 281 Along Came a Spider 327–8 The Alpha List 261 The Amateur Gentleman 195 The Ambassador 255 The Amber Spyglass 26, 330 American Psycho 96 American Star 235 Amsterdam 324 Anchor at Hazard 126 And Then There Were None 220 The Andromeda Strain 284 The Angel of Darkness 276 Angel Pavement 199, 200 Angels and Demons 273 Animal Farm 121, 222 Anita and Me 347, 348 Anna of the Five Towns 167 Another Bouquet 251 The Appeal 295 The Apprentice 343 April Lady 218 Armoured Warfare 277 Ashenden; or, The British Agent 220

At the Earth’s Core 170 At the Villa Rose 182, 183 Atomised 309 Atonement 28, 324 Auld Licth Idylls 166 Avalanche Express 291 Azur Like it 305 B Is for Burglar 296 Babel 94 The Baburnana 336 Bad Heir Day 305 The Baily Chronicles 280 Banker and Broker 176 Be an Angel 299 The Beach 294 A Bear called Paddington 270 Beau Brocade 185 Beau Geste 205 Beau Ideal 205 Beau Sabreur 205 Beau Wyndham 217 The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs 351 Bel Ria: Dog of War 232 Bella 282 Beloved Vagabond 181, 182 Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ 110 Beneath a Spell 188 Berry and Co 205 The Best Man to Die 335 Better Dead 146 Beware, Beware 304 The BFG 286 Bill Bailey’s Daughter 280 Bill Bailey’s Lot 280 Billion-Dollar Brain 236 Billy Elliot 58 The Bird of the Night 304 Birds of Prey 254 Birdsong 7, 290 The Bitch 44, 235 The Black Album 319 411


Title Index

Black and Blue 331 The Black Book 331 Black Dogs 324 The Black Gang 201 The Black Knight 193 The Black Marble 256 The Black Moth: A Romance of the Eighteenth Century 217 Black Sunday 299 The Blackboard Jungle 248 The Blind Assassin 264, 265 Blind Corner 205 Blind Date 347 Blind Faith 289 Blindsighted 344 Blonde Dynamite 90 Blood Sport 292 The Blooding of the Guns 293, 294 Bloodline 344 Blott on the Landscape 343 The Blue Knight 256 Body of Evidence 283 Bohemia in London 186 The Bond of Black 181 The Bondman 24, 171 Bonecrack 292 Book of the Dead 283 The Bookseller of Kabul 16 A Bouquet of Barbed Wire 251 The Bourne Betrayal 22 The Bourne Identity 322 The Bourne Supremacy 322 The Boy David 166 Brave New World 50, 115, 122 Bravo Two Zero 324, 325 Break No Bones 334 Breakfast in the Ruins 250 Breakheart Pass 248 The Breed of the Beverleys 196 Brick Lane 16, 261 The Bridge 267 The Bridge of Kisses 188 The Bridges of Madison County 74 The Bridges of Toko-Ri 250 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 290–1 Bridget Jones’s Diary 75–6, 290–1, 349 Briefing for a Descent into Hell 245 The Broad Highway 23, 195

Brown on Resolution 214 Buccaneer 329 Buddha of Suburbia 319, 320 The Bull from the Sea 223 Bulldog Drummond: The Adventures of a Demobilized Officer who Found Peace Dull 201–2 Burden of Proof 295 Burglar Bill 303 The Butcher’s Theater 313 Butterfly on a Wheel 58–9 By the Gods Beloved 185 C Is for Corpse 296 Cabal 268 Cactus 215 The Caine Mutiny 257 Cakes and Ale 220 The Call of the Heart 175 The Camels are Coming 242 The Camomile Lawn 352 Campbell’s Kingdom 219 Can You Keep a Secret? 316 Canal Dreams 267 Can’t you Sleep, Little Bear? 304 Captain Blood 329 Captain Blood, His Odyssey 201 Captain Blood Returns 201 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin 107, 287–8 The Captive of Sahara 197 Caravan to Vaccares 248 The Card 167 Career Girls 307 The Career of Catherine Bush 175 The Carpet People 329 The Carpetbaggers 88–90, 94, 252, 253 Carrie 25, 228, 314, 315 The Case of Lucky Legs 216 The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat 216 The Case of the Counterfeit Eye 216 The Case of the Curious Bride 216 The Case of the Howling Dog 216 The Case of the Postponed Thunder 216 The Case of the Sulky Girl 216 The Case of the Velvet Claws 216 The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes 174 Cashelmara 241, 242 Casino Royale 238 Casino Royale (film) 241

Title Index Castle Gay 168 The Castle of Otranto 4 The Cat in the Hat 340, 341 Catch-22 222, 240, 241 Catherine Cookson Country: Her Pictorial Memoir 259 Catherine Herself 218 Cat’s Eye 264, 265 Celebrations at Thrush Green 76 The Cement Garden 324 Centennial 250 Challenge 202 The Challenge of the Sea 234 The Chamber 295 The Chancellor Manuscript 322 Chances 235 A Change for the Better 304 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 145–6, 286 Charlotte Gray 290 Chase 317 Chesapeake 250 The Chessmen of Mars 170 Child Whispers 140, 230 Childhood’s End 122, 233 Children of the New Forest 157 Children of the Sun 256 The Choir 74, 349 The Choirboys 256 The Christian 171, 172 Christine 314 The Chrysalids 122 The Cinder Path 280 A Circle of Friends 269 The Citadel 116, 210, 220 The City and the Stars 233 The Clan of the Cave Bear 265 Clayhanger 167 Clear and Present Danger 276 The Clew of the Forgotten Murder 216 The Client 295 A Clockwork Orange 231 Club Dead 8 Cobwebs of Criticism 172 Cold Feet 299 Cold Fire 317 Colonel Sun 207 The Color Purple 350–1 Colour Blind 279


Coma (film) 284 Complicity 267 The Concubine 247 Congo 284 Consider Plebus 267 The Conspiracy Club 313 The Constant Gardener 320 Cop Hater 248 Coral Island 146 Count Belisarius 213 The Courts of the Morning 168 Cover her Face 310, 311 Crazy to Kill 90 Creed 300 Crimson 279 Cross Bones 334 Cross of Iron (film) 121 The Crow Road 267 The Cruel Sea 120, 221 Cujo 314 Cult Fiction 11 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time 2, 297, 298 The Cutting Room 13, 332 The Da Vinci Code 14–15, 21, 40, 124, 273 The Da Vinci Legacy 40 Daddy 345 The Dambusters 86, 120 Dames Don’t Care 209 The Dancing Floor 168 The Dangerous Book for Boys 309, 310 Daniel 260 Daphne 86 Darcy’s Diary 2 Dark Gentleman 194 The Dark Half 315 Dark Materials trilogy 28 The Dark of the Sun 254 Darkness Visible 217 The Darling Buds of May 229, 230 Das Geduldige Fleisch 121 Daughter of God 40 The Daughters of Cain 288 The Day of the Jackal 108, 239 The Day of the Triffids 122, 257 Dead Cert 292 Dead Fingers Talk 91


Title Index

The Dead of Jericho 288 Dead Until Dark 8 Dead Witch Walking 8 Deal Breaker 277 Dear Adversary 9 Death in Berlin 312 Death in China 301 Death in the Stocks 218 Death is Now My Neighbour 288 Death of an Expert Witness 310 Death on the Nile 192 Death to the French 214 Deborah Hammond 343 Decameron 93 The Deemster 171, 172 Deja Dead 334 Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall 239 The Desert Healer 197 Desert Love 197 Desolation Island 326 Devil May Care 290 The Devil Rides Out 119–20, 227–8 The Devil Wears Prada 28 The Devil’s Advocate 255, 256 Devil’s Dice 181 Diamond Hunters 254 Diamonds are Forever 238 The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam D’Arcy 2 Dirty Dingus Magee (film) 241 The Dogs of War 239 Domain 300 The Doormouse and the Doctor 198 Dope 187 The Doppleganger 219 Double Cross 327 The Double Traitor 184 Double Whammy 301 Down and Out in Paris and London 222 Dr No 238 Dr. Seuss’s ABC 340 Dracula 23, 86, 119, 164 Dragon Tears 317 The Dream Merchants 252 A Dubious Legacy 352 Dulcie 175 The Dweller in the Desert 197

The Eagle Has Landed 120, 302 The Earl’s Daughter 175 East Lynne 164 Ecstasy 351 Edge of Danger 302 The Elected Member 253 Elephant Song 254 The Elfstones of Shannara 272 Eliza Stanhope 349 The Elusive Pimpernel 185 Emily 282 Emma’s Wedding 312 The Emperor’s Candlesticks 185 The Enclosure 304 Engleby 290 Enigma 298 The Enormous Shadow 121 Enquiry 292 Eric 153 The Eternal City 171 Ethel and Ernest 272 Eureeka’s Castle 347 Exocet 302 The Exorcist 228 Expiation 184 Extension du domaine de la lutte 309 Eye of the Needle 342 Faces 278 Fair Stood the Wind for France 229, 230 Fairies and Rewards 164 Faithless 344 Falcon’s Prey 311 False-Face 196 The Family 252 Family 304 Fanny Hill 93 The Far Country 223 The Far Pavilions 312 The Far Side of the World 326 Farmer Duck 303–4 Father Christmas 271 Fatherland 298 Fear is the Key 248 Fear Nothing 317 Felicity Stands By 137 The Fellowship of the Ring 225, 226 The Female of the Species 202

Title Index Fever Pitch 308 Fiction and the Reading Public 84 Fifteen Streets 279 The Fifth Horseman 327 Fighter Wing 277 Filth 351 Filthy Rich 305 The Final Count 202 The Final Diagnosis 240 Fine Things 345 Fire over England 182 Firefox 348 Firefox Down 348 The Firm 295 First Among Equals 263 First Term at Malory Towers 230 Five Children and It 183 Five Gates to Hell (film) 235 Five Minute’s Peace 303 Five on a Treasure Island 141–2, 230 Flash for Freedom 293 Flashman 292 Flashman and the Dragon 293 Flashman and the Mountain of Light 293 Flashman and the Redskins 293 Flashman at the Charge 293 Flashman in the Great Game 293 Flashman’s Lady 293 Flight from Fear 215 The Flood 331 Flowers in the Attic 262 The Flowers of the Field 299 A Flower That’s Free 299 Fluke 300 The Fly (film) 235 Flying Colors 214 Flying Finish 292 The Fog 300 Follow a Stranger 307 Fools Die 251 Footsteps in the Dark 218 For Kicks 292 Force 10 from Navarone 248 Foreign Parts 299 The Forest of Terrible Things 197 Forests of the Night 299, 300 Forfeit 292 Fortune of War 326


The Fortunes of Phillipa 168 The Fountains of Paradise 233 4 Blondes 76 The Four Feathers 182, 183 The Four Just Men 189 The Fourth Protocol 239 Framed 215 Frankenstein 119 Freddy and the French Fries 266 Frenchman’s Creek 211 Fresh from the Country 338 Friday Nights 349 From Doon with Death 334 From Hell 10, 325 From Potter’s Field 283 From Russia with Love 44, 122, 238 The Front 283 Funeral in Berlin 236 Fungus the Bogeyman 271 The Further Inquiry 243 G Is for Gumshoe 296 Gallows on the Sand 255 The Gamester 201 The Garden of Allah 179–81 The Gates of Rome 310 Geisha 16 The Gentle Prisoner 9, 212 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 113 Ghost 298, 299 The Ghost Road 7 The Ghosts of Sleath 300 Gideon’s Day 209, 210 Gideon’s Week 209 The Gillyvors 280 Girl in a Swing 260 The Girl who Proposed 188 Gladiator (film) 110 The Glass Angels 304 The Glass Lake 74, 269 The Glitter Dome 256 Glue 351 The God Delusion 260 The Godfather 251, 252 The Gods of Mars 170 Going Home 345 The Gold in the Gutter 175 Golden Fox 254 The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse 340


Title Index

The Golden Keel 266 The Golden Notebook 245 The Golden Rendezvous 248 Goldfinger 238 Goldmine 254 Gone For Good 277 Gone with the Wind 118, 221, 229, 361 Good and Faithful Servant 299 The Good Companions 118, 199 Goodbye Mr Chips 218, 219 Good-Bye To All That 213 A Good Hanging 331 Goosebumps series 346–7 Governor Ramage R.N. 328 The Grand Babylonian Hotel 167 The Grass is Singing 245 The Great Awakening 184 The Great Escape (film) 235 The Great Impersonation 184, 220–1 The Great Tradtion 1 The Great Train Robbery (film) 284 The Great White Queen 181 The Greatest People in the World 230 The Green Carnation 179 Green Eggs and Ham 340, 341 The Green Mile 315 The Green Years 210 Greenmantle 168, 169 The Gremlins 287 The Grey Horse 98 Greyfriars 168 Gridlock 289 Grimus 337 Guilty Bonds 181 Guilty Pleasures 298 A Guilty Thing Surprised 335 Gulliver’s Travels 4 The Gun 214 The Guns of Navarone 120, 248 Guy Mervyn 165 Half-Past Kissing Time 188 The Hand of Fu Manchu 48 Handmaid’s Tale 264, 265 Hannibal 299 Hannibal Raising 299 The Happy Return 214 Harnessing Peacocks 352

Harriet 282 The Harrogate Secret 280 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 335 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 335, 336 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 335 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 335 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 335 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 28, 129, 335–6 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 335 Harry’s Game 342 Hatter’s Castle 210 The Haunting of Toby Jugg 227 Hawaii 250 He kills Coppers 263 He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not 175 Heart of Darkness 294 Heartbeat 345 The Heir 271 Hell Hath No Fury 103 The Hellbound Heart 268 The Hell-Fire Club 91 Hide and Seek 331 Hideaway 317 High Fidelity 308 Hilda Lessways 167 His Dark Material’s trilogy 147, 330–1 His House 175 His Last Bow 174 His Official Fiancée 188 The History Boys (play) 207 The History Man 207 The History of Danish Dreams 305 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 259, 260 HMS Surprise 326 H.M.S. Ulysses 248 The Hobbit 144, 225, 226, 227, 336 Hobby Horse Cottage 338 The Holcroft Covenant 322 Hold the Dream 270 Hollywood Divorces 235 Hollywood Husbands 235 Hollywood Kids 235

Title Index Holy Blood, Holy Grail 40 Hondo 243 The Honourable Schoolboy 320 Hop on Pop 340 The Horse and his Boy 246 The Horse Whisperer 74, 101, 289–90 Hot Breath 299 Hotel 240 The Hound of the Baskervilles 46–7, 173, 174 The House at Pooh Corner 139, 198 The House of Secrets 196 The House of the Arrow 182 How Late It Was, How Late 3 How Sleep the Brave 230 How the Grinch Stole Christmas 340, 341 Hummingbird in My House 99 The Hunt for Red October 77, 276, 277 Huntingtower 168 I Claudius 213 I Robot 90 I, the Jury 224, 225 I Will Repay 185 Ice Cold in Alex 120 Ice Station Zebra 248 If Tomorrow Comes 344 If Winter Comes 60, 197 I’ll Say She Does 87–8 I’ll Take Manhattan 318 I’m the King of the Castle 304 Immediate Action 324 Imogen 282 An Imaginative Experience 352 An Imperfect Lady 299, 300 Imperium 298 In Between the Sheets 324 In Cold Blood 256 In Search of England 117–18 In the Shadow of the Guillotine 201 The Incredible Journey 232 Indecent Exposure 342 An Indecent Obsession 323 Infamous 103 An Inspector Calls (play) 199 Intensity 317 Interplanetary Flight 234 The Interpretation of Murder 18, 276


The Ionian Mission 326 The Ipcress File 236 A Is for Alibi 296 The Island 18 The Island of Sheep 168, 169 The Island of Terror 202 It 315 It Came From Beneath the Sink 346 The Jacaranda Tree 230 Jacob’s Ladder 184 Jamaica Inn 211 James and the Giant Peach 145, 286 The Janus Man 291 Jassy 247 Jeeves 221 The Jewel that was Ours 288 Jigsaw 273, 274 John Cornelius 71 John Macnab 168 The Jolly Postman 303 Jonathan Livingston Seagull 3, 229 Joy Grantham 56 The Jungle Book 138 Junky 91 Jupiter Williams 270 Jurassic Park 284 Just One Look 277 The Just So stories 138 Just William 192 K Is for Killer 296 The Ka of Grifford Hillary 227 Kane and Abel 263 Kangaroo 244 Kate Hannigan 279, 280 Katie Mulholland 279 Kesey’s Garage Sale 243 The Keys of the Kingdom 210 Keziah Dane 296 The Killer Mine 219 King Albert’s Book 172 The King Must Die 223 King Rat 234 King Solomon’s Mines 254–5 The King’s Pleasure 247 Kiss Me, Deadly 224 Kiss the Girls 327–8 The Kite Runner 16, 308, 309


Title Index

Kitten with a Whip 91 Kneel to the Prettiest 188 Knock-Out 202 Knots and Crosses 331 Kon Tiki 83 Konigsmark 182 The Kraken Wakes 122, 257, 258 Kundu 255 Labyrinth 325, 326 Lace: A Novel 279 Lace II 279 Lady Chatterley’s Lover 91, 93–4, 221, 244, 245 The Ladykiller 278 Lair 300 The Lamp in the Desert 193 The Land that Time Forgot 170 The Landlady 343 The Last Battle 246 Last Bus to Woodstock 288 The Last Don 252 The Last of the Wine 222, 223 Last Seen Wearing 288 Last Train Out 184 The Last Valley (film) 235 Lawrence and the Arabs 213 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 325 Leave it to Psmith 203 The Legacy 320 Legacy of Love 349 The Legend 279 A Leper of St Giles 327 Let the People Sing 199 Letter of Marque 326 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 351 Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee 347 Life of Pi 21, 322 Life, the Universe and Everything 259 Light a Penny Candle 269 Lightening 317 Like a Charm 344–5 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 145, 246, 247 The Lion-Tamer 197 The Little Drummer Girl 320 Little Lord Fauntleroy 86, 157 The Little Minister 146

Little Noddy Goes to Toyland 142, 230 Little Wars 156 The Little White Bird: or, Adventures in Kensington Gardens 147, 166 Living Dead in Dallas 8 Liza of Lambeth 220 The Lolly-Madonna War 296 London Fields 262 The Lonely Skier 219 The Long Firm 263 The Long Road Home 345 Look Back in Anger 159 The Looking-Glass War 320 The Loop 289 Lord Hornblower 214 Lord of the Flies 217, 246, 294 Lord of the Rings trilogy 5, 26, 28, 225, 226–7, 272, 336, 367 Lost Horizon 167, 218, 219, 220 The Lost World 173, 174 Love among the Ruins 193 The Love Child: A Novel 280 Love for Lydia 229 The Lovely Bones 21, 339–40 Lovers and Players 235 Lovers in London 198 Love’s Dilemma 175 Loving 345 The Loving Spirit 211 Lucky 235 Lucky Jim 207 Madame Sousatzka 253 Maggie 281 Maggie Rowan 279 The Magic Apple Tree 304 The Magic Cottage 300 The Magic Garden 279 Magic Kingdom for Sale—SOLD! 272 The Magic of Honey 45 The Magic of Sport 176, 177–8 The Magician’s Guild 275 The Magician’s Nephew 246 Magnificent Obsession 211 Maia 260 The Mammoth Hunters 265 A Man from the North 167 The Man who Made Husbands Jealous 73, 282

Title Index The Man with the Golden Gun 238 Mansfield Park 324 The Manxman 82, 171 Marabou Stork Nightmares 351 Marnie 239 Married Lovers 235 The Mary Deare 219 Mary Poppins 137 Master and Commander 326 Master of Space 233 The Matarese Circle 322 The Matarese Countdown 322 Matilda 286 Maura’s Game 278 The Mauritius Command 326 Memoirs of a Geisha 296 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes 174 Memories of Midnight 344 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus 75 Meridian 350 Micah Clarke 173, 174 Michael 70 Midnight 317 Midnight on the Desert 117 Midnight’s Children 336, 337 Midsomer Murders (TV series) 332 The Midwich Cuckoos 257 Millionaire of Yesterday 184 Mirror Image 345 Misery 315 Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow 74, 99, 305 The Mist in the Mirror 304 Mistral’s Daughter 318 Mistress of Mellyn 241 A Morbid Taste for Bones 327 Mog, the Forgetful Cat 303 Money: A Suicide Note 262 Money for One 188 Monsoon 254 Monster Blood IV 347 The Moon and Sixpence 220 Moon in My Pocket 256 The Moon Maid 170 Moonfleet 329 Moonraker (Fleming) 238 Moonraker (Jesse) 329


The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne 181, 182 Morse’s Greatest Mystery 288 Mortal Causes 331 The Mousetrap (play) 192 Mr Midshipman Hornblower 214 Mr Noah and the Second Flood 232 Mr Standfast 168, 169 Mrs Dalloway 204 The Mugger 248 Murder at Monte Carlo 184 Murder at the Vicarage 191 Murder being Once Done 335 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 191, 220 Murder on the Orient Express 192 My Beautiful Laundrette (film) 319–20 My Cousin Rachel 211, 220 My Gun Is Quick 224 My Sweet Audrina 262 My Uncle Silas 230 The Mysteries of Udolpho 4 The Mysterious Affair at Styles 191 The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu 187 The Mystery of No. 1 196 The Naked Country 255 The Naked Face 344 Name of the Rose 327 The Naming of the Dead 331 Nat Gould’s Annual 176 Needful Things 315 Nellie 175 Nerve 292 Never Call it Loving: A Biographical Novel of Katherine O’Shea and Charles Stewart Parnell 236 Never Love a Stranger 252 The New Centurions 256 The New Dictionary of Statistics 51 A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose 19 A New Lease of Death 334 Next 284 Night Manager 73 1984 121, 221, 222 Nippy 6 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 13, 323 No Adam in Eden 249


Title Index

No Exit: An Adventure 239 No More Dying Then 335 No Orchids for Miss Blandish 86, 207, 208 No Other Tiger 182 Noble House 234 Northanger Abbey 33 Northern Lights 330, 331 Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less 263 Not in the Flesh 335 Not That Sort of Girl 352 Noughts and Crosses 269–70 Octavia 282 Odds Against 292 The Odessa File 108, 239 Of Human Bondage 220 Oh the Places You’ll Go 340 The Old Devils 207 The Old Wives’ Tale 167 The Old Woman 343 Omega Minus 261 Omerta 252 On Beauty 16 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 238 On the Beach 223–4 Once in a Lifetime 345 Once is Not Enough 255 One Fish Town Fish Red Blue Fish 340 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 243 One of the Chorus 188 The One that Got Away 338 The Onion Field 256 Oliver Twist 48–9 Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit 354 Orlando 204 Oryx and Crake 264, 265 The Osterman Weekend 321 The Other Boleyn Girl 297 The Other Side of Midnight 344 Our Kate 280 Out of the Silent Planet 145, 246, 247 The Outline of History 164 The Outline of Science 115 Owl Service 3 Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha 3 Pamela 4

Pampered Passion 91 Pandora 282 A Partisan’s Daughter 287 Paperback Writer (song) 91 The Parasite 173 The Park Forest 71 Parson Harding’s Daughter 349 Part of the Furniture 352 The Partner 295 A Passionate Man 349 Patriot Games 276 A Patriotic School Girl 134–5 Payment Deferred 214 Peace with Honour 198 The Pelican Brief 295 Pellucidar 170 Penmarric 241, 242 Percy the Park Keeper 303 A Perfect Spy 320 A Perfect Stranger 345 Perelandra 246, 247 Pet Sematary 315 Peter and Wendy 166 Peter Pan 137, 146–7, 166 Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens 147, 166 Peyton Place 249 Piccadilly Jim 203 Pilgrim’s Progress 4, 146 The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism 246 The Pirate 252 Pistache 290 The Plague Dogs 260 The Plant 25 Plateforme 309 Please Mrs Butler 303 The Poacher 230 A Pocketful of Rye 210 Poison Ivy 209 Polo 282 Popcorn 289 Porno 351 Porterhouse Blue 343 Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper (Case Closed) 283 Post Captain 326 Postmortem 283

Title Index The Potter’s Field 327 Power Burn 301 Power of a Woman 271 The Power-House 168 The Praise Singer 223 A Prayer for the Ship 333 Precious Bane 202, 203 Prelude to Space 233 Prester John 168, 169 Presumed Innocent 295 Pride and Prejudice 1–2, 5, 64, 76, 291 Pride and Prescience 2 Prime Suspect 320 Prince Caspian 246 Princess Daisy 318 A Prisoner of Birth 263 The Prisoner of Zenda 164, 170, 244 The Prodigal Son 171 Profiles of the Future 234 The Promise 345 Promise of Love 222, 223 Prudence 282 PS I Love You 312 Psmith 203 Psycho 335 Puck of Pook’s Hill 152–5, 159, 164 Puppet on a Chain 248 The Purple Plain 230 Pyrates 293 Quality Street 146 The Queen and I 349 Queen Camilla 349 Queen Victoria 115 The Queen’s Fool 297 Racecourse and Battlefield 176 The Rachel Papers 262 Rage of Angels 344 The Railway Children 150, 183, 184 The Rainbow 244 The Rainmaker 295 Raise the Titanic 284, 285 Ramage 328 Ramage and the Drum Beat 328 Ramage and the Freebooters 328 Ramage and the Guillotine 329 Ramage at Trafalgar 329 Ramage’s Prize 329


Random Harvest 218, 219, 220 Rat Race 292 Rat Run 342 Rat Trap 348 The Rats 228, 300 The Razor’s Edge 220 Rebecca 117, 211, 211–13, 220, 242 Recollections 171 The Rector’s Wife 349 Red as a Rose is She 23 The Red Dahlia 320 Red Dragon 299 Red Fox 342 The Red House Mystery 47, 139, 191, 198 Red is for Murder 353 The Regency Buck 217 The Remains of the Day 16, 118, 310 Remote Control 324 Rendezvous with Rama 233 Requiem for a Princess 284, 285–6 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe 259 The Return of Bulldog Drummond 202 The Return of Sherlock Holmes 174 The Return of Tarzan 170 The Return of the King 225 Return to Night 222, 223 Return to Peyton Place 249 Return to Thrush Green 338 Reverse of the Medal 326 Rewards and Fairies 154–5, 158, 159 Riceyman Steps 167 The Rich are Different 241 Richard Bolitho – Midshipman 333 The Riddle of the Third Mile 288 Riders 282 Riding the Bullet 25 Right Ho, Jeeves 203 The Righteous Men 18 The Ring 345 Ring of Bright Water 232 Riotous Assembly 342 Rites of Passage 217 Rivals 282 River God 254 Road Floozy 90 The Road to Wigan Pier 160 The Robe 110, 211


Title Index

Robinson Crusoe 4 Romantic Adventure 176 A Romance of Two Worlds 25, 172 A Room of One’s Own 204–5 The Rosary 80, 110–12, 165 Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall 239 Round the Fire Stories 79 Royal Flash 292 The Royal Road to Fotheringay 241 Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám 81 The Ruling Passion 102–4 The Runagates Club 169 The Runaway Jury 295 Running Water 182 Rupert of Hentzau 170 The Russia House 320 Sabotage Broadcast 219 The Salamander 256 Salem’s Lot 314 Sanders of the River 189–90 The Satanic Verses 129, 336, 337 The Savage Gorge 291 Savages 279 Saving Grace 266 Say Cheese and Die 346 The Scapegoat 171 Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution 201 The Scarlatti Inheritance 321 The Scarlet Pimpernel 185 Scarred Faces 215 The Scourge of the Swastika 93 The Screwtape Letters 145, 246 Scruples 318, 319 The Sea Hawk 201 Second Fiddle 352 The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 349 The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic 316 The Secret Island 141 The Secret of Annexe 3 288 The Secret of Crickley Hall 301 The Secret Power 172 The Secret Service Man 196 Secrets 345 The Seeds of Yesterday 262 Seize the Night 317 Selling Hitler 299

Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord 287 A Sense of Guilt 251 A Sensible Life 352 September 328 Sepulchre (Herbert) 300 Sepulchre (Moss) 325 Sergeant Bigglesworth C.I.D. 143 Service of All the Dead 288 The Seventh Scroll 74, 254 79, Park Avenue 252 Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl 318 Sex and the City 306 Sex and the Single Girl (film) 241 Sexing the Cherry 354 The Shadow of a Crime 171, 172 The Shadow of the East 197 Shadow of the Moon 312 Shanty Town Tease 91 The Shape of Things to Come 115 Shardik 260 Sharpe’s Eagle 282 She Fell among Thieves 205 The Sheik 180, 194, 197, 205, 221 The Shell Seekers 328 The Shimmer of the Herring 6 The Shining 314 A Ship of the Line 214 The Shoes of the Fisherman 255 Shogun 234 Shopaholic and Baby 316 Shout at the Devil 123, 254 Showdown 307 Shrine 300 Shroud for a Nightingale 310, 311 The Sicilian 251 Sick Heart River 168 Sick Puppy 301 The Sign of Four 174 The Silence of the Lambs 123–4, 299 The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn 288 The Silmarillion 225 The Silver Chair 246 The Silver Thorn 71 Simply Divine 305 Sins of the Fathers 241 Sir Nigel 173, 174 Sister Peters in Amsterdam 312

Title Index The Sisters 343 633 Squadron (film) 235 The Sixth Seal 353 Skeleton Crew 315 Skin Privilege 344 Skinhead 91 The Sky is Falling 344 Sleeping Murder 191 Small Island 15, 321 A Small Town in Germany 320 Smiley’s People 320 Smokescreen 292 Snow Falcon 348 The Snow Tiger 265 The Snowman 271, 272 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish 259 So Well Remembered 220 Sole Survivor 317 Some Lie and Some Die 335 Something Happened 240 Sometimes a Great Notion 243 Sons and Lovers 244 The Sons of the Sheik 197 Sophie’s World 74 Sorrell and Son 82, 193 The Sorrows of Satan 25, 172 The Sound of Thunder 254 South by Java Head 248 South Riding 117 Sown among Thorns 193 The Space Dreamers 233 Sparkles 307 Speak to Me of Love 236 The Spear 300 Sporting Annual 176 The Spring of Joy 203 The Spy who Came in from the Cold 121–2, 320, 321 The Spy who Loved Me 238 SS-GB 236 Stalky & Co. 153 Star 345 The Stars Look Down 210 The Stars Shine Down 344 Statistical Yearbook 99 Stay Out of the Basement 346 The Stone Leopard 291 A Stone for Danny Fisher 89, 252


Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV 64 Storm in the Village 338 Story of a Passion 175 The Story of Dr Dolittle 137 The Story of Miss Moppet 185 The Story of Tracy Beaker 231 A Stranger to the Town 6 Strangers 317, 318 The Street Lawyer 295 Strip Jack 331 Strip Tease 301 The Stud 235 A Study in Scarlet 174 Submarine 277 The Subtle Knife 330 A Sudden Change of Heart 271 A Suitable Boy 3, 340 The Summer Before the Dark 245 The Sun Also Rises 183 Superwoman 279 Surface! 294 The Surgeon’s Mate 326 Survival of the Fittest 313 The Survivor 184, 300 Swallows and Amazons 141–2, 186 The Sword of Shannara 272, 275 Tai-Pan 234 The Tale of Beedle The Bard 336 The Tale of Benjamin Bunny 185 The Tale of Peter Rabbit 137–8, 185, 186 Tales of the South Pacific 250 Target for Their Dark Desire 91 Tarka the Otter 232 Tarzan and the Ant Men 170 Tarzan of the Apes 86–7, 170–1 Tarzan the Terrible 170 Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World 301 Tell No One 277 Temple Tower 202 The Temptress 181 The Tenderness of Wolves 208 A Terrible Tomboy 168 Terror of the Air 113–15 Texas 250 That Hideous Strength 145, 246, 247


Title Index

Their Mutual Child (The Coming of Bill) 203 These Twain 167 The Third Life of Grange Copeland 350 The Third Round 202 The Thirteen Gun Salute 326 The Thirty-Nine Steps 131, 168, 169 This Is Murder 216 This Man is Dangerous 209 Thomas The Tank Engine 207–8 The Thorn Birds 97, 323, 324 A Thousand Splendid Suns 308, 309 The Three Hostages 168, 169 Three Weeks 113, 175, 176 Thrush Green 338 Thunderball 238 Thuvia, Maid of Mars 170 Tiger Eyes 279 Tiger Standish 196 Tiger Standish Comes Back 196 The Tight White Collar 249 Tilly Trotter 280 Tim 323, 324 A Time to Kill 295 Tiny Carteret 202 To Be the Best 270 To Love Again 345 To Sir with Love (film) 235 To the Devil a Daughter 227 To the Lighthouse 204 Toad of Toad Hall (play) 139, 179, 198 Together They Ride 241 Tom Brown’s Schooldays 48–9, 293 The Tommyknockers 315 The Torch Bearers 294 Tourist Season 301 The Tower of Babel 256 A Town Like Alice 223 Trainspotting 163, 351, 352 Tramp in Armour 291 Trap Line 301 Traveller 260 Treason’s Harbour 326 Treasure Island 329 The Tribe that Lost Its Head 221 The Troglodytes 90 The Trojan Horse 219 Tropical Tales 190

The Trouble with Lichen 257 The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 287 Trustee from the Toolroom 223 Twentieth Century Authors 193 Twisted 313 The Twits 286 Two Lives 21 The Two Towers 225 2001: A Space Odyssey 233, 234 2001 (film) 122 2010: Odyssey Two 233 2061: Odyssey Three 233 Ugly Betty 306 Under Two Flags 205 The Undomestic Goddess 316 An Unhappy Bargain 188 Use of Weapons 267 V for Vendetta 325 The Vacillations of Polly Carew 352 The Valley of Fear 174 The Valley of Horses 265 Valley of the Dolls 255 Vamped 8 Vanishing Point 256 The Various Haunts of Men 304 The Veiled Man 181 Vengeance Is Mine 224 The Very Hungry Caterpillar 232–3 Village Affairs 338 A Village Affair 349 Village Centenary 338 Village Diary 338 Village School 338, 339 The Vines of Yarrabee 236 Vintage Stuff 343 The Virgin and the Gypsy 244 The Visits of Elizabeth 175 A Vision in Battlements 231 Voice of the Heart 270 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 246 Walk Like a Dragon (film) 235 Walker, London 166 War and Peace 81 War and Remembrance 257

Title Index The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts 287 War with Honour 198 The Warlord of Mars 170 Warlord of the Air 251 The Wasp Factory 267 The Watchers 182 Watchmen 325 The Water’s Lovely 335 Watership Down 123, 232, 260 The Waves 204 The Way of an Eagle 193–4 The Way the Crow Flies 21 The Way through the Woods 288 Weaveworld 268 Welcome to Camp Nightmare 346 Welcome to Dead House 346, 347 The Wench is Dead 288 Westworld (film) 284 ‘What Our Soldiers Read’ 356–7 Wheels 240 Wheels of Terror 120–1, 314 When Dames Get Tough 215 When Eight Bells Toll 248 When Love Meets Love 175 When the Bough Breaks 313 When the Lion Feeds 254 When the Wind Blows 271 When We Were Young 139, 198 When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought 166 Where Eagles Dare 120, 248 Where’s Spot 302–3 Whisper 317, 318 The White Company 173, 174 White Merc with Fins 107 White Peacock 244 The White Prophet 171 White Teeth 345 Whiter Mughals 16 Wicked! 282 Wideacre 297 Widows 320 Wild Horses 292


Wiles of the Wicked 181 Wilt 342, 343 The Wilt Alternative 342 Wilt on High 342 Wind in the Willows 138–9, 145, 156–7, 179 A Window in Thrums 166 The Winds of War 257 Windyridge 200–1 Windyridge Revisited 200 The Winner 266 Winnie-the-Pooh 130, 139, 142, 198, 199 Winter in Thrush Green 338 The Wishsong of Shannara 272 The Witches 146, 286 Without Motive 70 The Witness for the Defence 182 The Wives of Bath 305 Wolf to the Slaughter 335 Wolfsbane 348 A Woman of Substance 270, 271 The Woman in Black 304 The Woman Thou Gavest Me 171 Woman’s Soul 175 The Women in His Life 270 Women in Love 244 The Woods 277 The Wooing of Rosamund Fayre 188 The World is Full of Married Men 235 The Worm Book 303 The Years 204 Yellow Book 156, 169, 179 The Yellow Claw 187 You Only Live Twice 238 Young Girls Beware 208 Youngblood Hawke 257 You’re Lonely when You’re Dead 208 The Ysable Kid 237 Zoraida: A Romance of the Harem and the Great Sahara 181