10 forgotten crime authors
For several years I’ve been running a column called ‘Invisible Ink’ in The Independent about authors who wrote the popular books which have vanished from bookshelves.
Here are ten of my favourite forgotten crime authors.
1. Maryann Forrest
She wrote three novels, including the terrifying Here: Away From It All, then vanished. Her real name, it transpired, was Polly Hope, and she gave up because she was busy designing the Globe Theatre with her husband.
2. Nicholas Monsarrat
He wrote The Cruel Sea and many other naval dramas, but controversy followed with The Story Of Esther Costello about TV evangelism and fundraising; it upset the teaching staff surrounding the blind Helen Keller, who felt that its criticisms were levelled at them.
3. R Austin Freeman
He should have become as famous as Conan Doyle. His detective, Dr Thorndyke, a barrister and man of medicine who, armed with his little green case of detection aids, sets out to solve impossible puzzles, is as good as Sherlock Holmes.
4. Alexander Baron
His epic novel of Edwardian Jewish gangs, King Dido, remains a personal favourite; here is a tale that outlines, with infinite care, the causal link between poverty and crime. Its final pages are utterly heartbreaking. It’s one of the greatest and least read novels about London ever written.
5. JB Priestley
Surprisingly unread these days, Angel Pavement is a detailed portrait of London seen by the employees of a veneer company, when the genteel firm is wrecked by a tough new employee.
6. James Hadley Chase
No Orchids For Miss Blandish was a tale of kidnap and rape that caused controversy and became a smashing success. A genuine one-sitting page-turner, it was unlike anything that had been published by an English author before, packed with surprises, non-explicit sex and violence.
7. Rachel Ingalls
She wrote novellas, a format which has fallen from fashion, but tales like Mrs Caliban pack a real punch. She’s been named one of the 20th century’s greatest writers but no-one has heard of her.
8. Hans Fallada
His life was even more disastrous and extraordinary than his books. He went mad, as so many of my favourites do! Try Alone In Berlin, a true story about an apartment building during WWII.
9. Dennis Wheatley
He went from crime and historical novels to tales of the supernatural before Churchill asked him to work out what the Germans were up to…another author whose real life you couldn’t make up. The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult was hugely popular in its time, and Hammer adapted his work – their best being The Devil Rides Out.
10. Gladys Mitchell
Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley was a wizened crone who tested the constraints of the murder genre by pushing them to breaking point. Like the more successful Miss Marple she provided insights into the cases the police overlooked. Unlike Miss Marple she could be a real bitch.
For more information about Christopher Fowler’s work, visit his website.