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Christopher Fowler
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message 1: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 11, 2014 03:48AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
Here's an introduction to the world of Christopher Fowler.



Is he a Hamilton-esque author? I don't know.

I suspect that there may be some parallels. At the very least he seems to be worth highlighting to the perpetually curious denizens of The Patrick Hamilton Appreciation Society. So, I hope you will indulge me, as I tell you what I've discovered so far...



Whilst reading online reviews of King Dido by Alexander Baron, I came across one by a reviewer who had heard about King Dido via a book called Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared by Christopher Fowler.

Here's an intriguing synopsis from Amazon UK...

There are a great many authors we grew up with whose books became touchstones in our lives, who have simply disappeared. What happened to them? Adopting false identities, switching genders, losing fortunes, descending into alcoholism, discovering new careers, the stories of the missing authors are often more surprising than any of the fictions they wrote. But their books live on in our homes and our memories. They're passed to our children, to our friends, to secondhand shops. And sometimes they surprise everyone by revealing their secrets.



Click here for Christopher's promising looking blog. That the first entry tagged "London" is about the famous "Protein Man" who used to walk around the vicinity of Oxford Circus when I was a film messenger in the area in the late 1970s, and the memory of whom evokes all kinds of magical, nostalgic feelings, makes me believe this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Christopher Fowler is also a writer of fiction. Again, from Amazon UK...

...the multi award-winning author of thirty novels and ten short story collections, and the author of the Bryant & May mystery novels. His first bestseller was 'Roofworld'. Subsequent novels include 'Spanky', 'Disturbia', 'Psychoville' and 'Calabash'. His books have been optioned by Guillermo Del Toro ('Spanky') and Jude Law ('Psychoville'). He spent 25 years working in film.

He recently wrote 'Red Gloves', 25 new stories of unease to mark his first 25 years of writing. His memoir 'Paperboy' won the Green Carnation Award, and is being followed by a new volume, 'Film Freak', in April 2013. Other new books include the dark comedy-thriller 'Plastic' and 'Invisible Ink: The Mysterious Case Of The Disappearing Authors'.

He has written comedy and drama for BBC radio, including Radio One's first broadcast drama in 2005. He writes for the FT and the Independent on Sunday, Black Static magazine and many others. His graphic novel for DC Comics was the critically acclaimed 'Menz Insana'. His short story 'The Master Builder' became a feature film entitled 'Through The Eyes Of A Killer', starring Tippi Hedren and Marg Helgenberger. In the past year he has been nominated for 8 national book awards. He is the winner of the Edge Hill prize 2008 for 'Old Devil Moon', and the Last Laugh prize 2009 for 'The Victoria Vanishes'.

Christopher has achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing a terrible Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, writing a stage show, posing as the villain in a Batman graphic novel, running a night club, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror, and standing in for James Bond.

His short stories have appeared in Best British Mysteries, The Time Out Book Of London Short Stories, Dark Terrors, London Noir, Neon Lit, Cinema Macabre, the Mammoth Book of Horror and many others. After living in the USA and France he is now married and lives in King's Cross, London and Barcelona.


I conclude with one question: What's not to love?


message 2: by Greg (new)

Greg | 159 comments Nigeyb, Invisible Ink looks good. Yes, the stories of the writers would make absorbing reading. Are there any Indie or small publishers nowadays who publish authors that have been long out of print?


message 3: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 11, 2014 04:14AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ There must be loads Greg.



Here's three small publishers who do just that and whose work I have recently enjoyed...

1. Five Leaves

Five Leaves is a small publisher based in Nottingham, publishing 15 or so books a year. Our roots are radical and literary. These days our main areas of interest are fiction and poetry, social history, Jewish secular culture, with side orders of Romani, young adult, Catalan and crime fiction titles. You can find our latest and forthcoming books below, backlist section by section, and order books through a secure site run by Inpress. Our books are also available from bookshops and internet sites including The Book Depository and Amazon. If in London, you will find most of our books in stock at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, five minutes from Kings Cross.

Here's their New London Editions imprint.

2. London Books

London Books is an independent publisher which aims to bring old and new fiction together in a tradition that is original in its subject matter, style and social concerns. We believe that the marginalised fiction of the past can be as relevant and exciting today as when it was first published, and our classic reprints will reflect the language and politics of tougher eras, while our new fiction will focus on emerging authors with something to say and a novel way of getting their messages across.

3. Black Spring Press

Since 1985, Black Spring Press has produced work by Nick Cave, Anaïs Nin, Charles Baudelaire, Kyril Bonfiglioli, Carolyn Cassady and Leonard Cohen, among many others.

Black Spring specialises in the contemporary, as well as breathing new life into neglected classics (including The Gorse Trilogy: The West Pier, Mr Stimpson And Mr Gorse, Unknown Assailant)


message 4: by Greg (new)

Greg | 159 comments Thanks Nigeyb. Roland Camberton, have you read him?


message 5: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 11, 2014 04:50AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ Roland Camberton?



Yes indeed.

Click here and then click here.


message 6: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 11, 2014 05:13AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
Another one for you to enjoy....





4. Valancourt Books

“Valancourt Books specializes in new editions of rare and sometimes almost entirely forgotten fiction from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. These are not cheap reprints: the 'Classics' range comes annotated with scholarly introductions and, in some cases, contextualizing appendices. […] Valancourt Books is to be lauded for the scope of its ambition. It will spare scholars and the atmosphere many long-distance journeys to university and copyright libraries, and makes available to the lay enthusiast some curious marginalia from the history of the novel.” – The Times Literary Supplement, Gregory Norminton, Nov. 27, 2009

"Valancourt Books are fast becoming my favourite publisher. They have made it their business, with considerable taste and integrity, to put back into print a considerable amount of work which has been in serious need of republication. Their list has been compiled by editors who know their stuff, bringing back into the light a raft of books I, for one, have been waiting years to read! If you ever felt there were gaps in your reading experience or are simply frustrated that you can't find enough good, substantial fiction in the shops or even online, then this is the publisher for you!" -- Michael Moorcock


Thanks to John to pointing it out to me.


message 7: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments I wanted to mention Christopher Fowler to you earlier in this group because of your London project but wasn't sure if you would feel he was an appropriate author for discussion.
He was born in London and still lives there although he spends long periods abroad now. He has a passion for London history and his Bryant & May series is full of odd snippets of hidden aspects of London's history. And he has a great website where London is a regular subject for discussion.
I'm a big fan, if you hadn't guessed!


message 8: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ Thanks Sarah. That's a ringing endorsement. And the moral, if in doubt, start a thread or post a comment.

Where would you recommend the nascent Christopher Fowler fan start his or her journey?


message 9: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments Paperboy, his memoir about growing up in 1950s/60s London, is excellent.

Do you read Detective Crime fiction, Nigeyb? I really enjoy the Bryant & May series, it's quirky and different. It's best to read them in order so Full Dark House: would be another one that I recommend. Apparently he writes each one in the series in a different crime genre, but I haven't managed to get my head round that yet!

I've also got the Invisible Ink book, which I dip into from time to time. He is still writing these pieces as a column for the Independent.


message 10: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ Thanks Sarah. That's great.


I'll follow up on those recommendations - and report back.


message 11: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 17, 2014 11:23AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod


I'm off an running with Christopher Fowler and, so far, very impressed by what I've read.

Perversely, I am currently reading Bryant and May on the Loose which is the seventh of the ten books...

The History Of Bryant & May

I have now also got the first one ready to read - Full Dark House and - following Sarah's advice above - have got Paperboy, Fowler's memoir of his early years.

What I am enjoying about Bryant and May so far is the brilliant evocation of London; the little details of history; the irreverent and slightly subversive content; and that, whilst of course they're a bit dysfunctional (aren't all detectives?), this is not all consuming, and they seem like the kind of people whose company I want to share. All in all this feels like the start of a beautiful relationship.

Is it Hamilton-esque? In so far as it evokes a clear sense of time and place, and is unashamedly London-centric then I would say "yes".

I forgot to mention that I also have a copy of Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared - the book I mention above that contains two page essays on 100 authors (the majority British) who despite enjoying some level of success (in some cases major success) have virtually disappeared from public consciousness. On the basis of a quick flick through it looks every bit as good as I'd hoped.


message 12: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments I can't believe the number of books you get through, Nigeyb!

Glad you're enjoying Bryant and May. They are such familiar characters, and yet there is always something new to learn about them.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter | 46 comments I presume the Invisible Ink entries are reprinted from (or include) Chris Fowler's short pieces about forgotten authors written for The Independent. I came across them on the Neglected Books page http://neglectedbooks.com/?page_id=834 but didn't know they'd been published as a book. Sounds interesting - if I can find a cheap copy!

I recently acquired Writer's Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries which contains brief entries on neglected works of fiction (and non-fiction) championed by various authors - British as well as American. Published back in 1983, so rather dated - but that's fine. I was reading Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky at the time and was pleased to find it rated an entry, courtesy of Keith Waterhouse; The Slaves of Solitude (which I look forward to reading at some stage) also has an entry, courtesy of Clancy Sigal.


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter | 46 comments I presume the Invisible Ink entries are reprinted from (or include) Chris Fowler's short pieces about forgotten authors written for The Independent. I came across them on the Neglected Books page http://neglectedbooks.com/?page_id=834 but didn't know they'd been published as a book. Sounds interesting - if I can find a cheap copy!

I recently acquired Writer's Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries which contains brief entries on neglected works of fiction (and non-fiction) championed by various authors - British as well as American. Published back in 1983, so rather dated - but that's fine. I was reading Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky at the time and was pleased to find it rated an entry, courtesy of Keith Waterhouse; The Slaves of Solitude (which I look forward to reading at some stage) also has an entry, courtesy of Clancy Sigal.


message 15: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
Thanks Sarah - yes thoroughly enjoying B&M.

Thanks for all this information Peter - I believe your correct about the articles from The Independent forming the basis for Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared. If I enjoy Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared, I'll move on to Writer's Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries.

You should prioritise The Slaves of Solitude - one of the best by the great man. Please add a few comments to our discussion thread once you start reading it.


message 16: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I have just finished...





Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler

This is the first book I have read by Christopher Fowler and so (obviously) the only book I have read in the Bryant & May series. It is the seventh of the ten (so far) books and, if this book is indicative of the quality, then it is an excellent series.

Click here to read the History Of Bryant & May on Christopher Fowler's website.

The story is an enjoyable tale of a ritualistic killer who appears to be evoking pagan rites in the Kings Cross area of London whilst the area is going through an important period of major redevelopment. Modern day London is brilliantly evoked, and there is plenty of historical detail along with old myths and legends. The Peculiar Crimes Unit (or PCU) for whom Bryant and May work, was disbanded shortly before this story starts so there is also a sub-plot around getting the old team back together.

There are some great twists and turns and a surprisingly dark ending too. An entertaining, intriguing, wry, well written detective novel that made me feel very keen to read more of the Bryant and May books.

4/5


message 17: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments Were you able to pick up the back story easily as you started in the middle of the series? I think because they're detectives in their later years with a long career behind them there's always that feeling that there's a lot more to find out, and he leaves some threads dangling, which adds to the anticipation of learning more about their past.


message 18: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 20, 2014 12:43AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ I got hints of their long working relationship and there is one moment where someone reveals some very personal information about Bryant that he is amazed anyone could know about (very conscious about revealing too much here so being deliberately vague).

I really enjoyed how Bryant was all put retired before this case, and slowly dying as a consequence - he needs the work to prosper and May is the one who helps to make sure he is nourished. I also picked up that Bryant is the mystical dreamer and May the pragmatic and methodical procedural type - and together they compliment each other perfectly.

Bryant and May on the Loose certainly works perfectly as a stand alone novel and I suspect, for anyone not bothered about reading them in order, is a good entry point. I'll let update this thread as I read a few more.


message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I am have just finished reading...





White Corridor by Christopher Fowler

This is the second book I have read by Christopher Fowler and both have been from his Bryant & May series. I can confirm that the only thing that is Hamilton-esque is the London-centric nature of the stories, that said the two I have read are both enjoyable and intelligent page-turners.

Arthur Bryant and John May are Golden Age Detectives in a modern world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU), London's most venerable specialist police team, a division founded during the Second World War to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest.

It's an unusual and original set up, two crimes have to be solved and these are cleverly interwoven whilst Bryant and May are trapped far from London and their colleagues at the PCU. White Corridor contains more of Christopher Fowler's trademark humour, London history, some acerbic social insights, and a ripping yarn that gets progressively more compelling and exciting.

Click here to read the History Of Bryant & May on Christopher Fowler's website.

4/5


message 20: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I am currently reading more Christopher Fowler...





Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared by Christopher Fowler

Why do some authors fall out of favour? The answer, according to Christopher Fowler, is far more arbitrary than you might imagine: fashion, economics, luck, film adaptations and many more variables play a part. What is clear is that the majority of authors disappear including those whose books become touchstones for many of our lives.

Whilst reading online reviews of the excellent King Dido by Alexander Baron, I came across one by a reviewer who had heard about King Dido via Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared by Christopher Fowler.

Frequently whilst authors disappear, their books live on in our homes and our memories and are passed to children, to friends, and to secondhand shops. Some even get rediscovered, like the aforementioned Alexander Baron who has had many of his titles republished in the last few years.

Each forgotten author gets a page or two and, so far, whilst I'm only 20 pages in, I am already making notes of writers who I feel compelled to try to read.


message 21: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments How many authors on your list so far, nigeyb?!


message 22: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1364 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Frequently whilst authors disappear, their books live on in our homes and our memories and are passed to children, to friends, and to secondhand shops."

E-Books will swiftly put paid to all of that. As Yudenow would say, then we're ALL the sufferers...


message 23: by Nigeyb (last edited Mar 29, 2014 03:00AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I'm trying not to get too carried away Sarah. So far I've got...



Gavin Lambert
Arthur Machen
Philippa Pullar
Pierre Boileau
E.M. Delafield


message 24: by Nigeyb (last edited Mar 27, 2014 07:16AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "As Yudenow would say, then we're ALL the sufferers... "



Yes he would :-))

Funnily enough not all the books listed are on e-book but that should change over time.

I reckon you might enjoy The Goodbye People by Gavin Lambert. I certainly like the sound of it...

Long before the term Generation X was coined, Gavin Lambert captured the seedy landscape of Los Angeles in absolute moral and physical decay. The Goodbye People is a danse macabre, with a group of ill-assorted people who are "always changing their addresses and phone numbers as well as their lives". In an atmosphere of self-indulgence, blight and emptiness, they revolve around one another weaving together their dreams and nightmares to create a complex pattern of despair. The beautiful people who populate Lambert's novel are both the very rich and the very poor: what intrinsically links them is an all-pervading sense of aimlessness. First published in 1971, The Goodbye People is an enduring classic, and one of the most incisive takes on Hollywood ever written. With The Slide Area, Inside Daisy Clover and Running Time, The Goodbye People forms a revelatory "Hollywood Quartet" of lives in one of the most extraordinary cities in the world.

Not on e-book but cheap second hand copies look easy to come by,


message 25: by John (new)

John Jameson-davis | 2 comments I shall never touch an e-book. I'm allergic to them.


message 26: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ Yeah, e-books are a mixed blessing and an allergic reaction is quite understandable, that said there's some great books that are easiest to access through the murky world of e-books - and many great books that are out of copyright, and so free to read, that the discerning e-reader can access.


message 27: by John (new)

John Jameson-davis | 2 comments Oh, that's useful to know, I must admit. I hadn't realised that. Hmm, we shall see if I ever get tempted.


message 28: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments I don't use an e-reader and can't see myself ever starting to. I've tried reading an e-book downloaded from the library on my tablet, but didn't get on very well with it. I think it may be partly a generational thing.
From what I've heard others say though, I don't think using an e-reader precludes also having a good book collection. I think as time goes on people may find that they use both according to circumstance - i.e. e-readers on holiday or for books they want to try out, and the real thing for books they want to keep/collect. A book has a history and holds memories that nothing can replace.
Similarly, I was reading a conversation today where people were reminiscing about shops they went to in their youth - just thinking about them brought back the sites, sounds & tastes. Will today's youth be saying 'ooh do you remember that website we downloaded our first mp3 from'?!


message 29: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1364 comments In terms of practicality, e-books don't work at all for me. Our drummer's a bit of a fan, especially when it comes to being on tour. He made every attempt to convince me during our last tour, so I casually looked into it once back stateside. I went to Amazon UK, looked up a number of my favourite titles, and was immediately put off as soon as I saw that every single one of them was not available for download outside the UK because of copyright laws. A quick attempt at the same via Amazon US yielded no results... simply put, none of my favourites were even listed as available stateside.

In short, if I were to switch to e-books, I would have to seriously alter my tastes in literature, which I'm not about to do.


message 30: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I've now finished Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared by Christopher Fowler



It's a marvellous little book and a trove of inspiration. I heartily recommend it. Where Christopher Fowler really succeeds is in making each entry amusing, enticing, and intriguing, and, as a consequence, he made me want to read something by virtually all of them.

The book consists of 100 short, snappy pen pictures of all manner of forgotten writers (or forgotten books by well known writers) taken from a series of articles originally written by Christopher Fowler for The Independent newspaper.

Each writer gets a couple of pages and they range from the very well known (e.g. Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson) to the unlikely (Arnold Ridley aka Godfrey in BBC TV 1970s sitcom Dad's Army - who fought in both World Wars and was also an author).

What the hundred authors all have in common is that at some stage in their literary careers they sold in sizeable quantities and yet subsequently some, or all, of their books are now all but forgotten, or at best just remembered by their hardcore fans.

So why do some books and authors fall out of favour whilst others go on to enjoy longevity? The answer, according to Christopher Fowler, is far more arbitrary than you might imagine: fashion, economics, luck, film adaptations, and many other variables might play a part. What is clear is that the majority of authors eventually disappear, including those whose books become touchstones for many of our lives.

In this world of e-publishing and niche publishers there is now far more likelihood of being able to source a digital or republished editions of books that might otherwise be out of print. As I read through Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared I made notes of books and authors I wanted to investigate (and despite trying my utmost to be discerning the total list came to 32 books), and virtually all could be bought cheaply second hand, or in a reasonably priced e-book edition. Isn't the internet wonderful?

4/5


message 31: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 68 comments Nigeyb wrote: "I'm trying not to get too carried away Sarah. So far I've got...



Gavin Lambert
Arthur Machen
Philippa Pullar
Pierre Boileau
[author:..."


Whaat..Delafield's not unknown!
Not in my world, anyway... :)


message 32: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
Miss M wrote: "Whaat..E.M. Delafield's not unknown!

Not in my world, anyway... :) "


I can believe it Miss M.

In fairness to Christopher Fowler, E.M. Delafield was once a household name (bit like our man Mr Hamilton), and that is why he included her. Her profile is rising again though, thanks to Persephone etc.


message 33: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I am currently reading (my third consecutive book by Christopher Fowler)...





Paperboy by Christopher Fowler

It's a memoir of Christopher Fowler's childhood in suburban London during the 1950s and 1960s. He was a lonely boy who spent his days between the library and the cinema, devouring novels, comics, etc.

His family are dysfunctional - a weird combination of the entertainingly eccentric and endearingly ordinary. Christopher Fowler perfectly captures the fairly grim world of post-war Britain before it bursts into colour in the mid-1960s and, to an extent, breaks free of the world of tight-lipped austerity. I'm over halfway through now and, whilst it's far from perfect, there's a lot to enjoy and it's a rich and astute evocation of a certain time and a place that, despite being ten years younger, I can readily relate to.


message 34: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
I have just finished...





Paperboy by Christopher Fowler

This is the third consecutive book I have read by Christopher Fowler - and all have been very different. Paperboy is a memoir of Christopher Fowler's childhood in suburban London during the 1950s and 1960s. He was a lonely boy who spent his days between the library and the cinema, whilst devouring novels and comics.

His family was very dysfunctional: a curious combination of the entertainingly eccentric, wilfully self-defeating and endearingly ordinary. Christopher Fowler perfectly captures the grim monochromatic world of post-war Britain before it became a more colour world from the late-1960s and, to an extent, broke free of the post-war world of tight-lipped austerity, stultifying conformity and thwarted ambition.

Paperboy is far from perfect, and frequently felt meandering and lacking in focus, however there are more sections that are funny, charming, poignant and wise than anything else, and overall I enjoyed it. I'd say people who grew up in Britain in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s would probably get more out of it as it's such a rich and astute evocation of an era that felt very familiar despite my being ten years younger than Christopher Fowler.

4/5


message 35: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments Paperboy is one of my favorite Christopher Fowler books.I could really relate to a lot of it and felt it gave me a good insight into his character. I'd be interested to hear what you think of Film Freak which is the follow-up, if you get round to reading it. I didn't enjoy it as much, partly because it isn't so personal and I was left feeling there was a lot he'd chosen not to share about that time in his life.


message 36: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3858 comments Mod
^ Thanks Sarah.


I will definitely be reading Film Freak. Indeed, one of the things I enjoyed most about Paperboy was the stuff he wrote about film. I thought he was very insightful about a lot of the British films he mentioned (for example, Get Carter, The Wicker Man, the Carry On series, Hammer films etc.) and he is clearly passionate and well informed.

In terms of lacking the personal element, I wonder how much he has left to say? He is pretty open and honest in Paperboy, and perhaps had said it all?


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