Great Reads by (Largely) Forgotten Authors

By Jennifer Keirans

I am a fan of a lot of authors that no one reads anymore.

This is probably because I began my reading life by browsing my father’s paperback collection. He liked old books too, and was unconcerned by the concept of age-appropriate reading. (This led to some missteps: Sharky’s Machine by William Diehl is not a great choice for a twelve-year-old, however precocious.) But that’s how I discovered Wilkie Collins and Dorothy L. Sayers, not to mention plenty of others who aren’t so well-known nowadays.

The problem with liking old books is that a lot of them are out of fashion, out of print, and hard to find. The good news is that these forgotten old reads are still available through the library! If they’re not on the shelves, you can often find them on OverDrive, or request them, free of charge, through InterLibrary Loan.

Here are a few of my fondly-remembered oldies:

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950) was a prolific author of what nowadays we would call historical romance novels. They were of the swashbuckling variety, featuring heroes who laugh in the face of danger. Several of them got made into movies starring people like Errol Flynn. They were also full of accurate historical detail, and – since I devoured them as a teenager – I credit them with awakening in me a lifelong love of history. Captain Blood (1922) is a classic pirate tale, with lots of high adventure and stirring dialogue.

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

Ellery Queen was the pseudonym of two men, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred Lee (1905-1971). They were prolific authors of mystery novels for decades. Their gimmick was that their detective was a mystery author named Ellery Queen.  The novels, especially the early ones, often feature the kind of crime that would only happen in a mystery novel. That’s part of the charm of The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934), a truly bonkers case in which everything in the crime scene is backwards – including the victim’s shoes on the wrong feet.

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

You’ve heard of Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), of course, who wrote the melancholy children’s classic The Little Prince. He was a fascinating man: an impoverished nobleman, early pioneer of aviation, and hero of France. He disappeared, and is believed to have died, during a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean during World War II. This exquisite 1939 memoir tells the story of the plane crash that stranded Saint-Exupery in the Lybian desert.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, you’ve probably read Mary Stewart’s (1916-2014) Arthurian novels, told from the point of view of Merlin and starting with The Crystal Cave. Me, I prefer her gothic-tinged novels of suspense, like The Ivy Tree (1961), in which a young woman impersonates an heiress in order to secure an inheritance. Or does she?

Do you like old books, too?

Have a look at this list and see if any of these titles stir your interest.


And please, tell me about your favorites in the comments!

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3 responses to “Great Reads by (Largely) Forgotten Authors”

  1. Lindsey Anderson says:

    I love Mary Stewart’s gothics! I haven’t read The Ivy Tree yet but I really enjoyed Nine Coaches Waiting and Thornyhold is on my list, too. It’s getting harder to find books by some of the obscure authors I like, especially now that so many of my local used bookstores have either gone out of business or switched to new books online. Interlibrary loaning is where it’s at!

  2. almira jones says:

    D.E.Stevenson is a Scottish author, her books are gentle reads, set in small villages in Scotland.

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