Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared is 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 byChristopher 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?