Thursday, June 28, 2012


Five forgotten books I want to read...

...ought to be a fairly decent post for Friday’s Forgotten Books meme normally hosted by Patti Abbott at her blog Pattinase and hosted by the very considerate Todd Mason this week. Don’t forget to read about the many forgotten books over at his blog Sweet Freedom.

I have been preoccupied with urgent personal work, hence I don't have the time for a regular book review. Since I don't want to miss FFB entirely, I have put together a few covers of books written by some of my favourite authors, books I have been on the lookout for in new and secondhand bookstores in Bombay, in vain so far. Maybe, I haven’t looked in the right places. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck online.

How many of these vintage books have you read?
 I have read just one.

P.G. Wodehouse, of whom Evelyn Waugh once said “He has made a world for us to live and delight in,” published Love Among the Chickens in June 1906. He serialised it in Circle magazine, New York, during 1908 and 1909 before launching the US edition of the book in May 1909. The narrator of the novel is Jeremy Garnet, a writer and old friend of Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, a recurring character in Wodehouse’s stories. Garnet regales us with his adventures on Ukridge’s chicken farm in Dorset, England. 

Lloyd C. Douglas, a minister and author, built a great career out of writing about religious and historical fiction. His most famous work is The Robe (1942) in which a Roman tribune recounts his personal and emotional experience of the Crucifixion and its aftermath. Published in 1929, Magnificent Obsession is the story of two men who dedicate their lives to helping people. Both these novels were made into blockbusters. 

Frank G. Slaughter, American author and physician, was one of the finest writers of the last century. The Thorn of Arimathea remains my favourite book by Slaughter who, I suspect, was influenced by the work of Lloyd C. Douglas. I still have to read many of Slaughter’s novels including Fort Everglades (1951) which tells the story of a bloody struggle between a White and a Red in the wild swamplands of Florida in 1840. 

John Steinbeck’s first novel, published in 1929, is about legendary pirate Henry Morgan’s obsession with a beautiful woman and the conquest of Panama — the Cup of Gold. The American writer’s only historical novel is described as “a lush, lyrical fantasy.” 

A.J. Cronin, the Scottish physician and author, is renowned for The Citadel and Hatter’s Castle though he wrote several memorable books including The Keys of the Kingdom, The Green Years and The Spanish Gardener, the last reviewed here. My own favourite has always been Beyond This Place (1953), a book I read in college. It’s about a young man who sets out to prove his father innocent of a murder conviction. You will see little shades of this story in John Grisham’s The Chamber. Strangely, I never came across the novel after I read it the first time.

Now if I could mention one more forgotten author here, it would be Nevil Shute, the British-Australian author and aeronautical engineer, who has written sagas about wars and Australia, many in the backdrop of aviation. I reviewed Shute's Beyond the Black Stump here.


  1. Cup of gold is the only one I've read.

  2. I would very much love to read the Wodehouse and Cup of Gold. Are they not available online?

  3. Charles, I've read Steinbeck's more famous books but not CUP OF GOLD which sounds interesting. I haven't come across it anywhere, maybe I need to order it online.

  4. Che, several Wodehouse books are available online legally. You'll find LOVE AMONG THE CHICKS and other PGs at Wodehouse is one of several authors whom I don't enjoy reading online. Ditto for the classics. I haven't found CUP OF GOLD online yet but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

  5. Interesting post, Prashant. I have only read the Wodehouse, who was one of the great writers of the 20th Century.

    Of the other authors mentioned, Steinbeck and Shute provide the most lasting value.

  6. Prashant, these are authors I remember from the heyday of the Book of the Month Club and Reader's Digest Condensed books. Very mainstream. I know the title MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION from the Douglas Sirk movie with Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, though I don't believe I ever saw it.

    I didn't know about the Steinbeck book. I'd never have guessed he got his start with that kind of fiction. And I really should read some P.G. Wodehouse since he was writing in the same period as most of the early westerns I've been reading.

    Thanks, and may your other responsibilities ease off and give you some more reading time.

  7. Steinbeck reportedly hated Cup of Gold, his first effort. But I thoroughly enjoyed the book when I read it some 30 years ago. My only complaint was that it was too short. The choice of Morgan the pirate as a subject seems entirely logical to me considering Steinbeck was so enamored with the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

  8. Thanks, Jerry. Wodehouse is a favourite writer at home and, I agree, he is one of the great writers of the last century. He takes you into a world sans worry and stress. I have read a few novels by Steinback and liked his novellas OF MICE AND MEN, CANNERY ROW and THE MOON IS DOWN. Shute continues to be as elusive as ever: i found just one book by him in two years.

  9. Ron, thanks very much. The responsibilities have, indeed, eased off and I do have a lot of reading time this weekend. READER'S DIGEST CONDENSED BOOKS are still available out here. Their contents are a veritable who's who of the fiction world. I think I might have seen MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, the cast seeming all too familiar. Yes, the Steinbeck novel surprised me too which is why I want to read it and compare it with his other books. I strongly recommend Wodehouse to anyone who reads books irrespective of genre. His humour is rather predictable but it's humour of the first order, nonetheless.

  10. David, thanks for visiting and commenting. Interesting insight about why Steinbeck might have written CUP OF GOLD even though he probably hated his first literary effort. I haven't read it yet but it certainly stands apart from his other fiction. I need to get to this book fast.