Forgotten Novelists

H. Beam Piper

Fame is fickle, especially for writers.   The hopes that your work will get into print is a writer’s most immediate concern.  I hardly ever think about what might happen after I my novel gets published, if indeed it ever does.

I turn my attention today to the subject of forgotten novelists of some fame who were common household names of their generation, but are nearly forgotten now.  I’m not entirely sure why the idea of the forgotten novelist excites me, but I assume it comes from my passion for history and a desire to understand the days just beyond my memory.

This week I’m thinking about two forgotten novelists in particular.  Thomas Tryon, author most notably of Harvest Home, was a favorite of my youth.  I read Harvest Home as teen, finding it to be the perfect horror novel.  Set in a remote New England village where the old ways were still revered and practiced, the story perfectly captures a moment in history before globalization where it was possible to imagine an American community untouched by the homogenizing effects of corporate culture.  Harvest Home is a rare example of a folk dystopia –rigid adherence to tradition works for the small village of Cornwall Coombe, but newcomers who might question or challenge those traditions do not fare so well.

Tryon died in 1991.  His first big novel, The Other, is a New York Review Books Classic e-book, so it’s widely available.  Harvest Home is also available as a used book.

I’m currently reading another forgotten novelist, H. Beam Piper.  I discovered him quite by accident.  One of my colleagues recommended his books to me and my writing group (most of us are writing science fiction) two weeks ago.  I’m currently reading his Paratime Trilogy and I’m fascinated by idea of time and space: his work suggests that history repeats itself and that past events will have clear and direct correlations in the future.  Piper’s work stands the test of time; it is remarkable and accessible a half-century after he died.  And most of it is free on Amazon.

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One thought on “Forgotten Novelists

  1. Your post reminded me of two authors I have been wanting to read for many years, Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell.

    Both hailed from Richmond, that alternately lauded and reviled city 90 miles south of GMU.

    Miss Glasgow (the honorific Ms. had yet to be introduced) wrote of a Virginia that for many never had existed and never would for most. Her hometown was a closed society; the social hierarchy was ossified.

    Ellen Glasgow is fascinating to me because she owned a complete edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. She was committed to her craft.

    Her fellow Richmonder, James Branch Cabell, once maintained that Glasgow’s autobiography THE WOMAN WITHIN, represented some of her best fiction! Years ago I had a job interview in the Branch House on Monument Avenue. Cabell’s family had owned the property.

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