Back in the early 1990s, I found a battered old hardback crime novel in a secondhand bookshop. It was an omnibus of murder mysteries from the 1930s featuring a barrister-turned-detective named Clay Harrison. They were great fun. A quarter of a century later I was able to track down the author's descendants and republish all of the Clay Harrison mysteries. Dusty Death is the first.
One of my most enjoyable rediscoveries of last year was the work of the unsung English novelist, Miles Gibson. His array of tragi-comic novels received acclaim from the likes of Billy Connolly and Ray Bradbury, as well as getting rave press reviews, when they were published 20 or so years ago but he seems to have fallen off the radar somewhat. A shame, as he really is one of our best. Mr Romance is a good place to start.
Elizabeth Ironside had a successful career as a crime writer during the 1990s, with a series of books set in and around the world of international diplomacy, but then it was revealed that she was actually Lady Catherine Manning, wife of the British ambassador to the US, writing under an assumed name. She seems to have retired now but her series of novels are ripe for rediscovery.
This novel was a critical smash in the US when it first came out, even receiving a rave review from Jonathan Franzen, but it took ten years for a UK publisher to bring it out here. One December, the titular Leon Meed starts appearing and disappearing across a small town in California, each appearance having a profound effect on someone who witnesses it. Really odd but great fun, like a more random version of The Time Traveler's Wife.
If you like science fiction that really expands your mind then the work of Richard Cowper, an author I have been slowly discovering over the past decade or so, is essential reading. The first book of his I read was The Road to Corlay, which is set partly in the fourth millennium, in a version of Britain that has only just about survived major flooding and reverted to medieval ways, and partly in the present day where scientists accidentally make contact with the people of the future. It blew me away. All the Corlay books are available in an ebook omnibus.
I had not heard of Ryan O'Neill, a Scottish writer now living in Australia, before last year but he is now a firm favourite. This collection of stories from a few years back manages to combine playful, experimental fiction with hard-hitting tales of the Rwandan genocide. They shouldn't sit well together, but somehow they do.
Originally published in 1909, The Iron Chariot was recently voted the greatest Norwegian crime novel of all time – by Norwegian crime writers, no less! – but the first English language translation, by Lucy Moffatt, only came out recently. It is dark and brooding with a great plot twist that might remind you of an Agatha Christie classic but actually pre-dates it by more than a decade. Jo Nesbo also picked it as one of his favourite crime novels, and I am not going to argue with him.
The online onslaught has changed the way many of us read, and what we read. There is endless room for distraction. In the spirit of rediscovery I wanted to share this book that helped me rediscover the joy of reading for pleasure. A witty, insightful book that skewers literary pretentiousness and serves as a love letter to reading whatever the hell you like.
Scott Pack has worked in the book world for the best part of two decades. He is co-founder of Abandoned Bookshop, an ebook imprint that republishes forgotten classics.