The Underappreciated Gentlemen Authors Bookshelf

I will probably never have an completely orderly library, but I do like a little bit of order. Over the years I’ve put together bookcases, shelves and parts of shelves to gather together books linked by publisher, by imprint or by theme.

The Virago bookcase, a few shelves of Allen Lane era Penguins, a bookcase of non fiction, a few Honno classics collected together on the same shelf …..

But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t still a lot of fiction – both old and new – that was mixed together in no particular order. I didn’t mind that; in fact I quite enjoyed seeing some unlikely juxtapositions, and looking for something and finding something else that I hadn’t been thinking of but was happy to find.

Sometimes though, new themes and ideas for collections come to me.

First there was the Where-Virago-Led- Me Bookcase

Then there was the  Sitting-on-the-Persephone-Bookcase Collection.

I loved both, but I was aware that every book but one had been written by a woman, and that I had enough interesting older books written by men to fill a shelf.

And so the ‘Underappreciated Gentlemen Authors Shelf’ was born. It’s a very high shelf, at the top of a built-in wall unit that we inherited from the previous owners of the house, and so it was a little tricky to photograph – but here it is:

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I can’t promise that all of the book will live up to that title, but I can say that the ones that I’ve read have for me.

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My parents both read Howard Spring and I read some of his books from their shelves when I was still at school, but I only discovered that he moved to Cornwall and set some of his later books here a few years ago when I read a memoir by his wife and then his own childhood memoir. I started looking out for his Cornish books and I’ve been lucky to find some lovely editions at the library booksale and a signed copy in a Truro bookshop.

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I don’t know much about R C Hutchison – and the dust jacket of this book doesn’t give much away – but I picked the book up because it was in condition and it clearly dated from one of my favourite eras. I found some 1950s leaflets from the reprints of society, that somebody must have used as bookmarks inside, adverting authors including Winifred Holtby, Somerset Maugham, Howard Spring and Margery Sharp. I too that as a sign that I should buy the book. When I got home and looked up Hutchinson I found that he had been reissued by Faber Finds and by Bloomsbury Reader, which has to be a good sign.

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I spotted ‘London Belongs to Me’ by Norman Collins when it was reissued a few years ago, and so when I spotted it – plus ‘Bond Street Story’ – in a secondhand book shop a few month later I had to pick them up.

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I picked up Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley  purely by chance, because it was in the library’s Cornish collection and I remembered old family friends of that name. There was no connection but I fell in love with the book, fiction that drew heavily from the author’s life story, and with the three that followed. After that I went back to read his earlier work. Most of them I have borrowed from the library, but I have picked up copies to keep when I can, and I am so pleased that there is an author society bringing many titles back into print.

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I found Charles Reade when I was looking for authors to fill the early years of my 100 Years of Books project. I ordered Griffith Gaunt from the library, I loved it, and so when I saw a lovely copy of ‘The Cloister and the Hearth’ – his best remembered book – I had to pick it up.

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I remember spotting White Ladies by Francis Brett Young in my local secondhand bookshop a few years ago, liking the look of it, but not wanting to splash out on the signed first edition. Luckily I found that the library had a copy in reserve stock, I ordered it in, and I fell in love. I’ve built up a nice collection of his books since then, including a more reasonable priced copy of that first book.

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I moved Denis Mackail down from the Sitting-on-the-Persephone-Bookcase Collection to make space for a recent discovery who deserved a place there. It’s lovely that Persephone reissued ‘Greenery Street’, I was thrilled to find a copy of ‘A Square Circle, but I do wish that his other books weren’t so very difficult to find.

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I spotted ‘The Murder in Praed Street’ by John Rhode at this year’s library book sale. I liked the look of the book and I remember auditing a business there when I was a trainee accountant.

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Nevil Shute is another author I discovered on my parents’ bookshelves, but it didn’t occur to me that he had written much more until I saw reissues appear a year or two ago. The library has many of them, but when I spotted very nice editions of ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ and ‘Beyond the Black Stump’ in charity shops I couldn’t resist picking them up.

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I’m not quite sure that E Temple Thurston belongs here. I loved The City of Beautiful Nonsense, and when I discovered that there was a sequel I had to track down a copy. I read the opening, but it felt rather self-indulgent and so I put it aside. I’ll pick it up again, because I have to hope that it gets better and I do want to know what happens next.

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Paul Gallico has written some very divers books. Not all of them appeal to me but when I like the look of them I usually find myself loving them. I have some paperback copies on other shelves but I picked up ‘The Foolish Immortals’ and ‘Love Let Me Not Hunger’ to sit on this shelf.

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I wasn’t that taken by Patience, the one book by John Coates that Persephone reissued, but I spotted ‘Linda’ in my local secondhand bookshop and I liked the look of it. The dust jacket describes it as a more serious book with a theatrical setting ….

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‘A Century of Creepy Stories’ was edited by Hugh Walpole and those hundred stories where written by wonderful cross-section of authors from the first half of the twentieth century. There are men and women but men are in the majority and there are some wonderful names – from Edgar Allen Poe to C H B Kitchin – so it seemed right to put it here.

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That’s it!

Just a little selection of authors and books that it felt right to put together

Are there any that you know? Are there any that you’d particularly like to hear more about?

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29 thoughts on “The Underappreciated Gentlemen Authors Bookshelf

  1. I love this! I’m inspired, and somehow I don’t think more or less alphabetical by author is going to be good enough anymore.

    It was a tease to find out that there are two (TWO!) sequels to Greenery Street. I think my library has one of them (Tales from…) but the third one is probably elusive.

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  2. What a lovely idea for a shelf! I have a copy of Greenery Street but I do wish Mackail’s other books were easier to find!

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  3. I love your shelving criteria – totally ingenious! All my books are arranged according to colour which has turned my lounge into a room-sized rainbow but it’s a nightmare when I’m trying to find a specific book and can’t remember the cover!

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  4. I love the way you categorise and shelve your books. Many of your gentlemen authors are new to me, but I have read Denis Mackail, Leo Walmsley Francis Brett Young, John Coates and many years ago Nevil Shute.

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  5. I LOVE the name for this particular shelf….Nevile Shut and Leo Walmsley are two authors whose works I too inherited from my parents and whom I am really really fond of as well!

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  6. Bond Street Story was on NetGalley, and I got approved, so I’m looking forward to reading that one. I think it was on Kindle for 99p in one of their sales too. London’s rather fascinating me atm, even though I’ve never been there, apart from the airports to change flights! I do intend getting there one day, hopefully in the not too distant future!

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    1. I always seem to miss these things, but luckily I spotted these two on a low shelf in a Redruth book shop. I’ve only read the opening of Bond Street Story but it looks very promising; a more romantic London than the one I remember. I’d like to go back to visit one day, for galleries and shops and one or two other things, but not to stay for too long.

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  7. For one thing, looking at other people’s bookshelves is just pure enjoyment, and for another, what wonderful ideas you have! I love it that the gentleman’s club is high up in the rarefied air of the bookshelf (lingering over their cigars and port, most like) and not socially mixing with the ladies…Would George Meredith qualify? I have him up rather out of reach, on my bookshelf of goals. 🙂 He is on my reading list this year, and I have been gradually accumulating his novels. I came to him by way of his poetry, but his fiction sounds very interesting. Enjoyed your post.

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  8. I really like the way you organize your bookshelves. Having alphabetical order seems so boring compared to it. And while I don’t know the authors you mention, other than Nevil Shute, I can say that the book all look like they have a lot of character. They are not the run-of-the-mill paperbacks (not that there’s anything wrong with that)…

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    1. My thinking is that any run-of-the-mill paperbacks I want to read will be out there in the library or will inevitable turn up, and what houseroom I have must be given to the books I might not find again, and the books I know I will want to keep.

      I like the ideal of alphabetical order, but it would take too long to get there and I’m not sure it would be the best way with shelves scattered about the house. Maybe one day, if I ever have my dream library ….

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  9. Another lovely tour of your bookshelves!

    Trustee from the Tool-Room is one of my favorite Nevil Shute books, with such wonderful central characters. But I was surprised to find myself loathing Beyond the Black Stump. I’ll be curious to see what you think of them!

    I was lucky to find a copy of The Square Circle on-line, after loving Greenery Street. And I have The Cloister and the Hearth as well – on the TBR stacks. The other authors you include are new to me.

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  10. Like others, I commend the kindliness of your name for this bookshelf. I got round to the Collins I think early on last year, and commend it highly. And I sighed with envy at your story about the Hutchinson. Such deep pleasure in finding the evidence left behind by prior readers in a second hand book (as long as it isn’t just an accident with a bowl of tomato soup!)

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  11. I once returned from a day course to discover that my ten year old library monitors had rearranged the school’s fiction library alphabetically according to the authors’ first name. That took time and tact to sort out. Of your older gentlemen I have only read works by Shute and Gallico. If you don’t already have a copy do look out for Paul Gallico’s ‘The Man Who Was Magic’. I used to read it to the children but it has a lot to say to an adult audience as well.

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  12. I would love to spend some time exploring the authors on this shelf. When I read The Square Circle, I actually drew a picture of the square and labelled the people who lived in each of the houses along the square. http://hogglestock.com/2012/09/30/imagining-tiverton-square-and-three-reviewlets/

    Nevil Shute is one of my favorite authors. I have read most of his novels and recently read Beyond the Black Stump. It was quintessentially Shutian, but also dealt with life in the U.S., which until, now I had never seen Shute do. And am not sure he does in any other novel.

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