Christopher Fowler takes a journey into the back catalogues of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves. Whether male or female, domestic or international, no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives.

Fowler delves into the annals of history to bring keen readers the fascinating and often astonishing stories behind some formerly popular authors who have since fallen out of favour. Their real lives were often just as interesting as their fiction and the stories are sure to send you scurrying into second-hand bookshops to find one of these lost gems.

The short chapters (two to three pages on each author) make this the perfect book to dip in and out of. The authors are interspersed with essays about lost favourites, including the novels Walt Disney brought to the screen and the rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

We learn about the author of Bambi who sold the rights to Disney for $1,000; the female writers who pioneered the suspense genre long before Gillian Flynn; and the now forgotten author who wrote the short story upon which Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds is based (hint: it’s not Daphne du Maurier).

Fowler has a clear passion for the subject he has spent so long researching and writing about, and this shines through, but there are moments when some of his personal (some would say old-fashioned) opinions jarred with me, such as when he dismisses Georgette Heyer and Eleanor Hibbert’s novels as having ‘the kind of pastel covers no man would ever pick up’.

While it is interesting reading about the individual authors and their stories, it is more interesting learning about how tastes have changed over the years and thus why certain writers have fallen out of favour. Fowler places each writer within the context of their time and examines why they became popular at the time that they did.

Anyone who loves books will find plenty to enjoy here. A perfect Christmas gift for bibliophiles – just be prepared to spend hours watching them rummage through second-hand bookshops.

Many thanks to Quercus for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.