Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition.
Over half of my choices for this topic are older authors (two are dead) who were active in the mid- and late 20th century. It’s probably not coincidence that most of them are also British. They probably get more recognition in Great Britain than in the U.S., but I’d like to see them get more attention in the U.S. And I apologize, but I’ve only picked out five all told. Most of the current authors I’ve been reading are getting at least a reasonable share of recognition, but I have singled out two I think are deserving of more.
- Elizabeth Goudge. Goudge wrote both adult and children’s novels which share a common theme: that all things can work together for good if we open ourselves to it. Redemption of one sort or another is at the heart of almost all her books, and yet they rarely come across as preachy. She wrote with a rare and deep compassion which makes all her characters, even the less likeable ones, understandable and human. Her Christian faith is overt in some books, less so in others, but it informs all her work. For children, try The Little White Horse (see my review) or Linnets and Valerians; for adults, try A City of Bells (one of my absolute favorites), The Dean’s Watch, The Scent of Water, or The Rosemary Tree, or for really wonderful historical fiction, Gentian Hill. For all but the first two, you’ll have to search for used copies, as nearly all her books are out of print.
- Catherine Aird. Aird is really neglected in the U.S. She should be up there with the best British mystery writers of the later 20th century, and her career spans more than 4 decades. I think part of the problem is that she is less prolific than authors like Elizabeth George or Ruth Rendell, usually taking several years to produce a book. Her books are also hard to categorize; their English town and village settings feel more like cozies, as do the plots, but they are technically police procedurals. Aird has a dry, often ironic sense of humor, and her Inspector Sloan is quietly intelligent; his sidekick DC Crosby (never promoted past constable) is just as insouciant in the later books as he was in the first. The series starts with The Religious Body; some of my favorites are Henrietta Who?, The Stately Home Murder, in which a body is found in a suit of armor, and A Most Contagious Game, one of the few stand-alone mysteries Aird penned.
- Ellis Peters. But wait, I hear you say, she wrote the Brother Cadfael mysteries. She got plenty of recognition. Well, yes — for the Cadfael mysteries. But she also wrote a shorter series of contemporary mysteries featuring Inspector George Felse, his son Dominic, and in one case, his wife Bunty. They’re well-plotted, well-written, and thoroughly entertaining. So are her stand-alone contemporaries, of which there are several. Not to take anything away from the Brother Cadfael series, which is brilliant, but I do wish Peters got more recognition for her other mysteries as well. Try A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs, The Knocker on Death’s Door, The Piper on the Mountain, Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Heart, and City of Gold and Shadows, and the stand-alone Death Mask. . . though I’m also rather fond of the lighter, more humorous Never Pick Up Hitch-Hikers. (Just to be clear: “contemporaries” means they were contemporary when written, which was mostly in the 1960s and ’70s.)
- Jim C. Hines. Hines may finally be getting some recognition after last summer’s Libriomancer (reviewed here; if you like SF and fantasy and haven’t read it yet, run right out and get a copy!) The sequel, Codex Born, comes out on August 6. But he’s deserved it for longer, for his inventive take on fairy tales beginning with The Stepsister Scheme. In addition to great plotting, Hines writes realistic, complex, flawed, wholly believable characters, both male and female.
- Naomi Novik. Given that the 8th book in her Temeraire series is about to come out, Novik ought to get more attention. The problem may be that her books are neither fast-paced (well, not always, at least) nor light; she writes in a style suited to the alternate early-19th-century world in which the books are set, and that requires a certain amount of patience. But they are wonderful. Cross Patrick O’Brian with Anne McCaffrey and a touch of Jane Austen and you’ll have some idea of what the Temeraire books are like: an alternate-history fantasy set during the Napoleonic Wars, where dragons serve as the air force for both sides. The settings aren’t limited to Britain and Europe, either; Capt. Lawrence and Temeraire spend time in Gibraltar, China, Turkey, Africa, Australia, and South America, and I gather Russia will play a part in the forthcoming Blood of Tyrants. I’ve finished five books so far, and I’m still giving them all 4 and 5 stars. (You can see my review of His Majesty’s Dragon here.)