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On the contrary, it may be a devil of a sight better. This year alone, I read nine of his detective novels and those nine titles had originally appeared under no less than seven different names.
And a handful of publishers and periodicals were involved in those initial publications. John Russell Fearn Fortunately, reading Fearn today is no longer a labyrinthine exercise in bibliographical genealogy, because nearly all of his work has been restored to print in brand new paperback editions or ebooks.
We have one man's indefatigable efforts to thank for that. Philip Harbottle is a researcher, editor, writer and literary agent who has been tirelessly beating Fearn's drum for decades and wrote extensively on his life and work, which includes John Russell Fearn — An EvaluationJohn Russell Fearn: A History of British Science-Fiction, So it was only a matter of time before the reviews of John NorrisYvette and yours truly caught his attention.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Harbottle with a question to help him get into contact with John Norris, but we also bounced some emails back and forth about Fearn.
Harbottle was kind enough to answer some of my questions, which gave me a better idea who the man behind all those pseudonyms actually was and granted permission to adapt the letter he had drafted for John into a guest-post for this blog. The letter in question was littered with interesting background information on Harbottle's decades-long quest to get every single title by Fearn back into print and included an informative rundown of eleven of his more interesting detective novels.
It was simply too good to allow it to languish in my inbox and had to be shared with my fellow detective-fiction addicts, because I know how famished all of your wish lists are.
Particularly with the holidays ahead of us. For the record, I only made a couple of minor alterations to the original letter in order to make it fit a blog-post format, added links and used the cover art that was supplied for this purpose by Harbottle.
So, without further ado, I'll give the floor to the man who made reading and collecting John Russell Fearn's many fictional endeavors ridiculously easy. However, it has been a somewhat bitter-sweet experience. Some seem to think they are clever to have "discovered" Fearn's crime fiction, which makes me grind my few remaining teeth.
I was publishing myriads of articles and even entire books about Fearn more than 50 years ago, wherein I wrote, inter alia, " Fearn's real potential as an author was brilliantly realised in his mystery and detective novels They still await an enterprising UK publisher.
Or if they did, they ignored it. To understand why, you need to understand Fearn's history. When Fearn died of a sudden heart attack in at only 52, he immediately fell out of print, because he had represented himself.
His widow only married in was so grief- stricken—as well as seriously ill herself—that she was unable to answer would-be-publishers' letters, with which she was being bombarded when news of his death was announced.
When she recovered, she consulted her solicitor about them. Sadly, this prize chump actually instructed her to ignore or refuse all requests to reprint his hundreds of books and stories, with the sole exception of his Star Weekly Golden Amazon novels.
The prize chump instructed her that any and all other pseudonymous work which comprised most of his output! It wasn't until when I quit my local government career and became an editor myself, seeking to reprint Fearn's work that I learned about this stupidity.
I requested a personal interview, which Mrs. Fearn kindly agreed to. I was able to explain to her that her solicitor was an idiot, and that I had spent my life uncovering and proving Fearn's authorship of all his pseudonymous output.
Fortunately I had earlier corresponded with Fearn—"John did talk about you" she recalled—and Mrs. Fearn eventually appointed me as her literary agent. Thereafter she became a close and dear friend of my family.
But in that "lost decade" Fearn had become almost completely forgotten, and in that pre-PC and internet era when my only tools were a manual typewriter and primitive photocopying, I had an uphill struggle to restore him to print in the UK.
I was obliged to resume my local government career, and so could only work as an agent in my spare time. Much of his fiction—sf, westerns, and detective—was first restored to print in Italy, in translation, and included first posthumous publication of some unpublished manuscripts.Time After Time: Freddie Stroma, Josh Bowman, Genesis Rodriguez, Nicole Ari Parker, Will Chase, Jennifer Ferrin, Elliot Villar, Tom Day.
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