Saturday, June 25, 2016

Lost manuscripts, hidden libraries, and antiquarian bookshops with dollops of mystery … Bibliothrillers anyone? PART 4 - The absolute last part ...

This is a sort of a short round-up of some more bibliothrillers whose names I came across while doing a little bit of investigation myself.  This is the sort of ‘research,’ which I call ‘pogo-jumping sniffing research’ on the Internet, where you go from link-alley to link-alley and till you reach some dead-end-page where you lose the scent.  I haven’t read any of these books, but would like to read at least some of these.  All these snippets about these books are compiled from ‘here and there,’ so I wouldn’t call them recommendations, just a descriptive list of some books that are available in what I chose to call ‘bibliothrillers.’

Matthew Pearl, the author of The Poe Shadow (featured in Part 1 of this series!), is one writer who plays around a lot with this genre.  He has written three more books – The Dante Club, The Last Dickens, and The Bookaneers.  From what I read on the Internet, The Dante Club is Pearl’s first novel and here, we have a group of eminent writers in 1885, led by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that includes Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell.  This group is attempting the first American translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  A series of horrific murders of high profile people take place around that time and each murder is modelled on one of the punishments as described in Dante’s Inferno.  This Dante link persuades these writers to turn investigators and solve the murders. 

Charles Dickens is dead and this is 1870.  In The Last Dickens, A struggling publisher in the USA is waiting for the manuscript of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which turns out to be Dicken’s last novel.  The publisher sends his clerk to get the manuscript, which remains unfinished, the publication of which would save the publishing house’s finances.  The clerk is found dead near the docks and the manuscript is missing.  This prompts a search for the missing last part across continents and all sorts of characters who do not want the last part to be revealed use all methods to stop this search.  Some kind of evil puppet-master is behind all this pulling strings.  In The Last Bookaneer, we see Robert Louis Stevenson, very ill, but struggling to complete his new novel.  The setting is somewhere in the island of Samoa.  The news of the soon-to-be-finished novel reaches ‘the bookaneers,’ literary pirates who steal manuscripts of well-known writers.  Two such literary pirates, adversaries too, fuelled by dreams of making a fortune, embark on a journey and a race to reach the island.    

Louis Bayard, who wrote The Pale Blue Eye (in Part 2), too travels around a bit in these parts.  Among the historical fiction that he has written, The School of Night is the one that can be called a bibliothriller.  The plot involves the ‘retrieval’ of a letter by Sir Walter Raleigh in present times that is linked to events that took place in Elizabethan England, almost four hundred years ago.  There is an elite secret group called ‘The School of Night,’ which includes Raleigh, Marlowe, George Chapman, and Thomas Harriot.  This group meets in secret and discusses issues that could not be discussed openly.  I haven’t read any of Bayard’s novels, but after reading about his books, I am definitely intrigued and want to pick up one soon, maybe both.

And a few days ago, I came across the name of Charlie Lovett.  Lovett has written two novelsThe Bookman’s Tale and First Impressions.  The Bookman’s Tale is about an American antiquarian bookseller, who leaves his country and settles down in the English countryside after the death of his wife.  While looking at an 18th century book on Shakespeare, he is intrigued to find a portrait of a woman, who looks remarkably like his wife and he goes digging and reaches the 18th century and unearths a book that reveals some truths.  First Impressions is about a Jane Austen enthusiast who works in an antiquarian bookshop in London.  An obscure publication, which suddenly interests two different buyers, raises questions about the ‘true authorship’ of Pride and Prejudice.   

And so, here endeth, tentatively and temporarily, this series on bibliothrillers … and in case you, discerning readers of this enchanting blog of mine, have come across, or read, or seen, or heard, about more of the same kind of books, please do leave names of novels and authors at the bottom of this page in the comments section if you please …

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