Fowler clearly has a special weakness for thriller writers, but his tastes are catholic, and he can’t resist a kind word for Arthur Mee of The Children’s Encyclopedia or the farceur Robert Klane, whose prose he describes as “fast and blunt as a chucked brick”. He also has a nice line in exposing pseudonyms: Kathleen Lindsay, for example, wrote 904 novels of romantic fiction under 11 names. My favourite is T Lobsang Rampa, author of works of Buddhist wisdom, who was no Tibetan monk but a Devon-domiciled plumber called Cyril Hoskin.
Part of the fun of Fowler’s collection is the mental prompt it provides to draw up your own list. Walter Scott, oddly unmentioned here, must deserve some sort of laurel as the most aesthetically significant forgotten (or at least unread) author. Is Dorothy Richardson, once ranked with Virginia Woolf as an experimentalist, worth resuscitating? Whatever happened to that marvellous social realist of the Fifties, William Cooper? Does anyone still read Rex Warner’s The Aerodrome? Attempts to recharge the reputation of Angus Wilson have failed miserably, and my guess is that Graham Greene’s fame is fading as fast as his sales.