A Reader's Respite has recently become intrigued by the practice of famous authors appearing in recent works of fiction as protagonists. We're not entirely sure why this practice is so appealing to us, but we've found ourselves drawn to these books.
By and large, most of these novels are of the mystery genre. Take author Michael Atkinson's new mystery novel, Hemingway Deadlights.
A Reader's Respite was fascinated by the concept of author Ernest Hemingway as a drunk, Pulitzer-Prize winning author between books who becomes involved in a gritty murder mystery in Key West. That the entire plot was glaringly improbable did not, to our amazement, disrupt our enjoyment of watching the grumpy, grizzled Hemingway take on the Mafia in Havana during it's heyday in order to solve the mystery of a friend's death. In fact, we found ourselves amused at Hemingway's antics (and drinking habits) throughout the mystery. Atkinson plans an entire series here.
We've previously mentioned our encounter with author Stephanie Barron's mystery series starring none other than Jane Austen. This series of cozy mysteries finds Jane solving all sorts of local crimes and Barron does a respectable job in rendering the mysteries as Jane herself might have related them (complete with psudeo-scholarly footnotes smattered throughout).
None other than the famous playwright Oscar Wilde stars in Gyles Brandreth's new Victorian mystery series. Delivered using Wilde's scathing wit, the rascally author has appeared in three of these novels thus far and his complicated private life is thoroughly incorporated into the pages, making for both a compelling plot and a fascinating insight into Wilde's private life.
Matthew Pearl struck publishing gold when his novel The Dante Club hit the shelves a few years back. The novel features American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (and a few other famous Americans) solving a crime and finding a serial killer in 1865 Boston. Like the previous novels mentioned, Pearl adapts the literary style of the author he features, a indispensable part of the novel's success. Pearl has found success in this sub-genre (once called historical literary thriller by the Washington Post), also publishing The Last Dickens and The Poe Shadow. We're assuming you can figure out who the subjects are by the title alone.
Another successful novel, short listed for the Booker Prize back in 2005, was the novel featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) by Julian Barnes. Doyle is found here investigating the conviction of local lawyer under fishy circumstances. Less "cozy" than the other mysteries featured here, Arthur and George is provocative character study. Author Barnes has also written about other literary figures. His novel Flaubert's Parrot is a fictional expose of the author, although Gustave Flaubert is not a character, per se, in the novel but rather the subject.
Not a mystery, but a novel featuring William Shakespeare as the protagonist, Nothing Like the Sun imagines Shakespeare's early life and loves in this story that preceded the more famous Shakespeare in Love. Shakespeare's literary style is applied throughout and you'll find his sonnets liberally scattered throughout the novel, providing some insight into the playwright's famous words.
More recently, Kelly O'Connor McNees wrote a novelization of author Louisa May Alcott's mysterious love life in 1855 New Hampshire. A lighter, more romantic novel, the story imagines Alcott's love of a local man...all the more intriguing because Alcott mysteriously never married. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott undeniably stirs interest in Alcott's works the most famous being Little Women.
There are numerous other novels featuring well known authors as protagonists, but we'll leave you with one last notable book: Little Fugue. Author Robert Anderson doesn't place poet Sylvia Plath as a protagonist, per se, but this fictional work does feature Plath's poet husband Ted Hughes as he and others deal with the traumatic aftermath of Plath's suicide. Critically well-received, Anderson tends to place Plath on a very high pedestal indeed. But regardless of this (in our considered opinion) error, the novel offers fascinating insight into one of America's most tortured literary figures.
Know of any other novels featuring famous authors? Tell us about them!