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Adventures in Bookland: Mr Fitton in Command by Showell Styles

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Most books and most writers are forgotten. No less than yesterday’s news wraps today’s chips, the flavour-of-the-month writer of a decade ago is landfill now. It’s a melancholic thought. As a writer, I spend a great deal of time and effort trying to create something of value, something that will resonate with readers and cast a light (albeit refracted through the lens of the past) on the human condition. But a visit to a second-hand bookshop is enought to tell me that, despite my efforts, everything I do will be forgotten, left to gather dust on an obscure shelf until the last page cracks and moulders into dust.

So my appreciation of what Faber is doing with its new imprint, Faber Finds, where the publisher republishes worthwhile work and writers that had otherwise slipped from view, is redoubled: not only have they rescued from the obscurity of the second-hand bookshop some excellent writers but someday, after I am dead, a future editor browsing through some dusty shelves will stumble across one of my books and think, ‘Hang on, this is worth a fresh audience.’

The first book I read from Faber Finds was Susan Brigden’s London and the Reformation, one of the most enjoyably scholarly books I’ve ever read and one certainly worth republishing. Now, I’ve started on Faber Finds’ repackaging of Showell Styles’ Mr Fitton series: adventures at sea in the Napoleonic era and, I think, as good a series as CS Forester’s Hornblower. They are a delight to read. Showell Styles died in 2005. Most writers, ten years after death, have been long forgotten. He does not deserve to be and, through Faber Finds, will I hope find a whole new generation of readers.

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