Four Great 90s Authors

Four of my favourite authors were born in the 1890s and wrote mainly from the inter-war years onward.

There seems to be something about that generation’s idiom, taste and experience that resonates with me. But maybe it’s just an artefact of chronology. I got into them all as a boy: I was born right about the time when the kids of the 1890s were dying off, which turned the spotlight on their generation once again and led to re-issues. Anyway, check them out!


  1. #1 Kitty
    December 1, 2008

    You might want to change Tolkien’s year of death to 1973, or his books become magical on a totally different level!

  2. #2 Martin R
    December 1, 2008

    Whoops, thanks! (How did that happen!? Was I trying to type “1972”?)

  3. #3 Hans Persson
    December 1, 2008

    I’ve read most of the production of the first two and next to nothing of the other two.

  4. #4 Martin R
    December 1, 2008

    Then you’re in for a treat! They’re the best large bodies of work our language has produced. Add perhaps Astrid Lindgren to that, but I read most of her as a child.

  5. #5 Thinker
    December 2, 2008

    I have read a lot of the three latter ones, and enjoyed them a lot, but nothing by Lovecraft – is there a particular book you would recommend to start with?

  6. #6 Johan Anglemark
    December 2, 2008

    To be honest, the latter three are really good – and if you haven’t read Piraten yet, Hans, I envy you – but Lovecraft is more of a curiosity. Definitely an author I “get,” but not comparable with the other three.

  7. #7 Martin R
    December 2, 2008

    Thinker, I suggest you start with The Dunwich Horror and Others which collects Lovecraft’s mid-length fiction. Why not begin with “The Call of Cthulhu”?

  8. #8 Dunc
    December 2, 2008

    The whole Lovecraft thing is very strange… He’s gone from being a virtually unknown pulp author to a major cultural touchstone, and I’m really not sure how. Practically everybody I read online (and that’s a pretty diverse group) is a Lovecraft fan.

    If you like Lovecraft and Tolkien, you may like to try Dunsany, if you can find any. The King Of Elfland’s Daughter is marvellous.

  9. #9 Martin R
    December 2, 2008

    I’ve read Dunsany: King of Elfland and Gods of Pegana, but I’m afraid he doesn’t quite tickle my spot. Matter of taste, of course.

    To mention another great early fantasist, Mervyn Peake is a genre unto himself!

  10. #10 Mattias
    December 2, 2008

    Maybe I will cause a stir here, but I find Lovecraft rather uneven. In my opinion some of the novelle are excellent, others entirely run-of-the-mill (and I am not talking about the mill in ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’).

    / Mattias

  11. #11 Martin R
    December 2, 2008

    I disagree completely. Lovecraft is not rather uneven. He is dramatically, violently, ostentatiously uneven. About a third of his stuff is absolutely abysmal. But I love the best third!

  12. #12 Janne
    December 2, 2008

    Agree on Lovecraft. When he is bad he’s pathetic, but when he’s good he is so very, very good. Martin, if you have the chance, grab hold of “Ernst-Hugo Järegård läser Lovecraft” sometime. Those two go together beautifully. Of course, Järegård could probably have read a shopping list aloud and made it sound eldritch.

  13. #13 Martin R
    December 2, 2008

    Oh yes, Järegård is beautifully over the top on those readings. I’ve got seven of them sitting on my hard drive! Dunno if he did any more.

  14. #14 Morejello
    December 4, 2008

    To go against the grain a bit, I find that Tolkien really isn’t that strong of a writer. The LOTR trilogy is a strong *story*, but the writing in it is uneven. Much of his other work I find to be ploddingly dense.

  15. #15 Bengt Axmacher
    December 4, 2008

    No one so far has made any comments on Frans G Bengtsson. He was my favourite from highschool and quite many yers onwards. I think I’ve read the Vikings a dozen times and I have actually written it once too. I learned typing that way, my hands on the typewriter, a towel on top of them and “The Vikings” next to me. It took me a couple of weeks.

  16. #16 DianaGainer
    December 6, 2008

    Tolkien’s all right, especially in the Hobbit. But how about H.G. Wells? I don’t know his birth and death dates, but he must have been approximately contemporary. His works were less into fantasy, but since his science fiction is so dated, it’s loads of fun. “War of the Worlds” especially, with that world war that lasted most of the twentieth century. That was pretty good. Love those Morlocks!

  17. #17 Martin R
    December 6, 2008

    Haven’t been very impressed by the Wells I’ve read, though there was a good story of his on Escape Pod recently.

    I’m afraid you’re getting War of the Worlds mixed up with Time Machine. (-;

  18. #18 DuWayne
    December 6, 2008

    Thinker –

    Click on my name for the very best intro to Lovecraft. All of his works are available at that site (as well as a great many others).

    Honestly, I am very fond of what Tolkien inspired, but not all that fond of Tolkien’s work. I have similar problems with his writing that I do with Steven King – he goes on and on with inane descriptives that leave nothing to the imagination. Might as well watch tee vee. One of the few cases where I really prefer the movies over the books…..

  19. #19 M.E.S.
    December 27, 2008

    I read a very cool book this semester
    The Worm Ourobouros.
    forget the cat’s name but a contemporary of these fellows
    you may like if not already read
    Pseudo-Spenserian English, deep winding florid description, epic wars between the good demons and bad witches.
    Good Night Doc

  20. #20 Martin R
    December 28, 2008

    Yeah, I tried the first Eddison book once in my late teens. Didn’t quite draw me in.

  21. #21 Larry Ayers
    February 25, 2009

    I compulsively read and re-read Tolkien when I was young, but I can’t read his books these days, for whatever reason. Tastes change, and certain books resonate, I think, with a particualer period of one’s life.

    Mervyn Peake, though — yes, he’s a genre of his own! I’m looking forward to reading the Gormenghast Trilogy again one of these days. The early Ballantine paperbacks included Peake’s spooky illustrations; they greatly enhanced the novels, I think. They had a slightly psychotic feel to them; just thinking of those drawings gives me a frisson!

    And the names! Like Tolkien, Peake was a master of giving characters evocative names. Steerpike, Sourdust, Titus Groan…

    As for Lovecraft, at his best he can summon creepy feelings of horror (which is never explicitly described), but his work is uneven, as others have remarked. Then there’s that pervasive racism… and no female characters to speak of. One weird dude… All Hail Cthulhu!

    Dunsany? I used to love his stuff, but now I’m mainly fond of his story titles and the singular illustrations by Sidney Syme. Art Deco meets European fantasy… Maxfield Parrish on acid.

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