|The circulating library in 1928. Shown here in 1905 when it was still called The Rest|
and was used for a morgue and pathology lab.
There is one patient who will have no books but those of a dark red color. One by one he is reading all the books in the library of that shade—fiction, history, biography, everything. Since this is a fairly popular binding, he has a large field which he is cultivating methodically. No one knows why he should select this color and no other.
Hmm. I don't see any Virago or Persephone authors there. Perhaps these are authors who deserve a new audience. Thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia.
First off, George Barr McCutcheon turns out to have written Brewster's Millions. Now I haven't read the book but I have seen the 1980s movie version with Richard Pryor. But McCutcheon also wrote a ton of other books including his Graustark series which is based on a made-up kingdom in Eastern Europe.
As for Robert W. Chambers, I don't recognize any of his books but he he seemed to be a jack of all trades. Best known for three collections of stories and most famously for The King in Yellow, which, incidentally is 24 thematically linked stories about people going insane because of the fictitious play The King in Yellow. (I wonder what the patients thought of that one?) He dabbled a bit in science fiction writing in 1915 about a zoologist who encounters monsters. After WWI he wrote war and adventure stories and after 1924 he wrote only historical fiction.
E. Phillips Oppenheim: Primarily wrote romantic thrillers between 1887 and 1943. Over 100 novels and 37 collections of short stories. Wow. I wonder if any of them are any good? Interestingly was one of the earliest to write spy fiction and about the "rogue male" popularized later by folks like John Buchan. And Hayley, he was born in Leicester.
Harold Bell Wright: A preacher author who earned the animus of his fellow preachers when his third novel was about a preacher who had to resign his call in order to retain his integrity. Said to be the first American author to sell a million books. Noted author Owen Wister didn't think much of him: “stale, distorted, a sham, a puddle of words,” and “a mess of mildewed pap”.
Harold MacGrath: Another one to write a ton of books and many, perhaps most, were made into films. He also seemed to go for the mixed bag appoach. Love, adventure, mystery, and spies.
The majority of patrons would have been men during this period and these definitely seem slanted in that direction. I will say that I think each of them sound interesting enough to at least give them a go. Something to look out for the next time I am combing through secondhand bookshops.
*By 1928 the term "lunatic" was, at least in mental health professional circles, not used a whole lot, but the press and politicians still used it. And in DC at least, the mechanism for committing patients to the mental hospital was still known as a lunancy hearing--and was heard in an open criminal court with sanity being determined by a jury.