Some of the bestselling authors of the first half of the 20th century had wider name recognition among Americans than many of today’s celebrities.
That may seem odd, but the total population was smaller then, and there were fewer media outlets competing for attention.
Having books in a home was a indication of social status or at least social aspirations.
Besides that, books were not ephemeral products; for the most part, they were printed on high quality paper that lasted.
Can you identify the novelists in these descriptions?
Below are descriptions of five novelists who were names were household words in their heyday. See how many you can identify. (Answers below the photos.)
1. He had the same novel on the bestseller list four times in a span of 11 years.
2. This ex-preacher is said to be the first man to have a novel sell a million copies and the first novelist to become a millionaire.
3. Critical acclaim and sales don’t always go together, but this novelist took first-place honors on the bestseller list before her novel netted a Pulitzer and was instrumental in her the Nobel Prize for literature.
4. This outdoorsman and conservationist was a prolific novelist who wrote nonfiction and children’s literature, too. Today, however, he’s primarily remembered for his writing about the occult.
5. Despite his famous English name, prolific novelistic output, and regular appearance on the bestseller list between 1900 and 1915, this American novelist is virtually forgotten today.
The names of the bestselling novelists
1. Lloyd C. Douglas made the bestseller list with his biblical epic The Robe in 1942, 1943, 1944, and again in 1953 when the film version of the novel was released.
2. Harold Bell Wright is the ex-preacher who made money and historical footnotes in the publishing business. Wright published his first novel at the insistence of his congregation. When he published his second, they kicked him out. From then on, writing became his full-time occupation.
3. Pearl S. Buck won popular and critical acclaim for The Good Earth before making a name for herself as a civil rights and women’s rights activist.
4. Late in life, The Silent Places author Stewart Edward White became interested in psychic phenomena. White wrote The Unobstructed Universe (1940), which he based on communications from his late wife.
Here are the clues to the just-for-fun quiz, and my suggested answers. All the clues and all the answers are from novels on the bestseller lists between 1900 and 1970. My answers are not the only ones that fit the clues. Use the comments box to provide better alternatives.
1. Another term for The Deliverance.
My choice: Escape
2. What might have been left in The Bishop’s Carriage.
My choice: The Bishop’s Mantle
3. A likely inhabitant for The House of Mirth.
My choice: Simon the Jester
4. In Western nations, Seventeen is usually considered a year early.
My choice: When a Man’s a Man
5. He might have carried The Black Bag.
My choice: The Doctor
6. A White Bird Flying might sing it.
My choice: Swan Song
7. If WInter Comes, these may follow.
My choice: The Hounds of Spring
8. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come might have carried it.
If you’re full of turkey, exhausted from shopping, and unable to watch another minute of football, curl up with this just-for-fun quiz.
The clue contains the title of one bestseller published between 1900 and 1970. Your answer should be the title of another bestseller of that period. Base your answers solely on the titles of the novels.
Need some help? Check the bestseller lists. There’s a link above the logo for this page.
Another term for The Deliverance.
What might have been left in The Bishop’s Carriage.
A likely inhabitant for The House of Mirth.
In Western nations, Seventeen is usually considered a year early
He might have carried The Black Bag.
A White Bird Flying might sing it.
If WInter Comes, these may follow.
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come might have carried it.
Pride’s Castle probably had them
Who lead The Caine Mutiny?
I’ll post my answers Wednesday, and we can compare notes.
Here are the answers to Sunday’s just-for-fun quiz about jobs.
If you missed the puzzle, each clue contained a reference to one bestselling novel. The answer is the title of another bestseller that contains a job title.
1. He might have commanded The Ship of Fools.
Answer: The Captain from Castile.
2. The Rector of Justin might have aspired to this.
Answer: The Bishop’s Mantle
3. This man would like The Shoes of the Fisherman.
Answer: The Cardinal
4. He is peddling The Billion Dollar Sure Thing.
Answer: The Embezzeler
5. The Honorary Consul reports to this person.
Answer: The Ambassador.
6. These guys at HQ have No Time for Sergeants
Answer: Captains and Kings
7. Burr, he said.
Answer: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
8. Oh, Money! Money! is their cry.
Answer: The Moneychangers
9. They obvious choice for stealthy attack on The Enemy Camp.
Answer: The Green Berets.
10. He works The Farm.
Answer: The Harvester.
Incidentally, The Harvester was the top selling novel in 1912. It would have had a review in this spot today except that I reviewed it last year on the anniversary of it’s fifth place spot on the 1911 bestseller list.
Look for a review of 1912’s second biggest seller, The Street Called Straight, here at Great Penformances on Sunday, Sept. 9.
On this Labor Day weekend, here’s a just-for-fun quiz about jobs.
Each clue contains a reference to one bestselling novel. The answer is the title of another bestseller. The clue or the answer or both contains a job title. For example, if I said, “He might have carried The Black Bag,” you might answer The Doctor or Dr. Zhivago.
He might have commanded The Ship of Fools.
The Rector of Justin might have aspired to this.
This man would like The Shoes of the Fisherman.
He is peddling The Billion Dollar Sure Thing.
The Honorary Consul reports to this person.
These guys at HQ have No Time for Sergeants
Burr, he said.
Oh, Money! Money! is this character’s cry.
They obvious choice for stealthy attack on The Enemy Camp.
Work is an important part of most people’s lives, so it is not surprising that job titles show up in the titles of novels. The answer to each of these clues is the title of a twentieth century bestseller before 1970.
How many of these occupations can you identify?
One had a carriage, one had a cloak.
No fletcher, he
A jurist without prudence
Ralph Connor and Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote of him
A prestigious political appointee
White collar criminal
An unlikely hero for a Fox
Wears red hat, may carry a baseball
They might have made props for a Tennessee Williams play