Saturday, April 13, 2013

Looking at historical novels published by century, and more

Happy Saturday, and happy National Library Week!  Hope you're having a good weekend.  I'm glad the snowy season is finally behind us.  Green is starting to appear on the lower trees in our backyard woods, and the daffodils in our front yard are in full bloom.

Over the past few days I've been putting together an analysis of the historical novels for adults covered in the last year's worth of the Historical Novels Review -- which is 911 titles in all.  The magazine organizes its reviews primarily by century.  Which centuries and eras were the most popular?  Jump on over to the Historical Novel Society website to see the results... they may surprise you.  Do the time periods that publishers are offering reflect what you like to read?

Also, as more fall catalogs appear, I've been adding titles to the HNS's list of forthcoming books for 2013.

It's going to be a slow weekend here, which is fine by me.  I'm halfway through Tanis Rideout's Above All Things and hope to have a review up soon.  Other than that, I'm working on getting an entry ready for my campus's annual Edible Book Festival on Monday.  I'm not convinced it will win a prize, but it's worth a shot!


  1. It feels perceptive, your speculation that photography might have some impact upon the large majority of historical fiction set in the last half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century.

    But that's not hard data, as you, who are so careful in tabulation, knows.

    However, by extension, then there are the movies and television, the entire history of both so easily available to anyone now, no matter where we live. And also -- movies and television, even more so than historical fiction, tend to take imaginative liberties with history that are pleasing to those seeking entertainment. The two feed back-and-forth sometimes, it seems to me, going back and forth among the book, The Virginian, the movies from silent days and early talkies, to the television series -- for one instance. Not that Wister's novel was an historical, though it reference the civil war era constantly, but it was certainly taking liberties with what was actually happening in the west. But what he set up became the western tropes for all time in whatever media.

    Love, C.

    1. Hi C, good points - I agree with you on the liberties taken with history in film and TV. I also find it interesting that while westerns are fairly popular in visual media, they don't do as well sales-wise when it comes to historical fiction. There are a few publishers out there who sell to a loyal readership, but I often find it difficult to place the few westerns I receive with reviewers. The setting is perceived as grim and unglamorous.

  2. The western was completely replaced by gangsters and the mafia as the great American anti-social mythology. Puzzo and Cappola wrought well -- but they weren't the pioneers in that transformation by any means. The NYC intelligensia, such as it is, will always fawn over the mafia -- see The Sopranos -- but has only contempt for the Western -- see reviews of any western film or television series in the last 20 or 30 years in the NY Times and New Yorker magazine, for instance. I first noticed this when Dances With Wolves made such a huge box office and Oscar smash -- every critic on this coast despised the film.

    These days in the genre category roughly known as Science Fiction and Fantasy there's this thing called the Weird Western, which kind of merges the Victorian steampunk elements with the classic western tropes, from gunfighters to the oppression of, generally, coerced settlers. It is also generally grim. I don't like it at all personally, perhaps because I am so fascinated by the western and its relationship, particularly in films, in the historical revisionism of the Civil War. It didn't even start with the vile Birth of a Nation, but that one sure did have a huge impact nationally, just starting with reviving the KKK.

    Also, personally don't like it because I am a classicist at heart, and so dislike mashups. :)

    Love, C.

  3. O, my grandfathers and my dad were mad Western fans, whether in print or in the movies and on television. Most everyone was where I grew up, because homesteading and the old west in general were not mythology for us in Dakota Territory that didn't even become states until 1889. This was and still is family history, and many of the conditions still pertained when I was growing up -- and still do, depending where in the former Territory you live.

    So I grew up reading westerns like mad, and self-identifying myself as the cowboy from the moment my little mind's development was capable of such imaginative play.

    Love, C.

  4. My dad's also a longtime Western fan, though didn't grow up out west. I've read some myself, though prefer what could be called Novels of the West rather than westerns of the traditional sort.

    I haven't read any Weird West novels though have seen them around - I'm not generally a fan of mashups either.

  5. Anonymous2:28 PM

    100th "anniversary" of WWI in 2014, so I'm not surprised that this is figuring in the 20th century title splash. Also, every year means one more year of the 20th century that is now "historical fiction". Eek.

    And I live for your Forthcoming Title list.

    Sarah Other Librarian

  6. The list should be getting much longer very soon - at the moment it has Penguin, Macmillan, and HarperCollins titles on it but not much else.

    And yes, very true. "Historical" has hit the decade when I was born, so...