I was Leviathan with a hook in my jaw, pulled inexorably onward by an unseen angler.
The Book of Rhino
When I read a book by an unfamiliar author that immediately engages my interest, I call it a “gateway book.” By my definition, a gateway book is one that hooks me on a particular writer. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd got me hooked on Agatha Christie; Foundation did the same for me with Isaac Asimov. Once I read that first book, that gateway book, then I chase down other books by the same author.
A gateway book is not necessarily the first book an author has written. For example, in the case of Mary Stewart, her gateway book for me was The Crystal Cave, published in 1970, sixteen years after Madam, Will You Talk?, her first novel. Had the latter been my introduction to Mary Stewart, I would not have pursued the relationship.
I am just about to finish The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. I have a feeling that I have just found a new gateway book.
Some of my other gateway books are:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery
The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse
The Curate’s Awakening by George MacDonald
There is a glaring problem with this list. If you know about these authors, you will see that all of them, except for Philip Pullman, are dead. I’m in the sad situation of being hooked on writers who will not be writing any more books. That’s the danger of reading books by dead authors; if one of their works happens to be a gateway book, your supply of satisfying reads is finite.
I should have known better than to read Maugham—him being dead and all, but that’s the thing about gateway novels. One never knows until the reading deed is done that one has stumbled onto a gateway book. A person may innocently open its pages and find herself unable to put the thing down.
Perhaps there should be warning labels on books by dead authors.
WARNING: This book is known to instantly engross the reader in the story and characters. There is only a limited supply of books by this particular author so read it at your own risk.
In the meantime, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe looks interesting.