Authors' shared surnames…

I got distracted again whilst looking at my bookcases, to see that I have quite a few books by authors with the same surnames. This led to me looking at my Librarything catalogue to see which was the most popular surname on my shelves.

Whilst I have several each of Taylor, Williams, Collins, King, Miller and Wood, one surname appeared in super-abundance…


Let me introduce them to you:

ANDREW: Author of a highly thought of biography of Patricia Highsmith – Beautiful Shadow. He also wrote this literary psychodrama The Lying Tongue, which I very much enjoyed reading pre-blog.

ANDREW (aka A.N.):  I have several of A.N.’s novels on my shelves including Winnie and Wolf, which was Booker-longlisted and his most recent from 2012, The Potter’s Hand. He is also known for his non-fiction e.g. The Victorians. 

ANGUS: Another Wilson I haven’t read for ages, I adored his novel The Old Men at the Zoo, and family drama Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, both of which had TV adaptations.

CHRISTOPHER: I have a book called The Ballad of Lee Cotton on the shelves. It’s about a black child born with white skin in Mississippi – I don’t know more.

COLIN: The Outsider, published in 1956 when Wilson was 24, was a phenomenon. It studies the trope of the social outsider in literary works including Hemingway, Sartre and Hesse to name but a few. I’ve not read it though, but used to devour his books about the paranormal and occult in my twenties, which introduced me to Aleister Crowley and the like – sensational stuff!

DANIEL H: Robopocalypse is destined for the charity shop pile, but it does have a great cover. From the reviews it seems like a novel treatment of a yet to be made film script…

EDWARD: Finally – a Wilson I’ve reviewed on this blog already. Edward is an UK-based American author of spy novels. I read The Envoy (review here) and enjoyed it a lot. I have The Darkling Spy to read on the shelf next.

ELIZABETH: The first female on the list. War Damage is set, as you might guess in the austere times after WWII.  Hampstead is the location for a well-thought of literary whodunnit.

KEVIN: My most recent Wilson-read is a wonderful novel. The Family Fang is about families and the excesses of performance art. Hilarious, yet moving I reviewed it here in 2011. It made my books of the year list for best debut.

LAURA: I’ve seen some great reviews of her novel Stratton’s War around the blogosphere which is a crime novel set during WWII in 1940. See Thinking in Fragments to find out more.

LESLIE: She is one of the ‘History Girls’ I recently heard talk at the Oxford Literary Festival (see here). I have both adult and children’s books by her on my shelves. She was fascinating to listen to, having been at Greenham Common.

PAUL: I own two of his books, but know nothing about either except that they have great titles. Do White Whales Sing at the End of the World (1997) was a charity shop find, and was his first novel pubished by Granta.  I see I’ve acquired his new one Mouse and the Cossacks which is newly out in paperback too. Both are set in NW England.

ROBERT: A British crime writer, Wilson is best-known for his Javier Falcón series, beginning with The Blind Man of Seville (2003) which are all waiting to be read on my shelves. However I first got to know him with his earlier Bruce Medway series of four novels which are set in Benin, Eastern Africa. Instruments of Darkness is the first and I enjoyed these gritty, hot books a lot.

ROBERT ANTON: Co-author of the totally bizarre Illuminatus Trilogy (with Robert Shea) – ‘A fairy tale for paranoids’ the books were full of sex, drugs, magic, tripping through history, time travel and conspiracy theories published from 1975 onwards. I devoured them but didn’t understand them then. He later wrote The Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy (1979-81) which is quantum mechanics and magic, with lots of sex and drugs etc. I don’t think I could read them now – they’ll surely be horribly dated.

SLOAN: My copy of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is the Penguin Modern Classics one with a still of Gregory Peck from the film. It’s about family life and the corporate rat race in the 1950s.

That makes FIFTEEN different Wilsons on my shelves alone and over thirty books, (and that excludes my daughter’s Jacqueline W. books). There must be more!

Do you have a surname that dominates your shelves in this way?

18 thoughts on “Authors' shared surnames…

  1. drharrietd says:

    That’s fascinating. My shelves are a jumble and I’m not on Library thing so can’t answer your question. I can however strongly recommend Laura W — there are about 5 Stratton books and I loved them all. I wonder why Wilson is such a common surname? I suppose it derives from ‘Will’s son”, so presumably there were a lot of Williams about in the olden olden days?

  2. Annabel (gaskella) says:

    I’ve found Librarything a real boon – it takes time to enter books (I have a scanner, and a life membership), but is a great community as well as having an online catalogue.

    I didn’t have time to check whether any of the Wilsons are pen-names – but it has a good sound to it as an authorial surname, unlike Smith or Jones – you need a good forename like Zadie to carry off the Smith and make it stand out on the shelves/covers.

  3. susanosborne55 says:

    I’m sure Harriet’s right about how common the name William must have been. The pattern that I’ve noticed is the number of authors whose last name begins with ‘M’ – they take up a relatively large section of my bookshelves and more pages of my book list than other initial.

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    How fascinating! And possibly the only one I have is several Colin Wilsons which I haven’t read for years. I may have an Angus somewhere…. But they sound fascinating. If I ever manage to get all my books on LibraryThing I may well be able to work out the common factors in my collection!

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      It was Lyall Watson’s 1975 book Supernature – that moved me on to Colin Wilson’s occult and paranormal books – I adored reading about all that stuff in my late teens along with Dennis Wheatley – all Ws again!

  5. winstonsdad says:

    Oh been thinking my collection so diverse but has be Greene I’ve twelve of his novels when saw it was Wilson thought yes jones or smith would have been a guess then probably wilson

  6. Juxtabook says:

    Amongst my stock it is Eliot: George and TS. They appear next to each other in numerous drop down lists in my database and website management and it is sooo easy to put books about George on the virtual shelf for TS and vice versa.

  7. sharkell says:

    Agree, this is fascinating. I checked my library thing site and I don’t have any Wilson’s on my to read pile but I do have one on my read pile, The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson (about the Tasmanian Aboriginals, who were eventually wiped out) which I can recommend if you want to add to your Wilsons. 🙂

  8. Denise says:

    I didn’t realise there were so many Wilsons… can’t think of even one paired surname I’m a fan of, although I’m sure there must be some.

  9. litlove says:

    How about that! I wouldn’t have noticed, as they’re a bit spread out, but I guess I must have a fair few Wilson’s about the place too, having books by Angus and A. N. and Laura and Robert and Elizabeth and Jacqueline. You’ve made me look at my shelves in a whole new way, Annabel!

  10. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    Hahahaha, I don’t think I have any surnames with nearly the Wilson level of dominance you’re experiencing! But I love this post. I’m embarrassed at how many of these authors I haven’t even heard of.

    Re: Robopocalypse, Anastasia of Here There Be Books says that it is a stupid title for a surprisingly great book.

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