Miles Gibson, Harold T. P. Hayes and other Reader Recommendations

Several fans of neglected books have contacted me in the last few weeks with recommendations, all of them new to me and well worth passing along.


• Miles Gibson

Paul Connolly from the U. K. writes to recommend “avery neglected English author named Miles Gibson
who has written two fabulous novels which deserve to be celebrated:

The Sandman (1984)

“A black comedy about a genteel murderer called Mackerel Burton which manages to be warm and chilling at the same time. Written with flashes of wit and poetic touches, this is hilarious and unforgettable.”

The Sandman is technically in print, but the edition dates back to 1998 and reports just one copy left in stock. It is, however, available for Kindle.

Kingdom Swann

“Even better. Swannis an eccentric Victorian painter who in old age takes up photography with amazing results. A wonderful, wonderful book which I’ve read at least ten times and will read again.”

The same situation as The Sandman. Both books were reissued in the late 1990s by the Do Not Press, whose website reports they are no longer publishing.

Hold the phone!: It turns out that The Sandman, along with Kingdom Swann and Gibson’s 1985 novel, Dancing with Mermaids, are available as Faber Finds.

• Harold T. P. Hayes

Jack Schrift writes from Spain to recommend two books by Harold T. P. Hayes, who put Esquire in the forefront of magazine publishing and journalism in the 1960s (see the 2007 Vanity Fair piece, “The Esquire Decade”). After stepping down as editor, Hayes wrote two books that combined journalism with philosophical contemplation in an elegant and thoughtful way. Last Place on Earth (1977) recalls trips he made to Kenya and Tanzania in the company of naturalists, noting the impacts of encroaching civilization on the native wildlife. Three Levels of Time (1981) deals with three discrete stories “that Hayes manages to link in a deft but mind-opening manner”: the origin of the universe; the origin of life on Earth; and the ordeal of John Vihtelic, who was pinned inside a wrecked car for two weeks in a remote section of Mt. Rainer National Park before managing to free himself. (You can read the Readers Digest version of his story here and see him recount it years later on a local TV news segment on YouTube.) “Twenty years after first reading it, I picked it up again and was utterly blown away. Hayes helps the reader see the connection between the most initimate and the most cosmic dimensions.” Blogger David Friedman was similarly moved by the book, and posted a long piece on it on his Explorations site.

• Robert Wilson Lynd

Finally, Ivo Cosentino writes to say, “I would like to mention the forgotten and neglected Irish essayist and literary critic Robert Wilson Lynd (1879–1949), essayist. Born in Belfast and educated at QUB [Queen’s University Belfast–Ed.], he went to London and joined the Daily News in 1908. Rambles in Ireland (1912) was illustrated by Jack B. Yeats. Ireland a Nation (1919) is an essay in nationalist historiography. Dr. Johnson and Company“>Dr Johnson and his Company (1929) was a success.”

Ivo later wrote to recommend as well the poetry of L. Adda Nichols Bigelow and of the Rev. Hugh Francis Blunt.

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