In this post, we explore excellent books that have real authors as main characters.
While there are any number of books about authors – biographical, autobiographical, unauthorised biographies etc. – what we’re in search of is fiction novels in which the author is a main character. It’s not a new idea. In 1321, the author, Dante Alighieri, completes his book The Divine Comedy. In it, he includes not only himself but the poet, Virgil who is his guide for most of his journey through Hell.
Novels with authors as the main character (other authors, not the authors of the books in question, usually) cover many different genres and fall into two different camps.
- Real Authors such as Charles Dickens
- Fictional authors
We are in search of the former!
3 Excellent Books That Have Real Authors As Their Main Characters
- Jack Maggs by Peter Carey
Charles Dickens is thinly veiled as Tobias Oates in Jack Maggs, the novel by Peter Carey. It’s 1837, and Tobias is in desperate need of a story. It seems one may have arrived on his doorstep. Raised as a criminal, Jack Maggs was deported to Australia. He’s now returned to England in secret. Not to mention at great risk. Ringing any bells?
Maggs, a dark looming figure, who is both frightening, and compelling, is obsessed with the comings and goings at a plush townhouse in Great Queen Street. It appears he is looking for both revenge and reconciliation. He seems especially interested in young Mr Henry Phipps, who has mysteriously disappeared, having closed up his house and dismissed his household. And Tobias Oates wants this story! And he intends to have it!
If you know your Dickens, then you will, by now, have recognised that this is a retelling of Great Expectations. Instead of being narrated by Pip, this is Magwitch’s story!
- The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
One doesn’t often think of the body in a murder story as one of the main characters. And one should. After all, no body, no murder, no story. So, what happens when the body, buried in an unmarked grave is that of the father of both horror and detective fiction? As one reviewer put it – be still, my tell-tale heart!
It’s Baltimore, 1849. Second-rate writer and drunk – according to the public, the press, and his own family and friends – Edgar Allan Poe is dead. And probably good riddance! But Quentin Clark, a young Baltimore lawyer, disagrees. Not only is he an ardent admirer of Poe, but he’s convinced there’s something not quite right about the author’s death.
He embarks on a passionate crusade to find answers and try to salvage Poe’s reputation at the same time. To aid him in this dangerous task, he realises he needs the help of the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant, and fictional, detective – C. Auguste Dupin.
Why are the police ignoring the obvious questions, and how are political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade involved? Soon it’s not only his career hanging in the balance, but Quentin Clark’s life as well!
- Jane Bites Back, Michael Thomas Ford
No list of books is ever complete without an inclusion of Jane Austen. And this one is your introduction to the Jane-Austen-as-vampire genre! In this comedy of manners, will dear Jane, known for her sharp wit and intelligence, be forced to reveal what a woman with an even sharper set of fangs can accomplish? While she is now one of the un-dead, her books have taken on a life of their own. She can barely keep track of sales, not to mention the unauthorised sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations in print, television, and film.
While running Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York, a sudden twist of fate thrusts Jane back into the spotlight. Trying not to reveal her true identity, she has to cope with yet another rejection of the novel she wrote before becoming a vampire, fend off a dark man from her past, and, at the same time, juggle two modern suitors.
These three books are so enticing you may find yourself flying to the bookcase to read the work of the authors in question first!
The Last Word
If you’re looking for a story with real authors as main characters, try one of these great books.
by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.
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