In my recent review of British author Brian Flynn’s The Sharp Quillet, I included all of the information about him that I had or was able to come up with Not included in this data was his year of death, which was suspiciously missing, given that he was born in 1885. I asked John Herrington if he might look into the matter.

   I also asked him if there was any way of gauging how popular an author Flynn may have have been in the UK. Obviously, I said, he’s all but unknown here, and apparently his work seems to have faded badly in England as well. But with all of the books he had published, he must have had some readers who followed him … ?

   Here’s John’s reply, cobbled together out of two emails I received from him today.

  Hi Steve,

   Flynn died in Deal, Kent on 5th February 1958. He must have been writing right up to the end as his last two books followed later in 1958.

   Unfortunately, that is the sum of my findings. Kent record office know nothing about him. But I do have a couple of suggestions to follow up.

   [As far as Brian Flynn is concerned as a writer] Barzun in Catalog of Crime, says of the one book he lists “Straight tripe and savorless. it is doubtful, on the evidence, if any of his others would be different.”

   I know nothing about him and reckon he is what I would call a journeyman writer, writing prolifically to make some money. Though he must have some effect to have written 50 books, which is 49 more than lot of people. Perhaps being so prolific, and keeping the same character throughout, was his error.

   He wrote for what we call library publishers, publishers whose aim was to produce books which libraries would buy – often by quantity rather than by author. If libraries bought his books, he would keep on writing. Sadly, just because libraries buy one’s books it does not necessarily mean you are a good writer. Most books, especially fiction, will find library readers because “they have read everything else on the shelves” (This is personal experience speaking, having worked for 3 decades in a public library and seen some right rubbish get elevated to “I must look out for the next one”!) I suppose some library borrowers will read anything as they don’t need to buy it.

   Sadly, I get the impression that Flynn was one of the lucky ones who found his niche and carried on till he died (and two books did come out after he died).

   How good was he actually? No idea. Barzun condemned him on one book, right or wrong. But I simply think he was writing for the library market and that could be a limitation as far as style and improvement would be concerned. In those 50 books there may have been a good writer struggling and failing to improve his lot.

   Anyway, will let you know if I find anything else.