Streetwalker
by Anonymous (Jonathan Gash/Peter Grant)
1960. Supposedly true story of a London prostitute. Gash, real name Peter Grant, denied writing it.

The author known as Anonymous has been prolific over the centuries. A quick search on AbeBooks reveals 2.2 million listings where the author is listed as Anonymous. This selection of rare books showcases anonymously published titles that deserve to be remembered.

There are various reasons for this phenomenon. Sometimes the author’s name has simply been lost in the sands of time and this is particularly common where famous stories like Beowulf and Gawain and the Green Knight have emerged from the oral tradition of storytelling and eventually been written down.

When the writing is a collective effort, books are sometimes published without an attributed author. Many early children’s books were printed without authors and the same can be said for travel guides.

One of most interesting uses of anonymity comes when the subject matter is controversial. The Victorian erotica genre was filled with famous books of sexual adventures where the author was Anonymous. Many homosexual-themed novels were published anonymously. This desire to remain in the shadows can also been seen in books about politics, corruption and the military. Sometimes the color of the author’s skin or their sex was the reason.

The most interesting books are the ones where the author’s identity still remains a mystery decades and decades after the book was published. In many cases, the author’s name is discovered by one method or another. It’s a hard secret to keep considering the social and complicated nature of book publishing.

There was huge speculation around who wrote Primary Colors in 1996. Joe Klein denied being the author for six months before eventually holding up his hand.

 

A Selection of Books by Anonymous

I am Saxon Ashe by Anonymous
I am Saxon Ashe
by Anonymous

1940. First of two Saxon Ashe mysteries. The author still remains unknown.
Ex-Mistress by Anonymous
Ex-Mistress
by Anonymous

1930. Mach Tey dust jacket. A romance novel featuring a love triangle.
Ex-Husband by Anonymous
Ex-Husband
by Anonymous

1929. From the author of Ex-Wife. Cover blurb says the novel is “extravagant” and “naughty.”
Ralph Wildhawk, Or, Alone Among the Brigands by Anonymous
Ralph Wildhawk, Or, Alone Among the Brigands
by Anonymous

A reissue of a penny dreadful from the late 19th century.
The Man Who Killed Hitler by Anonymous (Dean Southern Jennings)
The Man Who Killed Hitler
by Anonymous (Dean Southern Jennings)

1939. A concentration camp inmate attempts to assassinate the Fuhrer.
War Nurse by Anonymous
War Nurse
by Anonymous

1930. Photoplay edition of World War I story. Movie starred Robert Montgomery & Anita Page.
A Room in Chelsea Square by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)
A Room in Chelsea Square
by Anonymous (Michael Nelson)

1958. A novel of gay life in London.
The Street Called Straight by Anonymous (Basil King)
The Street Called Straight
by Anonymous (Basil King)

1912. Novel of American aristocratic life and romance. Made into a silent movie.
The President Vanishes by Anonymous (Rex Stout)
The President Vanishes
by Anonymous (Rex Stout)

1934. Political mystery. Written after, but published before, the first Nero Wolfe novel.
Hollywood Wife by Anonymous (Anabel Lane)
Hollywood Wife
by Anonymous (Anabel Lane)

1931. A racy novel about Hollywood love lives that was probably based on real events.
Wiped Out by Anonymous
Wiped Out
by Anonymous

1966. The anonymous investor who failed on the stock market is unknown.
Gabriel Over the White House: A Novel of the Presidency by Anonymous (T.F. Tweed)
Gabriel Over the White House: A Novel of the Presidency
by Anonymous (T.F. Tweed)

1933. A mild-mannered president survives a car crash and then seizes the initiative.
The Top Drawer: Random Recollections by One Who Was Born In It
The Top Drawer: Random Recollections by One Who Was Born In It
by Anonymous

1928. An account of life in the English aristocracy.
The Smiling Corpse by Anonymous (Philip Wylie & Bernard Bergman)
The Smiling Corpse
by Anonymous (Philip Wylie & Bernard Bergman)

1935. Pastiche of detective fiction. GK Chesterton, SS Van Dine, Sax Rohmer and Dashiell Hammett on front cover.
Surrender! The Romance of a Woman’s Soul by Anonymous
Surrender! The Romance of a Woman’s Soul
by Anonymous

1934. Another story of a love triangle and the author will probably remain known.
A Strange Manuscript Found In a Copper Cylinder by Anonymous (James De Mille)
A Strange Manuscript Found In a Copper Cylinder
by Anonymous (James De Mille)

1888. A fantasy novel about the discovery of a civilization hidden near Antarctica.
Lady Chatterley’s Husbands by Anonymous
Lady Chatterley’s Husbands
by Anonymous

A 1931 sequel to D.H. Lawrence’s famous racy novel, published in America.
Primary Colors by Anonymous (Joe Klein)
Primary Colors
by Anonymous (Joe Klein)

1996. A novel clearly based on Bill Clinton’s rise to power written by a journalist.
Promise Not to Tell by Anonymous (Nancy Hoyt & Lord Donegal)
Promise Not to Tell
by Anonymous (Nancy Hoyt & Lord Donegal)

1929. A romance told in epistolary format.
One Woman’s War by Anonymous
One Woman’s War
by Anonymous

1930. Early feminist memoir detailing World War I from the female perspective.
If I Goes West by A Tommy
If I Goes West by A Tommy
by Anonymous

1918. A collection of World War I poetry.
Memorial to George by Himself
Memorial to George by Himself
by Anonymous

1929. A fantasy autobiography by a squirrel named George.
Ex-Judge by Anonymous
Ex-Judge
by Anonymous

1930. A novel about the rise and fall of a corrupt judge in New York City.
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by Anonymous (James Weldon Johnson)
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
by Anonymous (James Weldon Johnson)

The Woman’s Doctor by Anonymous
The Woman’s Doctor
by Anonymous

1933. No wonder this author craved anonymity - a novel on the “secret side of womanhood.”

 

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