Fascinating First Editions from the 1950s

50 Essential Historical Fiction Novels

Pulitzer medalYou would think winning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction would ensure an enduring literary legacy. Not always – a number of Pulitzer-winning books are out-of-print. AbeBooks has compiled a list of forgotten winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, as the award was known prior to 1948.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, or Novel, has been awarded annually since 1918, with the exception of 10 years in which no prize was awarded. The prize has been claimed by many legends, including Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, John Updike, and John Steinbeck. However, winning a Pulitzer does not guarantee a book won't fade into obscurity, so let’s take a moment to remember some of those forgotten, past winners.


ISBN: 0679603050 Guard of Honor James Gould Cozzens1. Guard of Honor

James Gould Cozzens

First published 1948

Cozzens became immensely popular in the 1950s and was nominated for a second Pulitzer for By Love Possessed.  However his popularity waned in 1957 when he was branded as an elitist after being interviewed by Time Magazine.  Statements like “I can't read 10 pages of Steinbeck without throwing up,” didn’t win him any friends. Guard of Honor takes place over three days in 1943 at a Florida Airbase featuring a new hapless commander.

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ISBN: 1562080008 Advise and Consent Allen Drury2. Advise and Consent

Allen Drury

First published 1959/Out-of-print

Drury won the Pulitzer with his first novel, Advise and Consent, and followed it with a number of sequels.  Saturday Review said of Advise and Consent in August 1959 that “It may be a long time before a better (novel) comes along.”  One year later, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published. Advise and Consent is a political novel which explores the reaction to a former Communist Party member being appointed Secretary of State.  

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ISBN: 0837133378 Journey in the Dark Martin Flavin3. Journey in the Dark

Martin Flavin

First published 1943/Out-of-print

Through the 1920s and ‘30s, Flavin was a Broadway playwright with much influence.  The most successful of his novels was Journey in the Dark, his fifth and last work of fiction.  The book is a story of a boy who grew up in a poor family and his adventures in love and business.

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ISBN: 1558610359 Now in November by Josephine W. Johnson4. Now in November

Josephine Winslow Johnson

First published 1934

Johnson won the Pulitzer with her first novel at the age of 24.  She continued to win awards for some of her short stories but, after marrying in 1942, her literary output slowed considerably. Now in November is written as a social protest in the voice of the second of three daughters growing up in an impoverished depression era farming family.

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ISBN: 0877972885 The Able McLaughlins Margaret Wilson5. The Able McLaughlins

Margaret Wilson

First published 1923

Margaret Wilson moved to England with her husband G.D. Turner almost immediately after publishing The Able McLaughlins. She continued to write until 1937 as an expat.  This neglected novel tells the story of Wully McLaughlin coming home from the Civil War to find his sweetheart pregnant with another man’s child.

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ISBN: 089301155X Honey in the Horn by H.L. Davis6. Honey in the Horn

H.L. Davis

First published 1935

Davis was awarded a Guggenheim grant in 1932 which enabled him to spend two years in Jalisco, Mexico, writing Honey in the Horn.   It is a coming-of-age tale about eastern Oregon pioneer life set in the early 20th century.  This book also received the Harper Prize for best debut novel.  Davis did not go to New York to receive the Pulitzer in person, saying he did not want to put himself on exhibition.

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The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau7. The Keepers of the House

Shirley Ann Grau

First published 1964

This novel is set in rural Alabama and covers seven generations of the Howland family that lived in the same house and built a community around themselves. As such, it is a metaphor for the long-established families of the Deep South, their encounters with changing values and norms, and the hypocrisy of racism. 

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ISBN: 156145074X Lamb in His Bosom Caroline Miller8. Lamb in His Bosom

Caroline Miller

First published 1933

Lamb in His Bosom was a one-hit wonder, with Miller’s second and last novel falling out-of-print shortly after it was published in 1944.  Lamb in His Bosom became an immediate bestseller because it looked at the old south from the perspective of the poor, who lived in the Georgia backwoods, rather than the rich plantation and slave owners.

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ISBN: 1438505167 His Family Ernest Poole9. His Family

Ernest Poole

First published 1917

The first Pulitzer winner is often overshadowed by subsequent victories of Booth Tarkington (twice) and Edith WhartonHis Family was out-of-print from the mid-1920s to 1970 and again from the late ‘70s until the turn of the century.  The novel tells the story of a middle class family in 1910s’ New York and how they deal with a changing society.

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ISBN: 051770319X Martin Dressler Steven Millhauser10. Martin Dressler

Steven Millhauser

First published 1997

Published as recently as 1997, should this book be on the list? Well, let’s say it deserves a mention because no one’s buying it. Millhauser isn’t really forgotten, as his Dangerous Laughter was named one of the 10 best books of 2008 by the New York Times, but his name isn't nearly as recognizable as other recent winners, such as Michael Chabon, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthyMartin Dressler follows the exploits of a young entrepreneur chasing the American Dream in New York.

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Which forgotten Pulitzer winners have you read?

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