Arranged in chronological order the novelist's lives are opinionated, informative, frequently funny and often shocking. Professor Sutherland's authors come from all over the world; their writings illustrate every kind of fiction from gothic, penny dreadfuls and pornography to fantasy, romance and high literature. The book shows the changing forms of the genre, and how the aspirations of authors to divert and sometimes to educate their readers, has in some respects, radically changed over the centuries, and in others - such as their interest in sex and relationships - remained remarkably constant.

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