The Pretender (Robert W. Service, 1914)

A bestselling author is chafed by reviews that say he writes nothing but pablum and is incapable of true art. On a whim, he leaves for Europe, where he intends to start from scratch to prove to himself and to the world that his success isn’t a fluke and that he really is a great writer. During his adventure, things happen to him that are so contrived and incredible that he can’t help but think his life is not unlike one of his old stories. He finds himself married to a sickly Frenchwoman and living in a Parisian garret, struggling to scrape together a few sou to buy bread crusts, with his great literary goal always just out of reach. Eventually, he returns to his familiar potboilers and, sure enough, becomes a bestseller once more. He returns to America content with what he is — an author of worthless books that everyone reads and not of important books that nobody does.

Inscription: signed on the front flyleaf in a very fanciful, flowing script that’s almost wholly indecipherable. Norman Vincent, maybe?

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