Thorne Smith has to be the most influential "forgotten" author of the 20th century. He virtually created the supernatural comedy/romance genre which has been popular on film (and later, television) ever since his first best sellers, yet he seldom receives the credit due him. Best known for his novel TOPPER, Smith also wrote TURNABOUT, THE NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS, and the unfinished novel that became the basis for the film I MARRIED A WITCH. Given the supernatural, often post-life themes of much of his work, it's tragically ironic Smith did not live to see most of the glory of his career, passing away at age 42 of a sudden heart attack in 1934, years before popular adaptions of his novels and his stunningly successful run as a best-selling novelist which lasted into the 1940's and paperback sales going strong into the 1960's, thanks in part to racy artwork covers by Herbert Roese, longtime illustrator for the Thorne books which surely influenced later Playboy cartoons with their outrageously sexy and scantily dressed heroines on the cover. The novels themselves are loaded with what Slide accurately describes as "cheerful bawdiness", be it nudist colonies, sex-changed spouses, suggested wife-swapping, or "phallic low humor", all the while being represented in perfectly respectable types with a highball glass almost always at hand.
A MAN NAMED SMITH is a most welcome career study of this unheralded author by film historian Anthony Slide. Information on this long-dead author has always been elusive in recent decades (I was amused by Slide's mention of the difficulty of finding data on him on the net without pulling up info on Melrose Place star Courtney Thorne-Smith, something I'm well acquainted with) but Slide has done an excellent job in under 200 pages of bringing Smith's full career in focus, with information on his personal life and commentary on his novels and the film adaptions. There are several photographs, although regrettably only a couple of Smith himself (tough to find these days, undoubtably). Slide quotes a number of Smith's best passages, loaded with innuendo and blue humor, making one realize anew not only how influential he was not only to the supernatural genre but sex farces in general.
The book concludes with an excellent and very helpful listing of the complete works of Smith, with copyright and publication data, and a reprint of the 1934 promotional monograph Thorne Smith His Life and Times. A MAN NAMED SMITH is an invaluable launching pad for new interest in the comic art of this outrageously overlooked pioneer.