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Thorne Smith

James Thorne Smith Jr. (1892-1934), was an American writer of humorous supernaturnal fantasy fiction. Best known today for his creation of Topper, Smith’s comic fantasy fiction (most of it involving sex, lots of drinking, and supernatural transformations, and aided by racy illustrations) sold millions of copies in the early 1930s. Smith drank as steadily as his characters; his appearance in James Thurber’s The Years With Ross involves an unexplained week-long disappearance. Smith was born in Annapolis, Maryland the son of a Navy commodore, attended Dartmouth College, and after hungry years in Greenwich Village working part-time as an advertising agent, Smith achieved meteoric success with the publication of Topper in 1926. His other works include: The Stray Lamb (1929), Turnabout (1931), The Night Life of the Gods (1931), Topper Takes a Trip (1932), The Bishop’s Jaegers (1932), Rain in the Doorway (1933), Skin and Bones (1933) and The Glorious Pool (1934). In 1932 he died of a heart attack at the age of 42.

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Turnabout: The ol’ switcheroo

Turnabout by Thorne Smith 

It has been a good number of years since I last read Thorne Smith’s ribald fantasy classic entitled The Night Life of the Gods (1931), but I can still recall how thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious the book was for me. In this wonderful romp, a NYC-based scientist, Hunter Hawk, invents a device that can turn people to stone. He soon meets Megaera, one of the Little People, who has the converse ability to turn statues into living people, and the two later manage to bring all the stone effigies of the ancient Roman gods at the Metropolitan Museum to life, with increasingly madcap results. The book was chosen for inclusion in Cawthorn & Moorcock’s excellent overview volume Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and deserve...

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