Review: S.A. Cosby’s reissued debut thriller proves he was a master from the start
By Jeff Mays
December 18, 2017
There are few writers from either field who have been both a literary and literary press staple within their respective genres for as long as S.A. Cosby has been a part of the New York Times Book Review. His first publication, The Last Lecture (1921), written when he was only 11 years old and published a year later, was an international bestseller and helped launch his literary career.
Conrad and Gertrude Stein, who were both part of what might be called the avant-garde of the time, were among the first to praise the young writer. In 1923, when Cosby was 24, he wrote a piece entitled “S.A.’s Own Book of Articles” in which he described him as “an author whose talent is inborn, whose genius is original, and whose power to affect the minds of millions of readers is irresistible.”
That year, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an unprecedented honor in the literary world at the time, and followed The Last Lecture with other acclaimed works, including The White Knight (1925) and An Autobiography (1926).
Cosby’s career as a writer took off in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as he wrote several historical novels, including The Sun and the Moon (1928), The World of Yesterday (1929) and The Golden Web (1931) before settling primarily on fiction. By the early 1930s, his novels had become some of the most popular in America.
“When you come up with such a unique concept, you’re usually surprised by how much you can do with it in fiction, and sometimes it’s not even a novel,” Cosby told the New York Times in a 2010 interview. “It’s usually an outline, a few chapters, a paragraph. And you begin to see that if you can only do one thing with that idea, you’re much more likely to have success with it than if you try to do everything.”
But, sadly, Cosby could not match the success of his earlier novels, perhaps because he was in his 70s when the time for a new novel