John Fowles is the man responsible for the greatest novel of the twentieth century, The Magus. He hasn't published a novel in fifteen years; literature's great loss. Fowles deserves profound admiration. His skill is astounding, his command of narrative is unsurpassed. Perhaps my own favourite aspect of his fiction is the manner in which he handles sensational material in a highly artistic fashion. The Collector is a good example of this. A middle class girl is kidnapped by a working class clerk, the collector of the title, who keeps her captive in his basement. The novel is probably the most depressing work of fiction ever published, after Ian McEwan's The Child in Time. The Collector is intense, claustrophobic, frightening, finally almost unreadable. Fowles is his two characters. His skill at presenting them is matchless. And this is the problem. He's too good. The book provides no sunshine, no resolution, not even a sliver of faith in the human capacity for kindness. It is relentlessly bleak and pessimistic, but only because (paradoxically) Fowles is such a good writer. Read The Magus instead; a joyous celebration of storytelling, suspense and mystery.