James Hilton Books In Order


  1. And Now Goodbye (1931)
  2. Murder At School (1931)
  3. Contango (1932)
  4. Lost Horizon (1933)
  5. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934)
  6. We Are Not Alone (1937)
  7. To You Mr Chips (1938)
  8. Random Harvest (1941)
  9. So Well Remembered (1945)
  10. Nothing So Strange (1947)
  11. Morning Journey (1951)
  12. Time and Time Again (1953)

Novels Book Covers

James Hilton Books Overview

Murder At School

Was It Murder? deals with the phenomenon of coincidence by posing the question of how likely it is that two brothers attending the same boarding school meet with two separate accidental deaths and curious ones at that within the same schoolyear. In the manner typical of the Golden Age whodunnit, the solution is only presented in the final pages of the novel. Throughout the book, an amateur sleuth and a Scotland Yard detective vie with each other to solve the riddle, with only one of them successful in the end. It should be noted that Was It Murder? remained Hilton’s only detective novel a brief youthful foray into crime fiction he shares with writers such as C. S. Forester Payment Deferred, 1926; Plain Murder, 1930 and C. P. Snow Death Under Sail, 1932. Plot summary:Oakington is one of the lesser known public schools in England, and Dr Roseveare, its headmaster, has been trying hard for seven years to improve its reputation. When, in the winter term of 1927 28, one of the pupils is killed in his sleep by an old gas fitting falling down from the ceiling he contacts Colin Revell, an Old Boy, to discreetly investigate the matter. Not entirely convinced that there was no foul play involved but unable to pin down a motive on anyone, Revell leaves again after a few weeks, and most of the evidence is destroyed by the installation of electricity in the whole building. A few months later Revell is shocked to learn that the deceased boy’s brother has also died under mysterious circumstances he seems to have jumped into the school’s indoor swimming pool late at night after the water had been drained and travels to Oakington of his own accord. Now it turns out that the closest relative of the two brothers, who have been orphans for years, is actually a teacher at Oakington, and that he stands to inherit a small fortune. At the same time Revell falls in love with that teacher’s beautiful young wife. source: Wikipedia

Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon is a 1933 novel by English writer James Hilton. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri La, a fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet. Hugh Conway, a veteran member of the British diplomatic service, finds inner peace, love, and a sense of purpose in Shangri La, whose inhabitants enjoy unheard of longevity. Among the book’s themes is an allusion to the possibility of another cataclysmic world war brewing, as indeed it was at the time. It is said to have been inspired at least in part by accounts of travels in Tibetan borderlands, published in the National Geographic by the explorer and botanist Joseph Rock. The remote communities he visited, such as Muli, show many similarities to the fictional Shangri La. One such town, Zhongdian, has now officially renamed itself as Shangri La Chinese: Xianggelila because of its claim to be the inspiration for the novel. The book explicitly notes that having made war on the ground man would now fill the skies with death, and that all precious things were in danger of being lost, like the lost histories of Rome ‘Lost books of Livy’. It was hoped that overlooked by the violent, Shangri la would preserve them and reveal them later to a receptive world exhausted by war. That was the real purpose of the Lamasary; study, inner peace and long life were a side benefit to living there. Conway is a veteran of the trench warfare of WWI, with the emotional state frequently cited after that war a sense of emotional exhaustion or accelerated emotional aging. This harmonizes with the existing residents of the lamasary and he is strongly attracted to life at Shangri La.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a generosity of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his rowdy students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as enduring as the institution itself. And sad but grateful faces told the story when the time came for the students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips. There is not another book, with the possible exception of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, that has quite the same hold on readers’ affections. James Hilton wrote Goodbye, Mr. Chips in loving memory of his schoolmaster father and in tribute to his profession. Over the years it has won an enduring place in world literature and made untold millions of people smile with a catch in the throat.

Random Harvest

a selection from PART ONE: On the morning of the eleventh of November, 1937, precisely at eleven o’clock, some well meaning busybody consulted his watch and loudly announced the hour, with the result that all of us in the dining car felt constrained to put aside drinks and newspapers and spend the two minutes’ silence in rather embarrassed stares at one another or out of the window. Not that anyone had intended disrespect merely that in a fast moving train we knew no rules for correct behaviour and would therefore rather not have behaved at all. Anyhow, it was during those tense uneasy seconds that I first took notice of the man opposite. Dark haired, slim, and austerely good looking, he was perhaps in his early or middle forties; he wore an air of prosperous distinction that fitted well with his neat but quiet standardized clothes. I could not guess whether he had originally moved in from a third or a first class compartment. Half a million Englishmen are like that. Their inconspicuous correctness makes almost a display of concealment. As he looked out of the window I saw something happen to his eyes a change from a glance to a gaze and then from a gaze to a glare, a sudden sharpening of focus, as when a person thinks he recognizes someone fleetingly in a crowd. Meanwhile a lurch of the train spilt coffee on the table between us, providing an excuse for apologies as soon as the two minutes were over; I got in with mine first, but by the time he turned to reply the focus was lost, his look of recognition unsure. Only the embarrassment remained, and to ease it I made some comment on the moorland scenery, which was indeed sombrely beautiful that morning, for overnight snow lay on the summits, and there was one of them, twin domed, that seemed to keep pace with the train, moving over the intervening valley like a ghostly camel. ‘That’s Mickle,’ I said, pointing to it. Surprisingly he answered: ‘Do you know if there’s a lake quite a small lake between the peaks?’ Two men at the table across the aisle then intervened with the instant garrulousness of those who overhear a question put to someone else. They were also, I think, moved by a common desire to talk down an emotional crisis, for the entire dining car seemed suddenly full of chatter. One said there was such a lake, if you called it a lake, but it was really more of a swamp; and the other said there wasn’t any kind of lake at all, though after heavy rain it might be ‘a bit soggy’ up there, and then the first man agreed that maybe that was so, and presently it turned out that though they were both Derbyshire men, neither had actually climbed Mickle since boyhood. We listened politely to all this and thanked them, glad to let the matter drop. Nothing more was said till they left the train at Leicester; then I leaned across the table and said: ‘It doesn’t pay to argue with local inhabitants, otherwise I’d have answered your question myself because I was on top of Mickle yesterday.’ A gleam reappeared in his eyes. ‘You were?’ ‘Yes, I’m one of those eccentric people who climb mountains for fun all the year round.’ ‘So you saw the lake?’ ‘There wasn’t a lake or a swamp or a sign of either.’ ‘Ah…
.’ And the gleam faded. ‘You sound disappointed?’ ‘Well, no hardly that. Maybe I was thinking of somewhere else. I’m afraid I’ve a bad memory.’ ‘For mountains?’ ‘For names too. Mickle, did you say it was?’ He spoke the word as if he were trying the sound of it. ‘That’s the local name. It isn’t important enough to be on maps.’ He nodded and then, rather deliberately, held up a newspaper throughout a couple of English counties. The sight of soldiers marching along a Bedfordshire lane gave us our next exchange of remarks something about Hitler, the European situation, chances of war, and so on…

So Well Remembered

On the day that World War II ends in Europe, Mayor George Boswell recalls events of the previous 25 years in his home town of Browdley…
a sample from PART I: That day So Well Remembered a day, indeed, impossible to forget was the First of September, 1921; on the morning of which George Boswell then only Councillor Boswell, then sandy brown haired with not a trace of grey woke before dawn, looked at his watch, and promptly slept again till Annie brought in the morning paper, a cup of tea, and some letters that had just arrived. Amongst them was a note from Lord Winslow’s secretary, saying that his lordship would arrive at Browdley Station by the noon train, in good time for the foundation stone laying; and this made George very happy and proud, because Lord Winslow was not an ordinary kind of lord a type which George, never having met any, imagined for himself and then proceeded to scorn on principle, but a special kind who had not only devoted a lifetime to public service but had also written several distinguished books. At half past seven George got up, put out his blue serge suit the one reserved for big events, and shaved with especial care, scanning meanwhile the cheerful headlines of the paper propped against the mirror, and noting with approval, whenever he looked beyond it, the misty promise of a fine summer day. By eight he was at the breakfast table, eating ham and eggs and exchanging good humoured chatter with Annie, the elderly ‘help’ who looked after the house and did her best to overfeed him during his wife’s absence; by nine he was at his desk, composing an article for the Browdley and District Guardian, which he owned and edited. He did not write easily as a rule, but this time the phrases came on a wave of exhilaration, for though he had a few private doubts that the Treaty of Versailles was all it should be, he was prepared to give the future the benefit of them, the more so as it was natural for him to give the future the benefit of anything. Anyhow by ten George had composed a suitably optimistic editorial; noon saw him at the railway station to welcome Lord Winslow; by one o’clock he had made a short speech at the Town Hall luncheon; and by a quarter to two he was in his seat on the improvised dais at the corner of Mill Street, blinking in the sunshine and beaming his satisfaction to the four winds, one of which, then prevalent, wafted back the concentrated smell of Browdley’s industries. But George did not mind that indeed, it was the remembered perfume of his childhood, of days spent on the banks of the canal that threaded its way between factory walls, taking waste water hot from each one, so that a fog of steam drifted over the surface and spread a low hanging reek of oil, chemicals, and machinery. Waiting on the platform for the ceremony to begin, George sniffed and was happy. A great day for Councillor Boswell and for Browdley, and also one gathered for England and for the world. History, George reflected, could not have done a better job of dramatization August Thirty First, the Official End of the Great War some sort of lawyers’ technicality, but it still made good news September First, the Foundation Stone Laying of Unit One of the Mill Street Housing Scheme that was to replace some of Browdley’s worst slums. A great day, indeed. George, as his glance roved around, was proud to have the dedicator a Bishop on his left, the guest of the occasion Lord Winslow on his right, and various local bigwigs beyond and behind; but he was proudest of all to see the crowd, and only wished it as large as it would have been if Browdley folk weren’t such notorious slackers about civic affairs…

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