I bet that title got your attention.
If you’ve ever been in our research room at the Historical Society’s headquarters, you’ve seen that we have a lot of books. However, the books on our open shelves are only part of our collection. We have school books, rare religious texts, histories of local schools and businesses, but my favorite part of the collection are the novels written by locals.
Way back when we started this blog, I told you about Charles Heber Clark, a best-selling author and rival of Mark Twain, who lived in Conshohocken. Today I have the books of Howard R. Watt, a Norristown native who took up writing (or at least publishing his writing) in his retirement.
Watt was born and raised in Norristown. He attended Norristown High School and William Penn Charter School before entering Princeton. After graduating in 1917, he returned to Norristown and eventually took over the family business, Watt Woolen Mill.
He retired in 1949, and it seems, took up writing as a hobby. His first book, The King’s Pardon, was published in Great Britain in 1958. It’s the story of the young Marquis de Tourville and the poor but beautiful Andrienne de Savoie. The Evening Chronicle in Manchester said it was “altogether a clever and delightfully told story.”
He followed up his first book with Alert All Ships, also published in Britain. It continues the story of the Marquis’ son, René, a physician in revolutionary Philadelphia. The same year, Alert All Ships came out (1962), his first book was released as a paperback in the US. The title was changed from The King’s Pardon to the much racier Pool of Seduction.
The books did not become bestsellers (though they’re not all that bad). Howard R. Watt died in 1967 after breaking his hip in a fall at his 50th college reunion. His obituary doesn’t mention his books at all, but I’m sure he was proud of them. The three books in our collection were all donated by Watt himself, and he inscribed the first one to the Historical Society.