Gekoski provides background for those who might not be familiar with his subjects, but doesn't attempt general biographies, usually treating one aspect of or episode in their lives. Similarly, he restricts himself to scattered critical comments on relatively minor topics. This is given some body by the inclusion of his own recollections — he knew personally many of the notables he writes about — and glimpses into the workings of the rare book market.
The result is very easy to read and good fun. I learned something both about the authors and works I knew well and about those that were largely unfamiliar to me. And I have no great interest in the rare book market, but Gekoski's glimpses into that were also interesting.
The authors covered are — in the fairly random order of Tolkien's Gown — Vladimir Nabokov, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Golding, Oscar Wilde, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, J.D. Salinger, T.E. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, John Kennedy Toole, Evelyn Waugh, Beatrix Potter, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, George Orwell, Salman Rushdie, T.S. Eliot, J.K. Rowling, and Philip Larkin.
Note: the same book has been published with the title Nabokov's Butterfly, in both the United States and the United Kingdom.