Search This Blog

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Mind of Edgar Wallace

The other day, I browsed a Spanish bookshop – they stock a wall of books in English – and stumbled upon a series published by Wordsworth – Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural, edited by David Stuart Davies. [I already possess his Wordsworth anthology, The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes (1998)]
So I was really pleased to buy Night Shivers (The ghost stories of J.H. Riddell, Sweeney Todd: or The String of Pearls (1846), and Varney, the Vampire (1845) both serialised penny-dreadful tales by James Malcolm Rymer, and The Casefiles of Mr J.G. Reeder, which comprises two novels, Room 13 (1924) and Terror Keep (1927) and a collection of stories, The Mind of J.G. Reeder (1925), all by Edgar Wallace. Other authors in this series include Sheridan La Fanu, Ambrose Bierce and Rudyard Kipling. See the full list here
Edgar Richard Horatio Wallace (1875-1922) produced 173 books (the majority crime and mystery) and 17 plays. He was the illegitimate son of two actors who passed him on for adoption when he was nine days’ old. A fish porter, George Freeman brought him up with his other ten children. Wallace found out about his past when he was eleven.
In the Boer War he worked for Reuters and South African and London newspapers. He then tried his hand at a mystery novel about four respectable but ruthless vigilantes who find pleasure in administering justice when the law is incapable or unwilling to do so. Alas, no publisher expressed an interested in The Four Just Men, so Wallace founded the Tallis Press and published the novel in 1905. The book was a big success and made his name. He soon became prolific. It is said he dictated a play in four days and a novel over a weekend. Apparently, in the 1920s and 1930s, one in every four books read in Britain was written by Wallace.  He created Sanders of the River, about the adventures of a British commissioner in Africa; The Ringer, an underworld avenger; Derrick Yale, ‘the amazing psychometrical detective’; and Mr J.G. Reeder.
Reeder exhibits brilliant detective work, with a remarkable memory for faces, plus he has the ability to think like a criminal; indeed, he encounters many colourful criminal characters; and Wallace does it all with a slice of humour.
The Reeder character appeared in the 1929 film Red Aces, written and directed by Wallace. Other films followed – Mr Reeder in Room 13 (1938), The Mind of Mr Reeder, and The Missing People (1939). A British TV series The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder (1969-1971) featured Hugh Burden in the starring role, based on the short stories.


Kathleen Janz-Anderson said...

Like usual an excellent piece, Nik. The story about Edgar Wallace’s personal life is fascinating. I thought it ironic that I came across this today as I’m trying to gather information about old/vintage/antique books.

Nik said...

Thanks, Kathleen. Serendipity, indeed.