Working on a different site today, just off Fleet Street. Where Fleet Street meets Ludgate Circus there is this –
a plaque in memory of Edgar Wallace.
At one point – according to his publishers (so, not an entirely reliable source) – one in four of all books sold in the world was written by Wallace. This is almost certainly an exaggeration, but his books certainly sold in vast amounts. Now, I’d guess, he’s virtually forgotten, if not quite out of print.
I can only remember reading one of his books, and can’t remember a thing about it – the impression I have is that they were efficiently manufactured page-turners that you might buy at a railway station to pass the time on the journey – so, the equivalent of today’s airport fiction, perhaps.
None of his characters seem to taken on an independent longevity in the way that a Poirot or Wimsey, a Campion or a Fen has – J.G. Reader? The Green Archer?
I feel though that the Four Just Men have some potential for revival, as their role in life was apparently to “kill the Foreign Secretary if he tried to ratify an unjust law” – they’d have their work cut out these days.
EW seems to have led an eventful, racketty life, rather like a more likeable Jeffrey Archer. He died leaving substantial debts, although, in fairness, these soon vanished under the weight of royalties.
On the other hand, he did cause severe financial incovenience to Lord Harmsworth, and stood as an Independent Liberal in Blackpool at the 1931 election. So not all bad.
Must try to read one of his books, come to think of it.