Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Forgotten Author: Edgar Wallace

Back in the 1920s there was an oft-repeated joke about the British thriller writer Edgar Wallace. A friend was said to have telephoned him one day, only to be told that Wallace was writing a new novel. “That’s okay,” the caller remarked, “I’ll wait.”

One of the most popular writers of the early 20th century, and certainly one of the most prolific, Edgar Wallace turned out an astonishing 130 novels (18 alone in 1926), 40 short story collections, 25 plays, some 15 nonfiction books, plus journalism, criticism, poetry, and columns, in a little over 30 years. During his peak it was claimed that one-quarter of all the books read in England were penned by Wallace, and he remains one of the most filmed authors of all time.
I've got a fondness for old mysteries as y'all know. It is fostered by public domain sites like Project Gutenberg, Librivox, and kind folks who put the Gutenberg files on Amazon for Kindle (free!).

And that's how I found Edgar Wallace. I've read quite a few of them but these are ones I love the most.

This is a riveting tale which sets out with a man being sentenced for murder and a beautiful, innocent woman having had to testify against him.

Except, what everyone thinks is exactly opposite to the truth, according to the condemned man's friend and attorney, Jack Glover. He claims that his friend was framed.

Meanwhile, poverty-stricken Lydia gets pulled into this scenario completely out of the blue and is put in the situation of having to decide who to trust. One person is telling the truth and the other is out to murder her. We are not really ever in the dark about it, but watching Lydia's thinking and also seeing the behind-the-scenes machinations makes this a real page-turner.


Who was the mysterious avenger whose hooded form sent terror into the dark haunts of the underworld? Criminal mastermind Colonel Dan Boundary fights two enemies — Stafford King, a dedicated detective, and Jack O'Judgment, a mysterious figure bent on vigilante justice.

This was an excellent mystery that had me guessing at Jack O'Judgment's identity throughout the book. I love the way he's kind of like The Joker, but fighting for right. It was also interesting to see the interplay of various characters and the skill with which the author emphasized their personalities.

Is there anything worse than getting released from prison only to find that your true love is getting married that day? Maybe just one thing — discovering that her new husband is secretly a sinister criminal wanted by the police. We can't help but like John Gray, even if he is an ex-con. We're rooting for him to expose his true love's husband and make good.

This novel introduced Mr. J.G. Reeder, a wonderful character who was in a whole series of books. Not a policeman, not a detective, we don't know exactly what he is except that when he is around mysteries are solved, wrongs are righted, secrets are uncovered — all in the service of good. And he does it with such a wilted, tired, disinterested manner that it can't help but be amusing to see the effect on the villains. Especially when the talk turns to raising chickens. This was a thoroughly enjoyable, plot twisting mystery.

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