English Writer Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace sadly passed away 10 February 1932. Born 1April 1875, 7Ashburnham Grove, Greenwhich, He received a good education and for some time Wallace attended St. Alfege with St. Peter’s, a boarding school in Peckham, however he played truant and then left full time education at 12. Joining the army at 21, he was a war correspondent during the Second Boer War for Reuters andThe Daily Mail. Struggling with debt, he left South Africa, returned to London and began writing thrillers to raise income, publishing books such as The Four Just Men (1905). Drawing on time as a reporter in the Congo, covering the Belgian atrocities, Wallace serialised short stories in magazines, later publishing collections such as Sanders of the River (1911). He signed with Hodder and Stoughton in 1921 and became an internationally recognised author.After a disastrous bid to stand as Liberal MP for Blackpool in the 1931 general election, Wallace moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a script writer for RKO studios. a prolific writer, one of Wallace’s publishers claimed that a quarter of all books then read in England were written by him. As well as journalism, Wallace wrote screen plays, poetry, historical non-fiction, 18 stage plays, 957 short stories and over 170 novels, 12 in 1929 alone. More than 160 films have been made of Wallace’s work. He is remembered for as a writer of ‘the colonial imagination’, for the J. G. Reeder detective stories, theGreen Archer and creation of King Kong. Selling over 50 million copies of his combined works in various editions, he has been described as “one of the most prolific thriller writers of [the 20th] century”, although few of his books are still in print in the UK. Wallace had a happy childhood, forming a close bond with 20-year-old Clara Freeman and by his early teens, Wallace had held down numerous jobs such as newspaper-seller at Ludgate Circus near Fleet Street, milk-delivery boy, rubber factory worker, shoe shop assistant and ship’s cook. A plaque at Ludgate Circus commemorates Wallace’s first encounter with the newspaper business. he was dismissed from his job on the milk run for stealing money. in1894, he became engaged to a local Deptford girl, Edith Anstree, but broke the engagement, enlisting in the Infantry under the adopted the name Edgar Wallace, taken from the author of Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace.He was posted in South Africa with the West Kent Regiment, in 1896. He transferred to theRoyal Army Medical Corps, which was less arduous but more unpleasant, and so transferred again to the Press Corps. Wallace began publishing songs and poetry, much inspired by Rudyard Kipling, whom he met in Cape Town in 1898. Wallace’s first book, The Mission that Failed! was published in 1898, n 1899, he bought his way out of the forces and turned to writing full time and became a war correspondent, first for Reuters and then the Daily Mail (1900) during the Boer War. while in South Africa, Wallace married Ivy Maude Caldecott tragically The couple’s first child, Eleanor Clare Hellier Wallace died suddenly from meningitis in 1903 and they returned to London soon after. Deep in debt. Wallace began writing detective stories in a bid to earn quick money. A son, Bryan, was born in 1904 followed by a daughter, Patricia in 1908.
Wallace served as chairman of the Press Club, which continues to present an annual ‘Edgar Wallace Award’ for excellence in writing.Wallace was also appointed chairman of the British Lion Film Corporation. Wallace’s contract gave him an annual salary, a substantial block of stock in the company, plus a large stipend from everything British Lion produced based on his work, plus 10% of British Lion’s overall annual profits. Additionally, British Lion employed his elder son Bryan E. Wallace as a film editor. Wallace was the first British crime novelist to use policemen as his protagonists, rather than amateur sleuths as most other writers of the time did. Most of his novels are independent stand-alone stories; he seldom used series heroes, and when he did he avoided a strict story order, so that continuity was not required from book to book. On 6 June 1923, Edgar Wallace became the first British radiosports reporter, when he made a report on the Epsom Derby for the British Broadcasting Company, the newly founded predecessor of the BBC Wallace’s ex-wife Ivy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1923 and though the tumour was successfully removed, it returned terminally by 1925 and she died in 1926.
Wallace wrote a controversial article in the mid-1920s entitled “The Canker In Our Midst” about paedophilia and the show business world. Describing how some show business people unwittingly leave their children vulnerable to predators, it linked paedophilia with homosexuality and outraged many of his colleagues, publishing associates and business friends . Wallace became active in the Liberal Party and contested Blackpool in the 1931 general election as one of a handful of Independent Liberals who rejected the National Government, and the official Liberal support for it, and strongly supported free trade. healso bought the Sunday News, and edited it for six months, writing a theatre column, before it closed. i the event, he lost the election by over 33,000 votes, and he went to America, burdened by debt, in November 1931.
In Hollywood he began working as a ‘script doctor’ with RKO.One of his first successes was the 1932 film adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. His later play, The Green Pack had also opened to excellent reviews, boosting his status even further. Wallace wanted to get his own work on Hollywood celluloid, adapting books such as The Four Just Men and Mr J G Reeder. In Hollywood he met Stanley Holloway’s scriptwriter, his own half-brother Marriott Edgar. Wallace’s play On the Spot, written about gangster Al Capone, would prove to be the writer’s greatest theatrical success. It is described as “arguably, in construction, dialogue, action, plot and resolution, still one of the finest and purest of 20th-century melodramas”. (The Independent, 2000).It launched the career ofCharles Laughton who played the lead Capone character Tony Perelli.
In December 1931, Wallace was assigned work on the RKO “gorilla picture” (King Kong, 1933) for producer Merian C. Cooper. By late January, however, he was beginning to suffer sudden, severe headaches, and was diagnosed with diabetes. His condition deteriorated within days. Violet booked passage on a liner out of Southampton, but received word that Edgar had slipped into a coma and died of the condition, combined with double pneumonia, on 7 February 1932 in North Maple Drive, Beverly Hills. The flags onFleet Street’s newspaper offices flew at half-mast and the bell of St. Bride’s tolled in mourning. he was buried at Chalklands, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, near his UK country home. Despite his later success, Wallace had amassed massive debts, some still remaining from his years in South Africa, The large royalties from his greatly popular work allowed the estate to be settled within two years. Violet Wallace outlived her husband by only 14 months, dying suddenly in April 1933 at the age of 33 . Her own will left her share of the Wallace estate to her daughter Penelope, who became the chief benefactor and shareholder. Penelope started the Edgar Wallace Society in 1969. Wallace also has a pub named after him More than 160 films have been made based on Wallace’s work.