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Edgar Wallace

imageEnglish Writer Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace sadly passed away 10 February 1932. Born 1April 1875, in Greenwhich, He received a good education and attended St. Alfege with St. Peter’s, a boarding school in Peckham, however he played truant and then left full time education at 12. 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, however he was dismissed from his job on the milk run for stealing money. He also worked as arubber factory worker, shoe shop assistant and ship’s cook. 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

imageAfter Joining the army at 21, 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. He was a war correspondent during the Second Boer War for Reuters and the Daily Mail. Wallace also began publishing songs and poetry, inspired by Rudyard Kipling, whom he met in Cape Town in 1898. Wallace’s first book, The Mission that Failed! was published in 1898. In 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, 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). His son, Bryan, was born in 1904 followed by a daughter, Patricia in 1908.

imageIn 1905, Wallace set up his own publishing company, Tallis Press, and released the thriller The Four Just Men. Sadly though Wallace was dismissed from the Daily Mail 1907, and his family lived continuously in a state of near-bankruptcy. During 1907 Edgar travelled to the Congo Free State, to report on atrocities committed against the Congolese under King Leopold II of Belgium and the Belgian rubber companies, in which up to 15 million Congolese were killed. Wallace twas invited to serialise stories inspired by his experiences. These were published as his first collection Sanders of the River (1911), a best seller, later adapted into a film (1935) starring Paul Robeson. Wallace went on to publish 11 more similar collections (102 stories). They were tales of exotic adventure and local tribal rites, set on an African river. He sold His first 28 books and their film rights outright, with no royalties, for quick money. Initially he wrote mainly in order to satisfy creditors in the UK and South Africa.

He began writing for the Week-End and the Evening News, becoming an editor for Week-End Racing Supplement and started his own racing papers Bibury’s and R. E. Walton’s Weekly, buying many racehorses, unfortunately He lost many thousands gambling. Ivy had her last child, Michael Blair Wallace by Edgar in 1916 and filed for divorce in 1918, moving to Tunbridge Wells with the children. Shortly after Wallace married his secretary Ethel Violet King in 1921 and Penelope Wallace was born to them in 1923. His publishers Hodder and Stoughton began advertising him as a celebrity writer, ‘King of Thrillers’, known for this trademark trilby, cigarette holder and yellow Rolls Royce.

Wallace wrote many genres including science fiction, screen plays, a non-fiction ten-volume history of the First World War. Wallace served as chairman of the Press Club, which continues to present an annual ‘Edgar Wallace Award’ for excellence in writing and was also appointed chairman of the British Lion Film Corporation, who also 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 unsuccessfully 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. He also bought and edited the Sunday News,for six months, writing a theatre column, before it closed, then In November 1931 he went to Hollywood, America, burdened by debt

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. Wallace also adapted books such as The Four Just Men and Mr J G Reeder and wrote On the Spot, about gangster Al Capone, which became the writer’s greatest theatrical success and launched the career ofCharles Laughton who played the lead Capone character Tony Perelli. Wallace also worked on the RKO “gorilla picture” (King Kong, 1933) for producer Merian C. Cooper.

unfortunately Wallace began 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 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

Wallace was a prolific writer and wrote screen plays, poetry, historical non-fiction, in total he wrote over 170 novels, 18 stage plays and 957 short stories, his works translated into 28 languages. 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, the Green Archer and King Kong. 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. 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 . In 1969 Penelope started the Edgar Wallace Society and Wallace also has a pub named after him.

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