Edgar Wallace (1875 – 1932)

600px-Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13109, Edgar WallaceEdgar Wallace, in full Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace, was born illegitimately in Greenwich, London, in 1875 to actors Mary Jane Richards and T.H. Edgar. As an infant he was adopted by George Freeman, a porter at Billingsgate fish market. Aged eleven, Wallace sold newspapers at Ludgate Circus and upon leaving school took a job with a printer. He later enlisted in the Royal West Kent Regiment, before transferring to the Medical Staff Corps, and was sent to South Africa. In 1898, he published a collection of poems called ‘The Mission that Failed’, and subsequently left the army to become correspondent for Reuters. South African war correspondent for ‘The Daily Mail’ followed and his articles were later published as ‘Unofficial Dispatches’. His outspokenness infuriated Lord Kitchener, who removed his credentials. He then edited the ‘Rand Daily Mail’, but gambled disastrously on the South African Stock Market. Returning to England, Wallace at first reported on crimes and hanging trials, before becoming editor of ‘The Evening News’. It was in 1905 that he founded the Tallis Press, publishing ‘Smithy’, a collection of soldier stories, and ‘The Four Just Men’. The latter was published with the ending removed as an advertising stunt and he offered œ500 to readers who could successfully guess the ending. Unfortunately, many did and he was almost bankrupted. At various times Wallace also worked as a journalist on ‘The Standard’, ‘The Star’, ‘The Week-End Racing Supplement’ and ‘The Story Journal’. In 1917, he became a Special Constable at Lincoln’s Inn and also a special interrogator for the War Office. The Daily Mail sent Wallace to investigate atrocities in the Belgian Congo, a trip that provided material for his ‘Sanders of the River’ books. In 1923, he became Chairman of the Press Club and in 1931 stood as a Liberal Parliamentary candidate for Blackpool. Wallace’s first marriage in 1901 to Ivy Caldecott, daughter of a missionary, ended in divorce in 1918 and he later married his much younger secretary, Violet King. Along with countless articles, some 23 screenplays and many short stories, Wallace wrote more than 170 books, which have been translated into 28 languages and sales of which have exceeded 50 million copies. Over 160 films have been made from his books – more than any other author. In the 1920’s one of Wallace’s many publishers claimed that a quarter of all books read in England were written by him. His sales were exceeded only by ‘The Bible’. He died in 1932 whilst working on the screenplay for ‘King Kong’, having moved to Hollywood after being offered a contract by RKO. (Source: House of Stratus)

Zangwill’s “The Big Bow Mystery” (1891) anticipates in tone Wallace’s The Four Just Men (1905). Both books are full of liberal satire, both feature crimes that are public cause celèbres, both are locked room stories, and in both the motive behind the locked room is partly to create The Perfect Crime. Both are also novella length. Zangwill’s finale, where one of his characters penetrates rather threateningly to the Home Secretary, reminds one of the central plot in Wallace against an English minister. The Four Just Men surprises with its liberal attitude toward politics and social justice. It is far more openly liberal than about anything in modern mystery fiction. Current mystery writers suffer from their disinterest in politics, society, science or just about anything else out of the common range of interests. Wallace’s book seems like a model of openness in a desert of right wing Tom Clancyness. Wallace also includes mountains of sparkling social satire in his book. (A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection by Mike Grost)

Further reading:

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Small, Maynard & Company (USA), 1920)

The Four Just Men amounted to an innovative example of the ‘challenge to the reader’ which –stripped of cash prizes – became a popular feature of later detective stories. Wallace’s thriller was not only highly topical at the time it first appeared, but also, more than a century later, seems strikingly modern in its concerns – immigration and international terrorism. (The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards)

Description: When the Foreign Secretary Sir Philip Ramon receives a threatening, greenish-grey letter signed Four Just Men, he remains determined to see his Aliens Extradition Bill made law. A device in the members’ smoke room and a sudden magnesium flash that could easily have been nitro-glycerine leave Scotland Yard baffled. Even Fleet Street cannot identify the illusive Manfred, Gonsalez, Pioccart and Thery – Four Just Men dedicated to punishing by death those whom conventional justice can not touch. (Source: House of Stratus)

The Four Just Men has been reviewed, among others by David L. Vineyard at Mystery File, John Grant’s Reviews  at Goodreads, FictionFan’s Blog Reviews, Vintage Pop Fictions, Classic Mysteries, Past Offences, and Tipping My Fedora.

Previously I’ve reviewed, at The Game is Afoot,The Man Who Bought London (1915) here, and The Crimson Circle (1922) here.

Review: The Crimson Circle by Edgar Wallace

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Delphi Classics, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition File Size: 43,526 KB. THE CRIMSON CIRCLE (1922) within Delphi Complete Works of Edgar Wallace. ASIN: B00IIWW2JE.

17686Following a prologue in which an Englishman, who has been sentenced to death in the city of Toulouse, escapes his fate at the foot of the guillotine, the action moves to England eleven years after. Once there, a man on the verge of bankruptcy and with suicidal thoughts, comes to an appointment with a stranger inside a car. The unknown man offers him a large sum of money just for putting in circulation all the money that he will send him, doing whatever will be necessary to cover its trail. In exchange, he will have to do whatever will be ask from him in due course. He’ll be ‘the Crimson Circle’ and will have hundred of comrades but he won’t know who else belongs to the circle, and neither anyone else will know his identity. The name of this stranger will remain anonymous but the car where the meeting took place it is known to belong to a certain Mr. Felix Marl. Shortly after, several people of social relevance are blackmailed. They will die within a period of time, unless they pay the amount of money requested in each case. As from that moment, many will pay without even notifying it, to the authorities .

One morning, Mr James Beardmore finds between his correspondence a letter with a rubber stamp from ‘the Crimson Circle’. The letter requests him the payment of one hundred thousand, in bank notes. Mr Beardmore has turned a deaf ear to this threat. But anyway, he has asked for the assistance of a private detective, a certain Mr. Derrick Yale, who claims to have exceptional powers. Psychometrical powers, as he called them. Today we might call them, paranormal powers. Meanwhile, his son Jack Beardmore runs into Miss Thalia Drummond close to the hedge which marks the division between the estate of his father and the one from his neighbour, Mr. Harvey Froyant. Miss Drummond, a very pretty woman, works as Mr. Froyant’s secretary and Jack feels particularly attracted by this woman. At the same time, a visitor, named Mr. Felix Marl, has arrived to see Mr. Beardmore, coinciding with his neighbour Mr Froyant, who apparently recognises the newcomer. Unexpectedly, Mr Marl becomes frightened, babbles an excuse and leaves, without any further explanation, saying that he will return tomorrow. The following day, Mr Marl doesn’t show up, as he had promised, and Mr Beardmore is found dead, murdered when he was strolling around his estate.

Chief inspector Parr has been in charge of the Crimson Circle investigation for a year. In the words of Mr. Yale, Parr is slow but thorough. However, he is being criticised for his lack of results and some even ask for his resignation. But Parr believes that the Crimson Circle gang is easy to get. He claims that he can find every one of them, but what he’s really after is to get to the hub. And for this, he needs a little more authority of which he actually has. He then explains what he needs to the Commissioner. After leaving the headquarters of the police, Mr. Parr’s first call is an office in the centre of the city, the name of the occupant is Mr. Derrick Yale. And when the name of Miss Thalia Drummond is mentioned, he tells him calmly that she ‘is a crook and a companion of crooks.’   

I have read The Crimson Circle to participate in The Books of the Century at Past Offences. This month the year chosen is #1922. The Crimson Circle was first serialised in The Daily Express, London, Dec 6-Feb 3, 1922. The first book edition was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1922; and in the US by Doubleday, Doran & Co., New York, 1929. At that time, Edgar Wallace was a highly successful author and extremely prolific as well. He sold over 50 million copies of his combined works in various editions. The Economist describes him 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 Crimson Circle is, without doubt, a very original novel. And the story, although quite unrealistic, should probably be judged in the context of the times in which it was written. What I mean is that, in my view, it has not stood well the pass of time, although it is not without certain merits. The reader will do well in being dragged by the plot, with no concern if, occasionally, it seems unrealistic. The story is quite ingenious and entertaining, even at today’s eyes; but it is also extremely naive, what makes it more appropriate for a juvenile audience. For the history of the genre, perhaps it should be highlighted that Edgar Wallace was one of the first, if not the first one, in giving the leading role to a professional detective. His writing style can be described as cinematographic, as confirmed by the multiple adaptations of his books to the cinema.  

My rating: C (I liked it with a few reservations)

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was a prolific British crime writer, journalist and playwright, who wrote 175 novels, 24 plays, and countless articles in newspapers and journals. Edgar Wallace was born in Yarmouth, Greenwich, Norfolk. His biological parents were actors Richard Horatio Edgar (who never knew of his existence) and Mary Jane “Polly” Richards, nee Blair. Known as Richard Freeman, Edgar had a happy childhood, forming an especially close bond with 20-year-old Clara Freeman who became like a second mother to him. His foster-father George Freeman was an honourable and kind man and determined to ensure Richard received a good education. He is most famous today as the co-creator of “King Kong“, writing the early screenplay and story for the movie, as well as a short story “King Kong” (1933) credited to him and Draycott Dell. He was known for the J. G. Reeder detective stories, The Four Just Men, The Ringer, and for creating the Green Archer character during his lifetime. His other works include: The Angel of Terror (1922), The Clue of the Twisted Candle (1916), and The Daffodil Mystery (1920).

Delphi Classics

Edgar Wallace Profile for Crime Time Magazine 

The Sunday Times 100 Best Crime Stories

The Passing Tramp 

Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) – in full Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace: the Man Who Wrote Too Much? by Michael Mallory  

El cículo carmesí de Edgar Wallace


Tras un prólogo en el que un inglés, que ha sido condenado a muerte en la ciudad de Toulouse, escapa a su destino, al pie de la guillotina, la acción se traslada a Inglaterra once años después. Una vez allí, un hombre al borde de la quiebra y con pensamientos suicidas, llega a su cita con un desconocido en el interior de un coche. El desconocido le ofrece una gran suma de dinero sólo por poner en circulación todo el dinero que le enviará, haciendo lo que sea necesario para que no pueda ser rastreado su origen. A cambio, tendrá que hacer lo que se pida de él en su momento. Él va a ser “el Círculo Carmesí” y tendrá cientos de camaradas, pero no sabrá quién más pertenece al círculo, y tampoco nadie conocerá su identidad. El nombre de este desconocido permanecerá en el anonimato, pero el coche, donde tuvo lugar la reunión se sabe que pertenece a un tal señor Félix Marl. Poco después, varias personas de relevancia social son chantajeadas. Ellos morirán dentro de un período de tiempo, a menos que paguen la cantidad de dinero requerida en cada caso. A partir de ese momento, muchos pagarán sin notificarlo siquiera a las autoridades.

Una mañana, el Sr. James Beardmore encuentra entre su correspondencia una carta con un sello de goma de “el Círculo Carmesí”. En la carta se le solicita el pago de cien mil libras, en billetes de banco. El señor Beardmore ha hecho oídos sordos a esta amenaza. Pero de todos modos, ha pedido la ayuda de un detective privado, un tal señor Derrick Yale, que dice tener poderes excepcionales. Poderes psicométricos, como él los llama. Hoy podríamos llamarlos, poderes paranormales. Mientras tanto, su hijo Jack Beardmore se encuentra con la señorita Thalia Drummond cerca del seto que marca la división entre la finca de su padre y la de su vecino, el señor Harvey Froyant. La señorita Drummond, una mujer muy guapa, trabaja como secretaria del señor Froyant y Jack se siente particularmente atraído por esta mujer. Al mismo tiempo, un visitante, llamado Félix Marl, ha llegado a ver al señor Beardmore, coincidiendo con su vecino el señor Froyant, que al parecer reconoce al recién llegado. Inesperadamente, el señor Marl se asusta, balbucea una excusa y se va, sin ninguna otra explicación, diciendo que regresará mañana. Al día siguiente, el señor Marl no se presenta, como había prometido, y el señor Beardmore es encontrado muerto, asesinado cuando estaba paseando alrededor de su finca.

El inspector jefe Parr ha estado a cargo de la investigación de “el Círculo Carmesí” durante un año. En palabras del señor Yale, Parr es lento pero concienzudo. Sin embargo, él está siendo criticado por su falta de resultados y algunos incluso piden su renuncia. Pero Parr cree que la pandilla de “el Círculo Carmesí” es fácil de detener. Afirma que él puede encontrar a cada uno de ellos, pero lo que realmente busca es llegar al cerebro central. Y para ello, necesita un poco más autoridad de la que en realidad tiene. A continuación, explica lo que necesita al Comisario Jefe. Después de abandonar la sede de la policía, el señor Parr se dirige a una oficina en el centro de la ciudad, el nombre de su inquilino es el señor Derrick Yale. Y cuando se menciona el nombre de la señorita Thalia Drummond, le dice con calma que ella “es una ladrona y una compañera de ladrones.”

He leído El Círculo Carmesí para participar en The Books of the Century de Past Offences. Este mes, el año elegido es el #1922. El Círculo Carmesí fue publicado por primera vez por entregas en el Daily Express, Londres, del 6 de diciembre al 3 de febrero de 1922. La primera edición del libro se publicó en el Reino Unido por Hodder & Stoughton, Londres, 1922; y en los EE.UU. por Doubleday, Doran & Co., Nueva York, 1929. En ese momento, Edgar Wallace era un autor de gran éxito y también muy prolífico. Vendió más de 50 millones de copias del conjunto de sus obras en varias ediciones. The Economist lo describe como “uno de los escritores de trillers más prolíficos del siglo [XX]”, aunque quedan pocos de sus libros todavía en circulación en el Reino Unido.

El Círculo Carmesí es, sin duda, una novela muy original. Y la historia, aunque muy poco realista, probablemente debería ser juzgada en el contexto de la época en que fue escrita. Lo que quiero decir es que, en mi opinión, no ha resistido bien el paso del tiempo, aunque no está exenta de ciertos méritos. El lector hará bien en dejarse arrastrar por la trama, sin preocuparse si, en ocasiones, parece poco realista. La historia es bastante ingeniosa y entretenida, incluso a los ojos de hoy; pero también resulta muy ingenua, lo que hace que sea más apropiada para un público juvenil. Para la historia del género, tal vez cabe destacar que Edgar Wallace fue uno de los primeros, si no el primero, en dar protagonismo a un detective profesional. Su estilo de escritura puede ser descrito como cinematográfico, como lo confirman los múltiples adaptaciones de sus libros al cine.

Mi valoración: C ( Me ha gustado mucho con algunas reservas)

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) fue un prolífico escritor británico de novela policíacas, periodista y dramaturgo, que escribió 175 novelas, 24 obras de teatro, y un sinfín de artículos en periódicos y revistas. Edgar Wallace nació en Yarmouth, Greenwich, Norfolk. Sus padres biológicos eran los actores Richard Horatio Edgar (quien nunca supo de su existencia) y Mary Jane Richards “Polly”, nee Blair. Conocido como Richard Freeman, Edgar tuvo una infancia feliz, y tuvo una relación particularmente estrecha con Clara Freeman, quien con 20 años se convirtió en su segunda madre. Su padre adoptivo George Freeman era un hombre honrado, amable y decidido a garantizar que Richard recibiera una buena educación. Wallace es más famoso hoy en día como el co-creador de “King Kong“, y escibió el primer guión y la historia inicial de la película, así como un cuento “King Kong” (1933) atribuído a él y a Draycott Dell. Fue conocido por las historias de detectives de JG Reeder, Los Cuatro Hombres Justos (1905), El Campanero, y por crear el personaje de El Arquero Verde en el transcurso de su vida. Otras de sus novelas son: El Ángel del Terror (1922), La pista de la vela doblada aka El misterio de la vela doblada (1918), y El misterio de los narcisos (1920).

Grupo Anaya

Review: The Man Who Bought London by Edgar Wallace

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Delphi Classics, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition (43526 KB). First published in 1915. Delphi Complete Works of Edgar Wallace. ASIN: B00IIWW2JE.

In contribution to Rich Westwood’s meme on his blog Past Offences: the year for January is 1915.


King Kerrie, an American multi-millionaire who together with his associates controls billions, has settled in London as a result of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. They have liquid assets, hard cash ready for employment at a moment’s notice. These are men who had done nothing in their lives but combine conflicting business interest into one great monopoly. One day Elsie Marion bumps into a charming grey-haired man on the tube. Once again, she is late for work. In a dreadful rush, she can’t imagine how much her life is about to change. The charming stranger has just bought Tack and Brighten, her place of employment, and he will offer her a new job she won’t be able to turn down. Soon after saying goodbye, two shots are heard and a bullet is about to brush against the grey-haired man’s face.

   “That’s yours, Mister!” howled a voice, and the next instant the owner was grabbed by two policemen.
A slow smile gathered at the corners of the gray man’s lips.
“Horace,” he said and shook his head disapprovingly, “you’re a rotten shot!”
On the opposite side of Oxford Street, a man watched the scene from the upper window of a block of offices.
He saw the racing policemen, the huge crowd which gathered in a moment, and the swaying figures of the officers of the law and their half-mad prisoner. He saw too, a gray-haired man, unharmed and calm slowly moving away, talking with a sergeant of police who had arrived on the scene at the moment. The watcher shook a white fist in the direction of King Kerrie.
“Some day, my friend!” he said between his clenched teeth, “I will find a bullet that goes to its mark  and the girl from Denver City will be free!”

Although I have found the plot rather far-fetched, the narrative manages to grab the reader’s attention, the book is well-written, and has a surprising final twist. All in all, this is a mystery fiction that reflects faithfully the time when it was written, but it isn’t exactly my preferred kind of entertainment. In my view I don’t think is one of Wallace’s best novels. The Man Who Bought London was made into a film by the same name, a 1916 silent crime movie directed by Floyd Martin Thornton and starring E.J. Arundel, Evelyn Boucher and Roy Travers.

My rating:  C (I liked it with a few reservations)

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (1 April 1875 – 10 February 1932) was an English writer. Born into poverty as an illegitimate London child, Wallace left school at 12. He joined the army at 21 and was a war correspondent during the Second Boer War for Reuters and the Daily Mail. Struggling with debt, he left South Africa, returned to London and began writing thrillers to raise income, publishing books including 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. He died suddenly from undiagnosed diabetes, during the initial drafting of King Kong (1933).

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 the creation of King Kong, as a writer of ‘the colonial imagination’, for the J. G. Reeder detective stories, and the Green Archer. He sold over 50 million copies of his combined works in various editions and The Economist describes him as “one of the most prolific thriller writers of [the 20th] century”, although few of his books are still in print in the UK (?). (Source: Wikipedia) The question mark is mine.

Delphi Classics

Edgar Wallace: the Man Who Wrote Too Much? by Michael Mallory


Profile of Edgar Wallace for Crime Time magazine

El hombre que compró Londres de Edgar Wallace


King Kerrie, un multimillonario estadounidense que junto con sus asociados controla miles de millones, se ha asentado en Londres como resultado de las Ley Sherman Antimonopolio. Tienen activos líquidos, dinero en efectivo listo para ser empleado en cualquier momento. Son hombres que no han hecho nada más en su vida que combinar intereses opuestos en un gran monopolio. Un día Elsie Marion tropieza con un hombre encantador de pelo gris en el metro. De nuevo, llega tarde al trabajo. En un apuro terrible, no puede imaginar lo mucho que su vida está a punto de cambiar. El encantador desconocido acaba de comprar Tack and Brighten, su lugar de trabajo, y le ofrecerá un nuevo empleo que ella no podrá rechazar. Poco después de despedirse, se escuchan dos disparos y una bala está a punto de rozar la cara del hombre con el pelo gris.

“Esto es para usted, señor!” aulló una voz, y un instante después su dueño fue agarrado por dos policías.
Una lenta sonrisa se formó en la comisura de los labios del hombre de gris.
“Horace”, dijo y movió la cabeza con desaprobación, “eres un pésimo tirador!”
En el lado opuesto de Oxford Street, un hombre observaba la escena desde la ventana superior de un bloque de oficinas.
Vio a los policías corriendo, la enorme multitud que se reunió en un momento, y el bamboleo de las siluetas de los agentes del orden y de su detenido medio loco. Vio también a un hombre de pelo gris que, ileso y en calma, se alejaba lentamente hablando con un sargento de policía que había llegado a la escena en el momento. El vigilante sacudió un puño blanco en dirección a King Kerrie.
“Algún día, mi amigo!” dijo apretando los dientes, “voy a encontrar una bala que haga blanco y la joven de Denver City será libre!”

Aunque he encontrado la trama bastante inverosimil, la narración consigue captar la atención del lector, el libro está bien escrito, y tiene un giro final sorprendente. Con todo, se trata de una novela de misterio que refleja fielmente la época en que fue escrita, pero no es exactamente mi tipo preferido de entretenimiento. En mi opinión no creo que sea una de las mejores novelas de Wallace. El hombre que compró Londres fue llevada al cine con el mismo título, una película muda de 1916 dirigida por Martin Floyd Thornton y protagonizada por EJ Arundel, Evelyn Boucher y Roy Travers.

Mi calificación: C (Me gustó con algunas reservas)

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (Greenwich, 1875 – Hollywood, 1932) fue un novelista, dramaturgo y periodista británico. Era hijo ilegítimo del actor Richard Horatio Edgar y de la actriz Marie (Polly) Richards. Fue adoptado por George Freeman, mozo del mercado de pescado de Billingsgate. Entre los 12 y los 16 años trabajó en varias imprentas, una zapatería, una fábrica de impermeables, como cocinero en un buque, como albañil y como repartidor de leche. Fue corresponsal en Sudáfrica de la agencia Reuter (1899-1902) y del Daily Mail (1900-1902); fundó y dirigió el Rand Daily Mail, de Johannesburgo (1902-1903); dirigió The Week-End Racing Supplement y la sección de carreras de caballos del Evening News (1910-1912); fundó los periódicos deportivos Bibury’s Weekly y R. E. Walton’s Weekly (1913); dirigió Ideas y The Story Journal (1913); colaboró en Town Topics, que luego dirigió (1913-1916); fundó The Bucks Mail (1930); dirigió, sólo nominalmente, la revista Hush (1930-1931); dirigió el Sunday News (1931). Colaboró asimismo en más de cincuenta publicaciones periódicas de Sudáfrica, Inglaterra y Estados Unidos.

Edgar Wallace creó el “thriller” con su novela Los Cuatro Hombres Justos (1905), y consolidó este género narrativo con su obra posterior. En Wallace, los elementos del enigma están diluidos en la acción. Son sucesos aparentemente incongruentes, y es precisamente esta incongruencia la que actúa como acicate de la curiosidad del lector. Sólo al final encajan las piezas del rompecabezas, y una nueva lectura de la narración pone de relieve que los indicios ya habían sido expuestos, y de manera tan evidente que resulta admirable cómo el lector no había caído en la cuenta de su significado. Murió en Hollywood mientras trabajaba en el guión de la película King Kong. (Fuente: Wikipedia)