Edgar Wallace  

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"Even though there are countless film adaptations of Edgar Wallace novels worldwide, the crime films produced by the German company Rialto Film between 1959 and 1972 are the best-known of those, to the extent that they form their own subgenre known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term "Kriminalfilm" (or "Kriminalroman"). Other Edgar Wallace adaptations in a similar style were made by the Germans Artur Brauner and Kurt Ulrich, and the British producer Harry Alan Towers." --Sholem Stein


"George Orwell called Wallace a "bully worshipper" and "proto-fascist"." --Sholem Stein


"“I am going to give [my readers] crime and blood and three murders to the chapter.” -- Edgar Wallace cited in Edgar Wallace, the Biography of a Phenomenon (1938) by Margaret Lane


"Such is the insanity of the age that do not doubt. for one moment the success of my venture." -- Edgar Wallace cited in Edgar Wallace, the Biography of a Phenomenon (1938) by Margaret Lane


"Once considered the most famous author of the 20th Century, this Demon Writer of Fleet Street— whose lurid screen adaptations are credited by Dario Argento with helping to inspire his own cinematic acts of murder — is now all but forgotten." The Video Watchdog Book, page 138, Tim Lucas, 1992


"[ Edgar Wallace ] began writing in 1905, at the height of the period of uncertainty that also influenced the works of Feuillade and Gaston Leroux." --Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984, p. 13

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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 the age of 12. He joined the army at age 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 his time as a reporter in the Congo, covering the Belgian atrocities, Wallace serialised short stories in magazines such as The Windsor Magazine and later published collections such as Sanders of the River (1911). He signed with Hodder and Stoughton in 1921 and became an internationally recognised author.

After an unsuccessful bid to stand as Liberal MP for Blackpool (as one of David Lloyd George's Independent Liberals) in the 1931 general election, Wallace moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a script writer for RKO. He died suddenly from undiagnosed diabetes, during the initial drafting of King Kong (1933).

Wallace was such a prolific writer that one of his publishers claimed that a quarter of all books 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. As well as the creation of King Kong, he is remembered as a writer of 'the colonial imagination', for the J. G. Reeder detective stories, and for The Green Archer serial. 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 the great majority of his books are out of print in the UK, but are still read in Germany.


Postscript, 1935-Present

A lot of work based on Edgar Wallace's material has been produced, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s. A large number of movies have been based on his novels. The Green Archer was a well-regarded serial in the days of silent cinema. However, these works never achieved the prominence accorded to such characters as Sherlock Holmes et al, which is a great pity, because if done properly, many of Wallace's best stories, such as The Just Men and Mr J G Reeder would make excellent adventure-thrillers.

In 1959 a mini-revival of his work occurred in Germany and around the Eastern bloc, and his eldest son Bryan relocated there for some time to edit and direct many of the string of made-for-tv a string of B-movies filmed in that country. These later became a staple of late-night television. In 2004 Oliver Kalkofe -one of the best known German comedy stars- produced the movie 'Der Wixxer' which is an homage to the popular black and white Wallace movies. It featured a large number of well known comedians.

Both his elder son Bryan Edgar Wallace and his youngest daughter Penelope Wallace were also authors of mystery and crime novels. In 1969, Penelope founded The Edgar Wallace Appreciation Society which she ran until her death in 1997, the work being continued by her daughter, also Penelope.

See also




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