In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads Edgar Wallace’s collection of detective stories about the unassuming Mr J. G. Reeder
Edgar Wallace achieved a lot before he dropped down dead, in his fifties, from complications arising from diabetes, in Hollywood in 1932. He had risen from extremely humble origins, the illegitimate and unwanted son of two actors, to become one of the most recognisable and prolific writers of the age – according to an oft-repeated claim, in 1928 it was estimated that one in four books read in England was an Edgar Wallace title – and was at work on the film that would become the 1933 classic King Kong when he died.
Wallace had made his name in 1905 with the novel The Four Just Men, thanks to a canny (if misguided) marketing campaign surrounding the book. More adventures of the ‘Four’ Just Men (in reality their number dwindled to three, and even two, for subsequent outings) followed,