REVIEW of REVIEWS

He’s a One-Man Fiction Factory

Edgar Wallace Has 140 Novels, Twenty Plays, is a Dramatic Critic and an Expert Racing Dopester.

J. L. BALDERSTON January 1 1929
REVIEW of REVIEWS

He’s a One-Man Fiction Factory

Edgar Wallace Has 140 Novels, Twenty Plays, is a Dramatic Critic and an Expert Racing Dopester.

J. L. BALDERSTON January 1 1929

He’s a One-Man Fiction Factory

Edgar Wallace Has 140 Novels, Twenty Plays, is a Dramatic Critic and an Expert Racing Dopester.

J. L. BALDERSTON

AMONG those who firmly believe that man’s chief end is to work for the pleasure it gives, is Mr. Edgar Wallace, London novelist and playwriter. His big idea is mass production, and the amazing speed with which he can dash off his works has earned him unique distinction as mystery-story writer, playwright, dramatic critic, and racing expert. In 1927 he wrote twenty-six novels and six plays, and of the 140 odd novels he has published, some five million copies have been sold. His literary output is, indeed, so voluminous that he has been aptly styled a “one-man novel factory.”

Writing to the New York World, Mr. John L. Balderston says that: “Edgar

Wallace is doing for fiction and the theatre what Henry Ford did for the motor industry, and his compatriots are awakening to the fact that they have a great pioneer in their midst. A year ago Wallace was known as the writer of sensational detective stories and a few thrillers for the stage. To-day he is on the verge of fame. To-morrow, unless he collapses under the strain of a constantly increasing output, he will bestride like a colossus the literary and dramatic firmament.

“It has taken Wallace a long time to get into his stride. He is fifty-three years old, born of poor but honest parents, went to a ‘board school,’ which means that he missed the ineffable benefits of public-school education bestowed upon the British middleand upper-class youth, and served six years as a private in the Army. Then he became a journalist, founded a newspaper in South Africa, and, like other great men who sub-

sequently live down their early indiscretions, published a volume of poetry. Twenty-two years ago, when he was already in his thirties, he wrote his first detective story.

“All London to-day is talking about Edgar Wallace. His income, his habits, his hours of work are subjects of heated debate. Perhaps the general public, that part of the general public that does not read his stories or go to his plays, first began to take notice when he gave a banquet in the Savoy Hotel some time ago to the people he was then employing in his various plays on view in four London theatres. Five hundred and ninety sat down at table.

“Edgar Wallace jokes are getting as common as Ford jokes used to be. Here is one of the best: Wallace’s butler, in his mansion in Portland Place, is answering the phone. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t put you through. Mr. Wallace is finishing a new play and left word that he must not be disturbed. What’s that, sir? You’ll hold the wire?’ ”

Asked by the correspondent how many novels and plays he had written, Wallace admitted he did not know, but hazarded a rough guess about 140 novels and twenty plays. But this is not the limit of his labors.

“Wallace thinks he may have forgotten a dozen. When he isn’t doing a play or a novel, he writes short stories. Two to four hundred is his estimated output.

“But creative literature does not absorb all of Wallace’s time, although his speed of output in the last three years has increased in geometrical ratio, so that in 1925 he wrote twice as many novels and stories as in 1924, and so on, until in 1927 he produced twenty-six novels and at least six plays. This year he modestly hopes to do better.

“Wallace is a dramatic critic, a job that cuts into his evenings. He writes about plays for The Morning Post. He is also a racing expert. His attendance at race meetings and his expert articles on the turf, which appear in evening and Sunday organs, cut into his afternoons. The bulk of his purely literary output, he tells me, is, perforce, produced in his mornings. He is perhaps more proud of his racing articles than his other work, and thousands follow his tips, although his reputation suffered somewhat when he assured millions that the favorite ‘cannot possibly lose’ the Derby this year, and the favorite finished twelfth.”

As a fast worker, continues Mr. Balderston, Edgar Wallace would be very hard to beat, and how he does it has

become as great a mystery to the public as his income which London gossip figures around $250,000 a year.

“It is said that he dictates his novels and plays into a dictaphone, and that his wife and his corps of secretaries attend to the rest, without troubling him to read over what he has uttered. This is probably exaggerated. It does not square with his confession to an interviewer who asked him which of his novels took him the shortest time to write and which the longest.

“ ‘A firm of publishers asked me on Thursday for a novel of 70,000 words by noon on Monday. Working eighteen hours a day, dictating it all to a typist, with my wife doing the corrections, I delivered “The Strange Countess” on Monday morning. If any one wants to give me a present he might send me a copy. I should like to read it.’

“ ‘And your most dilatory effort?’

“ ‘That was “The Gunner.” It took me several weeks. But this apparent lethargy was due to the fact that during the same period I had to write a novel called “The Flying Squad,” a play of the same name, and a play called, I think, “The Man Who Changed His Name.’ ”

“Wallace has cut out the middleman in order to increase his profits on the stage. He says he made only £6,000 out of a shocker called ‘The Ringer,’ while Frank Curzon, the theatrical manager who put it on, cleared £20,000. Accordingly, Wallace is now his own impresario. After he has written his plays, he casts them himself, pays all the expenses, hires the theatres, and takes the profits or stands the losses.”