Edgar Wallace’s publication of more than 170 books, an impressive list of short stories, comedies, plays, and screenplays—as well as his lifetime career as journalist, correspondent, and editor—marks him as the best-selling English author of his generation and one of the most prolific. Howard Haycraft declared that Wallace’s “vast audience gave him an influence, in popularizing the genre, out of all proportion to the actual merit of his writing.” He made the thriller popular in book form and on stage and screen, throughout the English-speaking world. Only John Creasey, with his more than five hundred novels, wrote more than Wallace, and perhaps Agatha Christie was the only mystery and detective writer whose novels attracted more readers.
The best of Wallace’s detective fiction recounts the cases of Mr. J. G. Reeder, a very British sleuth of valiant courage whose triumphs are won by both chance and deduction. Critics Stefan Benvenuti and Gianni Rizzoni observe that Wallace “concentrated on the extravagant, the exotic, and the freely fantastic, all interpreted in a style derived from the Gothic novel.” He steered clear of sex or controversy, but he often challenged the system of justice of his era and pointed to errors in police practices.