Edgar Wallace Analysis


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.


Bergfelder, Tim. “Extraterritorial Fantasies: Edgar Wallace and the German Crime Film.” In The German Cinema Book, edited by Tim Bergfelder, Erica Carter, and Deniz Gokturk. London: British Film Institute, 2002. Study of the adaptations of Wallace’s stories to the German screen and their effects on the evolution of German cinema.

Croydon, John. “A Gaggle of Wallaces: On the Set with Edgar Wallace.” The Armchair Detective 18, no. 1 (Winter, 1985): 64-68. Brief discussion of Wallace’s role in the adaptation of his stories to the screen.

Dixon, Wheeler Winston. “The Colonial Vision of Edgar Wallace.” Journal of Popular Culture 32, no. 1 (Summer, 1998): 121-139. Discusses the role of imperialist and colonial ideology in Wallace’s novels.

Gardner, Martin. “Edgar Wallace and The Green Archer.” In Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003. Discussion of Wallace’s representation of mathematics and science in The Green Archer and its relation to the solution of the mystery.

Kestner, Joseph A. The Edwardian Detective, 1901-1915. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000. This narrowly focused reading of British detective fiction compares Wallace to his fellow Edwardians.

Lane, Margaret. Edgar Wallace: The Biography of a Phenomenon. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1939. Detailed biography of Wallace emphasizing the popularity of his work and the factors contributing to and consequences arising from that popularity.

Wallace, Ethel, and Haydon Talbot. Edgar Wallace by His Wife. London: Hutchinson, 1932. This biography of the author includes details of his life that only a wife could know.

Watson, Colin. “King Edgar, and How He Got His Crown.” In Snobbery with Violence: Crime Stories and Their Audience. New York: Mysterious, 1990. Attempts to account for Wallace’s popularity among Edwardian and later audiences as part of a general study of the appeal of crime fiction.