Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.

June 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, May 31, 2017
When I lived in Cologne in the 1980s my German girlfriend had a whole library of what were called ‘Krimis’—short for Kriminalroman, crime novels. Among the many authors, pride of place was given to translations of the English writer Edgar Wallace. These editions were published in the late 1950s/early 1960s in striking red and black coloured paperbacks. All featured a recommendation from the then West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. From memory part of it was as follows: ‘After a stressful day at work, I arrive home and instinctively reach for a Wallace to relax and unwind…’ This Teutonic obsession with Wallace did not stop with his books. Late night German television regularly screened film adaptations of his bestsellers. Between 1959 to 1972, some 32 films were made with such lurid (and bizarre) titles as The Frog with the Mask or The Carpet of Terror.
I mention all this by way of introducing one of the most prolific, popular crime writers of his time and perhaps the most neglected today. At the height of his success Edgar Wallace’s worldwide book sales were estimated at over 200 million copies. On the back of each paperback was the bold letter claim: ‘It is impossible not to be thrilled by Edgar Wallace!’ The many talented Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (1875–1932) was also a newspaper seller, medical orderly, poet, war correspondent, crime reporter, editor, playwright, racehorse owner, director, parliamentary candidate and Hollywood screenwriter. When Wallace embarked on his literary career in 1903 after returning to England from South Africa, where he had been reporting on the Boer War for Reuters, he remarked: ‘I will give them crime and blood and three murders to the chapter; such is the insanity of the age that I do not doubt for one moment the success of my venture.’ Among his 175 books were such bestselling titles as The Four Just Men (1905) an ingenious tale of a quartet of political vigilantes who cleverly murder various evil doers whose wealth and power keep them beyond the reach of the law. One of the episodes features the murder of the British Foreign Secretary, mysteriously killed in a closed room surrounded by hundreds of police. Wallace offered a substantial cash prize of £500 to any reader who could guess the murder method. He got into all sorts of financial trouble when an embarrassingly large number did so. By the 1920s Wallace was known as the ‘fiction factory’. He narrated his words onto Dictaphone recording machines and his secretaries typed up the text. While working, he drank up to 40 cups of tea and smoked between 80 and 100 cigarettes a day. By 1926 his constant need for funds to sustain his high living lifestyle and gambling habits saw him complete 18 novels a year; by 1929, he had reached 34 books annually. At the time of his death he was busy working on a screenplay for RKO Studios for a ‘Gorilla picture’—the Hollywood film King Kong.

This month—a trilogy of Edgar Wallace titles.
All Good condition. Price: $10.00 each.


The Mind of Mr. J. G. Reeder—First published 1925. A 1962 reprint. Eight short stories set around the period 1910 to 1918 featuring the demure, slightly shabby, unprepossessing Mr Reeder, a detective at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. A milder, meeker version of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, with none of Holmes’s (admittedly entertaining) arrogance. Mr Reeder also uses his ice cool genius, and criminal turn of mind, to solve various crimes. These include a disappearance at sea that is less innocent than it appears to be, a female poisoner, a Canadian conman who tempts a dissipated member of the English nobility with tales of Russian royal treasure, a Hindu criminal mastermind, counterfeiters, embezzlers and an assortment of gangsters. The frequent murders are often carried out by unusual and exotic means.
The Yellow Snake—First published 1926. A 1963 reprint. Delightfully trashy and utterly politically incorrect crime thriller. Stephen Narth is a crooked British merchant banker. He has been speculating with client’s money, and needs £50,000 to avoid prison. Enter wealthy Oxford-educated Chinese businessman Grahame St Clay (real name Fing-Su). He lends Narth the money but the hapless banker is now hopelessly involved in the conspiracies of Fing-Su’s Secret Society of Joyful Hands. The Oriental fiend plans nothing less than world domination. Numerous plot complications follow, including several murders and kidnappings, ruthless assassins and a horrific initiation ritual that Narth must endure. Fortunately, in a very rapid conclusion, Fing-Su’s plans come to an explosive end in the English Channel.
The Calendar – First published 1930. A 1961 reprint. Garry Anson, a wealthy racehorse owner, is banned from the track when suspicion falls on him that one of his horses has ‘run dead.’ A double-cross has been played by Wenda Panniford, the woman he loves. With the help of Hillcott, his sarcastic butler (and ex- burglar) and the aid of a secret admirer, Mollie Panniford—the bad girl’s sister—with whom he falls in love, Anson succeeds in regaining a £100 note that will clear his name. Stephen Reid

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