The name of Edgar Wallace is largely forgotten today, but in his time, roughly the first third of the 20th century, few authors enjoyed a wider readership. During the 1920s, one of Wallace's publishers once claimed that fully one quarter of all the books read in England were written by Wallace; the entry on Wallace in the Golden Age of Detection wiki notes that more than 160 movies have been made from his novels, more than any other author.
I must admit that I count Wallace's books among my own secret pleasures. It's not great literature, but I guarantee you'll have a good time when you read them - particularly his thrillers.
If you want a good example of the kind of story that was Wallace's specialty, you'll find it in a marvelous book originally published in 1917 called "The Secret House." It's the subject of this week's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
"The Secret House" is pure escapism, a lovely little thriller which, like most of Wallace's works, gets off to a high-speed and energetic start and doesn't slow down for an instant. I'm not going to try for a synopsis, because it pretty well defies description, as only a Wallace thriller could. It involves an international blackmailer - whose picture, of course, is unknown to police - and a couple of quick and easy murders on a millionaire's doorstep. Among the sure-fire thriller ingredients, you'll find a damsel in distress, a young hero, a major international criminal and blackmailer, a number of thoroughly disreputable types who work for said blackmailer (including a would-be suitor for the hand of the aforementioned distressed damsel), a crafty senior policeman, some suspicious doctors, a very rich and possibly insane American millionaire...get the idea?
Oh, and there's the Secret House itself, a rather fantastic dwelling with interior rooms that can be shifted around mechanically to literally rearrange the architecture of the place. And would such a house be complete without some hidden escape tunnels? It's all quite ridiculous, but the action is so fast-paced that the reader hardly has a chance to remark on the sheer unbelievability of it all. My best advice is to hang on to your seat and enjoy it; "The Secret House" is as much fun as a good roller coaster ride and about as long-lasting. It's available in print, to be sure, but it's also available absolutely free for the Amazon Kindle (see the Amazon link above).
"The Secret House," from 1917, is my third entry in the "Deadly Decades" themed section of the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge at Bev Hankins' excellent "My Reader's Block" blog. Follow the link to see what everyone is reading - you may find some worthwhile additions to your "to be read" pile.