WHAT LINKS KING KONG TO NODDY?

Two au­thors, both from Bourne End, found fame for work that couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent. DON­ALD STAN­LEY looks at the life of Edgar Wal­lace

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

IT is dif­fi­cult to think of a greater con­trast be­tween Noddy with his red and yel­low taxi in Toy­land and the go­rilla-like movie mon­ster King Kong, and yet both were cre­ated by res­i­dents of Bourne End. The first by Enid Bly­ton be­fore she moved to Bea­cons­field and the sec­ond by Edgar Wal­lace.

Both had dif­fi­cult fam­ily back­grounds. Bly­ton’s fa­ther de­serted his young fam­ily, Wal­lace’s un­mar­ried mother handed him over at birth to a cou­ple with ten other chil­dren who first fos­tered and then adopted him.

De­spite his adop­tive par­ents’ ef­forts to se­cure an ed­u­ca­tion for him, Wal­lace left school at 12 and had sev­eral jobs in­clud­ing selling news­pa­pers at Ludgate Cir­cus close by Fleet Street where he would first make his name. He joined the army tak­ing the name Edgar Wal­lace, a com­bi­na­tion of the sur­name, Edgar, of his fa­ther and that of Lew Wal­lace the au­thor of ‘Ben-Hur’. Dis­lik­ing life as an in­fantry­man Wal­lace ob­tained a trans­fer to the Press Corps. He bought him­self out of the army but re­mained in South Africa, to which he had been posted, cov­er­ing the Boer War as a press cor­re­spon­dent. Back in Lon­don he com­menced writ­ing de­tec­tive sto­ries to sup­ple­ment his in­come from the Daily Mail. How­ever, in­ac­cu­ra­cies in his re­port­ing led to the doubt­ful dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first re­porter it ever dis­missed. Nonethe­less, he found work in the Congo Free State which inspired a se­ries of short sto­ries ‘San­ders of the River’ and the film with that ti­tle. In Hol­ly­wood he adapted books for movies work­ing at one time with his half-brother Mar­riott Edgar who was scriptwriter for Penn Res­i­dent, Stan­ley Hol­loway. His in­ter­ests were broad. He broad­cast the 1923 Ep­som Derby for the new BBC. Long be­fore to­day’s con­cerns he caused out­rage by high­light­ing pae­dophilia in show busi­ness. Eye­ing Westminster he stood un­suc­cess­fully in the 1931 Gen­eral Elec­tion.

With his prodi­gious out­put Wal­lace sold over 50 mil­lion copies of his short sto­ries, nov­els, screen plays, science fic­tion and history mak­ing him a wealthy man. Nonethe­less, many times he was deeply in debt his wife selling her jew­ellery for food, a sit­u­a­tion not helped by his pur­chases of race horses and un­suc­cess­ful gam­bling. Nonethe­less he ac­quired Chalk­lands off Blind Lane as a coun­try res­i­dence and although he died in the United States his body was brought back to be buried nearby at Lit­tle Mar­low.

Pa­per trail: Ludgate Cir­cus where Edgar Wal­lace once sold news­pa­pers. The plaque on the right hand wall of the bank com­mem­o­rates him

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