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
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