Edgar Wallace (1875-1932)
From Literary Anecdotes About 20th Century Authors

I HAD written one or two short stories while I was in Cape Town, but they were not of any account. My best practice was my 'Smithy' articles in the Daily Mail. . . . Collecting the 'Smithys' I sought for a publisher, but nobody seemed anxious to put his imprint upon my work, and in a moment of magnificent optimism I founded a little publishing business, which was called 'The Tallis Press'. It occupied one room in Temple Chambers, and from here I issued Smithy at 1s. and sold about 30,000 copies.

Emboldened by this success, I sat down to turn a short story I had written, and which had been rejected by every magazine in London, into a longer one. The story was called The Four Just Men, in which a Minister was mysteriously killed and a prize was offered for the best explanation of his death. It was published at 3s. 6d.

I was determined, believing the story to be good, to make same sort of reputation as a story-writer, even if it broke me to do so. It broke me all right. I advertised in newspapers, on hoardings, on tubes and buses, the superlative merits of The Four Just Men. The result was that, although I sold 38,000 copies, I lost £1,400. There was, I discovered, such a thing as over-advertising.

Lord Northcliffe came to my rescue and pulled me out of the mess I'd got myself into. In disgust, I sold the remaining book rights for £72 to George Newnes. I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of copies George Newnes have sold, but they have always been good people to work for, and I hope they made big money out of my over-boomed romance — which is really a very good story.

From Edgar Wallace, People. A Short Autobiography (1926), pp. 196-197.

« NEXT » « 20th Century Authors » « All Anecdotes » « Humour » « Library »