I’m celebrating! On completing Edgar Wallace’s collection of 13 short stories that make up “Again The Three” I have finished the mammoth 900+ pages of the Wordsworth paperback edition of “The Complete Four Just Men” which I seem to have been reading for ages.
Written 23 years after the characters were first introduced in their successful debut I get the feeling that the demand was there for revisiting them in a short story format. Wallace had a commercial mind (which sometimes backfired) and an enthusiasm for journalism throughout his life so may have produced these originally for some of the many publications he was associated with before putting them together as a published collection. He certainly hasn’t trodden any new ground here, the story outlines seem similar and one “Mr Levingrou’s Daughter” is merely a tighter rewrite of earlier work collected in his 1921 “Law Of The Four Just Men“. This is one of the sharper works on display, a couple of the stories I didn’t really get the resolution at all or did not find them especially suspenseful. Still, it was enjoyable to meet up with Manfred, Gonsalez and Poiccart for one further outing. They have certainly evolved towards respectability and now have a detective agency in Curzon Street, London, yet still trade on their disreputable past where their methods of dispatching offenders were more brutal (and permanent!). Wallace rarely lets a story go by without a reference back to this. It does seem a little odd to read crime/adventure fiction where past achievements are being saluted more than the present plotlines but readers would not have been sympathetic to these characters for a quarter of a century without them changing their ways.
I’ve probably read enough Edgar Wallace for a time. David Stuart Davies who penned the introduction to the volume I read feels that Wallace would have gone on to produce more for these characters had he not died in 1932. He does also acknowledge that, in this collection “The tales are entertaining and even amusing at times rather than thrilling.”
It was Christopher Fowler who reminded me of Wallace in his “Book Of Forgotten Authors” and he mentions the oft-repeated tale of this prolific writer that if anyone phoned him and was told he was busy writing a book they’d reply “I’ll wait.” I have enjoyed, to varying degrees, these six of apparently 175+ novels he produced in his lifetime.
Again The Three was published in 1928. I read the version published in “The Complete Four Just Men” paperback from Wordsworth.