The Man Who Gave Us King Kong

From 2005.

In 1992, a pair of German immigrant brothers were visiting me in Texas. They were in their twenties. One of them asked me, “Have you ever heard of Edgar Wallace?”

It was an odd question, I thought. What interest did he have in Edgar Wallace?

“Yes,” I replied. “He was the author of crime novels in the 1920’s.”

They were amazed. “You are the first American we have ever asked who knew who he was.” This was even more curious. Apparently, they had used the Edgar Wallace question to confound Americans. Why, I could not imagine.

“Wallace’s novels are still read in Germany,” they said. This did not impress me so much as it astounded me. Why would anyone read his novels at this late date? It must have something to do with the Teutonic mind.

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I had never actually read an Edgar Wallace novel. I had never even seen one. I have yet to see one. Yet they sold by the millions.

My literary gap was no liability. In the modern world, trivia counts. It matters not at all that a person has never read an author’s works. What matters is his familiarity with detailed though useless information about an author’s private life. So, I decided to lay it on. “He was a diabetic. He died early in the 1930’s, having spent all of his money, working in Hollywood on his final project.”

Then I delivered the coup de grâce. “Wallace’s last project is the only thing he ever wrote that anyone except Germans remember. He was working on a screenplay about a giant ape.”

In the Christmas season, 2005, the whole world is once again going to delight in the story that Edgar Wallace left to posterity.

Think about this. Wallace was one of the most popular…

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