The Man Who Wrote Too Much?

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Writer Mark Billingham investigates the life of King Kong creator Edgar Wallace.

How can a writer, whose publisher declared him the 'King of Thrillers', and was thought to be responsible for a quarter of all new books read in Britain by the late 1920s, be largely forgotten today? In this 3 hour archive special, crime writer Mark Billingham investigates the life of the man called the 'fiction factory', the best-selling author, journalist, playwright, film director and creator of King Kong - Edgar Wallace.

Wallace's life seems the stuff of fantasy. An illegitimate child in London, largely self-educated, he was the newspaper boy who became one of the most famous writers in the world. He sold millions of books, but he was plagued by debts. He died in Hollywood in 1932, aged 56, after writing the original story for King Kong. His body was returned by ocean liner in honour to Britain, only to be reunited with an ocean of outstanding bills.

Crime writer Mark Billingham presents some of the best adaptations and documentaries about Edgar Wallace from the BBC Radio archive: a 1951 version of one of Wallace's biggest successes, The Ringer; one of his best crime creations, The Mind of Mr JG Reeder; and the loveable racing 'turf tipster' Educated Evans, starring Roy Hudd and Andrew Sachs. And though he died in 1932, Mark has a hunch that he may be able to hear from Edgar Wallace himself.

His work was the source of countless 50s and 60s TV and film adaptions. His books have sold in their multi-millions. But from the 'Golden Age' of crime fiction it is Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie who are really remembered today. Was Edgar Wallace just a man who wrote, and did, too much?

Producer: Peter McHugh.

Made for 4 Extra. Mark Billingham investigates the life of the 'fiction factory' of crime, King Kong creator Edgar Wallace. How has his reputation fared since his death in 1932?