Edgar Rice Burroughs Shakes Hands With Edgar Wallace

December 19, 2009

 

A Contribution To

The ERBzine Library Project

Edgar Rice Burroughs Shakes Hands With Edgar Wallace

by

R.E. Prindle

Credit to Wikipedia and Fantastic Fiction.

     Quite by accident I came across a probable source for Burroughs in an English writer by the name of Edgar Wallace.  Wallace as Burroughs was born in 1875.  He was a prolific writer of 175 novels numerous plays and incidental writings.  Astonishly he was responsible for the creation of King Kong working up the first script although dying in 1932 before the project came to fruition.

     The movies were kind to him; over 160 films based on his novels have been produced.

     Burroughs was well aware of Wallace having four of his more obscure titles in his library: Great Stories Of Real Life, Island Life, A King By Night, and Mexican Sierras.

     More to the point for Bibliophiles was a series of African novels gathered under the title: Mr. Commissioner Sanders.  The first of these, Sanders Of The River, appeared as Burroughs wrote his first novel, A Princess Of Mars, in 1911.  The second, The People Of The River, in 1912, The River Of Stars in 1913 and Bosambo Of The River in 1914.  The later stories needn’t detain us here as the influence was largely expended in Burroughs novel of 1914, The Beasts Of Tarzan although the influence might have resurfaced in 1929’s Tarzan And The Lost Empire.  Wallace also has monkey characters called N’Kima that was probably remembered in the twenties when Burroughs created his own N’Kima.

     Wallace was a very good writer.  Very concise and intense.  The Sanders stories are despised today for depicting an accurate portrayal of the times rather than a sentimental version of what might have been consistent with today’s prejudices.  Our own time would prefer something along the lines of Dr. Dolittle Of The River.  Amusingly Burroughs’ Beasts of Tarzan could be seen as a parody of Dr. Dolittle.

     Unlike Burroughs Wallace was in Africa but seemingly not long enough to have experienced all the adventures he portrays.  The series aren’t novels so much as collections of short stories except for River Of Stars which is a longer story than a novelette but short for a full fledged novel.  Nice story though.

     The first two collections, Sanders Of The River and People Of The River seem to be the main influences of Beasts Of Tarzan.  Sanders used a gunboat with a couple Maxims to make his presence tolerated or, even, welcome.  Thus he cruised up and down an unnamed river in an unnamed part of Africa but looking very near to Nigeria in order to keep order amongst the troublesome tribes under his jurisdiction.

     Burroughs makes a farce of Beasts Of Tarzan having The Big Guy cruise up and down the river in his canoe apparently somewhere in Gabon with his motley crew of beasts.  Perhaps reminscent of Kipling.

     Burroughs abandoned river stories after Beasts.

     There was an incident in Sanders Of The River in which Roman centurions appear and disappear mysteriously.  The idea may have recurred to Burroughs for use in Lost Empire.

     Altogether I can highly recommend Wallace for some effective story telling.  The more PC might wish to avoid the stories.  I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any title that came to hand.  In fact I bought a couple omnibus editions giving me about ten percent of the corpus.  Wallace’s reputation was made early however in 1905’s Four Just Men.  You might want to look that up first. 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s